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15 Things Only People Who Live in Southeast Asia Understand

15 Things Only People Who Live in Southeast Asia Understand

Perhaps you’re teaching or studying abroad in Vietnam, happen to be a digital nomad in Thailand, work at a hostel in Thailand or lead SCUBA dives in Indonesia. Whatever you may do and wherever you may be, Southeast Asia is your new home. The following are things that only people who live (or have spent a lot of time in) Southeast Asia can understand: 


1) Shoes DO NOT Go Indoors

You don’t wear nice shoes out, because you know you’ll be leaving them in a pile by the door. When you go back to your home country to visit, everyone is a little confused as to why you keep asking if you should remove your shoes indoors.




2) Keep Your Feet to Yourself

You never point your feet at anyone or anything, for any reason. You figure it best to just keep them pointed right at the ground where they belong. 


3) Motorbikes Aren’t Even Scary Anymore

It used to be terrifying to get on a motorbike. Keep those chariots of doom away! Have you seen all of those people in crutches!? Yet now, even motorbike taxis driven by a complete stranger are no longer worrying. You don’t even hold on anymore. Moreover, it’s not even shocking to see a family of four piled onto one bike, or to see a 10-year-old kid driving it!




4) You’re Over the Fear of Fish Sauce

Fish sauce? What in the world is fish sauce? How do you extract sauce from a fish? It smells horrible, yet it goes in just about every dish. It used to be a scary, scary condiment, but now it just makes sense and adds flavor. 


5) You Look Extra Hard for Whitening-Free Toiletries

Why do armpits need to be white? What in the world is in whitening products anyways? It’s cause for celebration when you easily find non-whitening toiletries and cosmetics at the local 7-11 or open-air stall. 


6) You Can’t Bring Yourself to Eat Southeast Asian Food at Home

“Do you know how much I pay for a soup just like that back in Vietnam? A dollar!” you say to your friends as they enthusiastically point out the $10 pho bo on the menu at your local Vietnamese food joint. 

You simply can’t stomach the idea of spending $15 on Thai food that just won’t be as good as the street food back in Chiang Mai, and you won’t spend over $1 on coffee. Hamburgers and pizza, though? Let’s order ten!




7) You Look Every Which Direction Twice Before Crossing The Street

Maybe even three times. You know that a motorbike driver could come speeding by with reckless abandon at any moment. 


8) You Have a Surgical Mask and You Use It

At first you laughed a bit at the locals who were always wearing surgical masks, then you realized that these are some dirty, dusty roads you’re now dealing with. Is there a bad smell? Mask goes on. Is there a dust cloud again? Mask up! They’re so useful you start questioning how you ever lived without them. 


9) Fruit Shakes Are Their Own Food Group

You know the best fruit smoothie lady in town who doesn’t put in too much ice, always has ripe fruit, and keeps the sugar water additives to a minimum. You bring all of your friends there because your fruit smoothie lady is the best. It’s almost a religion. 


10) You’re Kind of Used to Understanding Nothing of What You’re Hearing

You’ve come to enjoy the sweet satisfaction of tuning out all the noise and conversation around you, because you can’t understand it anyways. 



11) You Can Speak Amazingly Well With Your Hands

Speaking of, you’ve become amazingly good at non-verbal communication. A wave of the hand is, ‘no’, and enthusiastic nod is ‘yes’, and instead of pointing, you use your whole hand to indicate a direction or item. 


12) You Are No Longer Shocked By What Motorbikes Can Carry

You’ve seen it all; animals, giant flower deliveries, refrigerators, gas tanks, bare chainsaws, and even entire additional motorbikes strapped to the chariots of doom casually weaving through traffic on the motorways. At first it was shocking, but now it’s just everyday life. 


13) Mosquitoes Have Never Stopped Loving You

You thought that over time, they’d just get used to you and maybe stop biting you. Alas, they never have given up their love for you, so the battle wages nightly at dusk against the little blood suckers.


14) You Don’t Even Think About Taking Malarone

Anti-malarial pills have side effects. Are you going to take them for years on end? No, no you’re not. 


15) You Are Finally Over Harem Pants

When you first arrived in Southeast Asia, loose harem pants seemed to be the best thing since pad Thai.  Now, you realize it’s something only fresh tourists wear, and you can’t be seen as a fresh tourist, not anymore! It’s back to suffering in real pants for you! 

Though this is just the tip of the iceberg and there are many, many other things that only people who live in Southeast Asia can understand, these are a few of the tell-tale signs that you’re a local. Do you have any to add? Comment below!

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29 November 2022

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