Before my study abroad experience, when I first started getting interested in Thailand, the first images that came to mind were of a tropical paradise, Buddhism, and the amazing food. I’ve learned that Thailand has many things to offer but its cuisine is one of the most popular around the world and living here I can understand why.
Thailand has a very food-driven culture. From morning until the moment they go to bed people here seem to always be eating. There is food everywhere and at all times. You go out and in less than a minute you can find a food stall, selling anything from fruits, snacks, to complete meals. There is an immense variety of foods from street food, to simple meals in small restaurants, to more sophisticated and hip places where you go get your coffee. There is something for everyone and everything is extremely cheap. You will never go hungry and if you are on a diet, good luck.
When I was looking for an apartment for my semester abroad I realized that the majority of places didn’t have kitchens and if they did they were very expensive. I found this very odd because even as a college student I’m used to cooking for myself and since my home university doesn’t have dorms everyone lives in houses or apartments where we cook because is cheaper than eating out. Here this is completely different, and it is actually cheaper to rent an apartment with no kitchen and eat out everyday than to have a kitchen and prepare food for yourself.
I became to realize that eating out is the norm here. Women in Thailand used to stay at home doing the chores and cooking for their families, and now what we see is that more women have entered the work force and there is not enough time to cook. This has become part of the culture and all of the people eating out or to buying prepared food to bring home has made food cheap and accessible. Even so, dinner remains a very important family-oriented meal where families get together to eat after a long day of school and work.
Food in Thailand is very different than the United States. Here food is prepared to have a balance of many different flavors: spicy, sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Together all of these flavors create amazing food. Taking a course on Thai Cuisine has allowed me to learn more in depth about the importance of the ingredients and the history of the food. As an exchange student and traveler I feel that we have to be open and try everything to taste and understand the culture that is hosting us. Everything I’ve tried has been interesting, from the delicious pad thai to the mystery meat that we still haven’t figured out what it was. All of it has been a big foodie experience.
Eating here has become an adventure that all of the international students enjoy and though we sometimes struggle to understand some of the cultural norms and the language here in Thailand, food is something that we can enjoy with everyone despite the language barrier.