America, Represent!

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Being a millennial I often get caught in this debate of should I participate because … YOLO (You Only Live Once)?

OR

Should I be realistic and hold myself to my own standards and not let FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) convince me otherwise?

Thailand is often associated with the Full Moon Party on Ko Pha Ngan island. This happens once a month, every full moon. It has become so popular that there is now a Half Moon Party, not to mention the Waterfall Party days prior to the Full Moon Party.

A small section of the beach on Ko Pha Ngan gets hit hard with hundreds of tourists from around the world with one objective on mind: “party hard”. I’ll leave the interpretation up to you.IMG_20160814_143517843

I had read about this hyped up party months before even leaving Korea. There are several bloggers with posts titled “Surviving the Full Moon Party” and “The Beginner’s Guide To The Full Moon Party”. I also read “Why NOT to go to a Full Moon Party”.

After reading about Thai culture, the aftershock on the island from just one party, the history of the Full Moon Party, and “Why Not to Go”, I made a conscious decision not to attend.

It turns out, not attending didn’t make ONE little difference. I have to quote my sister-in-law and reuse a phrase she said, “It’s like being vegetarian, it doesn’t work unless everyone does it”.

There were still hundreds of tourists getting plastered, trashing the beach with plastic buckets, straws, broken glass, glow sticks, (all of which the locals clean up), and make stupid decisions like participating in fire-lit jump roping and other trashy things.

I can voice my opinion and share why I didn’t attend this overcrowded, over-hyped, trash-a-beautiful beach-in-Thailand party but will it make a difference?

Am I missing out on once in a lifetime experience? I’d like to think not but it’s one of those things I’ll never know. Kinda ok with that though.

We did visit Ko Pha Ngan, it’s a great island but we made sure to split before the Full Mooners arrived.20160827_183314_HDR

We went to the very nearby neighbor island of Koh Tao for a few days of peaceful, undisturbed beach and pool days accompanied with calm dinner nights.

Yet, soon enough the ferries arrived and we were unpleasantly disrupted by several post-mooners who weren’t quite partied out yet.IMG_20160814_134716528

I understand being in Thailand is surreal. A once in a lifetime moment. People want to make the most of it.

Unfortunately that is usually connected to getting beyond tipsy, acting like a fool, and consequently misrepresenting an entire country.

When we first arrived in Thailand I instantly noticed the majority of tourists were Europeans. Sure, they may drink beyond their limit and act obnoxious but I’m not connected to that.

My connection is to when I’m asked where I’m from and not knowing what type of response I’ll receive when I answer, America.

Or speaking fluent English and being put into the category of either, “rich, aggressive, impatient, slutty (ahem, all you girls walking around in the city center in bikinis), dishonest, LOUD, lazy, privileged or unintelligent.20160827_174541_HDR

So here’s the issue: when tourists take advantage of being a guest in another country.

What I learned about Thai culture is it rarely involves heavy drinking. They may like how much you’re spending on booze and they are probably very accustomed to serving drunk people until the wee hours in the morning now that tourism is so popular.IMG_20160816_114815902

Thai culture is also very modest. While I was there, I never saw the locals in shorts above the knees, tank tops, cleavage, belly shirts, backless shirts. But I did see plenty of foreign ladies in bikinis not on the beach but at restaurants or walking through town.

When you are visiting another country it’s important to remember you are representing your home country!

Obviously we know that America is very diverse. But they don’t. They see a small representation of American people. So how are we representing ourselves?20160815_191712

I would people watch at restaurants and see the frustrations from both customers and servers.

Of course there are culture differences and culture norms most won’t be aware of.

However, with the amount of instant information we have literally in the palm of our hands (smart phones, hello!) we honestly have no excuse for not doing a quick search about Thai culture or _____ culture of wherever you’re going.

I’m not the perfect tourist, but I typically take time to learn a few phrases in the local language. It makes a huge difference among locals.20160814_152431_HDR

I have been slacking terribly because everyone speaks great English but the service and response changes instantly when a hello or thank you or how much is said in their language it’s always appreciated.

It’s about having a basic respect for the culture and knowing a few cultural norms. You don’t have to give up your identify when you’re visiting other countries. But realize you may be perceived differently or seem offensive when you don’t follow cultural etiquette.

Let’s read about other cultures and keep an open mind. So when we do travel we can mesh into one and build a connection with a culture that differs from our own.

nenpnl

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2 Replies to “America, Represent!”

  1. virginia pettil says: Reply

    I was pleased to hear about your decision not to participate in the Moon Party. I am appalled that people would violate a beautiful area with their trash, etc. whether it be there or anywhere else in the world. Look at what is happening with graffiti on our beautiful canyon walls. Of course I get upset when I see people leaving their garbage in a movie theater for someone else to pick up. Love reading about your travels and insights. Love you guys!

    1. Thanks Virginia! That’s sad to hear people are doing that in the canyon! The trash is definitely an issue and sadly it’s only getting worse! Love and miss you!

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