Getting change in Thailand

I had what was surely my longest all-Thai language interaction this morning. I couldn’t call it a conversation, but it was an interaction. I needed two 10 baht coins for the washing machine, and you just never seem to get 10 baht coins when you need them, you either get a 20 note, or 5 baht coins, which is infuriating when 10 baht are needed so commonly for vending machines and such.

Once, in a grocery store, I was getting change and the woman gave me two 5 baht coins and I said “Please.. can I have one 10 baht coin instead ?” She looked at me blankly. She didn’t speak English. But the woman in line behind me did, and she inclined her head and held out a 10 baht coin for me and I gave her my two 5 baht coins. It worked, but only because a stranger could speak English.

Today though I needed to do laundry, and I had no 10 baht coins, just a 20 baht note. So I went down to the convenience store downstairs with just my bank note and had this interaction.

Me: “Saibatdee Mai ?” (How are you)
Storekeeper: “Saibatdee Kap” (I’m good thank you)
Me: “Sip Baht ?” (10 baht ?)
Storekeeper nods and hands me two 10 baht coins out of the register.
Me: “Kap !” (Thank you !)
Storekeeper: “Kap !” (Thank You !)

Look that may have been a simple exchange, but I haven’t even bothered to LEARN Thai. I’ve just listened carefully and I’ve picked up the words for 10 and for thank you and for how are you etc. So I was quite happy, having really only been here a few weeks on two occasions, to be able to conduct the entire conversation without speaking a word of English.

It feels good. That’s all I’m saying. It gives you a great sense of pride and accomplishment to be able to speak a foreign language successfully enough in another country that people are able to understand you and you can get what you want without acting like a falang and reverting to English.

Oh, and here’s what 10 baht looks like. It’s a very pretty coin isn’t it ?

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