During our recent trip to Japan it was difficult not to compare things to Thailand. I lived in Japan from 2004 – 2006 and I have been living in Thailand for a year and a half. I thought I would share some of the differences and similarities.
Bangkok is noisy. There’s no escaping it. The traffic never stops and it is frequently poorly maintained so motorbike and lorry engines deafen you. For all that I love it, there is a vibrancy to the streets that makes you feel alive.
Japan is quiet… to paraphrase every horror/action movie… maybe a little too quiet. If you enjoy peace and time to think then Japan is a great place to be. The only downside is that sometimes it really is too quiet. I only realised this when I found myself whispering to talk to people in public. It gets to you eventually.
This is going to be no surprise but the price difference between living in Bangkok and Tokyo is huge! Here is the average differential according to numbeo.com:
When I was living in Japan I had a full time job so my earnings were proportional, as shown by the local purchasing power index. However, visiting there after living in Thailand was a real gut punch! That said, being a tourist in Japan isn’t too bad. Similar to Thailand, people eat out a lot more often than Europeans, especially Britons. As a result, restaurants are cheaper relative to other costs. According to numbeo.com restaurants in the UK are 85% more expensive than Japan while other costs are more similar. This is great for me because I LOVE to eat out. During our trip to Japan we ate our way around the country and it was great!
Thai people and Japanese people are both great but in completely different ways.
Japanese people will go out of their way to help you any time. I and others have asked for directions to somewhere and received a lift to our destination instead. Even for basic enquiries they really want to make sure you get a positive result. Japanese people are famously reserved but will be delighted and break into huge smiles if you attempt to speak the language.
There is also a completely different aesthetic. When I was in Japan I worked for Nova – at the time the largest English school in the country. I was hired in the UK and Nova’s international branding on their correspondence was a conservative yellow lotus on navy blue. When I got to Japan I realised that the local branding was a maniac pink bunny rabbit. Check out the commercial… there are no words.
Thai people love to laugh and smile… which can be disconcerting at times. I have felt like I was being laughed at, only to realise that the Thai person was laughing to defuse a nervous situation. That probably says more about my own mental state than Thai culture! Thai people love to have fun and it’s great to see so many smiles. Everybody from taxi drivers to shop owners will try to joke with you. This contributes to a great atmosphere.
These are just a few of my observations from having lived in both countries. I love them both and I hope I get the chance to live in other places too. Get in touch if you’d like to know more.