Attention Thailand: How to order fast food
The prevalence of fast food in the developing world is a controversial topic for expats. Some claim that the spread of fast food culture in Third World countries is a symptom of modern imperialism. Others argue that junk food’s basic flavor profile of salt, fat, and sugar have mass appeal and their popularity is unsurprising. No matter what your feelings are on the subject, fast food icons are everywhere in Thailand and they’re here to stay.
Fast food seems to be a guilty pleasure for most Thais, and consequently their trips to Burger King or McDonald’s are few and far between. Additionally, most Thais didn’t grow up eating fast food, so their etiquette when approaching the counter could use some constructive criticism.
I recall a recent trip to Burger King on my lunch break. I had a quick 30 minutes to wolf down a whopper with cheese and some hash browns before waddling back to work. As I approached the short queue of two petite office girls, a squirrely little Thai guy snaked around me and stood in the queue. He even gave a timid little peek over his shoulder to see if I was going to call him out for his rudeness. I let it slide. How long could one guy’s order take?
The two girls at the counter seemed to be bartering with the cashier. They had their phones out and opened to some kind of app, presumably Line Pay, and I guess they were figuring out the algebra to save upwards of 70 baht on lunch. Once they were happy with their options, they spent the next 30 seconds or so trying to scan a QR code off of their phone screen. It was infuriating. Not only was I starving, meters away from my hamburger, but I was being blocked by two wannabe Facebook influencers who would probably be satisfied with splitting a normal sized burger in half.
Me, waiting an extra 3 minutes to order food.
Once the girls were accounted for, the guy in front of me stepped up. I would say that in the time it took the girls to order, he had a good 3 minutes to make up his mind. Not to mention the untold minutes he had walking to this Burger King. Was he ready to order? No, he was not. After stepping up to the counter, he pulled out a pack of Burger King coupons from his pocket and flipped through them, cross referencing the prices on the coupons with the menu on the counter. I was visibly frustrated now, my arms crossed and flexed, chest puffed out as if I was posing for a body building competition.
My friend spent the next couple of minutes casually flipping through his coupons, glancing at the menu, and ordering food. Much to my chagrin, he also paid with Line Pay which took a bit more time that just paying with cash.
What can we learn from this, Thai people?
First of all, know what you want to order before you get to the cashier. How about this, maybe don’t even queue up unless you’re ready to order. This is not the market, you don’t get to weigh the flame grilled patties in your hand and small talk with the chef. Fast food is meant to be fast, every part of it. Your order, your payment, the construction of your meal, and even your shameful few minutes of eating alone should be done quickly.
Also, if you’re not experienced using your phone to pay, just use cash. I know that digital currency is the future, but it’s up to you to make it practical. Whatever you need to do to give your money to Burger King as quickly as possible should be set up before you place an order.
Farangs, I have something to say to you guys, too. You’re also responsible for teaching etiquette to the locals. The next time someone cuts in front of you, call them out. Don’t worry about not speaking Thai, simply direct your honest comments at your aggressor in your native language. Even in a calm voice, your accusations will be sure to bring shame to the person in question, and maybe they’ll think twice about breaking the rules next time.
Also, be sure to show your displeasure with people who take too long in queues. You don’t have to go full East coast America and heckle them, but you can loudly tap your feet and give a few audible sighs to speed things up.
I know that in my story, I wasn’t practicing what I preach, but I’m trying to get better. I think self-improvement is the moral to this article, hopefully it inspires some of you.