Welcome to Thailand, land of smiles! Nestled in the heart of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia, Thailand sits between Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Malaysia. From bustling streets to remote mountain villages and peaceful tropical islands, Thailand has it all. And as a CCS volunteer, you’ll feel at home in no time.

Learn About Thailand

Over 95% of the Thai population recognize themselves as Buddhist, which is more of a way of life than a religion in Thailand. Whether you’re Buddhist or not, Monks are held with the utmost respect and even the king must bow to them!

Officially known as the Kingdom of Thailand, this is one of the few nations to never have been colonized. Don’t be fooled though, Thailand is the epitome of a cultural melting pot and in Bangkok, you’ll see influences from all over the world. Under the rule of a well-respected monarchy since 1238, Thailand now has both a king and parliament following a peaceful revolution in 1932. If you’re a history buff, check out everything you’ll need to know about Thailand’s ancient & modern-day history.

FUN FACT: The official name of Bangkok is the longest city name in the world. Go ahead, give it a try:

Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit

No trip to the Nan Province is complete without a visit to the rice terraces, the hub of agricultural life in Thailand. Explore the vast and staggering terraces, get to know the local farming community, and meet with the people of the hill tribes as you immerse yourself in Thai life. Your meals will be complemented with some of the world's finest rice, as Thailand is the leading exporter of rice to the world.

The Nan Province is an epicenter for history, religion, and culture. Grab yourself a tuk-tuk and head over to one of the many exquisite temples, or take a ride down the river in a valley between the majestic mountains of northern Thailand. Whether you’re looking to kick back and relax with an afternoon Thai massage, or get your pulse racing with a traditional muay thai demonstration, Bangkok has exactly what you’re looking for.

Even with many forests disappearing due to population growth and farming expansion, Thailand’s diversity of wildlife remains strong. Within the villages of the Nan Province, filled with beautiful and colorful plant life, you may come across some small spiders or stray dogs on the streets (which should not be approached), but you’re more likely to come across beautiful tropical birds, majestic elephants, and small critters like lizards and snakes in the northern jungles.

If you choose to spend your weekend on Thailand’s beautiful islands, be aware of current and rip tides when swimming. In the warm climate of Thailand, it’s important to always remain hydrated and bring a water bottle with you, and to be aware of the signs of heat stroke.

Cultural Do’s and Don’ts

Entering a new culture is an exciting and challenging experience. And just as you bring your own culture to share, it’s important to be open and respectful to the culture of those you’ll meet during your travels. You’ll often find that you have a much more positive experience if you are aware of and take into account cultural norms when meeting new people and getting to know your new community.

  • Learn to greet people with the “wai”
  • Smile – Thailand is the land of smiles after all!
  • Dress presentably in public
  • Speak softly and gently in public
  • Gossip about the Royal family in public
  • Sit with your feet pointed towards a person
  • Touch an elder’s head
  • Remove shoes when entering someone’s home

Ready to dress like a Thai?
In Thailand there is a different color associated with each day of the week, so don’t be surprised when you see a crowd of yellow on Monday morning. Go ahead and add a splash of color to any outfit with the help of this handy guide.

Culture Shock

Picture this: You’re living in a country far from home. You can’t understand the language, and you’re trying to order food, but everything seems to be moving so slowly! Why can’t it just be like in your home country: fast and efficient?

Sometimes, these and other frustrations can build up, and you may even become angry or annoyed at with this new and unfamiliar place, its cultural norms, and its people. If this happens to you, you might be experiencing culture shock.

Culture shock can be a normal part of traveling to a new country, but it might surprise you that you can also encounter reverse culture shock when you return home. While everyone experiences some degree of culture shock, the impact that it has on your experience depends on how well prepared you are to handle its different phases. Here are some tips and tricks to get you assimilated (and re-assimilated once you’re back home) so you can enjoy every moment of your journey.

"I - I hardly know, Sir, just at the present," Alice replied rather shyly, "at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then."
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

  • Have a sense humor.
    Try to see something of value in every new experience you have. While it can be challenging in the moment, try to keep it all in perspective. The ability to laugh and go with the flow are two key tools to coping with initial culture shock.
  • Expect differences.
    In any new culture, there will be some differences. If you’re prepared for there to be challenges and differences before you arrive in-country, it can make a world of difference in how you adjust.
  • ...but look for what’s the same.
    You will likely encounter differences in cultures, but you might not immediately realize the similarities. Take a moment to appreciate those attributes that make us more alike than different.
  • Keep learning.
    Immersing yourself in a new culture is a constant education. So continue making an effort to learn and understand what you’re experiencing.

Language Skills

Living and working within your new community is a great way to learn the local language. Whether you’re an advanced speaker or just learning a few key phrases, you’ll enjoy CCS-organized language lessons during your time in-country to help you through your journey. Here are a few important phrases to learn before you depart for your volunteer program. Even if your pronunciation isn’t perfect (yet), give it a try! Your attempts to connect with new friends in the local language will always be appreciated.

Here are a few key phrases to get you started:
Hello, Good morning ...sawat-dee khrab (male speakers)My name is ...pom (chan) chue ...
sawat-dee kha (female speakers)Excuse me, Sorrykhor to:hd khrab/kha
How are you?(khun) sabai dee mai?What is your name?khun chue arai?
I am fine.sabai dee khrab/khaHow old are you?khun aa-yoo taorai?
Thank youkhorb khun khrab/khaI'm ... years oldpom (chan) aa-yoo ... bpee

Intro to Thai:
Basic Level

As with learning any new language, reading phrases is helpful. But listening is one of the best ways to grasp sounds and vocabulary. Click below to hear Country Director Pimsuda Tiandum begin your first Thai language lesson.

Ready for the next level? Practice your Thai with these online sites: » »

Recommended Reading and Films

We believe that travel and firsthand encounters are the BEST education. But there are also plenty of resources to help you learn more about the history, travel opportunities, culture, stories, and language of Thailand so you can begin to immerse yourself even before you arrive. Here are just a few of our favorites to get you started:

TIME Travel: 10 Things to do in Bangkok »
CCS Blog: Bangkok »
YouTube: 36 Hours in Bangkok »

Free Time

Between volunteering, cultural activities, navigating a new language, and immersing yourself in a brand-new culture, you’ll still have plenty of time to explore the local area and even the country during evenings and weekends. Free time is an important part of your experience for independent exploration and self-reflection, and our in-country staff will always have some great, local tips to share.

Start your planning with a few of our favorite suggestions, but also remember that you can plan most of your trips once you arrive in-country (especially if flights aren’t required) with your fellow volunteers.

Venture out to one of Thailand’s elephant sanctuaries for a once in a lifetime wildlife encounter. Play your cards right and you might even get to take a dip in the pool together.

Spend a long weekend relaxing at one of Thailand’s famed beaches. Not into kicking back and taking it easy? Perfect your rock climbing skills or scuba dive along the reef. With over 200 islands to choose from, you’ll have plenty of options.

Leave the city behind and head out of town to explore. There are over 40,000 temples throughout Thailand to be admired.

Thailand is famous for its cuisine, and you’ll find an incredible amount of variety among Bangkok’s many street markets. Stay in town for the weekend and eat your way from one delicious treat to the next.

Training Sessions

If you’re ready to start learning more, review your online Training Sessions below (these are required – so make sure you allocate enough time to review each of these trainings, each under 30 minutes). About 2 weeks before your program begins, you’ll also want to plan on joining your Final Pre-Departure call with your group. We can’t wait for you to join us, meet your fellow volunteers, and explore all that CCS has to offer.

Training Call 1:
How to be a Successful Volunteer »

Training Call 2:
Savvy Street Smarts »

Training Call 3:
Preparing - Work Assignment »

GO TO: Volunteering in Nan Province

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