Surprises in Thailand IV: Pushing other people’s cars around in the parking lot without asking

We pulled into a big shopping mall here in Chiangmai today on our way to the immigration office. We found a parking place quite quickly which was good, but then I saw something peculiar. Our parking place was a standard issue parallel parking job. But right behind our car was a horizontal parking spot fright behind our car. If someone took that, we could never back out.

Then a woman came near to where she was parked. She was small, but started pushing against a big pick up truck which was in her way. She pushed and pushed, and that big old truck moved because she was in neutral. In fact she pushed it behind our car so we could not get our car out unless that truck moved some more. Anyway, since her car was now unblocked, she hopped into her car and drove off. Very strange for this American—you never touch someone else’s car, much less push someone else’s car around, particularly when you they are not there. You also never park your car in neutral, and also put on your hand brake. Just standard protocol in my book!

Anyway off we went to the immigration office, and lunch. I remember hoping to myself that whoever owned the truck would have returned and moved it by the time we got back. And lo, when we got back the big truck was gone. But, in its place was a small sedan, and we weren’t going anywhere unless it was moved. So I furtively looked around and walked up to it. Gave it a push, and found out that it too was in neutral, and the handbrake not set. So if that little Thai woman could roll a big truck, I figured it was ok for me to push the sedan ten feet so that we could get our car out. So it is that we adapt to new cultural norms.

The next challenge will be if I can’t find a parking place. Will I also be willing to park it and neutral, and not set the handbrake so that a stranger can push it out of his way?