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You know you’re in SE Asia when…

South East Asia, to anyone who grew up in a western country, is insane. We love it, we hate it. We have no idea how people live this way but are fascinated that they do and sometimes even envious of the lack of rules and order.

Our time backpacking South East Asia has come to an end as we head to India this week. We thought we’d wrap things up with a little overview of the best stereotypes.

If you have backpacked South East Asia, you are going to know exactly what we are talking about. If not, get ready for an education!

You know you’re in South East Asia when…


1. You realise that a 2 person motor scooter is in fact designed to transport a family of 5, plus school books and bags.

Family of 5 on a motorcycle - cambodia, Asia

They’ll make it work somehow. No Matter how much stuff they have, there is always more space on their tiny motor scooter for more.

2. You’re actually excited to find a toilet with supplied toilet paper and not just a bum gun.

how to use squat toilets



Maybe Westerners are weird. After all, most cultures are happy to have the cleansing feel of a high power water jet up the anus. For some reason we just never got into having multiple daily enemas. So, finding toilet paper can be quite a treat.

3. You are told that 2 completely different things are actually “same, same”.

Same Same Bangkok


After a few weeks in SE Asia, “Same, Same” will be your new catchphrase. Do you want a motorbike taxi or an air conditioned taxi? Apparently these clearly dissimilar modes of transport are now “Same, Same”. NO, they aren’t! Two t-shirts of completely different colour and style are also “same, Same”. Getting exactly what you want is now the stuff of dreams.

4. You learn that beer should be served in tower form.

beer tower high contrast

What could be better than a glass of beer? Well, 2 glasses of beer of course! Run that experiment to its limits and you find yourself with a 3 litre beer tower. With ice in a separate tube down the centre, it’s the quintessential SE Asian drinking experience.

5. You realise that tourists try to get tanned whilst the locals try to get white.

Whitening products for Asians

Every pharmacy in SE Asia has toiletries to make you whiter. Arriving in SE Asia expecting to lose your whitey-white, pasty complexion, you discover that your beach time will be in vain as every moisturiser, deodorant and shower gel is designed to bleach you albino. 

6. You are allowed on the wrong side of the chain link fence.

Tiger Chain Link fence

Most zoos you’ve been too let you look at the animals from the safety behind the chain link fence. Not in SE Asia. Hugging tigers is fun, health and safety is for boring people. Read more about the Tiger Temple & Tiger Kingdom in Thailand.

7. Pest controllers have second jobs as chefs.

Insects at the Chiang Mai Walking Market

Insects are a good form of protein, they said. You’ll enjoy eating them, they said. Watch the video now: Tommo Eats Insects.

8. You discover that not only can you eat fish, but fish can also eat you.

Feet in Fish Foot Spa, Central Market, Kuala Lumpur.


Fish foot spas are now dotted all over SE Asia. Turns out you are not as high up the food chain as you thought as these little fellas feast on your tootsies. Read more about our experience at the Cute Fish Foot Spa in Kuala Lumpur.

-> Looking for guidance navigating the crazy of Asia? You can always consider taking an Indochina Tour to help you have the best possible experience while in Asia.

9. You can’t tell which girls are smuggling a penis.

Ladyboys. Sometimes they are easy to spot, sometimes not. But in SE Asia, unless you cop a feel, you can’t always tell if that “she” is actually a “he”. How many of the above “ladies” are packing an undercarriage? Thats right, all of them.

10. You realise you can take a shower and a dump at the same time

toilet shower

For all the feng shui in Asia, it certainly doesn’t apply in budget guesthouse bathrooms. If you’ve backpacked in SE Asia, chances are you’ve had the opportunity to wash your hair whilst dropping a load. Whether you have actually taken advantage of this opportunity, is another matter. Leave us a comment below if you are a shower-toilet hero.


What typifies SE Asia for you? Leave us a comment.