If you have ever had the chance to sit in a beer bar and get into a conversation with a bar girl. Once you have got past the formality of routine questions you receive – ‘where you come from’ and ‘what your name’ – it is very likely you will hear those three immortal words – ‘Up to you’ at some point in the conversation. The question warranting such an answer could be as innocent as ‘what do you want to drink?’ or ‘do you want to play pool?’.
It is certainly not only in a bar you may hear this phrase too. Whilst moving from location to location in Bangkok, I will jump from all kind of modes of public transport such as the BTS train, taxi car to taxi bike. It is very tiring during a hot day and drains you.
So when I hail a taxi car over and tell him where I want to go, quite often he doesn’t want to turn the meter on (more so at night). So I will ask “How much then?” to which he replies “Up to you”.
Really, I think, do I have to play this game now?!
Well if it was up to me he would “turn the meter on” so it is anything other than “up to me”. So I reply with my opening shot, “100 baht”. To which fairly predictably retorts back, “Oh no, no, no, No can mister. 500 baht”. He then angrily drives off when I disagree.
“Up to you” could not be further from the truth!
What is so infuriating when you hear these three words is that it’s a game of chance for the Thai, and one that I am quite sure they reserve only for ‘farang’ and not fellow Thais.
I mean how can I win in this game?
If I go too low, they say no and if I go to high I pay over the odds. They know their minimum price but they hedge their bets in case the unsuspecting foreigner agrees to pay more.
I had it again from a Thai handyman who I called to my condo to fix my leaking water pipe. I asked how much to make the repair and he replied: “Up to you”. Why do I need to play this game as I go about my day to day activities?!
Look this is no dig at the everyday Thai, it’s more from this minority that operates in a certain industry. For example, if I ask a member of staff in a 7-11 how much for a can of coke then they are straight shooters and tell me the price – funny that!
“Up to you” is anything but this warm, considerate message that newbies could initially feel it is intended as. So when you hear it, tread very carefully and good luck!