Russian-language barrier raises frustration factor for Pattaya street vendors

Friday, 04 April 2014 From Issue Vol. XXII No. 14 By  Nutsara Duangsri

With Pattaya transforming over the past decade from the vacation choice of westerners to the holiday enclave for Russia and Eastern Europe, the city’s retail vendors are struggling to cope with new challenges.

For years, Thais in Pattaya scrambled to learn English to deal with the waves of Europeans, Britons, Americans and Aussies that filled the city’s hotels and bars. Now that most have gained at least a working knowledge of “shopping English,” vendors and store clerks are faced with a Russian-speaking population with little inclination to use either English or Thai.

Rampung Jaruenklang: “I’ve learned a few Russian words…”Rampung Jaruenklang: “I’ve learned a few Russian words…”

Omara Santee, 33, said she appreciates the large numbers of Russian-speaking tourists who have made it possible for her to earn a living in Pattaya. The downside is that the language barrier is making her job more difficult, she said.

“Many of them like to bargain, even though they don’t speak Thai or English,” Omara said. “But I still welcome Russian tourists here.”

Omara Santee says she appreciates the large numbers of Russian-speaking tourists.Omara Santee says she appreciates the large numbers of Russian-speaking tourists.

“There are other ways to communicate with them,” said fruit vendor Rampung Jaruenklang, adding that calculators or body language helps. “I’ve also learned a few Russian words to better interact with them. But, of course, it would be better if they could speak English.”

“I don’t really understand why they don’t speak English at all,” said motorbike-taxi driver Anuchan Oangram, 45. “I have talked with many different foreigners from other countries and I could understand them, but I don’t understand Russians at all. Looks like I have to learn the Russian language.”

Motorbike taxi rider Anuchan Oangram: “I don’t really understand why they don’t speak English…”Motorbike taxi rider Anuchan Oangram: “I don’t really understand why they don’t speak English…”

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