Meet the Future: 24 Gen Z-ers and their outlook on life and hope in Bangkok
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

Meet the Future: 24 Gen Z-ers and their outlook on life and hope in Bangkok

We went out and talked to these young hopefuls about their future in the Thai capital, and here's what we learned from this progressive and outspoken generation.

Arpiwach Supateerawanitt
Written by
Arpiwach Supateerawanitt

What’s it like to live in Bangkok? Some say it’s wonderful—a city stacked with fun things and exciting happenings. Others think it’s chaotic and, just like any major metropolis around the world, filled with hustle and bustle.

To Generation Z, Bangkok is pretty much the center of everything. These youths were born between 1997 and the early 2010s, when the city experienced a plethora of social, political and economic changes. Some of them came to the world at the dawn of the Tom Yum Kung financial crisis in 1997, while those who were born later have pretty much lived throughout the governance of one particular group of people who have ruled since the early 2010s. We can’t say if they were the best or worst times to be alive, but we can definitely say that the last two decades have witnessed a lot of generation-defining moments that more or less shaped who the Gen Z are. 

We trawled the streets of Bangkok and spoke with 24 youths from this demographic about their outlook on life in the Thai capital. These young interviewees tick all the boxes of how society pictures them—individualistic, outspoken, socially defiant—and they are not afraid to express their thoughts on what they think the future holds. Many of them think of Bangkok as a chaotic city with poor infrastructure and a messy transportation system, but they also believe that the city offers freedom of expression and more opportunities to grow. We also asked each one of them about their hopes for Bangkok. Most of them were not really optimistic and had dim views of what to expect in the future. But they do see a light at the end of the tunnel.

These individuals will soon enter the real world and will be part of the driving force that will–hopefully–propel Thailand’s development. Their thoughts and ideas will soon replace those of the older generation, who will have to step down someday and pass on the torch of power. So why don’t we find out what’s on the minds of Generation Z now?

These interviewees have granted us permission to have their pictures posted for this article.

Gun (21, Bangkok)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

1. Gun (21, Bangkok)

“Life in Bangkok is quite progressive, but there’s no discipline and structure like in other big cities around the world. It can’t be denied that the [food carts] on the sidewalks have become intrinsic to the culture, but the authorities still need to find a way to organize them.”

On hope: “I do have hope, but I’m aware that it’ll be hard. The city has always been like this, so I guess we have to wait for the youth to grow up and fix all the problems.”

Benz (23, Bangkok)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

2. Benz (23, Bangkok)

“I have been smoking for three to four years, and I have many friends who do, too. The idea of seeing smoking as a bad thing belongs to adults who don’t seem to listen to us or try to understand what we think. Nowadays, there’s very little space in Bangkok for smokers and, while I think people should smoke in a designated area, there should be more spaces. I also think smoking is an act of socializing that allows people to expand their social circle, which is a point that many people overlook.”

On hope: “I think the reason why many people are hopeless is because of the government. I don’t feel like they make us feel secure about living here. They’re heavily in debt, so how are they going to help us? I feel like working while finishing school is the best solution to find hope.”

Paloma (22, Rayong)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

3. Paloma (22, Rayong)

“I became interested in cosplay about 10 years ago when I was still living in Rayong. It blew my mind when I went to a cosplay event in Bangkok—everything was just ‘wow!’ It’s true that Bangkok allows people like me to express who they are, and [the city] has helped me discover who I am.”

On hope: “I feel good when older people recognize us as the future, but I feel pressured at the same time. Labeling us as the future of the city means we have to be the ones to fix what they’ve done wrong. But think about it, is it actually our responsibility? So, I’d say I don’t have much hope in this city. If there are more people like me, maybe it would be possible to revolutionize Bangkok.”

Baby Oil (17, Bangkok)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

4. Baby Oil (17, Bangkok)

“Studying in Bangkok schools is very competitive, but I don’t think I learn anything from the educational system here. I reckon real life is much scarier, and those subjects taught in the classroom don’t even provide everything we need to cope. I know I’m not meant to be in school and I’m glad that I get to try everything I want to, like working as an extra or a supporting cast member. It’s good that my parents are quite open-minded and they recognize that the educational system here doesn’t really help.”

On hope: “I do have hope, but I don’t like Bangkok that much. I have traveled to other provinces and I’ve found that life is better elsewhere. I love the sea, so I think about moving to seaside places like Pattaya. But I would like to see the educational system improved. They should allow kids to find their true passions, not force them to sit through those unnecessary classes.”

Aom (21, Bangkok)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

5. Aom (21, Bangkok)

“In Bangkok, I can go anywhere and do whatever I want. It’s easy for people to go out and seek happiness for themselves. But there is not much variety because you only have cafés and shopping malls, which I don’t think is good.”

On hope: “It’s shocking to know that there are people who expect us to be the future of Bangkok, but I have hope and think that we can help.”

Mai (23, Bangkok)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

6. Mai (23, Bangkok)

“Bangkok is full of new and exciting things, even if it’s one of the oldest cities in the country. Charoenkrung, for example, has new things popping up all the time, whether it’s a building or a café, or events like a book fair, concerts or art exhibitions. Growing up here is also a big advantage, because Bangkok is the center of all things. But there are also disadvantages— these benefits seem to make people less friendly. But I don’t think people are bad. The fast-paced lifestyle may force people to become selfish when, in fact, some of them may be truly kind.”

On hope: “There’s always something that lights up hope here. When I look around and see my friends becoming successful, it pushes me to become better. Seeing myself as the future of the city is a huge pressure, but that reminds me to think a lot about who I am and what I have achieved.”

Gung Ging (24, Nakhon Ratchasima)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

7. Gung Ging (24, Nakhon Ratchasima)

“I’m actually in Bangkok for work, but I’m studying in Khonkaen. There’s no need to rush in Nakhon Ratchasima or Khonkaen but, here in Bangkok, you have to spare at least one to two hours for your daily commute. And people here are not accommodating. Like when you take an elevator—in my hometown, people will ask what floor you are heading to but, here,  it’s every man for himself. It’s scary to picture myself living here. It’s not that Bangkok is dangerous, but I’m afraid to be lonely or live in a place where people are insincere and apathetic.”

On hope: “I still think there’s hope for the city. Many people outside Bangkok want to move here for work because they feel that they can better their lives, get good jobs and earn more money. I think Bangkok is the land of opportunity.”

Maprang (22, Bangkok)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

8. Maprang (22, Bangkok)

“It’s always chaotic in Bangkok, but the past few years have seen a lot of progress in terms of infrastructure. There are new roads, new bridges and new train lines that make life more convenient. As a Bangkok native, I think that agriculture [what she’s studying right now-TO] isn’t really relevant to life here, but I still find it interesting and more people are growing plants in their places.”

On hope: “I think there’s very little hope, especially since the job market seems to focus only on certain areas—as in you have to get a job that’s related to your degree. It’s like they don’t try to be more open to new things.”

Field (21, Bangkok)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

9. Field (21, Bangkok)

“Gen Z-ers definitely have more guts to dress how they want. Nowadays, it’s normal for boys to wear a skirt even though they are straight and have girlfriends. But I still believe that there’s a right time and place for wearing this sort of attire. Anyhow, Bangkok is still a better place for everyone to express themselves.”

On hope: “What makes us feel so hopeless is how [people in power] respond to problems without making any sense. It’s like they never think about what they say or do. Even kids can come up with better solutions. They are the hindrance to Thailand’s development.”

Tong (23, Bangkok)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

10. Tong (23, Bangkok)

“I think it’s quite hard for the local fashion scene to compete with big international brands. The fundamental purpose of clothes is to keep us warm and the reason why foreign brands can go further is because the different seasons allow them to sell and wear many clothes. Regardless, Bangkok gives us more space to express who we are with the way we dress. I feel like I can do and wear what I want and like. But personally, I think Gen Z kids seem to have more freedom of expression in the online world than in the real world.”

On hope: “Everybody needs to have hope. My only dream as of now is to stay with my sister in England. If I get the chance to escape this country, I will.”

Makham (20, Songkhla)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

11. Makham (20, Songkhla)

“Bangkok is pretty much the center of everything: food, attractions, famous people. The city brings people from different backgrounds together and allows us to expand our social circles. I, myself, learn new things all the time. Bangkok is a fun place to make new discoveries, and find who you are or your passion.”

On hope: “In the long run, I don’t see myself eventually settling down here. Things are quite chaotic, and there are a few inconveniences, like commuting. To be honest, hanging out in Bangkok requires a lot of money, which is an important factor for me.”

Gler (20, Sukhothai)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

12. Gler (20, Sukhothai)

“I don’t think Thailand offers much stability. This is why many people have turned to superstitious beliefs or fortune-telling to find a good reason to believe in something, especially Gen Z kids who don’t know whom to turn to or what to believe in because a lot of things in Thailand don’t make sense. I feel that kids my age are seeking reasons for everything, and we are told many things that don’t make sense, like thinking of a woman’s menstruation cycle as vile, which is a completely outdated belief.”

On hope: “It’s non-existent. I can see myself living somewhere else in the next two years. But where I am now—financially, for example—doesn’t really make it possible. If I get the chance, I would take it without thinking twice.”

Pimmi (Chiang Mai, 21)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

13. Pimmi (Chiang Mai, 21)

“I’m an introvert and I find it hard to live in Bangkok. It’s a city for socializing, where people go out to hang together all the time. Introverted people tend to seek privacy and there aren’t many places here that meet their wants. For example, there are very few libraries where people can go and find peace in a communal space. I’m not saying that there should be a place that promotes itself as a spot dedicated to introverts. I think people, whether they’re introverts or extroverts, should be able to live together.”

On hope: "My hope in the city almost doesn’t exist. Many people think Bangkok is highly developed, but I don’t think it is. All the development is just focused in the city center.”

Chanon (22, Bangkok)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

14. Chanon (22, Bangkok)

“I don’t feel like kids from my generation are able to write their future because people from the older generations have already decided for us. If they want us to be the future, then they have to give us more opportunities. Also, I feel very pressured to live my life here—my family expects me to earn money to help clear their debts and take care of them when they’re old.”

On hope: “Before COVID, there was so much hope, but now it’s just hopeless. I’m thinking of going to the US for a while. But I still need to fight even though there’s not so much to hope for.”

Noey (20, Samut Prakan)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

15. Noey (20, Samut Prakan)

“The art scene here is getting bigger than ever, which is a good thing as Thailand didn’t have much on this front in the past. It’s become trendy to go to art exhibitions and post pictures on social media. Still, it benefits creative people and the scene as they get more support from the public, like how people helped save BACC. But, I still think that many Thais don’t care much about art and culture because they work around the clock. They probably want to stay home during their free time.”

On hope: “I think it’s difficult to live in Bangkok. There are many factors to consider—living cost, for one.”

Pie (21, Bangkok)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

16. Pie (21, Bangkok)

“Gen Z kids, in my opinion, are very impressive. They are very good at self-learning and freeing themselves from relying on the government, which doesn’t really do anything to help us. However, kids these days like to bash people on the Internet and don’t show respect to one another.”

On hope: “I can’t really see the future, let alone what career path I’d like to pursue. We all want money, but the average salary is B15,000; some places even pay lower than that. That amount is barely enough to cover living expenses in Bangkok, which can be quite expensive. Plus we have to spare at least two hours for commuting and that takes away a lot of time in one day.”

Tiger (21, Petchabun)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

17. Tiger (21, Petchabun)

“It’s so chaotic here. In my first year in Bangkok, commuting had the biggest impact on me. Transport fees are overpriced, but that’s understandable considering how convenient it is for us. What I want to see improve are the buses. It’s 2022, yet some of them still have wooden flooring and that’s dangerous for passengers! It seems like the government doesn’t care so much about people in the lower class, which is why they overlook ‘tiny’ issues like the bus, yet many people are facing these problems.”

On hope: “It’s complete darkness when I close my eyes and think about what lies ahead, but I see myself getting a job here and I hope life will get better some day.”

Nay (18, Phuket)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

18. Nay (18, Phuket)

“I’m just traveling around the city and I’ve found that Bangkok isn’t as good as it appears. Honestly, it’s all fake here. Many places look really fancy on the outside, but it’s all just for face value. Also, some people here treat me differently because I’m only 18 and not from Bangkok.”

On hope: “There are more opportunities for the younger generation to help develop the country—at least, that’s what I hope. I wonder when new faces will replace the older generation, who don't seem to be doing anything. But honestly, I don’t feel hopeful, seeing the same people in power taking control of the country like this.”

Art (21, Bangkok)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

19. Art (21, Bangkok)

4 Kings is pretty much a true representation of life in Bangkok even though it’s set in the 1980/’90s—almost everything has remained the same. Life nowadays may even be worse because the government hasn’t helped to make it better. I want to see Bangkok’s new governor improve the roads and the public health system, especially about cannabis. I feel like some people still don’t have ample knowledge about the plant, or maybe there are no big corporations that recognize the benefits of investing in it. I use weed for relaxation and recreational purposes and that hasn’t given anyone any trouble.”

On hope: “I think I will die in the next 40 years and things would still have not progressed. The people in charge of this country are the obstacle.”

Ploy (19, Pathumthani)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

20. Ploy (19, Pathumthani)

“There’s a big wealth gap here. My parents are nine-to-fivers and they still can’t earn enough to cover all expenses. I’m on a student loan and that’s a struggle I have to endure, and my family expects me to get a good job in the future, which is a huge pressure.”

On hope: “I have hope that things can get better. I can see myself living in Bangkok someday, but I may have to move somewhere in the center because transportation here is very inconvenient.”

Aton (15, Bangkok)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

21. Aton (15, Bangkok)

“I was in a few small roles in the Boys Love series, and I enjoy working in the industry. For me, Boys Love shows help normalize the LGBTQ+ community and gender equality in the country. However, the support for Thai entertainment isn’t as big as that for international entertainment, like K-Pop.”

On hope: “I do have hope as long as I’m passionate about achieving something.”

Wa (22, Bangkok)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

22. Wa (22, Bangkok)

“It’s a bit hard to speak up about living in Bangkok as a Muslim, but I find my life pretty okay here. There are no issues or anything that really bother me, but sometimes I feel unwelcome in certain places and I think that’s because of the perception that Muslims are violent people due to the political unrest in Southern Thailand. But it’s getting much better now. Gen Z Muslims, I feel, are bolder and more outspoken. Recently, there was this girl in Yala who came out and fought for her rights. She’s very brave.”

On hope: “I want to move to another country. I’m studying for a teaching degree and there are too many processes and hierarchies in this profession, which makes it difficult for me to be hopeful about my career. I do think people my age can definitely be the future, but adults are holding us back from bringing about progress in the country. They should listen to us and stop defending the old systems. There needs to be change.”

Nay Lan (20, Surin)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

23. Nay Lan (20, Surin)

“My past two years in Bangkok have been very tiring because of the pandemic and the politics. It’s obvious that things are getting worse. Sadly, I didn’t get to join the youth protests last year, but I really wanted to. I feel like these movements are representative of how the younger generation feels. Also, people in power should have realized by now that the country needs to go forward.”

On hope: “There’s still some hope in me, but I can’t see what I will do in the future. All I can think of is moving to another country. How can people my age grow in this kind of environment? Some of the older people [in government] should have retired by now. There’s so much difference between generations, but the way to live in peace is to adapt. The problem is those people don’t listen to us, so I think the protests will definitely come back stronger than ever.”

Kong (23, Bangkok)
Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

24. Kong (23, Bangkok)

“There’s a huge gap between generations and not all adults understand what we are trying to communicate. Some people in my family say they are trying, but it is just too hard for them to grasp. What I think they need to do is to tear down that ‘experience ego’. They have to stop thinking that they are more experienced because they are older. What they think is right may be wrong now, so we all need to exchange ideas and talk. We are now more open about gender issues, for instance, with kids feeling that they are more free to dress how they want.”

On hope: “I’m fully aware that I want to take myself to the place that I want to be. But I have to figure out what I really want to do and if this country will help me accomplish that. For now, there's still a place in Thailand where I can explore my passion. I’m going to start with that and see where it takes me.”

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