The culture of Bangkok reflects its position as Thailand's center of wealth and modernization. The city has long been the portal of entry of Western concepts and material goods, which have been adopted and blended with Thai values to various degrees by its residents.
This is most evident in the lifestyles of the expanding middle class. Conspicuous consumption serves as a display of economic and social status, and shopping centers are popular weekend hangouts. Ownership of electronics and consumer products such as mobile phones is ubiquitous.
This has been accompanied by a degree of secularism, as religion's role in everyday life has rather diminished.
Although such trends have spread to other urban centers, and, to a degree, the countryside, Bangkok remains at the forefront of social change.
A distinct feature of Bangkok is the ubiquity of street vendors selling goods ranging from food items to clothing and accessories. It has been estimated that the city may have over 100,000 hawkers. While the BMA has authorized the practice in 287 sites, the majority of activity in another 407 sites takes place illegally.
Although they take up pavement space and block pedestrian traffic, many of the city's residents depend on these vendors for their meals, and the BMA's efforts to curb their numbers have largely been unsuccessful.