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Friday 26 April

25/04/2013

Oh, East is East and West is West

And never the twain shall meet

Is Kipling right?

When Rudyard Kipling wrote those words, he was making the point that Westerners, whether travelers or expats, do not easily integrate into the ways of an Eastern society.

However, he went on to conclude that the people of two cultures could indeed absorb the traditions and life styles of other countries if they have the will to do so. The twain can meet. Those from the East and the West can come together, communicate with each other, and will find no difficulty in doing so.

They looked each other between the eyes, and there they found no fault.

I believe Kipling correctly summarized the difficulties and frustrations of living in a different national culture from one’s own; and was right to say that it was certainly not impossible to bridge the cultural divide. Both those who come as travelers to visit the country and those who have made their home here can work at trying to understand and appreciate the differences between people from other societies.

What do you think?

If the Thais and the émigrés both adopt a little give and take, living together will be more harmonious and satisfying. The Westerner will find that he is living rather than existing.

Should we not have a Second Take on Thailand? Is the country not always what it seems at first?

In the same way that Kipling turned the much-quoted phrase never the twain shall meet on its head by saying that the opposite is in fact true; it could be suggested that we all take a different view about Thailand in an attempt to understand the Thai better.

A Thailand that is neither a perfect paradise on earth nor a dangerous den of dishonesty and deviousness. I have heard both these extreme views on Thai internet forums.

The tendency to avoid conflict and to adopt a laid-back lifestyle is what you will probably notice quite quickly about the Thais. I do not think you would be wrong.

Thais can be obsessed about apparent slights or snubs. Shouting, raising one’s voice, arguing however logically, criticizing in front of others — all can be a formula for disaster in a relationship with a Thai.

The Thais have a strong community spirit. You will see their eagerness to help others.

There is also a strong class structure; the “unwritten” rules of hierarchy are second nature to a Thai. Every man woman and child knows his or her place in society. It is a stabilizing factor. There are agreed and unchangeable conventions to establish the pecking order. The ideas of respect for elders and betters, and the noblesse oblige concept are absolute in Thailand.

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