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How to Integrate with #Thais – a look at Thailand’s enigmatic #Culture

24/05/2013

Was Kipling right when he said East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet?

Are the cultural differences too great?

Can the farang and the Thai work at understanding each other’s cultures and points of view? We need to understand some essential truths about how Thais think.

Thai society is highly structured. Hierarchy is a powerful force that cannot be questioned and affects the lives of all Thais. They value individual freedoms, but only when they do not conflict with their loyalties and social responsibilities to those that they live and work with.

The Thais follow these ground rules as much as they understand and accept, whenever possible, the tolerant Buddhist attitude of mai bpen rai. They avoid conflict and confrontation, and keep a smile on their faces. Whatever emotions they may feel inside.

They are an enigmatic people, whose worldview is not easy to comprehend. In a society with such a wide inequality between the rich and the poor, Thais have to accept the cards that they have been dealt but can be extremely jealous of other people.

Some have a need to show off. How they are perceived is important to them, reality is secondary. Appearance over substance.

Their love of fun (sanuk) contrasts with a shy and modest nature. Thais are cautious when forming firm friendships, but become strong pals or buddies once the ice is broken. That is true of Thais whether those they meet are Thai or farang.

Thais can be caring and compassionate while being utterly ruthless and not able to see reason. Fervent nationalism and love of their country is coupled with individual greed, the survival of the fittest. Their lifestyle can appear simple and uncomplicated at the same time as it is full of intricacies and complexities resulting from their need to follow the unwritten rules and traditions that have governed this amazing land for generations.

Whether an expat resident or a traveller in Thailand, you will enjoy a better experience during your time here if you get into the Thai way of life. To get to know the Thais and Thailand, you will need to make the first move. Outside the main tourist areas, try to meet the ordinary Thai. Make an effort to speak a few words of their language. They will say it is the easiest language in the world to learn. I will not comment. But it does not matter (mai bpen rai). Try anyway.

Above all, smile.

The pitfalls are easy to avoid. Be laid-back and accept compromise. Do not appear angry or raise your voice. Copy the Thai and speak softly rather than loudly. Never let them get the impression that you are talking down at them because you consider western attitudes, ideas, and experiences are superior. Do not make even seemingly innocuous remarks that could be taken as a criticism of the Thai or his country. He will lose face.

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One Comment
  1. Matt Owens Rees permalink

    Reblogged this on Matt.Owens.Rees; Thailand Writer.

    Like

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