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Culture Shock
Thailand - The Magic Kingdom


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Culture Shock The gulf between the Thai mentality and the Western mentality is immense. Certainly Most Northern Europeans are aware of the major difference in mentality between northern and southern Europe. Between, say, a Swede and a Spaniard, or a German and an Italian. Many Americans will be aware of the big cultural differences between the USA and central America. But compared to the Thai-Western gulf, these are just little puddles.

Some farangs (the Thai word for foreigners) who have lived in Thailand for a long time claim to understand the Thai mentality. Perhaps it is possible to a degree, but essentially, Westerners will never be able to fully understand the Thai way of thinking..




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Culture Shock - General To say the Thais are laid back is a bit like saying the Germans like to drink beer. They call Thailand, among other things, the Land of Smiles, and the Thais certainly do smile a lot. In fact, they just love to party. They are certainly among the happiest, friendliest, most delightful people in the world (most of the time!). This is great if you're in Thailand on vacation, but if you live there, sooner or later, you're going need a Thai to do something for you, whether its getting a faulty drain fixed, getting a telephone installed, whatever. All the travel books on Thailand will tell you that whatever happens, keep cool, and above all keep smiling, as loud shouting and angry behaviour will get you precisely nowhere with the Thais. What they don't tell you, is that nowhere, but nowhere on dear old planet earth, will your patience be tested to the degree it will be in Thailand. Of course, there is a way to speed things up a tad..........

Culture Shock - Money They say money talks don't they? Well in Thailand it sings, dances, plays the trombone and does animal impressions all at the same time!

If you need a telephone installed, the guy at the phone company will tell you that there's a waiting list of three months, or six months, something in that ball park. But you can always order a 'special'......and depending on how special you want it, you can get it done yesterday.

If you're driving along minding your own business and the Thai police pull you over, you will have to pay a fine. Its not really worth trying to argue. Last time I was pulled over the officer took out his pad, but before writing his ticket he asked me if I knew where the police station was, as fines have to be paid at the police station. When I said I didn't know where it was - deep sigh from the cop. Long silence. Tut tut. Another silence. 'Police station very long way, not easy,' he says. He's about to write the ticket. Stops. Another sigh. Another long silence. Now its my turn. 'Well, wouldn't it be easier if I just gave you the money and you can pay the fine at the police station for me? He beams at me -'Oh good idea!' he says, as if he would never have thought of that one!

What I'm getting at in this section is that nobody pays bribes in Thailand. Heaven forbid! No, you make special, private arrangements, like with the phone company. After all, the phone company official and the installation engineer have put themselves out for you, so you show your appreciation. Nothing wrong with that is there?

Want to get a Thai driving license? No problem. The only trouble is, you have to take a written test, and, of course, its all written in Thai. Of course, the Liscencing Dept officials will try to be helpful. If you ask them nicely, they'll ask you the questions and fill the form in for you. If you ask them really nicely, they'll fill out the form without you having to even answer the questions.

Culture Shock-Love This section really comes under the Culture Shock - Money section. Love and money in Thailand are impossible to separate. Feminism never really took off in Thailand like it did in the West. Certainly, sophisticated girls in Bangkok are very westernised, but traditionally, Thai women are subservient to men. If you want to give a Thai lady a token of love, you buy her gold. And not you're 14carat Western rubbish either. Most Thai gold jewellry is made from pure or nearly pure gold. And the more gold you buy her, the more she'll love you.

I was once sitting next to a Thai lady who had her three year old daughter sitting on her lap. The little girl looks into her mommy's eyes. 'Do you love me mommy?' she asks sweetly. Mommy looks at her little girl adoringly. 'Of course I do sweetheart', she says warmly. The little girl smiles. 'Well give me five baht then,' says the little girl, thrusting out her little hand. The Thais sitting around the table roar with laughter.



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