It’s kind of weird but thanks to lots of comments a la: “If you don’t like it here, go home” it seems like I have to add a disclaimer to lots of my posts these days. What’s happening, people? As always I’m not saying that one thing is better than the other, I’m just sharing observations and opinions in the hope for a civilized exchange of ideas. In order to have somewhat of a structure (yes I know, you’re not used to that here) I decided to divide this post into a few parts (as you can see from the headlines). Hope that helps and hope to hear more of your opinions later on. Furthermore I’m right now looking more onto Germany and Austria since those were the countries I just visited but I’m sure we can find relations to other European countries as well. Obviously I’m stereotyping and generalizing here a bit in order to get to the bigger picture and not everything that I state applies to every single citizen in one of the mentioned countries. Now that we got the disclaimer out of the way, let’s go!
Culture is obviously a big part of a countries heritage and influences the behavior of its citizens quite a lot. And yes, I’m great in stating the obvious. Having that pointed out it might be interesting to see how respective societies look at and think about their own and other cultures and what makes them ‘special’.
Losing face vs. Honesty
I talked about this quite a few times before so that’s nothing new for you as loyal readers of my-thai.org. However it simply belongs into an article like this. In Thailand we are more concerned about ‘losing face’ than almost anything else. That’s the reason why, as a teacher, you always look into this empty stare on student faces but never hearing any questions or not getting answers when asking questions yourself. As a tourist you’ll face that problem (ha!) when asking for directions when people might just completely ignore you due to the fact that they’re to afraid to make mistakes when speaking English or they’ll just give you wrong directions if they don’t know exactly where to go since they wouldn’t want to admit that.
On the other hand in Europe you will easily hear “I don’t know” when asking random people for help. Maybe even way too often since many people don’t want to bother spending time helping strangers. The middle ground, as so often, would be a good way to go here I guess. Being open to help and to communicate but also being able to accept that one simply can’t know everything.
You probably expect me to hate a lot on Thailand in this paragraph, don’t you? And you’re right, I will. But let me get one thing out of the way: Those free busses here, even though those are the most fucked up busses available, are a nice thing. Now we don’t need to discuss the political background and agenda of all of this, but simply having them for the people who really need to commute but have to save every Baht to make a living is nice.
But enough compliments. Let’s start with the complaining (hey I’m German after all). Public Transport is a pain in the ass here. And I’m not talking about the small BTS (Skytrain) or MRT (subway) lines that connect a TINY bit of the city. Yes, they are quite ok and running every 4-6 minutes. Which is nice. As soon as you need to go somewhere where there is no BTS or MRT however you’ll find yourself in for a challenge.
First you gotta figure out which bus goes to where you want to go. Then you gotta figure out where it leaves, then you have to understand the difference between inbound and outbound busses and ideally how those signs look in Thai. Looking for a timetable? Forget it! The bus isn’t coming? Who knows. Just wait…
WAH! ARGH! GRML!
Here change however seems to be on the horizon since the Bangkok post just reported that Bangkok will invest in a bus tracking system and is on the way to create ‘smart bus stops’. So by the time 2020 comes around we might actually have bus stops with timetables and electronic announcements. Future. Yay.
What happens when polychromic and monochromic cultures meet? Right, they clash. This is obvious and hence shouldn’t surprise or anger anyone. Different cultures, different styles. However, even though we do understand that, it wouldn’t harm anyone to move a bit more into the direction of the other I’d say. Most (central / eastern) Europeans could learn to be a bit more relaxed in terms of time constraints while Thais certainly could learn to take time a bit more serious. After all time is one of the few things that can’t be replaced in life.
I wrote an article on Thai Toilet Traits. Kindly check that out and let me know what you think. In short: Privacy!
Silence / Noise
One of the things that always comes to mind when traveling back to Thailand. Europe is quiet. Thailand is…not quiet. Sure that goes hand in hand with how super busy it is and how many people live together and have to share relatively small space so you need to make yourself heard. I get all that. Still, a bit more quietness would be appreciated. Why does this guy with the whistle for example always have to blow his 20 THB whistle all day long even if there is nothing that justifies a whistle blow? Right, for attention!
Those who are loud get attention, those you are not, don’t get attention. That’s something I would consider wrong and hence think Thailand could learn something here.
On the other hand our need at home to be politically correct and to not be too loud is sometimes also a bit troubling. Sometimes it seems as if we would do anything to not be heard. That is obviously also something that we could and should work on.
Anything I forgot? Do I exaggerate? Let me know in the comments!