Walk a Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes
First of all, that would require a Thai to walk, even metaphorically, a mile, which I honestly can’t really imagine a regular (ie non-exercising, around 98% of the population) person doing. Another thing, given most (but not all) village people Volunteers live with, the thought of them imagining a different life (like a Volunteer’s for example) for themselves than the one they’ve always had and known is ludicrous. My Country Director led me to this thought process (albeit in a much nicer, intellectual/philosophical manner) and he’s right. When I set up this idea for my host father in Ban Rai in light of the fact I was eating farang food and how much I missed it, he not only couldn’t walk the mile or tie up my shoelaces, but he didn’t even know where ‘my shoes’ would be.
A Penny Saved is a Dollar Earned
I was raised by a single mother and an accountant. Quite the combo, I know. From Momma Coop, I learned how to stretch a dollar to last and to save, save, save. As much as a stomped and dragged my feet when she made me save my own money to buy things I wanted, I look back at the things I’ve done and bought for myself and the satisfaction is sweet (thanks Mom). Now if only I could apply Momma Cooponomics to Thailand. With over 90% of the Thai population following Buddhism and the idea of living in the ‘now,’ saving your money to travel across the world doesn’t rank too high. People usually think I don’t understand their question ‘Who bought that for you?’ when I answer with a ‘Me.’
I did the thing that Peace Corps tells all Volunteers not to do and loaned some money to one of my friends in my old site. She was building a new house for her son and the money for the contractor was due that day. She told me not to worry, she would pay me back the next week. Two weeks after that, I got a third of it. Then her family bought a new car that was the toast of the neighborhood. I didn’t get the money she owed me for three months and only because I was leaving. I was a little frazzled it was acceptable to buy a new car when they still owed me money and were trying to continue to pay off the new house, but I had left myself a cushion whether or not she ever did pay me back. Spreading it a little too thin, but it’s not like the art putting money away is something Americans excel with either, it’s just nice the sentiment is there.
Wear Your Emotions on Your Sleeve
I’m a little jaded with how much this is not a part of Thai culture. The widely held cultural norm that smiling, saying ‘yes that’s ok, good idea, no I won’t tell your secret’ and the complete opposite is true. Especially when that someone tells you that they understand you’re different and that you can tell them anything or come to them with any kind of problem, but then they use it against you. You want to know why Thailand is named the ‘Land of Smiles?’ People usually don’t express their true feelings and plaster a grin on their face and expect you to do the same. That’s why.
Teach a Man to Fish
In Thailand, there is a certain way to do things. How to peel your fruit, how to fix your bike, or how to iron your clothes for example. On the whole, how I do these things is not satisfactory to Thai people. Rather than take the time to teach me their ways and wait until I get comfortable with it, most Thais are more than content to do it for me. It’s part of the ‘take care you’ culture. This also goes with where things are or where I should put things. I couldn’t tell you where the cups and silverware are in my new host family’s house because as soon as I ask where they are, my (awesome) younger sister is jetting off to get it for me (FYI she’s awesome for reasons other than getting/doing things for me). I’ve even set up circumstances that I would ask her where something is, she goes off to get it, and I mission impossible style flatten out against a door to get a peak where they’ve hidden them. I still don’t know where those damn cups are. Or how to ‘properly’ peel a mango.
Dog is Man’s Best Friend
My brother and I used to fight as kids whose bed our dog, Molly, would sleep in every night. We smothered her with so much love and affection that there were times she would walk away with a huff rivaling a cat. In Thailand, dogs (typically) aren’t even allowed in the house. Thais hold the idea that dogs are kept as defenders of the house and too dirty to enter the threshold. With the large number of street dogs roaming around looking worse for the wear, it doesn’t exactly endear people to their ‘cuteness’. These dogs are generally feared and abused quite handily. Not to say Thais don’t care about the canine friends they own, but they look at me strangely when I dote on dogs with chats and belly rubs.