Five ‘Interesting’ Cultural Traits in Thailand You Wish Your Country Had
I borrowed this one from my friend and fellow PCV Lacey Shoemaker’s blog. I came down with a case of the giggles while reading and borrowed my favorite five of the eight she listed in her original blog. I’ll let her take it from here.
I didn’t know what to call the next list so I came up with an alternative title “8 Interesting cultural norms in Thailand” or “8 Things I like to do here but won’t be able to when I return to the States for fear of widespread social isolation from friends and family, possibly the rest of the American public.” (See what I mean? Giggles) I’ll let you decide which one I should go with. Also, let it be noted that these aren’t exclusive to Thailand.
At first I thought people were treating me like a child because I’m a farang (foreigner) and new to the country. Then I found out it is because of that and also the fact that I am under 30 years old. No joke. I asked when a person is considered an adult in Thailand and the answer was 25-30 years old. This explains why I get food/money/rides offered to me constantly. If I don’t eat much I get brought something else in the hopes that I will like that better. If I don’t eat that, I get asked if I need to go see the doctor. There are some times when this is great but it takes me back to the awkward, teenage, rebelliousness phase of life. Choosing not to do things they way people tell me to because I want to (and can) do it differently. This is just because I’m so familiar with an independent lifestyle and Thai ‘youth’ are familiar with being taken care of in a close-knit community setting. Having college paid for in-full and pants with pocket-money is considered the norm. Thais take care of their kin in a nice rotation of age and responsibility. Plus it’s funny to see their faces when they find out I can cook for myself. And not just Top Ramen.
So for this one Lacey thinks of Tarzan. Why yes! Lacey likes fruit! There are many languages out there that have used this type of grammar and it is interesting here in Thailand. Thai has many forms of the word ‘I’ and Lacey thinks Lacey has counted at least five different ways to say it. Lacey has also seen ways to use those different forms based on who you are talking with and the setting. With Lacey’s close friends, for example, Lacey says ‘Lacey’ instead of the more formal ‘Dii Chan’ (sounds like dee-chon). Lacey thinks this is a very interesting trait of Thais but Lacey hopes Lacey can get it out of her system before she comes home. Lacey hopes that this wasn’t too confusing for everyone because I (Lacey) am pretty sure I am at this point.
Having trouble deciding what to wear today? Do you know what day of the week it is? No problem. This makes it incredibly easy to get dressed each day because certain colors coordinate with the days of the week. Just throw on the right polo shirt and you’re set. No standing in front of your dresser starting at clothes. No trying on multiple outfits to find “the one.” Just look at the calendar, coordinate the color, and you day is ready to go. And if folks are really into this tradition they even do their underwear. Or so I’m told.Sunday-Red
I had a friend from the States recently say to me “Man, it’s such a good day outside here but it must be awesome all the time in Thailand.” To set the record straight: No. (Tee-hee) Granted it is generally nice but it does get very hot some days. (More like most days) And the hot days are often followed by heavy rains which is preferable for most. A good, sunny day also means carrying around umbrellas while riding motorcycles or standing/working in the shade so your skin doesn’t turn “black.” I sometimes get dragged out of the sun so my skin doesn’t turn “ugly” and tan. It is now the rainy season which means that there is an abundance of precipitation. The rain comes in waves (sometimes literally) so Thais will wait for it to stop before adventuring outside to carry on with their day. On a more personal level, the Thais fear for my health. When it starts to rain they believe I will get sick which in all fairness could happen. And when they aren’t worrying about my immune system they are worried I will crash my bike which, again, could happen. Coming from Washington State, it’s difficult for me to understand why daily activities can be hindered from a little ran. But again, different climate = different culture. So weather it’s hot or cold (see what I did there?)(oh, I most definitely did), the climate plays into everyday living just as in other parts of the world. Now I just need to get used to holding an umbrella. (I take the Thai way on this and stay inside until the rain stops, delaying sometimes for hours)
Ok. So I’ve never done this here (yet) but it is on my ‘To Do’ list. (Lacey, not ladylike) Many volunteers were first engrossed and just plain grossed when we first noticed people doing this. One moment you are telling someone about your job as a volunteer and what you find most appealing about their culture then the next you find yourself staring at a hand that use to have 5 fingers but lost one because their index become greedy and wanted to dig for gold. (Insert corny joke about ring finger wanting a cut). Soon after discovering this was acceptable, the boys in our group felt that this was a norm that they could easily conform to. It’s all about assimilation here, people. The nice thing about this norm is that it carriers over many demographics. There is no age, gender, or other basis for discrimination. It’s not uncommon to see children wiping their fingers on their clothes or seeing them give their nose a nice rub on the shirt of an unsuspecting adult; not unlike in the States. Nothing shameful stands in the way between a person and their sniffer.