Aspects of the Thais

If you're already in Thailand, a prolonged description of the Thai character is perhaps not necessary. But if you're thinking of coming to Thailand, then a few words may not go amiss.

Buddhism

The Thais are deeply Buddhist. Their religion covers all aspects of their lives, and has a profound impact on the way they think and act. This impact is largely a positive one and many of the attractive sides of the Thai character can be attributed to it.

Stoicism

A girl I know took her child to Lumpini Park for a walk. My wife was helping her look after her child at the time. She rang during the afternoon and asked if we could collect the child. It turned out she did not have enough money to bring the child back, and knew that we were against her taking him on a motorcycle. She had played with the child all the afternoon, and my wife collected the child later that day. At no point during the time we spent together did she betray in her face or words the worry she must have been going through; penniless, unable to look after her child without our help, and a future that looked increasingly bleak. Her face remains unlined, her smile is ready as ever.

What is her attitude towards life?

Take life as it comes; don't whinge about the buffetings of circumstance; don't show your troubles to others, especially those who are not in your immediate family. Be grateful for good turns, but not fawningly so. Internalise problems. Keep a brave smiling face. Try not to worry too much about the future.

Many good qualities here - but sometimes they lead to cathartic explosions

Thai Anger

When Thais get angry, keep out of the way. The stress I have mentioned above sometimes surfaces in alcohol or imagined slights. As a Westerner, your main aim should be to get away because you're in the way. Thais will not thank you for involving yourself. A recent case illustrates the point only too sadly, when some young Englishmen interfered in a case involving a drunken Thai customer. He left, returned with a gun and shot two of the Englishmen, killing one. Had they just walked away, it would never have happened.

If you are unfortunate enough to be the object of a Thai's anger, don't hang around. Make your excuses and leave.

The Head and the Feet

Thais believe the soul resides in the head. The feet, being at the opposite end of the body, are considered to be dirty. There’s a lot of sense in this. In the West we believed for hundreds of years that the soul resided in the heart – a simple blood pump – and not in the mind. Thais consider the heart to be the seat of emotions – there are many phrases and idioms in Thai containing the word heart – but the feet are anathema. A Western factory manager, newly arrived, made a hideous mistake. A tool lay on the factory floor and a Thai went to collect it. The Westerner, wanting to help, moved the tool with his foot towards the Thai, who had already bent to pick it up. Just about the worst offence possible. Now the Westerner's foot was in line with the Thai's and he, incensed, stood and hit the manager in the face.

He lost his job. But why hadn’t the Westerner’s employers not given him a briefing on Thai customs before he went to the country? This situation could easily have been avoided.

Thais take their shoes off when they enter your house. The idea is to avoid bringing dirt from the streets. A great idea, surely?


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