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Thai society (also compared to Chinese)

Discuss culture, living, traveling, relocating, dating or anything related to the Asian countries - China, The Philippines, Thailand, etc.

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Thai society (also compared to Chinese)

Postby Falcon » Fri Jun 07, 2013 7:23 pm

So, I'm living in Thailand now. Here are some things I'd like to say about Thai society. :)


Thais and other Asians

To be honest, Thais generally have negative views of many other Southeast Asians, especially Cambodians, Burmese, and often the northern hill-tribes. Laotians are viewed similarly as Isaan people: ultimately cultural and linguistic cousins of the Thais, but uncouth folks from the boondocks. Many expats from these ethnic groups in Thailand feel discriminated against by Thais. There are many individuals that would get along quite well with each other, but as a whole, these nationalities do not get along and keep to themselves. In fact, I've had Cambodians here tell me that Thais are racist and bigoted (at least to other SE Asians). The northern hill-tribes have not been treated well by the Thai government either.

Northeast Asians (Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, HK/Singaporeans), however, are treated well and highly regarded. China and Japan have had positive diplomatic ties with Thailand for centuries, and since they do not border Thailand, they don't compete directly for land and resources the way that Cambodia or Burma had for centuries. The Chinese have been by far the best assimilated group, and Thais feel a special kinship with them, as many Thais have Chinese ancestry. There was a short period in the 1900's during which the Chinese were vilified, but this has long since passed. Today, they are still the "Jews of Southeast Asia." Many top Thai businessmen and politicians today have direct Chinese patrilineal ancestry. Across central Thailand, it is very common to find shops with Chinese characters, as well as Chinese restaurants.

However, local Thais are not particularly fond of the large groups of Chinese tourists who do not bother to speak Thai, have crude manners (from the Thai perspective), and act like stereotypical "sleazy tourists." There are many recent Chinese immigrants who do settle down and eventually blend in quite well in Thai society though.

South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis, and others) are called "khaek," which means "guest people." They generally are viewed less favorably than the NE Asians, although many South Asians have also integrated quite into Thai society over the centuries. Much of Thai culture ultimately comes from India.

Thailand has an assimilationist policy in that it only recognizes one official ethnic group and one official language: Thai. Everyone born and raised in Thai society will be expected to be Thai, not take on separate non-Thai identities. Hence, the wide range of looks that present-day Thais have, which can range from light-skinned NE Asian to almost South Asian (Indian)-like.

Thais are highly nationalistic, and the country has a strong right-wing feel, quite unlike China's strong left-wing feel with a neo-capitalist twist. As the wealthiest and most powerful Southeast Asian country north of Malaysia and west of the Philippines, Thailand feels very superior to its weaker neighbors.


Etiquette and social class in Thai society

Thailand is a very hierarchical society, which is quite evident in their language and etiquette. This stands in stark contrast to China, which feels much more egalitarian and feels far less hierarchical than Thailand. Thais have very elaborate ways of using correct words and phrasings to talk to people of higher/lower social standings, older/younger people, and so on. China is much more simple in that language etiquette is pretty much binary -- informal vs. formal (as with Spanish) for basic pronouns, such as "you." But in Thai, you would have a "proper" Sanskrit-derived term for words as basic as "eat," which would be used in formal contexts instead of the informal, "regular" native Thai term.

As a result, Thais are very deferential, very polite, and highly conscious of social class and status. In this respect, Thais are far more like Japanese than Chinese. Simple everyday purchases at convenience stores and restaurants all involve deferential head ducks and wais. Bills are often presented to customers with both hands. Thais also speak very softly (except for the hustlers targeting foreign tourists), much more so than the mainland Chinese. In China, people are much, much rougher, as the Cultural Revolution has made China a complete polar opposite of Thailand in many ways.

However, the down side is that oftentimes when Thais don't like you, they'll keep on being polite and won't say anything. The Chinese would tend to show immediate irritation when not impressed, on the other hand.

Beggars are treated much better in Thailand than in China. Thais have much more compassion than many NE Asians do with the less fortunate. In Thailand, it's actually good karma to give alms to the poor, whereas people in China just don't think this way.

People do line up in Thailand. Once in a while, a few impatient individuals may try to cut the queue, but this is surprisingly rare. Not so in China! Thais rarely spit too.

The Thais also take cleanliness far more seriously than the mainland Chinese and Indians do. People rarely throw trash willy-nilly as they do in China, and usually only drop plastic wrappings by the edges of sidewalks, not entire bags of food straight out in the open as in China. Streets are swept regularly, and homes are usually kept very tidy.

Thai bureaucrats and academics also do not cooperate well with each other, and form cliques within their respective institutions that can make negotiations difficult. Why? The short answer is that Thais do not trust each other very much. Comparatively, doing business and coordinating institutions in China would be much easier.

Thais will highly respect you if you dress like a proper middle-class, well-educated citizen, and if they know you went to a respectable university or have a respectable job. Sleazy tourists are not looked well upon by the educated class.



Just my 2 cents, please feel free to comment, ask questions, or object.
Last edited by Falcon on Sat Jun 08, 2013 7:47 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby zboy1 » Fri Jun 07, 2013 8:22 pm

Great post, Falcon! I, eventually, would like to live somewhere permanently in Asia--after I'm done teaching English in China--and Thailand seems like a good fit for me. Having visited the country once before (and enjoying it!), I ended up getting some very good vibes about the place. I wouldn't mind living there on a permanent basis one day.
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Re: Thai society (also compared to Chinese)

Postby Rock » Fri Jun 07, 2013 9:19 pm

Falcon wrote:So, I'm living in Thailand now. Here are some things I'd like to say about Thai society. :)


Thais and other Asians

To be honest, Thais generally have negative views of many other Southeast Asians, especially Cambodians, Burmese, and often the northern hill-tribes. Laotians are viewed similarly as Isaan people: ultimately cultural and linguistic cousins of the Thais, but uncouth folks from the boondocks. Many expats from these ethnic groups in Thailand feel discriminated against by Thais. There are many individuals that would get along quite well with each other, but as a whole, these nationalities do not get along and keep to themselves. In fact, I've had Cambodians here tell me that Thais are racist and bigoted (at least to other SE Asians). The northern hill-tribes have not been treated well by the Thai government either.

Northeast Asians (Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, HK/Singaporeans), however, are treated well and highly regarded. China and Japan have had positive diplomatic ties with Thailand for centuries, and since they do not border Thailand, they don't compete directly for land and resources the way that Cambodia or Burma had for centuries. The Chinese have been by far the best assimilated group, and Thais feel a special kinship to them, as many Thais have Chinese ancestry. There was a short period in the 1900's during which the Chinese were vilified, but this has long since passed. Today, they are still the "Jews of Southeast Asia." Many top Thai businessmen and politicians today have direct Chinese patrilineal ancestry. Across central Thailand, it is very common to find shops with Chinese characters, as well as Chinese restaurants.

However, local Thais are not particularly fond of the large groups of Chinese tourists who do not bother to speak Thai, have crude manners (from the Thai perspective), and act like stereotypical "sleazy tourists." There are many recent Chinese immigrants who do settle down and eventually blend in quite well in Thai society though.

South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis, and others) are called "khaek," which means "guest people." They generally are viewed less favorably than the NE Asians, although many South Asians have also integrated quite into Thai society over the centuries. Much of Thai culture ultimately comes from India.

Thailand has assimilationist policy in that it only recognizes one official ethnic group and one official language: Thai. Everyone born and raised in Thai society will be expected to be Thai, not take on separate non-Thai identities. Hence, the wide range of looks that present-day Thais have, which can range from light-skinned NE Asian to almost South Asian (Indian)-like.

Thais are highly nationalistic, and the country has a strong right-wing feel, quite unlike China's strong left-wing feel with a neo-capitalist twist. As the wealthiest and most powerful Southeast Asian country north of Malaysia and west of the Philippines, Thailand feels very superior to its weaker neighbors.


Etiquette and social class in Thai society

Thailand is a very hierarchical society, which is quite evident in their language and etiquette. This stands in stark contrast to China, which feels much more egalitarian and feels far less hierarchical than Thailand. Thais have very elaborate ways of using correct words and phrasings to talk to people of higher/lower social standings, older/younger people, and so on. China is much more simple in that language etiquette is pretty much binary -- informal vs. formal (as with Spanish) for basic pronouns, such as "you." But in Thai, you would have a "proper" Sanskrit-derived term for words as basic as "eat," which would be used in formal contexts instead of the informal, "regular" native Thai term.

As a result, Thais are very deferential, very polite, and highly conscious of social class and status. In this respect, Thais are far more like Japanese than Chinese. Simple everyday purchases at convenience stores and restaurants all involve deferential head ducks and wais. Bills are often presented to customers with both hands. Thais also speak very softly (except for the hustlers targeting foreign tourists), much more so than the mainland Chinese. In China, people are much, much rougher, as the Cultural Revolution has made China a complete polar opposite of Thailand in many ways.

However, the down side is that oftentimes when Thais don't like you, they'll keep on being polite and won't say anything. The Chinese would tend to show immediate irritation when not impressed, on the other hand.

Beggars are treated much better in Thailand than in China. Thais have much more compassion than many NE Asians do with the less fortunate. In Thailand, it's actually good karma to give alms to the poor, whereas people in China just don't think this way.

People do line up in Thailand. Once in a while, a few impatient individuals may try to cut the queue, but this is surprisingly rare. Not so in China! Thais rarely spit too.

The Thais also take cleanliness far more seriously than the mainland Chinese and Indians do. People rarely throw trash willy-nilly as they do in China, and usually drop plastic wrappings by the edge of sidewalks, not entire bags of food straight out in the open as in China. Streets are swept regularly, and homes are usually kept very tidy.

Thai bureaucrats and academics also do not cooperate well with each other, and form cliques within their respective institutions that can make negotiations difficult. Why? The short answer is that Thais do not trust each other very much. Comparatively, doing business and coordinating institutions in China would be much easier.

Thais will highly respect you if you dress like a proper middle-class, well-educated citizen, and if they know you went to a respectable university or have a respectable job. Sleazy tourists are not looked well upon by the educated class.



Just my 2 cents, please feel free to comment, ask questions, or object.


Your points of analysis about Thailand jibes very well with what I've observed, felt, and sensed during my times here. But since you are contrasting to China, what are you basing that side on (your ancestry and family background plus your trips to certain areas there?). I'm particularly interested in how you came to this observation - "Thais are highly nationalistic, and the country has a strong right-wing feel, quite unlike China's strong left-wing feel with a neo-capitalist twist. "

Speaking of manners. I actually picked up an eating habit in Taiwan (which is already way more polite and refined than PRC) which didn't seem to go over very well here - softly and quietly spitting out small bones after chewing on a a porkchop or piece of chicken. The Thais I was around were direct enough to politely let me know this doesn't look good here.

Thais outside of the sleaze world are generally polite and smooth. It really in many ways feels like the softest Asian country (next to Japan) that I've been too. In Manila, people constantly honk their horns like idiots over nothing and the noise and air pollution is so hard to bear. But Bangkok is amazingly quiet given its high density and congestion. People rarely honk and when they do, its a light tap for a practical reason, not a honking match to see who's more macho. Thais know how to organize a complex large city and make it a very pleasant and safe place to walk, eat, shop, play, etc.

I really appreciate this and many other aspects. They leave you alone. This can be a safe country to live in if you follow all the unwritten rules. That's one of the reason why so many foreigners love it here. It's very much live and let live as long as you don't cross 'the boundaries'.

Why might Thais look down on whites? Lad says its in large part due to the history and way they are taught in school though I don't think anamericaninbangkok (a foreigner who speaks Thai, has lived here last 2 decades and has a child going to local schools) agrees with this view. From my perspective and putting myself in the shoes of the Thais, I can understand why they might feel this way just by walking around the city of Bangkok. You still see aging whoremongers, subsistence wage English teachers, and rowdy shoestring backpackers. Many white people here still carry an attitude on their sleeve which just isn't appreciated in this culture. In nearby Pattaya, Russians may even be considered more obnoxious than regular Euro/Aussie white expats. And when white guys pair with the locals, the default seems to be with the lower status females, even sometimes for white guys in respectable or even sometimes high level expat positions. Also, the majority do not bother to learn much Thai.

There are also many western families who come here and other westerner expats who dress smart and adapt well to the norms here. I believe these types of westerners are held in a different light by many locals. It's hard for Thais to deny the appeal of cute white children and families who are well healed enough to stay in expensive resorts and 5 star hotels. White guys (and girls) who adapt well are going to be appreciated, especially if they are young and Asian trendy looking. I do believe westerner expats create a lot of their own longer term problems in certain countries. Even in Phils (which in theory is supposed to like whites), there is some stigma attached to dating a white guy in certain circles.

About beggars: Here locals often hand them coins or even small bills. In return, they are extremely passive and rarely harass people including tourists. In contrast, I remember seeing beggars get kicked around and scolded by locals in China if say they were too near someone's shop. Spot on Falcon.

What you say regarding Thais views other Asians and the distinctions you draw makes a lot more sense to me then the blanket "If you are Asian, the Thais will accept you, if you're not, they will hate you" posted in the past on this forum.
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Re: Thai society (also compared to Chinese)

Postby Anonymous1 » Sat Jun 08, 2013 2:22 am

Falcon wrote:So, I'm living in Thailand now. Here are some things I'd like to say about Thai society. :)


Thais and other Asians

To be honest, Thais generally have negative views of many other Southeast Asians, especially Cambodians, Burmese, and often the northern hill-tribes. Laotians are viewed similarly as Isaan people: ultimately cultural and linguistic cousins of the Thais, but uncouth folks from the boondocks. Many expats from these ethnic groups in Thailand feel discriminated against by Thais. There are many individuals that would get along quite well with each other, but as a whole, these nationalities do not get along and keep to themselves. In fact, I've had Cambodians here tell me that Thais are racist and bigoted (at least to other SE Asians). The northern hill-tribes have not been treated well by the Thai government either.

Northeast Asians (Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, HK/Singaporeans), however, are treated well and highly regarded. China and Japan have had positive diplomatic ties with Thailand for centuries, and since they do not border Thailand, they don't compete directly for land and resources the way that Cambodia or Burma had for centuries. The Chinese have been by far the best assimilated group, and Thais feel a special kinship to them, as many Thais have Chinese ancestry. There was a short period in the 1900's during which the Chinese were vilified, but this has long since passed. Today, they are still the "Jews of Southeast Asia." Many top Thai businessmen and politicians today have direct Chinese patrilineal ancestry. Across central Thailand, it is very common to find shops with Chinese characters, as well as Chinese restaurants.

However, local Thais are not particularly fond of the large groups of Chinese tourists who do not bother to speak Thai, have crude manners (from the Thai perspective), and act like stereotypical "sleazy tourists." There are many recent Chinese immigrants who do settle down and eventually blend in quite well in Thai society though.

South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis, and others) are called "khaek," which means "guest people." They generally are viewed less favorably than the NE Asians, although many South Asians have also integrated quite into Thai society over the centuries. Much of Thai culture ultimately comes from India.

Thailand has assimilationist policy in that it only recognizes one official ethnic group and one official language: Thai. Everyone born and raised in Thai society will be expected to be Thai, not take on separate non-Thai identities. Hence, the wide range of looks that present-day Thais have, which can range from light-skinned NE Asian to almost South Asian (Indian)-like.

Thais are highly nationalistic, and the country has a strong right-wing feel, quite unlike China's strong left-wing feel with a neo-capitalist twist. As the wealthiest and most powerful Southeast Asian country north of Malaysia and west of the Philippines, Thailand feels very superior to its weaker neighbors.


Etiquette and social class in Thai society

Thailand is a very hierarchical society, which is quite evident in their language and etiquette. This stands in stark contrast to China, which feels much more egalitarian and feels far less hierarchical than Thailand. Thais have very elaborate ways of using correct words and phrasings to talk to people of higher/lower social standings, older/younger people, and so on. China is much more simple in that language etiquette is pretty much binary -- informal vs. formal (as with Spanish) for basic pronouns, such as "you." But in Thai, you would have a "proper" Sanskrit-derived term for words as basic as "eat," which would be used in formal contexts instead of the informal, "regular" native Thai term.

As a result, Thais are very deferential, very polite, and highly conscious of social class and status. In this respect, Thais are far more like Japanese than Chinese. Simple everyday purchases at convenience stores and restaurants all involve deferential head ducks and wais. Bills are often presented to customers with both hands. Thais also speak very softly (except for the hustlers targeting foreign tourists), much more so than the mainland Chinese. In China, people are much, much rougher, as the Cultural Revolution has made China a complete polar opposite of Thailand in many ways.

However, the down side is that oftentimes when Thais don't like you, they'll keep on being polite and won't say anything. The Chinese would tend to show immediate irritation when not impressed, on the other hand.

Beggars are treated much better in Thailand than in China. Thais have much more compassion than many NE Asians do with the less fortunate. In Thailand, it's actually good karma to give alms to the poor, whereas people in China just don't think this way.

People do line up in Thailand. Once in a while, a few impatient individuals may try to cut the queue, but this is surprisingly rare. Not so in China! Thais rarely spit too.

The Thais also take cleanliness far more seriously than the mainland Chinese and Indians do. People rarely throw trash willy-nilly as they do in China, and usually drop plastic wrappings by the edge of sidewalks, not entire bags of food straight out in the open as in China. Streets are swept regularly, and homes are usually kept very tidy.

Thai bureaucrats and academics also do not cooperate well with each other, and form cliques within their respective institutions that can make negotiations difficult. Why? The short answer is that Thais do not trust each other very much. Comparatively, doing business and coordinating institutions in China would be much easier.

Thais will highly respect you if you dress like a proper middle-class, well-educated citizen, and if they know you went to a respectable university or have a respectable job. Sleazy tourists are not looked well upon by the educated class.



Just my 2 cents, please feel free to comment, ask questions, or object.


Im sure this thai chinese woman feels assimilated to thai...enough to have the chinese flag painted on her face
:twisted:
Image
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Postby Falcon » Sat Jun 08, 2013 6:30 am

Thanks for your valuable insights as always Rock. :D


There are also many western families who come here and other westerner expats who dress smart and adapt well to the norms here. I believe these types of westerners are held in a different light by many locals.


Yes I have met some of those white expats, and they are very well treated and perceived upon by wealthy middle-class Thais. These sharply dressed whites with professional positions who speak excellent Thai and adapt well, would be actually viewed much better than the sleazy Chinese and Korean tourists.


Your points of analysis about Thailand jibes very well with what I've observed, felt, and sensed during my times here. But since you are contrasting to China, what are you basing that side on (your ancestry and family background plus your trips to certain areas there?). I'm particularly interested in how you came to this observation - "Thais are highly nationalistic, and the country has a strong right-wing feel, quite unlike China's strong left-wing feel with a neo-capitalist twist. "


I'm basing this on Guangzhou, Nanning, and rural SW China.

As to how I reached this conclusion, walk around the large cities of each country for a few days, and this should sink in if you've done some good observation. Look at the monuments, TV, the way the government promotes itself. In Thailand, you'll see these everywhere: Thai flags, the king's portrait, fancy nationalistic monuments, and very right-wing sounding street names (kings and democracy). You often hear the Thai national anthem and see the Thai military on TV.

China has big apartment blocks and feels more like the old USSR. Many public banners talk about "revolutionary" socialism and "modern reform." You'll hear all sorts of talk about "socialist equality" on TV. Government propaganda focuses on the "56 official ethnic groups" of China as equal and reaching towards the same socialist goals, rather than exclusively on the Han Chinese. In Thailand, the talk is more about the preservation of old traditions (not socialist reform) and the superiority of the Thais (not an egalitarian mosaic of dozens of ethnic groups, as in China).

Thailand feels like Mussolini's Italy, and China feels like the USSR. In fact, one of my Russian friends told me that my reports and photos of China are strikingly reminiscent of Russia's Communist days.


Speaking of manners. I actually picked up an eating habit in Taiwan (which is already way more polite and refined than PRC) which didn't seem to go over very well here - softly and quietly spitting out small bones after chewing on a a porkchop or piece of chicken. The Thais I was around were direct enough to politely let me know this doesn't look good here.


The general opinion seems to be that Thailand is more "laid-back" than China. Well, if "laid-back" means slow-going and not aggressive and pushy, then yes. But the Chinese are far more laid-back about manners than the Thais are. The Thais are real sticklers about manners, whereas anything goes in China. In the sense of not being sticklers about social hierarchy, table manners, and greetings, the Chinese are really the laid-back ones. You can do pretty much anything at the dinner table or in Chinese restaurants without getting stares (blowing your nose, spitting out bones, making loud slurping sounds, putting your elbow up), and no one will ever care. Once, I was blowing my nose loudly while having lunch with some Thais, and I was gently reminded that this is actually rude.

While in Guangzhou, a Nigerian guy told me that Chinese streets feel much "freer" than Nigerian streets, since people get to throw anything on the streets without getting in trouble, and dress sloppily without getting stares. In Nigeria, the police do care about littering, and fine offenders. My Nigerian friend pointed to the burned-out cigarettes, watermelon husks, and large piles of rubbish, saying that the average Nigerian street isn't nearly as messy.
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Postby xiongmao » Sat Jun 08, 2013 1:24 pm

Nice write up.

Yes Chinese cities have plenty of communist era drab apartment blocks, but they're being replaced by modern tower blocks and some very tasty out of town garden communities.

Chinese people can appear very rude, and they were an embarrassment in Tokyo when I was there! On the other hand Thais must be appreciative all all the extra tourist dollars heading to Thailand.

I hate seeing people spitting and it's heartbreaking to see little kids throw litter away anywhere. Still it keeps a small army of street cleaners in jobs.

On the other hand you can go shopping in your pajamas and nobody will worry about that, unlike in England!

For all the chaos in China though, the place is actually very ordered. People get very upset if you do something they're not expecting.

As for begging, they make some cash but it's generally frowned upon. In fact there are laws against some forms of begging, e.g. using kids.

Usually beggers here are crippled with horrendous injuries. I wouldn't be surprised to see the victims of that recent bus fire out begging. It's sad but there's very little social support here.

Some of the beggers here have terrible afflictions, and it's definitely something other Chinese people don't want people taking photos of.

China is very much about face and anything that shows China in a bad light is taboo.

I don't read much Chinese but even I can spot the patriotic messages on posters and on bus/train TV screens.

Also there are subtle tricks like I found an anti-Japan exercise book in the student stationery store. I bought it as it's really interesting.

On the whole this place is work, work, work and part of the reason why I haven't found a wife yet is that all but 1 girl I've met works.
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Postby anamericaninbangkok » Sat Jun 08, 2013 4:57 pm

Thais don't like any of their neighboring countries although they may lie about this. Mainly it comes from their long history of fighting with them. Laos extended into Thailand and to this day many Thais from Issan will ask, "Wao Lao Baw?" Do you speak Lao? Some may say, no Wao Issan even after centuries this linguistic quirk remains.

The Burmese - Thais will let them work their manual labor jobs but in general they hate them. Go take a look at the Grand Palace (if I remember correctly) where there are pictures of the Burmese killing babies painted on one wall in particular.

Malaysia and the whole issue with the south....Cambodia and the Preah Vihear...they respect the Chinese and Vietnamese for their intelligence and money making ability though.
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Postby anamericaninbangkok » Sat Jun 08, 2013 4:57 pm

Thais don't like any of their neighboring countries although they may lie about this. Mainly it comes from their long history of fighting with them. Laos extended into Thailand and to this day many Thais from Issan will ask, "Wao Lao Baw?" Do you speak Lao? Some may say, no Wao Issan even after centuries this linguistic quirk remains.

The Burmese - Thais will let them work their manual labor jobs but in general they hate them. Go take a look at the Grand Palace (if I remember correctly) where there are pictures of the Burmese killing babies painted on one wall in particular.

Malaysia and the whole issue with the south....Cambodia and the Preah Vihear...they respect the Chinese and Vietnamese for their intelligence and money making ability though.
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Postby Falcon » Sun Jun 09, 2013 3:10 pm

anamericaninbangkok wrote:Thais don't like any of their neighboring countries although they may lie about this. Mainly it comes from their long history of fighting with them. Laos extended into Thailand and to this day many Thais from Issan will ask, "Wao Lao Baw?" Do you speak Lao? Some may say, no Wao Issan even after centuries this linguistic quirk remains.

The Burmese - Thais will let them work their manual labor jobs but in general they hate them. Go take a look at the Grand Palace (if I remember correctly) where there are pictures of the Burmese killing babies painted on one wall in particular.

Malaysia and the whole issue with the south....Cambodia and the Preah Vihear...they respect the Chinese and Vietnamese for their intelligence and money making ability though.


Well, guess what. I've found that this neat trick suddenly gets hustlers in touristy areas to stop talking to me: I begin talking to them in Khmer, or Khmer-sounding babble. They will say "What?" and I'll tell them, "เขมร [Ka-Men]!" They might laugh and/or give me funny looks, and will stop talking to me. The touristy Chinese and Koreans who hardly speak any English or Thai will keep getting followed though!

Bangkok taxi drivers, who are usually middle-aged men from Isaan, are always quite interested in Chinese culture and language. Usually I tell them that I'm from China, though I'm actually Taiwanese American. They would want me to teach them Chinese phrases, show them photos of China, and tell them about what China is like. I've even had a taxi driver tell me that "Chinese are smart," by which he meant their acute business sense.

As for the Burmese, Thai history remembers them quite well as the villains who destroyed Ayutthaya in 1767. Now many Thais think of them as drug smugglers, drug addicts, refugees, and criminals, which is pretty much what Mexicans think of Central Americans today.

Just look at all these past wars:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burmese%E2 ... amese_wars
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thai%E2%80 ... Border_War
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambodian_ ... 80%9312%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-Thai_War


In the 1940's after the Franco-Thai War, the provinces ceded from Cambodia by France to Thailand were regrouped into four new Thai provinces - Phra Tabong, Phibunsongram, Nakhon Champassak and Koh Kong:

Image


Thailand and Vietnam have had their squabbles, but overall Thailand is still much friendlier with Vietnam than with its immediately neighboring countries.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siamese%E2 ... 80%9334%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siamese%E2 ... 80%9345%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnamese ... n_Thailand
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Re: Thai society (also compared to Chinese)

Postby anamericaninbangkok » Sun Jun 09, 2013 11:19 pm

Falcon wrote:So, I'm living in Thailand now. Here are some things I'd like to say about Thai society. :)

Thais and other Asians

To be honest, Thais generally have negative views of many other Southeast Asians, especially Cambodians, Burmese, and often the northern hill-tribes. Laotians are viewed similarly as Isaan people: ultimately cultural and linguistic cousins of the Thais, but uncouth folks from the boondocks. Many expats from these ethnic groups in Thailand feel discriminated against by Thais. There are many individuals that would get along quite well with each other, but as a whole, these nationalities do not get along and keep to themselves. In fact, I've had Cambodians here tell me that Thais are racist and bigoted (at least to other SE Asians). The northern hill-tribes have not been treated well by the Thai government either.

Northeast Asians (Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, HK/Singaporeans), however, are treated well and highly regarded. China and Japan have had positive diplomatic ties with Thailand for centuries, and since they do not border Thailand, they don't compete directly for land and resources the way that Cambodia or Burma had for centuries. The Chinese have been by far the best assimilated group, and Thais feel a special kinship with them, as many Thais have Chinese ancestry. There was a short period in the 1900's during which the Chinese were vilified, but this has long since passed. Today, they are still the "Jews of Southeast Asia." Many top Thai businessmen and politicians today have direct Chinese patrilineal ancestry. Across central Thailand, it is very common to find shops with Chinese characters, as well as Chinese restaurants.

However, local Thais are not particularly fond of the large groups of Chinese tourists who do not bother to speak Thai, have crude manners (from the Thai perspective), and act like stereotypical "sleazy tourists." There are many recent Chinese immigrants who do settle down and eventually blend in quite well in Thai society though.

South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis, and others) are called "khaek," which means "guest people." They generally are viewed less favorably than the NE Asians, although many South Asians have also integrated quite into Thai society over the centuries. Much of Thai culture ultimately comes from India.

Thailand has an assimilationist policy in that it only recognizes one official ethnic group and one official language: Thai. Everyone born and raised in Thai society will be expected to be Thai, not take on separate non-Thai identities. Hence, the wide range of looks that present-day Thais have, which can range from light-skinned NE Asian to almost South Asian (Indian)-like.

Thais are highly nationalistic, and the country has a strong right-wing feel, quite unlike China's strong left-wing feel with a neo-capitalist twist. As the wealthiest and most powerful Southeast Asian country north of Malaysia and west of the Philippines, Thailand feels very superior to its weaker neighbors.


Etiquette and social class in Thai society

Thailand is a very hierarchical society, which is quite evident in their language and etiquette. This stands in stark contrast to China, which feels much more egalitarian and feels far less hierarchical than Thailand. Thais have very elaborate ways of using correct words and phrasings to talk to people of higher/lower social standings, older/younger people, and so on. China is much more simple in that language etiquette is pretty much binary -- informal vs. formal (as with Spanish) for basic pronouns, such as "you." But in Thai, you would have a "proper" Sanskrit-derived term for words as basic as "eat," which would be used in formal contexts instead of the informal, "regular" native Thai term.

As a result, Thais are very deferential, very polite, and highly conscious of social class and status. In this respect, Thais are far more like Japanese than Chinese. Simple everyday purchases at convenience stores and restaurants all involve deferential head ducks and wais. Bills are often presented to customers with both hands. Thais also speak very softly (except for the hustlers targeting foreign tourists), much more so than the mainland Chinese. In China, people are much, much rougher, as the Cultural Revolution has made China a complete polar opposite of Thailand in many ways.

However, the down side is that oftentimes when Thais don't like you, they'll keep on being polite and won't say anything. The Chinese would tend to show immediate irritation when not impressed, on the other hand.

Beggars are treated much better in Thailand than in China. Thais have much more compassion than many NE Asians do with the less fortunate. In Thailand, it's actually good karma to give alms to the poor, whereas people in China just don't think this way.

People do line up in Thailand. Once in a while, a few impatient individuals may try to cut the queue, but this is surprisingly rare. Not so in China! Thais rarely spit too.

The Thais also take cleanliness far more seriously than the mainland Chinese and Indians do. People rarely throw trash willy-nilly as they do in China, and usually only drop plastic wrappings by the edges of sidewalks, not entire bags of food straight out in the open as in China. Streets are swept regularly, and homes are usually kept very tidy.

Thai bureaucrats and academics also do not cooperate well with each other, and form cliques within their respective institutions that can make negotiations difficult. Why? The short answer is that Thais do not trust each other very much. Comparatively, doing business and coordinating institutions in China would be much easier.

Thais will highly respect you if you dress like a proper middle-class, well-educated citizen, and if they know you went to a respectable university or have a respectable job. Sleazy tourists are not looked well upon by the educated class.


Just my 2 cents, please feel free to comment, ask questions, or object.


I asked this question in another thread but I'm curious to know where you get your information. For being here such a short time you've gathered quite a bit of intel.

About the only thing I would disagree with is the Thais jumping the queue. They are constantly butting in front of people, Thai or farang.
My wife just allows people to jump in front of here where I am not so forgiving. The other day I got in line to buy some coconut ice cream. An older woman came out and jumped the queue. I didn't say anything. Then another woman did the same thing. Then the first women told the vendor she needed four more ice creams. I'd been waiting and hadn't said a word. When she ordered the four more ice creams, I spoke up and told the vendor I had been waiting there for ten minutes and was before the woman. He asked her, "Is it okay if I make him his ice cream?" She wasn't very happy but whether knowingly or not, she had stepped in front of me, I was in a bit of a hurry and had already waited patiently.

This happens in 7'11 quite often. There are two or three people standing in line and some guy will come in and plop down 50 baht and say, "Give me a 50 baht refill for my cell phone." Or they want cigarettes or a hot dog. Again, sometimes I just bite my tongue and other times I either step in front of them or begin talking to the clerk in Thai so they get the picture. Occasionally I'll flat out tell the person, "there's the end of the line." I don't care what culture you're in, when someone is waiting in line to make a purchase, it's rude for someone to jump to the head of the line. Never had anyone come back and tell me to f**k off so I can only assume Thais are oblivious that it's rude and thus think nothing of it.

Another irritant - Thais standing in front of the escalator. You're going up the escalator, you turn to go up another one and there's a family of Thais standing in front of it trying to figure out what to do. Completely oblivious that maybe they should step to the side. Some will move aside when you attempt to go up or down and some just stand there. There is very little politeness in these situations. If you push your way through saying excuse me, sorry, sorry, they generally get the picture but this is one of a few minor irritations here.
Last edited by anamericaninbangkok on Mon Jun 10, 2013 8:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Thai society (also compared to Chinese)

Postby MIHA » Mon Jun 10, 2013 8:46 am

Rock wrote:
Falcon wrote:So, I'm living in Thailand now. Here are some things I'd like to say about Thai society. :)


Thais and other Asians

To be honest, Thais generally have negative views of many other Southeast Asians, especially Cambodians, Burmese, and often the northern hill-tribes. Laotians are viewed similarly as Isaan people: ultimately cultural and linguistic cousins of the Thais, but uncouth folks from the boondocks. Many expats from these ethnic groups in Thailand feel discriminated against by Thais. There are many individuals that would get along quite well with each other, but as a whole, these nationalities do not get along and keep to themselves. In fact, I've had Cambodians here tell me that Thais are racist and bigoted (at least to other SE Asians). The northern hill-tribes have not been treated well by the Thai government either.

Northeast Asians (Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, HK/Singaporeans), however, are treated well and highly regarded. China and Japan have had positive diplomatic ties with Thailand for centuries, and since they do not border Thailand, they don't compete directly for land and resources the way that Cambodia or Burma had for centuries. The Chinese have been by far the best assimilated group, and Thais feel a special kinship to them, as many Thais have Chinese ancestry. There was a short period in the 1900's during which the Chinese were vilified, but this has long since passed. Today, they are still the "Jews of Southeast Asia." Many top Thai businessmen and politicians today have direct Chinese patrilineal ancestry. Across central Thailand, it is very common to find shops with Chinese characters, as well as Chinese restaurants.

However, local Thais are not particularly fond of the large groups of Chinese tourists who do not bother to speak Thai, have crude manners (from the Thai perspective), and act like stereotypical "sleazy tourists." There are many recent Chinese immigrants who do settle down and eventually blend in quite well in Thai society though.

South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis, and others) are called "khaek," which means "guest people." They generally are viewed less favorably than the NE Asians, although many South Asians have also integrated quite into Thai society over the centuries. Much of Thai culture ultimately comes from India.

Thailand has assimilationist policy in that it only recognizes one official ethnic group and one official language: Thai. Everyone born and raised in Thai society will be expected to be Thai, not take on separate non-Thai identities. Hence, the wide range of looks that present-day Thais have, which can range from light-skinned NE Asian to almost South Asian (Indian)-like.

Thais are highly nationalistic, and the country has a strong right-wing feel, quite unlike China's strong left-wing feel with a neo-capitalist twist. As the wealthiest and most powerful Southeast Asian country north of Malaysia and west of the Philippines, Thailand feels very superior to its weaker neighbors.


Etiquette and social class in Thai society

Thailand is a very hierarchical society, which is quite evident in their language and etiquette. This stands in stark contrast to China, which feels much more egalitarian and feels far less hierarchical than Thailand. Thais have very elaborate ways of using correct words and phrasings to talk to people of higher/lower social standings, older/younger people, and so on. China is much more simple in that language etiquette is pretty much binary -- informal vs. formal (as with Spanish) for basic pronouns, such as "you." But in Thai, you would have a "proper" Sanskrit-derived term for words as basic as "eat," which would be used in formal contexts instead of the informal, "regular" native Thai term.

As a result, Thais are very deferential, very polite, and highly conscious of social class and status. In this respect, Thais are far more like Japanese than Chinese. Simple everyday purchases at convenience stores and restaurants all involve deferential head ducks and wais. Bills are often presented to customers with both hands. Thais also speak very softly (except for the hustlers targeting foreign tourists), much more so than the mainland Chinese. In China, people are much, much rougher, as the Cultural Revolution has made China a complete polar opposite of Thailand in many ways.

However, the down side is that oftentimes when Thais don't like you, they'll keep on being polite and won't say anything. The Chinese would tend to show immediate irritation when not impressed, on the other hand.

Beggars are treated much better in Thailand than in China. Thais have much more compassion than many NE Asians do with the less fortunate. In Thailand, it's actually good karma to give alms to the poor, whereas people in China just don't think this way.

People do line up in Thailand. Once in a while, a few impatient individuals may try to cut the queue, but this is surprisingly rare. Not so in China! Thais rarely spit too.

The Thais also take cleanliness far more seriously than the mainland Chinese and Indians do. People rarely throw trash willy-nilly as they do in China, and usually drop plastic wrappings by the edge of sidewalks, not entire bags of food straight out in the open as in China. Streets are swept regularly, and homes are usually kept very tidy.

Thai bureaucrats and academics also do not cooperate well with each other, and form cliques within their respective institutions that can make negotiations difficult. Why? The short answer is that Thais do not trust each other very much. Comparatively, doing business and coordinating institutions in China would be much easier.

Thais will highly respect you if you dress like a proper middle-class, well-educated citizen, and if they know you went to a respectable university or have a respectable job. Sleazy tourists are not looked well upon by the educated class.



Just my 2 cents, please feel free to comment, ask questions, or object.


Your points of analysis about Thailand jibes very well with what I've observed, felt, and sensed during my times here. But since you are contrasting to China, what are you basing that side on (your ancestry and family background plus your trips to certain areas there?). I'm particularly interested in how you came to this observation - "Thais are highly nationalistic, and the country has a strong right-wing feel, quite unlike China's strong left-wing feel with a neo-capitalist twist. "

Speaking of manners. I actually picked up an eating habit in Taiwan (which is already way more polite and refined than PRC) which didn't seem to go over very well here - softly and quietly spitting out small bones after chewing on a a porkchop or piece of chicken. The Thais I was around were direct enough to politely let me know this doesn't look good here.

Thais outside of the sleaze world are generally polite and smooth. It really in many ways feels like the softest Asian country (next to Japan) that I've been too. In Manila, people constantly honk their horns like idiots over nothing and the noise and air pollution is so hard to bear. But Bangkok is amazingly quiet given its high density and congestion. People rarely honk and when they do, its a light tap for a practical reason, not a honking match to see who's more macho. Thais know how to organize a complex large city and make it a very pleasant and safe place to walk, eat, shop, play, etc.

I really appreciate this and many other aspects. They leave you alone. This can be a safe country to live in if you follow all the unwritten rules. That's one of the reason why so many foreigners love it here. It's very much live and let live as long as you don't cross 'the boundaries'.

Why might Thais look down on whites? Lad says its in large part due to the history and way they are taught in school though I don't think anamericaninbangkok (a foreigner who speaks Thai, has lived here last 2 decades and has a child going to local schools) agrees with this view. From my perspective and putting myself in the shoes of the Thais, I can understand why they might feel this way just by walking around the city of Bangkok. You still see aging whoremongers, subsistence wage English teachers, and rowdy shoestring backpackers. Many white people here still carry an attitude on their sleeve which just isn't appreciated in this culture. In nearby Pattaya, Russians may even be considered more obnoxious than regular Euro/Aussie white expats. And when white guys pair with the locals, the default seems to be with the lower status females, even sometimes for white guys in respectable or even sometimes high level expat positions. Also, the majority do not bother to learn much Thai.

There are also many western families who come here and other westerner expats who dress smart and adapt well to the norms here. I believe these types of westerners are held in a different light by many locals. It's hard for Thais to deny the appeal of cute white children and families who are well healed enough to stay in expensive resorts and 5 star hotels. White guys (and girls) who adapt well are going to be appreciated, especially if they are young and Asian trendy looking. I do believe westerner expats create a lot of their own longer term problems in certain countries. Even in Phils (which in theory is supposed to like whites), there is some stigma attached to dating a white guy in certain circles.

About beggars: Here locals often hand them coins or even small bills. In return, they are extremely passive and rarely harass people including tourists. In contrast, I remember seeing beggars get kicked around and scolded by locals in China if say they were too near someone's shop. Spot on Falcon.

What you say regarding Thais views other Asians and the distinctions you draw makes a lot more sense to me then the blanket "If you are Asian, the Thais will accept you, if you're not, they will hate you" posted in the past on this forum.


let's be honest here. the only reason why thailand even has a tourism industry, and is portrayed positively is because thailand allows the cia to run torture camps there, and the other reason, well you said it, the thai regime is ultra right wing. secondly, the stuff about china is false like most stuff written on the internet. china has a strong left wing? what planet are you living on? there hasnt had a strong left wing in china for 35yrs. so either your info is extremely out of date, or you are a straight up disinfo agent. china is not screwed up because of the cultural revolution. china is screwed up because it became capitalist. i talked to some old timers, and they literally saw china fall into pieces after 1978. prior to that, people trusted each other, had the most extreme amount of solidarity you could ever imagine. from 1949-1978, people looked after each other. there was no crime, no pollution, no scams, none of that. and now the reactionaries are trying to blame the problems in china on the cultural revolution? i dont think so.
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Postby Falcon » Tue Jun 11, 2013 7:00 am

I asked this question in another thread but I'm curious to know where you get your information. For being here such a short time you've gathered quite a bit of intel.


To long-term expats like you, a few weeks is not a long time, but it certainly is to me. I live life in the fast lane, and always try to get a lot done in a relatively short amount of time. :wink: I'm not like the other expats who've lived here for a few years and still hardly know, or experience, anything beyond the foreigner enclaves.

Well, I actually go out and do stuff, talk to a lot of people, go local, and so on. My trips to Mexico were always never more than 20 days each, and yet I was always able to gather a lot of info.

As for jumping the queue, I've experienced what you've just written about, but this is still far, far tamer compared to China. When the mainland Chinese cut in line, it's violent pushing and shoving involving the whole crowd. And I mean rough elbowing and pushing with both hands/arms. Go to China and experience queue warfare for yourself, and you'll see how tame Thai cutting really is. 8)
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Postby Rock » Tue Jun 11, 2013 10:48 am

Falcon wrote:
I asked this question in another thread but I'm curious to know where you get your information. For being here such a short time you've gathered quite a bit of intel.


To long-term expats like you, a few weeks is not a long time, but it certainly is to me. I live life in the fast lane, and always try to get a lot done in a relatively short amount of time. :wink: I'm not like the other expats who've lived here for a few years and still hardly know, or experience, anything beyond the foreigner enclaves.

Well, I actually go out and do stuff, talk to a lot of people, go local, and so on. My trips to Mexico were always never more than 20 days each, and yet I was always able to gather a lot of info.

As for jumping the queue, I've experienced what you've just written about, but this is still far, far tamer compared to China. When the mainland Chinese cut in line, it's violent pushing and shoving involving the whole crowd. And I mean rough elbowing and pushing with both hands/arms. Go to China and experience queue warfare for yourself, and you'll see how tame Thai cutting really is. 8)


A few years ago, I was with 2 white friends somewhere out in Sichuan province waiting to board a bus to Chengdu. There was a small crowd of locals (all male) waiting to board the same bus. When said bus arrived, the guys all mobbed the entrance pushing and squeezing and made a bunch of noise as if if the first one to get in would win a huge lottery prize or something. My friends and I watched in amazement with slack-jawed expressions. I had been in China for awhile by then but this was extreme even by PRC standards. Some people in the crowd noticed us and started laughing. Then the bus driver standing at the door said something in dialect and the crowd actually motioned for us to get on the bus first. Weird but funny at the time. I wish I had videoed it.

BTW, same thing happens to me sometimes in Bangkok convenience stores. I'll be in line and some Thai will angle in ahead of me and put their stuff down on counter, oftentimes it's just one item. Maybe they figure that since they have only one item, the can jump queue. Or maybe farang are invisible lol. What I've sometimes done to pre-empt this is to get my items on the counter near cashier as soon as possible, even to point of putting them behind items of person ahead of me who is getting his or her items rung up. I believe in Taiwan, people in banks used to crowd around each teller and line their passbooks up on the counter, a system which encouraged aggressive pushing, shoving and even jumping on people's backs. Now banks in both Taiwan and Thailand typically use a take a number and wait to be called system.
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Postby anamericaninbangkok » Tue Jun 11, 2013 11:36 am

Falcon wrote:
I asked this question in another thread but I'm curious to know where you get your information. For being here such a short time you've gathered quite a bit of intel.


To long-term expats like you, a few weeks is not a long time, but it certainly is to me. I live life in the fast lane, and always try to get a lot done in a relatively short amount of time. :wink: I'm not like the other expats who've lived here for a few years and still hardly know, or experience, anything beyond the foreigner enclaves.

Well, I actually go out and do stuff, talk to a lot of people, go local, and so on. My trips to Mexico were always never more than 20 days each, and yet I was always able to gather a lot of info.

As for jumping the queue, I've experienced what you've just written about, but this is still far, far tamer compared to China. When the mainland Chinese cut in line, it's violent pushing and shoving involving the whole crowd. And I mean rough elbowing and pushing with both hands/arms. Go to China and experience queue warfare for yourself, and you'll see how tame Thai cutting really is. 8)


I've been to China twice, once when covering the Olympics and another time for a fight. During the Olympics Chinese in Beijing seemed very tame...the other time I was in Hui Li and it was relatively quiet with the exception of when one particular fortune teller began doing his thing. A huge group ran and gathered around the guy making it very hard to see why they were fussing.
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Postby xiongmao » Wed Jun 12, 2013 5:39 pm

Only been in Thailand for half a day but...

Worst traffic jam EVER!

But....

I can't remember a single car horn being sounded.

Compare that to China, which was just crazy.

I have bitter regrets of not filming CROWD FIGHTS TO GET ON EMPTY BUS IN GUANGZHOU. It was astonishing. I don't know if China will collapse, but if it does they will fall upon each other like animals.
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