Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thai universities, Thai manners

While doing research, I stumbled upon an informative internet site for foreigners coming to study in the "Land of Smiles."

The site quite extensive and administered by a German lecturer. The German lecturer lives in Chonburi Province and Bangkok. I am sure he is here because of the great reputation of Thai universities (not). I looked at his pictures and have a lingering feeling he is one of us...say "hi" if you read this!

Studying in Thailand gives you one great advantage, and one great disadvantage. You get a visa for one year and it's cheap. I had a 40+ Swiss classmate doing this. He did NOT pay one satang for a year though.

After nearly a year, a student finally had the guts to tell him that he should stop studying, since he is not paying the fees. (The office ladies were too shy to tell him, because he begged them). Now he is teaching English as a Second Language at my university (which is meant to be an institution of reputation....)

Since I heard that, I have lost all the minimal respect I had left for my university.

The disadvantage is the quality of your lecturers and co-students. If you have foreign lecturers, they are not here for the teaching...

Back to the internet site. It has a page on "Thai Social Etiquette". The content is copied from a book, supported by the Ministry of Culture.

The chapter "Everyday Etiquette" made me smile.

It gives you advice on how to behavein everyday situations in Thailand.



The first picture is cute. When you talk to a lady, you are meant to be humble and make that extremely feminine gesture. It is not allowed to raise your head and fold your arms on your chest.

It also tells us how we should walk:

Walk in a natural, relaxed manner, taking steps that arc neither too long nor too short.
In walking, good manners mean you do not do the following:
Turn your body this way and that way.
Move your head about.
Put an arm around someone's neck.
Put your hands in your trouser pockets.
Show absent-mindedness, straying into people's way or blocking a passage.

Walk in front of your boss or superior as if you were leading him.

Now, as farangs we love walking behind Thais, dont we. They never "turn their body this way and that way", they never "move their head about" and they are never "absent-minded, stray in our way or block a passage". Never ever...;)

If you havent gotten it, I am being ironic. It's in fact one of the things farags despise the most. I hear frequent complaints about the above issues...

There are more things we can not do when we walk:

Refrain from holding hands in public as it may have undesirable implication.

Oh, what undesirable thing could it mean?





If you walk like the two men on the right, people might just think you are G-A-Y. And the repercussions for this are huge in Thailand, as we all know.

"A well-mannered Thai will not lie in a public area, or lie in his home with his foot pointing to anyone, or remain lying when he is spoken to by someone older than him. He will not lie down in the presence of a lady or a new acquaintance."

Tell that to the moneyboys! You no point feet me, it lude! You wait I lie down!

"A Thai person usually says prayers at the Buddha Image altar or in bed before lying down. He will never lie with his feet pointing toward the Buddha image."

Have you ever encountered that? I have, with one data I cannot remember and with my (girl)friend who visited me in farangland. I was a bit surprised... when I wanted to ask her something and turned around to look at her, she was praying on the bed...

The manners in "clothes-wearing" are hilarious:

"Some people are not very clear about what to wear on different occasions."

Oh really? I am VERY clear:P


The lady on the left is welcoming a party of men in her night gown. Can not!!!

"When at home and a visitor comes, do not welcome him in your nightclothes"

Well, I am naked at night, so I suppose that is a good avice...

"Be reasonably well dressed when you go out shopping.
Wear a party dress for afternoon tea party or cocktails.
Men wearing suits should have at least one button done up.
Men do not roll up their sleeves as if getting ready for a fight."


The first one is really true. Here in New Zealand, I see people doing their shopping in pyjamas or even huddled up in their blanket! Thais however really do dress up when they go out...

However, I see men rolling up their sleeves all the time. How else would you survive in the 35C heat? It doesnt mean we are all going to fight....

Then, manners in coversation:
-He does not ask personal questions such as: How is your ex-wife/husband now? How much do you weigh? How old are you? How much is your salary?
-And he does not get personal saying things like: I see you've gained weight. You've become so dark.
-He does not gossip.
-He does not talk shop with someone and exclude others from joining in the conversation.


No, Thais NEVER do these things. In fact, gossiping is the national past-time number 1. If you tell your Thai friend a secret, everyone else will know your secret at latest by the next day.

And Thais never ask your age, salary and your weight. In fact, EVERYONE asks this!!!!

I am wondering about this manners book. I think it's the "model" Thailand that we are meant to believe in.

The modest, gentle, considerate and polite, smiling Thai.

The reality is of course very different. I wonder if there are any discussions about conservative values and manners in the Thai public arena...my guess is that people would rather not think about such things too much since that would mean contemplating and questioning your own, and your country fellow's behaviour.

What do you think?

7 comments:

Was Once said...

Reality ≠ Perception

BB said...

my perception or the book's perception?

Was Once said...

the book.
Still laughing about the line:
Show absent-mindedness, straying into people's way or blocking a passage.

After years of encountering this, I use it to hone my patience skills and try not to make a face.

Prkmk said...

As a Thai person, I am a bit embarrassed by that book :D It doesn't totally reflect reality. I'm sure this book must be made by some old lady who never goes out or doesn't understand what's goin in the current generation.

Some of them are still very true and I like them, like being humble, or saying prayer on the bed before going to sleep :) But those dress code / conversation rules are just hilarious. hehehe

This book'd make more sense for teaching a 10-yr-old farang boy who'll study in Thailand though.

BB said...

was once: yes. it's actually very funny. and the pictures too. you should check the link. there's much more!

as for myself, normally I just dont expect to go quickly on the footpath. once in a while I might be in a hurry though, and then, my patience wears thin and I swear at people in farangish.

prkmk: dont be embarrassed. there are shite books about the "manners" and "customs" of every country.

the fact of the matter is that traditional dogmas and myths and the reality normally are not the same.

most of these rules I find are just general courtesy. has nothing to do with "thainess". give your seat to elderly, etc...everyone should do that!

Faraway Friend said...

Seems to me the most important injunction to give to 10 yr old farang boys studying in Thailand would be not to giggle hysterically at the constant use of the words pee and khrap in polite conversation.

BB said...

faraway friend...I am not sure I know what you mean...10 year old farang boys in thailand?