The heading of this particular thread gives a very clear indication about what is being discussed although it has progressed into something very different. In essence the thread is about the experiences of an expat who married a Thai lady and has been living in the region for two years. While the headline is specific to Thailand the allegation that tempers can fray could be made in many different areas of the world.
Background to the thread
In general terms this particular thread is an open discussion about tempers in Thailand and the potential conflict between Thai nationals and expats. The gentleman who started the thread has been living in Thailand for two years having married a Thai lady and settled down in the region. However, the main thrust of the thread is the fact that he has witnessed specific acts of violence against expats and against Thai nationals by Thai nationals.
The indication from the gentleman’s wife, who is herself a Thai national, is that in general Thai people do not particularly like foreigners, especially expats. This has opened a potentially explosive discussion on the subject of the “Thai temper” and attracted significant interest from many people.
Friction in Thailand
Thailand is a country which has grown in stature over the last few years due in the main to significant overseas investment in the region and a growing influx of visitors. However, even though there are specific rules in Thailand regarding property ownership (in that foreign nationals are not able to own land in Thailand) there is still significant friction between Thai nationals and expats in particular.
However, why is there friction between the two parties and is this a stereotypical situation in Thailand?
It is very interesting to learn that the average Thai has a stereotypical opinion of Westerners who are perceived to be unsmiling, boorish, ill mannered, pushy, arrogant and there’s also mention of personal hygiene issues. Other stereotypes thrown at expats include yobbish, football thugs, gods gift to women and other similar descriptions which are on the whole highly derogatory.
While there is no doubt that some expats in the region will fit the stereotypical Western mould it is wrong to assume that all Westerners are alike just as all Westerners need to understand that all Thai people are not alike.
From the post you would assume that your stereotypical Thai national is very resentful of foreigners visiting the country and making money, highly nationalistic, potentially racist, highly strung and open to bouts of sudden violence. Just as the stereotypical Western mould is very wrong on the whole, the stereotypical Thai national is also very unfair. Many people seem to forget that expats are guests of the Thai nationals and the Thai government and should respect their culture and their ethics.
Reasons for resentment
While many expats will suggest they have done nothing to attract the wrath of some Thai nationals, it can often be actions which are natural to an expat which may cause offence to a Thai national. This clash of cultures is something which is apparent in all corners of the world and something which expats and nationals have yet, on the whole, been able to resolve.
If you put yourself in the shoes of a Thai national, how would you feel if Western workers came over and “took your jobs” making significant money for themselves, possibly at the expense of the Thai population. How would you feel if Westerners showed disrespect for your local culture and local way of life, instead choosing to continue their Western ways in a foreign land?
However, this does work two ways because Western investors quite rightly expect a degree of acceptance if they are spending their money and investing their time in the country. The Thai authorities, and by definition the Thai people, have for years been trying to attract Western investors and Western tourists to the region. Now that Thailand is one of the main tourist attractions in the region should there be some respect for Western visitors or should the traditional Thai way of life always come first?
It is easy to forget that over the last 18 months countries around the world have suffered economic collapse and Thailand has been no different. We sometimes fail to appreciate that while we have families at home and we work to support them, the same is very true of Thai nationals who are very nationalistic and proud of their roots. The jobs market in Thailand has been very difficult and sometimes in some ways you can understand their resentment at Western employees enjoying a lifestyle which few Thai’s can dream of.
This is the old “chicken and the egg” situation in that in order for Thailand to prosper it needs to attract foreign investors and foreign visitors but in the short to medium term this may be at the expense of Thai nationals who might not be able to offer the services and skills required by Western companies in the region. In time you would expect Thai nationals to receive training for these new employment positions but in the meantime there may be a vacuum which can and obviously has caused some friction.
When in Rome do as the Romans
The discussion style and content on this thread is very interesting because while people have different opinions and different views, on the whole they have been presented in an acceptable manner and often discussed in depth. A number of expats and Thai nationals alike have suggested that foreigners in a foreign land should appreciate the local culture, local ethics and above all the local people. The old “When in Rome do as the Romans” scenario is one which many people looking to live and work overseas would do well to remember.
This is a very interesting thread which was originally aimed at the Thai people and the notion that some of them have a quick temper. However it has turned into a general discussion about expats and Thai nationals and potential frictions between the two parties. It offers an interesting insight from both sides of the fence with a view given on the stereotypical Western and a view given on the stereotypical Thai national.
One problem which has not been discussed in great depth is the fact that many people automatically assume the country they move to will be perfect. However, it is easy to forget that each country, each town and each city has a mixture of people which can in some cases result in friction. Nobody has mentioned friction between expats and expats or between Thai nationals and Thai nationals which is arguably as commonplace as Thai national and expat friction.
No country is perfect, there are good areas and not so good areas and those who assume they are moving to a “perfect” society will never be fulfilled because this is just not possible.