Now driving in Thailand always gets slated, and I guess rightly so, but I found myself defending it the other day – I ‘ll explain why in a moment – but it startled me, had I become more Thai, or to coin a phrase ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do?’
Why I defended it to a colleague was, for me, is all about knowing the rules of the land. In the UK we flash our headlights to give way, in Thailand it is done to let you know they are not giving you right of way. So, who is right here? I actually now think the Thais are.
It doesn’t stop there. When a car is pulling out onto the main road, we know in Thailand that nine times out of ten they will pull out regardless of if a car is coming. Again, rightly or wrongly, it’s just the unwritten rules and I play by it and no longer get angry. My Russian wife, on the other hand, cannot help herself, she curses every time a car pulls out on her. Mai bpen rai (‘never mind’) I think to myself, it is also not worth getting angry about… and there you go again, I am thinking like a Thai and taking on Buddhist values!
As Westerners, we can often fall victims of delusions of grandeur and think our ways are best. It’s a little foolish, I mean how can we learn if we are so switched off to other ways and approaches?
The more I thought about things the more I realised how Thai I had now become.
I can eat a spicy Thai dish for breakfast and no longer think breakfast should be a bowl of cereal or English fried breakfast.
I get less stressed over other peoples actions, such as being late to work.
If someone offered me a beer before midday, then I could drink it no problem.
I have to use water – for me a ‘bum gun’ – when I use the toilet. So much so that I consider the Western way of just toilet paper to be dirty and unclean.
Sometimes I crave Thai food if I go a few days without it, the spicier the better. Somtam (not with crab) is one of my favourite dishes ever.
I even allow myself to wear tailored shorts to work when I have no customer meetings. Life is far more relaxed.
When on the beach I seek shade rather than a suntan, I even wear a special shirt with sunblock built into it.
In general, I think having a fusion of Western and Thai behaviour and beliefs has made me a better person, certainly less selfish. If we can all be open to how other cultures approach life there just has to be a benefit in that, to assume we always get it right ourselves shows huge naivety.