Quite often you can be going about your business whilst here in Thailand and you just feel good about life. You may not be able to pinpoint all the reasons but you are sure glad you are in Thailand rather than back in your domestic country.
It is all to easy to cite the climate, beaches and food as reasons for why you feel good about life in Thailand but for me it is the people too. Don’t get me wrong, just like us Westerners, the Thais have many annoying traits and they also have different perspectives on life than can cause some friction. But, you know what, I have started to think as people to live around I like the average Thai better than the average Westerner. I know, what is happening to me?!
And one of the key differentials which sets Thais apart from us Westerners starts with the eyes; Let me explain. I was walking back to my office from the gym earlier today and as I past different people on the pavement, it was here I realised the difference. Something I had long knew before, but never appreciated or acknowledged.
When you look at a Thai they will look back at you into your eyes and smile. Pretty much without fail. It is very normal to say hello to a Thai as you walk past them, even if you don’t know them. This is the polar opposite to how strangers in the West interact. It is nigh on impossible to get eye contact with a stranger as you walk past them, everyone will avert their glare away from you – and even put their head down to stop any eye contact.
This kind of sums of the difference and associated actions stemming from this behaviour.
Thais are harmonious and warm – happy to do things in large groups. Westerners, by contrast, are far more selfish, driven and motivated only by what they can achieve themselves. It makes me think that yes sure the year round sunshine, beaches and the likes make my stay a wonderful one here in Thailand – but the real endorphin kick comes the people.
Which culture has it right?
It does make you wonder, culturally who has got it right. I mean, shouldn’t life be based on contentment and happiness? I sure didn’t feel over the moon in my days of doing the London commute with my head down in my newspaper existing in my own little world.
So, as it stands today, I get the best of both worlds. Thailand is my home and where I work. At work I am surrounded by Thai and foreign staff, whilst when dealing with customers I also get to mix with both too. Another misconception by many foreigners is that Thais are in someway inferior to us within the commercial world, and that is simply not true. OK, if you have Thai staff on 15k to 20k baht a month what do you expect really in the way of quality? But you go up the ladder and you will find exceptional Thai workers. Those senior leaders I deal with in Bangkok are excellent and making a real difference in the way of commerce (most were educated abroad I must add).
I will finish this article with a challenge. Next time you are out in Thailand say hello and smile to a cross section of Thais and Westerners and see for yourself those happy to connect eyes and return a gleaming smile back at you.