Wednesday, 16 January 2008

An insight to the Thai way of life

One of the most pleasant aspects of Thailand has to be the overwhelming friendliness of the locals. As a stressed out paranoid westerner if can unnerve you a little when you first encounter it.

Constant questions from complete strangers meet some people with suspicion.

"Where you stay? What are you doing today? What are you doing on Lanta? How long do you stay on Lanta? Where are you from?”

Some people find themselves thinking – “Like – Why do you want to know? What has it to do with you and what are you up to?”

But after a while you soon relax and realise that they are just being friendly. They like to get to know the people that are around them every day, and many have a great interest in practicing their English just by chatting to as many English speaking people as possible. Sometimes the conversation can be fairly limited depending on how well they have grasped the English language, or indeed how good they are at conversational skills. But you also often get a great insight in to life as a Thai person. Given my quest to research various cultures and how they differ to the English way of life, I embrace any opportunity to have a good chat to the locals.

I had a good chat with a waiter the other day. He just came and sat besides us for a while, and went through some of the usual “getting to know each other” chit chat. He was a very softly spoken gentlemen, with a good grasp of the English language. Many waiters are young, and just out for laughs, but this guy was different. He had a rather eloquent demeanour about him, and it was a pleasure to have him join us at the table for a chat.

He told us of his family – a wife, one child, and one more on the way. He explained how now he was 31 and with family he didn’t like to drink. He had to work to bring money in for his children. His day starts at 6.30am when he goes to the rubber plantation until around 10am, when he starts his day job. He stays at the restaurant until around 5pm in the evening when he nips back home for a break – ready to start work again at about 7pm for the remainder of the night.

“Wow – that’s a hard day’s work!” I exclaimed.

“It’s okay” he answered. “I have to bring money for children!”

“In England – the same” I sympathise. “People with families have to work very hard to pay for house and feed children!”

“I think Thailand easier” he replies. “My wife can stay at home and look after children. Here on Koh Lanta anyway. In Bangkok, I think not so easy. People have to take children to care, then go to work, then pick up. Not good. England, same same, I think. Koh Lanta, it’s okay.”

Intrigued to know more about how the locals felt about their quality of life, I pushed a little further.

“And life expectancy in Thailand?” I asked. “In England sure some people become ill and die at 60 years or maybe 50, but many people live to be 80 or 90 years old. What is it like in Thailand?”

“Sure it is good. Like my grandfather, he is nearly 100 years old! He has money.” He smiles patting his pocket. “And sometimes, when he is ill and has to go to hospital, he is always – like this (patting his pocket), saying “Where my money!” checking it is still there”.

I laughed, thinking of my own grandfather back home. He’s 95 years old and is also often concerned about where his wallet is when he is taken to hospital.

“And your grandfather? He lives with your family?” I ask.

“Yes” he answered. “My family look after him”.

“In England” I continue, “many people have to go to work and cannot care for grandparents. They have to put them into care home. It’s sad”.

“I think Thailand better” he smiles.

“I think Thailand, some things not so good” I return his smile. Then I tap my head with my finger. “But many things very good. Many things the Thai do better”.

1 comment:

Damien said...

you have an amazing blog. I will come by often to read about your very interesting life.