Readers' Submissions

How Do You Beat A Thai?

  • Written by Phil Ross
  • December 12th, 2003
  • 4 min read


By Mr. P



Make no mistake life in Thailand is a constant struggle for a Falang. It is a daily battle between Thai and Falang everywhere you go.

In order to have any chance of gaining the upper hand, one must know and understand one’s adversary; most importantly one must have intimate knowledge of their opponent’s inherent weaknesses and be able to take advantage of it.

In my opinion the Thai’s greatest weakness is their inability to see anything at all past their own nose. Their view of life is very narrow and short sighted indeed. Thais of all classes seem to have an inability to see a situation from any other perspective other than their own. I find them to be very self centred and self absorbed, sparing not a moment of thought for anybody else around them especially Falang.

At best it is impolite, thoughtless and inconsiderate. At worst it is a conceited, selfish and arrogant.

Their only perspective on life is the very narrow field of view right in front of their own nose. It leads to a very distorted single dimension perception of life.

They do not see past or future – only the present. Living life for the moment.

Perhaps it is their laziness that prevents them from applying the mental effort required to try to think outside the square. Or perhaps it is due to education, religion, culture or poverty. It’s probably got some roots in the “every Thai for himself” principle. I couldn't really tell you for sure where it comes from or why Thais are the way they are but I can tell you that I have difficulty finding any empathy for these conceited creatures.

They live life basking in the sun of a perceived all encompassing superiority to all other nations and cultures, particularly Western culture.

This narrow minded perspective rears its head at all levels of social interaction between Thai and falang.

So as Falang how do we take advantage of this obvious weakness and use it to our own advantage?

In order to beat a Thai you need to put yourself in their shoes and think like them. (Lord knows they will never try to understand us – probably because we are beneath them) So what is it they want? How can we superficially pamper to their desires without giving them anything?

When you really think about it, it is simple. What is more important to a Thai person than anything else in life is saving face for the moment. Nothing else matters.

In order to beat a Thai you must manipulate a situation in such a way as to force the Thai person to save face. You must leave them no other option but to save face for the moment and believe me, no matter what is at stake, they will take that option.

The technique can be applied to interaction with a Thai person in any context whatsoever. You must convince the Thai person of what they think they want and then you must be seen to be giving it to them. In this way they are seen to be saving face. They only catch is that they never really wanted that thing in the first place but all the while you are getting what you wanted from the outset. Obviously it can sometimes be difficult to set up a situation like this and it can require spontaneity or perhaps even cunning planning. But with the right ground work it is a foolproof tactic against the predictable Thais.

I came across this strategy quite by accident when I was conducting a very important negotiation with my Thai in-laws. I took a position with them which did not reflect my true desires but when I gave in to them and allowed them to beat me, they eventually felt they had one over me. They saved face in the negotiation but in the meantime I had slowly pushed the overall negotiation to a position which favored me where I wanted it all along. The Thai family would never have compromised and offered such concessions to me if they had not saved face all along. It was almost like they don’t really know what the hell it is they want in life or where the hell they are going just so long as they save face whilst they are getting there.

Remember the advantages you as a Falang have over Thais. You can get inside their heads and work out what they are thinking before they even think it. You can view a situation from many dimensions whilst they are stuck in the same routine thought pattern. You can manipulate their behaviour without them even knowing it. Most importantly you can always win the battle by forcing them into a situation where they must save face.

Stickman says:

Very good advice indeed, but there is a fine line between allowing a Thai to save face and making them lose face. If they lose face badly enough, they become unpredictable – and that is when things can get a little out of hand. This is a situation that you must be very careful to avoid, because if a Thai person loses face badly enough they might just go all the way…