East Is East And West Is West
By A Canadian Banana
EAST IS EAST AND WEST IS WEST AND NEVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET
I have been reading Stickman's site for a couple of weeks now and have gone through perhaps 80% of the submissions. Very entertaining, hilarious at times, and sometimes sad but certainly enjoyable. I can relate to a lot of the stuff discussed, although I have never lived in Thailand nor fallen in love with a Thai lady. Overall, I feel sympathetic to most of the men involved, since I am a man also. However, some of the submissions are so pathetically pathetic that they seem to be from young kids in their twenties, with no real life experience, rather than grown men in their fifties. Being a man, I can certainly see things from the man's point of view. However, one thing missing on this site, are the ladies points of view. Too bad the Thai girls can't write English well enough to document their thoughts, so all we get are basically one sided stories. Doesn't make for really understanding cultural differences or even respecting different cultures. However, I have been visiting Thailand on and off since the 70's, perhaps, passing through at least 20 times; sometimes alone and sometimes with my girlfriend / wife. When alone, I have partaken of the massage parlour / bargirl scene. I have travelled all over Thailand and it still is one of my very favourite places. But I must agree with many of the things mentioned in various submissions.
Firstly, I am a Canadian of Chinese ancestry. You might call me a "banana" (white inside and yellow outside). That's the funny term we use to describe westernized Orientals. However, I had the great pleasure of being brought up by my Mother and Grandmother. My Mother was very English (adopted by English people and raised in England). My Grandma was very Chinese and never spoke English. Somehow we all managed to communicate by facial expressions, sign language, whatever, and the few Chinese words my Mother and I learned. It never was a big problem although obviously we couldn't have deep conversations with Grandma. However, although I didn't appreciate it at the time, I was intimately exposed to my Grandma's culture. All of her generation never spoke English, having immigrated later in life and staying within their community. This is very common for first generation immigrants and nothing for the majority population to really worry about, since by the time you get to the second and third generation–we all speak the language and have forgotten the ways of our ancestors–for better or for worse I might add. Well, where is all of this leading, since we are on the topic of Thailand and there seems to be so much misunderstanding. I'm no expert on anything in particular but I feel that having grown up in an Oriental and Western atmosphere, having lived and worked in Japan for a few years, and having travelled all over Asia (except China), I have some pretty accurate assessments of Asian and Western culture and behaviour. All Asian cultures do have similarities, just as all Western cultures. But of course, there are differences from country to country and from regions within countries. French and Germans have things in common but lots of differences, so do Chinese, Japanese and Thais. I don't like to really generalize but in this case I will because there are areas of commonality. Of course, we all know of individuals who simply don't fit their cultural background. But let's talk about the major differences between East and West, at least where the majority of the population in each area is concerned.
WESTERN CULTURE AND BEHAVIOUR
By Western in this case I mean North America, Australia, NZ, Western Europe, and the UK. This is probably where most of the tourists to Thailand come from. From my experience, and also based upon the past few hundred years of world history, Western people are more individualistic, curious, aggressive and outgoing than Oriental people. After all, whose ships sailed around the world to discover the Orient and the Americas–they weren't the Chinese, Thais, or Japanese. Western culture is more outward looking. In the West, we glorify individuals who strike out alone or who successfully defy authority. We respect forthrightness even to the point that it may hurt others' feelings or create enemies. It is common for one person to stand out in a group and disagree with the rest, risking social oblivion or loss of job. The concept of FACE is unknown in the West. Of course, we also want to be well-considered by our peers, but if we must take a contrary position on something (such as ethics, politics, rules etc) most of us would rather stick to our "guns" so to speak. This may sometimes cause others to view us as fractious and argumentative. To us, individual rights, rather than group rights, are of premium importance. When speaking with each other, eye contact is very important. Lack of eye contact means weakness, dishonesty, shiftiness etc. Also, a verbal agreement and a handshake, is something that we also value and certainly a paper agreement seals the deal. We also have a healthy distrust of authority and don't just sit around waiting for the government to tell us what to do or solve all of our problems. Many of us are pro-active rather than reactive. Over the past few decades, we have managed to evolve to the point where we are really starting to believe that human rights, equality, etc are for everyone rather than for whoever has the biggest gun. This is probably a direct result of two disastrous world wars which caused everyone to re-think their values. We also have evolved to the point where we are concerned about the environment. Individual wealth has increased to the point where we seldom have to live as an extended family nor do we want to. Freedom is paramount and our children often leave home when they are 16 or 18. Our society is now based on the Nuclear Family, which is a relatively new phenomena. That means that our family structure is under increasing stress and pressure and our divorce rate is around 40% overall. Extended family and society no longer care if we stay together or not and there is no peer pressure to make it work. In a sense we are basically alone in many cases, especially in the big cities. How many people can we ask to baby sit our kids? In fact, nowadays, extended family is usually considered to be just brothers and sisters, rather than cousins, second cousins, aunts and uncles etc. In fact, many of us don't even know our cousins and other assorted relatives. I know that not all of us fit into this description, especially in some European countries such as Italy and Greece where the family structure is still intact. Western people are more direct and logical in their behaviour (I'm not so sure about the women, however). We like to follow a system, with rules and regulations, however, we seldom give our all for any employer. We have a life outside of work. Our institutions are based on the Anglo-Saxon concept of "fair play" where everyone, regardless of social background (theoretically at least), should be given an equal chance.
EASTERN CULTURE AND BEHAVIOUR
When I say Eastern, I mean the Orient (China, S.E. Asia, Korea, Japan). The value system here is basically the same in all of these countries, although there may be differences in cultural behaviour. Here, it is the group, rather than the individual that is more important. Group stability, social stability, etc is of paramount importance. Generally speaking, people respect authority figures (this area has never really been democratic). People don't want to be seen as being the odd person out. They have a concept called Face which is more than just self respect. Some cultures may take this to extremes and since I lived in Japan, I definitely can say that they do. From Stick's website, it appears that the Thais are just as concerned about Face and fanatical about it. Japanese are capable of crazy things concerning Face, and every New Years, dozens of people commit suicide over losing their job, wife, failing an exam or whatever. They have lost Face and life is no longer worth living. I personally saw a guy jump out of a ten story hotel window in Kyoto, Japan on New Years Eve and he just missed me by about ten feet as I was walking towards the lobby. Quite incomprehensible! A westerner would simply try to pick up the pieces and get started again, right? Expression of individual emotions is not encouraged in the Orient, certainly not in public. To do so, a person would lose Face. Group dynamics are paramount in Japan and Thailand it seems, although from my experience and observations, less so in Korea and China. If you have known Koreans and Chinese, you may find them to be more individualistic and less agreeable, depending upon circumstances. Showing anger is an absolute No No in the Orient. You will not gain any respect anywhere and people will laugh at and despise you. Plus you could make some serious enemies, like in Thailand. Just keep on smiling. Orientals, especially the Japanese, may appear totally passive and non aggressive. Don't be fooled by this–you saw what they did during the Second World War and in China. Usually, they refrain from personal confrontations / arguments when faced with an angry Westerner and will just back off (except, maybe the Thais from what I've read). Don't take this as weakness or being scared due to your larger size or whatever. Under no circumstances is it a wise idea to intimidate an Oriental. When they lose it, they really lose it. Lets just say they can go berserk and don't expect the normal rules of a fight, Western style–you know like one on one. It's very naive to believe that they will retaliate in a "fair" one to one fight. That's a Western concept. Revenge will become the biggest desire and when you are at "war", it's no holds barred. Totally different thinking you think?? Well, it's not too different from the gangs in the U.S. in Los Angeles or New York. Only, over there you are liable to get a bullet instead. There is no such thing as a fair fight and don't ever be naive to think so. The aggrieved party will do anything–remember that–especially if you are a White guy and Big. However, by staying calm, non threatening, smiling, and don't just keep staring eyeball to eyeball (extended eye to eye contact is rude in the Orient if you are strangers), and perhaps even saying sorry for any misunderstanding–will usually defuse any situation. Forget the Ego, and live another day. The Orient is industrializing fast, and their role model is basically, the USA, for better or for worse. They want what we have, and can you blame them? But they will still keep their value system. Orientals, tend to judge others by their appearance–such as clothing, education diplomas etc, manners, who they hang around with. Women, generally speaking, will always be loyal to their family to varying degrees. It's the family unit that is number one. A husband is just one member and remember, a husband is not really even related by blood. Blood lines are extremely important to Orientals. Children are usually more important than the husband or wife. After all, there is a blood line there. Often, parents are more important than the husband, too. In the West, our husband or wife is supposed to be number one or at least equal to the kids, right?? Not so in the Orient, so you better get used to it. People are less adventurous in the Orient. Do you see many girls or guys taking off to go backpacking around the world?? Their family would be aghast at such a thing. When people travel, they travel in groups, like the Japanese. I know, it's annoying when a tour bus drops off a few dozen / hundred people babbling in a foreign tongue and blocking the view. Inviting an Oriental girl for dinner often means a few other people showing up with her. Always expect uninvited guests and to show displeasure causes You to lose Face. If you want to criticize your friend or whatever, make sure that it's only the two of you alone. He / she will be more accepting about the cross cultural exchange. Always be prepared for surprises when in the Orient–nothing is ever as it seems to be, or as planned and orderly as in the West. But then that's one of the main reasons you are in the Orient, right? Besides sex, that is! Lots of us Westerners love the Orient because we are tired of the boredom and predictability of life in the West. Sometimes, opposites attract, right? Flexibility and an easy going nature are paramount when visiting / living in the Orient. I can see that some people get jaded after a while and repeated exposure to what appears to be diametrically opposing values can wear Westerners down and cause them to actually dislike the Orient. However, if you closely examine these "opposing" values, you may find that they are only striving for the same things you are. As for the "rip-off" bar girls etc–what would you expect in your home countries? I live in Vancouver, and we have hookers, freelancers, escorts, and streetwalkers. Would you fall in love with any of them or expect them to be faithful or even marry them? Of course, you wouldn't have to worry about supporting the whole family since families over here are more fragmented. It takes a certain kind of woman to sell herself for $$$. I won't get into the ethics of it, since there will always be sellers and buyers. Some are coerced (forced by circumstances or family–Isaan). Some actually enjoy it, especially the escorts or freelancers. In Vancouver, we have tons of escorts and you'd be surprised by their background (highly educated, career-minded, good jobs). Many do it for the thrill or fun of dating and sleeping with many men (businessmen and higher quality types). The Streetwalkers are the druggies and they do it for the drugs only. The more modern the woman, the more freedom etc, the more promiscuous. That's happening all over the world. Us Men no longer have a monopoly on fooling around.
One thing that women have in common in both the West and the East is the desire to be looked after. Women, whether they admit it or not, are more concerned about $$$ because that translates as resources. Remember, our evolution from hunters. Women, subconsciously chose the guy who was the best hunter or at least a good hunter. It's imprinted in their genes. And us men chose women who were sexually appealing and sexually ripe (translated as good looking and capable of giving birth). That meant women who were pre-menopausal (basically under 50–but peak sexuality from 16-40). Since men can procreate until they die, that explains why guys in their 60s and 70s are still attracted to women in their '20s etc. Why would they be attracted to a woman who could no longer procreate–well maybe attracted intellectually but not sexually. Every guy I have spoken to has admitted that they are attracted to much younger women sexually. Unfortunately, it's not socially acceptable in the West and young women here call us "dirty old geezers". But, from an evolutionary viewpoint it does make sense, since if a 50 or 60 year old guy can still have a sex drive than why wouldn't he be attracted to younger women. There really is no evolutionary or biological reason for a man to be sexually attracted to a post menopausal woman who can no longer procreate. Sorry ladies, but it's nature so don't go blaming us men. Thailand offers "old guys" a chance to continue a sexual life even if it's for money. Everyone benefits. Well, what would be the result if this weren't possible? Millions of still healthy and active men, sitting around frustrated, with no sexual outlet due to the fact that they are over 40 or 50 and therefore deemed over the hill and undesirable by the younger ladies in their late teens, 20s, 30s. These young girls, for the most part, want men their age. Now that's fine and dandy but what do all of the divorced men do? Well, we've been told to hang out with women our own age–the same ones who gave us the boot. The same ones who are bitter, fed up, cynical, jaded, angry whatever. So most of us will just avoid the dating scene and stay single. Some of us will venture offshore to places where younger women don't mind hanging with older men. If both parties can find some measure of happiness then I see no harm done. However, the older man must be prepared to provide "resources" and that's just the nature of the game. Expecting the same kind of romantic relationship which you experienced when you were 20 is going to be very rare indeed. That's why I find it so hard to understand some of these middle aged and divorced gentlemen who fall in love and get taken by the younger ladies. That should be fully expected. She's doing it for the $$, so just enjoy the sex which you couldn't get in your homeland but keep the emotions under control. Its not love 99% of the time but if you do find love, you are a very lucky man indeed. I've dated around the world, but I've only fallen in love once in my life, and it's highly unlikely to happen again. Some poor fellows seem to fall for every girl who treats them half decently. This leads me to believe that most of us guys really think with our dicks.
As for the Thais' perception of farangs; basically it is based on how you conduct yourself. They are generalizing as much as us when they see hordes of farangs (many poorly dressed, too hairy, big bellies etc) walking down the street with a tiny bar girl half their size and half their age. It's really quite funny and not a pretty sight on any street anywhere in any country. I am not saying that this isn't OK, actually if you don't care about Face, then it's fine, however, don't expect the Thais to consider us as anything more than sex hungry tourists. But think about this; what if you saw hordes of Oriental guys, in your country, walking down the street with tall, blond, blue eyed ladies; many of the ladies being good looking. The Japanese yen, Chinese Yuan, Korean won are getting stronger, including the economies. Maybe, one day the Thai baht might appreciate in value along with the economy–nothing stays the same forever, given time. I can guarantee that a lot of Western guys would be jealous, pissed off, perhaps mouthing racist things to themselves, and people would be staring but unsmiling. I guess it would be tolerated because of the tourist $$$, like in Thailand. They'd be thinking, what the heck does she see in that little, "slant eyed gook". Who do they think they are, flashing their $$$ around and screwing our women. That's the honest truth and more than a few guys would be thinking like that. Now the shoe would be on the other foot. Just reverse the situation and see how you would feel. Would you be as friendly as a Thai?? I am sure that the Thais sometimes feel this way with us farangs, however, generally speaking, most don't as, Thailand is really quite tolerant about these things. Thai means free, so I guess that means free to screw who you want. Over the last 20 years, many Orientals immigrated to Canada, Vancouver in particular, attracted by political stability and our great, clean lifestyle. They had $$$, just like us farangs in Thailand. But instead of screwing around; since Vancouver is a no-fun city, unlike Bangkok; they bought tons of real estate and gave a boost to our economy. Just like farangs are doing in Thailand, only in the bars and in the tourist resorts. Do you expect the Thais to be grateful for the economic boost? I guess some are and others aren't. I guess many are looking for a chance to make some $$ off an unsuspecting farang. First law of the jungle is to watch your back at all times and to trust nobody, especially when it comes to $$; whether Thai or farang. Westerners may also have some similarities to Thais, given a chance to make some significant $$. I mentioned our real estate market in Vancouver. Suddenly, we had lots of offshore buyers who basically couldn't speak the language or knew much about our culture (like farangs in Thailand) with tons of money. You can't imagine how quickly prices went up for houses. Not 10% but 50%, 100%, over a short period of time. The sellers were locals who got greedy (a very human trait not confined to Thais) and eager to take advantage of others' ignorance (I don't feel sorry for the moneyed ignorant Orientals any more than I feel sorry for moneyed ignorant farangs). There was a stampede to sell housing and a boom resulted as locals cashed in. Did you expect us locals to be grateful for the economic boost! Well, some were and some weren't (just like the Thais, I guess). Now the buyers were blamed for rising real estate prices etc, increasing prices, increasing homelessness of locals who couldn't afford the huge price increases etc. There were some racist comments made by more than a few (I guess the same as the Thais regarding farangs). Never mind it was the locals who were willingly selling to cash in big time. You can't have a buyer without a seller!! Obviously, one segment of society benefits at the expense of the other segment of society–sort of like Thailand. If you have money, you get richer, if you don't, then you work like a dog at whatever. Same thing applies back in Farangland and every other place I have visited.
So, these are just some of my observations and opinions and I don't mean to bash anyone. It's just that wherever I go on this planet, people seem to be more alike than unalike. It's just the methods which they use to achieve their goals that differ. Just the same, Thailand is one of the few places on this planet where I feel totally relaxed and at least the people are smiling and friendly as they relieve me of my hard earned cash. That's more than I can say about a lot of other places; especially in Farangland where people think that if they smiled their faces might crack like porcelain. Well, I am just exaggerating a little.
My home, Vancouver, is actually one of the nicest cities on the planet with fairly decent people and it's getting better all of the time. However, it cannot rival Bangkok or Tokyo or a dozen other Oriental cities when it comes to the fun factor. We have lots of beautiful women here too but they are only for looking at if you are an over 45 farang, like myself. Over 45 farangs are told to hang with women their own age, however, I'd rather stay single and celibate if this is the only option. And that is why I've spent so much time reading Stick's site. I guess I'll be heading out there again within the next few months. I'll be heading to Vietnam first, before hitting Thailand. I was there a few years ago and it looks very interesting. There are some stunners over there too. Believe me, Vietnamese women are stunners. And I don't think that they have been as spoiled yet as many of their Thai sisters.
A nice summary of things.