Readers' Submissions

The Truth About Thailand And Her Citizens Part 3

  • Written by Lookpapa
  • April 1st, 2006
  • 5 min read


By Lookpapa (the Sage)

Continuing on with this series, I’d like to talk to you about the Thais’ favourite expression, which they mention frequently, that is: “kreng jai”, loosely translated “consideration”, as in considering other people’s feelings…..

You hear this all the time when Thai people express their well meaning intentions of not causing you discomfort, upset and anything under the sun which they may think might put you out.

Well, that is all well and good, we try to do the same in the West, more than that, most western countries actually legislate to ensure that people live under certain rules that do not encroach on each others' rights and well being.

And in Thailand there are also certain laws in place that try to put some order into the way people interact with each other, otherwise there would be chaos.

Come to think of it, Thailand has a pretty good set of laws, albeit mostly copied from Western models, the problem is that the Thais tend to either abuse or ignore the laws.

The first example of this is the way Thais drive on the roads. When I used to live in Bangkok, I tried to drive a friend’s car once and gave up after a couple of minutes, my nerves were shattered in that short space of time. Later on when we moved to a provincial city, we bought a car and I drove regularly, but I quickly had to learn defensive driving. Let me assure you that there is no “kreng jai” on the roads in Thailand, it’s every men for himself. No rights of way given, the bigger your car the more power you got, except where motorcycles are concerned; they are always in the right, if you hit them it’s always your fault. God save you if you’re a pedestrian, do not ever rely on zebra crossings, you’ll be run down quicker than an eye blink!

There are thousands of fatalities on the roads in Thailand, due to inconsiderate driving, drunkenness, lack of driving skills and fatigue. A Thai driver behind the wheel does not consider the consequences of his actions, so much for “kreng jai”!

One of the most upsetting facts of life for a farang living in Thailand is noise pollution.

Now, in this area I do not know if there is legislation about the decibels they’re allowed to launch onto your senses, the only thing I know is, they have some recommendations about noise levels in discos, but I’m talking about your neighbourhood type of noises, which make it impossible to sleep in your own home.

Constantly barking dogs (not strays), some of whom had been locked up in cages all day

without any exercise, supposedly much loved pets, sometimes 6-7 of them in a house; where is the “kreng jai” for them? Let alone the poor suffering neighbours, who are sleep deprived constantly. You can add to this playing music at the top of the volume range, karaoke as well, into the early hours of the morning, irrespective of your requests to tone it down. The worst part of this is that you have no recourse to the authorities. In their villages, the Kamnan or his spokesman, blares community announcements at all hours to be heard miles away, then music to follow up. There are sometimes loud motorcycles revving up and down the neighbourhoods at different times of the night, after they had a late drinking session or card game, not a minute of consideration given to us who may try to sleep in the deep of the night.

What I’m writing about here is not a hobby horse of mine, it is a complaint by most of the farangs I’ve come across in the last few years.

Initially, a lot of farangs when they start living in Thailand, mention how refreshing it is that here they don’t have the many rules they had to abide by in the countries they came from. They say how free they feel, then after a while they realize the consequences of all this freedom, like other people are free to do whatever they want, irrespective of how it impacts on you.

Then the disillusionment steps in and they start wishing for more rules, such as the ones they fled from.

Since I left Thailand, 4 months ago, I started to appreciate the peace and quite of where we live now. I’m actually getting a full night sleep, and if there is any disturbing noise at night (which is virtually non existent, because here people are considerate), I can always get quick action from the authorities.

The thing that grates me about the Thai people is that they say one thing, but act another way, it’s do as I say, not do as I do. Hypocrisy is alive and well in Thailand.

There are many instances in every day life in Thailand, where there is no consideration for you fellow humans, witness people getting on to the buses, trains, into lifts, it’s every man for himself. Young students in school uniforms do not give up their seats to the elderly.

There are many beggars, especially in tourist areas; there is a one legged cripple who is crawling along the busiest section of Sukhumvit road for the past few years, why don’t do authorities do something about these unfortunates, where is the “kreng jai “ of society towards cripples?

Opulent lifestyles contrast in these areas for all to see that there is no “kreng jai” to those who are the lowest strata of Thai society.

What I don’t understand is :why does not the TAT see that cleaning up this kind of poverty, especially in touristy areas, would be beneficial for the image of the country.

Well, of course, the poor cripple crawling around on his stomach did not get there by himself, he is “employed", along with others, by some influential person whom the Authorities can’t touch out of “kreng jai” of upsetting his racket.

So because I have “kreng jai “ for my readers, I’m not going to further upset your senses with more of these unsavoury examples.

Until next time….

Stickman's thoughts:

Kreng jai is status driven to some extent. My personal definition of it would be "deferring to, or being considerate to, people who may be of higher status than yourself."