Readers' Submissions

Are Thais (Asians) Different Emotionally / Materially Than Westerners



Well, I've been reading several articles again and they all seem to be about the inscrutable, greedy Asian, seemingly less affectionate (at least publicly), and incapable of so-called deeper relationships like us Westerners. Here we go again, and no doubt written by people who speak very little Thai or weren't born in Thailand and therefore are looking at things from the point of view of an outsider, most of whom never seem able to understand Thailand and Asians in general. Those expats who have lived there for decades and who speak Thai seem even more jaded; perhaps it's time to return to Farangland if it's so attractive and the relationships are so deep and meaningful.

I'm Canadian of Chinese ancestry and I've travelled to around 50 countries over the past 40 years. I was brought up by a Father born in Canada, and a Mother raised in England, and a Grandmother from China. I can't speak any Oriental language by the way but I do have an intimate knowledge of how the Oriental mind works just by being around my Grandmother and her non-English speaking relatives; and from my travels and living in various countries around the world-both Asian and Western. And I can say that generalizations of the inscrutable Oriental and the passionate Westerner are just plain crap with a capital C. I spent months travelling around Western Europe and all I can say is what a serious, inscrutable, cold bunch of people most of them appear to be and how difficult to really make friends. In fact, I contend that most people in any country of the world could probably count their real friends on one or two hands. All you have to do is go through some hard times and you'll see how many real friends you truly have. Suffer a business failure and lose all of your money or go through a divorce and lose your house and see how many people continue to invite you over or include you in social gatherings. Yes, I know there are exceptions.

Even though I behave and think like a Westerner, I consider that it's just as difficult to have deep meaningful relationships here in Vancouver (my hometown) as it is anywhere else. People are constantly on the go and your only true friends are likely to be the ones you went to school with. Marriage and family (having kids) changes everything too as we all have very little time for meaningful relationships. That's why our divorce rate is 50 % and rising. We usually have rather informal or loose social relations based upon workmates or people having common interests. Every once in a while a deep friendship can develop, but it's no more common than in any big city anywhere else. The people with the biggest and deepest social networks and friendships usually live in some small country town where half the population didn't move out to the big city. I'm sure everyone in Bangkok is from somewhere else and they've left their family and school friends behind in some village; just like the expats are from somewhere else. Our loneliness and solitariness is a part of the human condition and we are all looking for some soulmates whether male or female.

I've always felt that people living in warmer climates are a lot warmer emotionally (Italy, Indonesia, South Pacific, Latin America) than people living in colder northern climates (Scandinavia, Germany, France, UK). Us Farangs feel a reserve on the part of Thais and think that they are being superficial with all of their compliments. Well, that's just part of being civilized in a social manner–or would you rather have people saying the truth such as you look horrible, your Thai accent is laughable, you smell bad or whatever. Go to a cocktail party or any kind of social gathering back home and most people (unless they are stupidly drunk) will smile shake your hand and say nice things to you such as: I'm glad to meet you, Have a nice day, I hope you are successful in your business, I love your tie etc ad nauseum. What a load of crap–well you might say that I'm a cynic. I don't call this lying or being shallow; it's just being social and of course we don't take the meaning out of context. And, remember, we all do this ourselves. To be blunt and too forward with people would cause an endless round of fights, especially in a bar or nightspot anywhere. I guess you could say its being polite. I think people are basically the same emotionally everywhere; they just express it differently.

The Thais aren't the only ones with a class structure; just look at the British. My mother was brought up in England and went to boarding school there. She took me there for a while when I was 16 and the first thing I thought was: what a bunch of snobs. You know, "Keep that stiff upper lip" and all that sort of thing. They seemed as cold as ice and I certainly kept my reserve. However, with the passage of time, I realized the English could be quite emotional and open up to you, but it took time.

A friend became a real friend. In fact the best friend I ever had was an English boy I met in school. Since my native language was English, I quickly learned of the intricacies of the culture and realized that most Brits weren't snobs–in fact I loved the great sense of humour and inherent sense of fair play and justice. But what if I had been from a non-English speaking country: lets say Russia or Japan? I'd probably think of the Brits the way many farangs think of the Thais and other Asians. I've had feedback from many others from other countries who insist that the Brits are cold, snobbish, and rude. Well, I know that that is the furthest from the truth–but then these people weren't native speakers and that makes a bit of difference. Any language has certain subtleties and tones that can totally change the literal meaning of the words and usually only native speakers can pick up on the differences in meaning. Affection expressed by an Englishman is different that that expressed by a Frenchman or a Russian. Maybe a pat on the back "old boy" sort of thing whereas the others will give you a face to face hug. Yes, very different even among Europeans. I've seen Asians cry, even in public, just saying goodbye to each other (usually women). The heartfelt emotions are just the same as any other human. I've met Asians who are extremely passionate about what they are doing–well they must be because they were involved in dangerous political activities where they could have been killed.

So in the US, its common for couples to kiss in public and be all over each other, whereas in Asia its frowned upon; certainly in Thailand. Even I as a Canadian who is used to seeing this stuff at home; I feel that its better expressed in private–like go home or go rent a room, are you showing off or what? In many of the countries I have travelled to; I've met very passionate and excitable people; especially in the Middle East and Asia. I've had people do things for me (almost a complete stranger) that some friends wouldn't do for me back home. I've had deep and meaningful relationships (especially with the women and some men). When I respected their cultures or our differences, even when I couldn't speak their language, they went out of their way to accommodate me and make me feel like family. I really believe that most people have goodness in their hearts. In fact, without having to grovel or spew a bunch of flattering half truths; as long as I was honest and not too direct (subtle if you know what I mean), people were never offended even when I disagreed politically or regarding religion. I'm not in the habit of saying what people want to hear just for the sake of sucking up. Mutual respect is of the utmost importance. Most relationships in any country are superficial anyways. At least, that's the way I see it. I can count my deep relationships in Canada (including family) on one hand. You may think that I must be friendless or anti-social but I'm not. I just know how I stand with most of my friends (acquaintances). And I don't just call anybody a friend. In fact my criteria for friend is rather extensive. Some people call a friend anyone they go to a bar with.

I am sure Thais have just as many deep relationships with each other and just as many superficial relationships as do people in the West. They just express it differently and us farangs observe it through our foreign lenses and filters and come to a different conclusion. Sure, you are a tourist or expat and you make more money and some Thais are trying to get that money cause its business as usual. This is universal and don't think that people back home don't want your money just as bad. Vancouver is a much smaller city than Bangkok but I will tell you that we definitely have more than our fair share of bloodsuckers, too. And I just came back from the US of A and its even worse. As the saying goes, "No money, no Honey". Materialism is well and rampant in the West and in Asia, unfortunately, they have just picked up all of our bad habits. Look at China, its going to be two US of A's in one and what about India. We are selling them all of our junk and helping them to become greedy consumers just like us. There is crap in every country but there must be tons of it at home since I see that so many of us just love to hang out in the land of smiles or similar places. I wouldn't feel so smug about my culture as compared to other cultures. Still, I must say that Thailand is one of the nicest places on earth for many more reasons than I have time to mention. And seriously, do most of us guys come here for deep relationships with people we cannot even communicate properly with? I believe that most of us come here for one simple reason: to get laid by women who back home wouldn't give us the time of day or night. Our hormones are still raging, even at 50, 60, 70. This is a universal phenomena contrary to what certain people may think. Nature has allowed men to continue to impregnate women well into old age. Women, go through menopause around 50 or younger. Nature in its infinite wisdom? has allowed men to retain their sex drive (well at least some of us) and of course its because of nature that we are attracted to women of childbearing age, so obviously that means women much younger in their 20s, 30s, etc. Sounds disgusting to some, but its a fact of life and not really the fault of us "old farts". Yes, I'm one also and I'll be honest about it and I'm not attracted to post menopausal women. I still read Playboy magazine and Hugh Hefner is one of my heroes. I can't lie like other more righteous friends of mine, who tell me how "crazy" I am, but then tell me of the latest online porno sites that they've found. Frustration knows no bounds but I know that they secretly envy me for being able to enter into the depths of "depravity". I didn't enter into this on purpose because I'm some kind of soulless creep (although some of you may think so, and that's fine by me, I'm used to being told off by aging farang women and my exes). I just happened to get the boot in mid life and rather than gracelessly slip into oblivion viewing porno movies or dating cranky, angry divorced women my age; I decided to get the real thing. Well, you guys understand this, cause many of you are in the same situation. And if you don't, just remember that if you ever get the boot (and its bound to happen to at least half of us), you may find yourselves with a different viewpoint on things. JUST DON'T FALL IN LOVE AND YOU'LL BE FINE AND USE A CONDOM. Cheers!

Stickman's thoughts:

My observations and interpretations of human behaviour across different countries is quite different to yours.