Readers' Submissions

Face: The Most Ridiculous And Unproductive Concept Ever Invented



Thankfully I've never been involved in a 'face' debate or argument before and wish never to.

I watched the odd Asian films as I was growing up and admittedly, my ignorance didn't allow me to pick up whether they were Chinese, Hong Kong, Thai, or some other Asian country. I could tell the difference between Japanese / Korean and other Asian films, but that's about it

My very limited exposure to this face phenomenon, from the movies and the odd comment from friends, was that face was all about reputation. In other words, if you commit a crime, get caught out lying, do something embarrassing, which brings shame onto your self or family, is about losing face. Now I still may not be 100% correct, but I think I'm about 98% of the way there.

Naturally, if you as a parent found out that your child was being convicted of murder or armed robbery, and everybody knew about it, then yes your reputation as a parent and as a family is severely affected. I'm sure 99% of the cultures in the world are like this. I doubt many families are going to boast that their brother / sister / partner / son / daughter is a killer or beats people for whatever reason.

All was good until I visited Thailand a few times and mostly reading Stickman submissions. Especially the articles where the guy was returning a new printer that didn't work, or the guy who had the worst steak in the world and wanted to complain, and the guy who was brought the wrong drink, sipped it, and refused to pay for it, but ended up having to pay for it, or the farang guy and his wife who were heckled by rude drunk Thai men at a restaurant who would have beat him up because he didn't shake his hand for the third time.

I know that service in Thailand, let alone most of Asia, really sucks. You go into 99% of Asian restaurants around the world and the service sucks, or is far below the average. I've been told by my Asian friends that a lot of Asians that its their culture to look after family and friends, but not give a stuff about strangers, hence why their service levels suck big-time.

Now using the example of the faulty printer. The article, if I'm not wrong says that by returning the printer the shop person / shop loses face, also the farang who makes a big deal (i.e. get aggressive and demanding) also loses face by acting in this manner.

Here are a few examples that I can relate to or almost relate to:

1. A trip to Thailand, I caught up with a very good Thai friend of mine (who is a tour guide). We caught a taxi, she told the driver to go to whatever hotel it was called, and the driver apparently said "yeah no problem, I know where it is" and negotiated 100 baht. It was about 10 minutes by taxi, and about 15 minutes later, I said to her, "Are we going the right way? this road doesn't look familiar?" She asked the driver if he was going the right away, in the end he made a mistake, and requested we pay 200 baht because he had travelled 15 minutes in the wrong direction. Then after to-ing and fro-ing, for a while my friend said, "Let's just pay him the 200 baht to save him face" I was like "WTF, why the hell should I pay for his mistake?"

2. Ex-wife (Malay) of a good friend and her daughter were invited to my good friends brother's wedding. Brother of my friend posted them both an invite in the mail at the same time, for some reason, the ex-wife's invitation got delayed by a few days by the mail. She calls up my friend in a fit of rage saying "Why don't I get an invite, if I'm not going, my daughter is not going, I lose face". This is after she lied to docs and tried to hang molestation charges on him, and after she lied about who the dad was, and the whole typical woman story that you hear! So she has lied and manipulated her whole life, and nobody likes her, and she was only invited to avoid this exact problem, is now concerned about face!

3. Not an actual incident that I was involved in but those border security programs that record the incidents at customs in the Western World. This episode caught some Asian guy full of stuffed food and excess cigarettes that he hadn't declared. He had been to the country heaps of times, and the conversation went something like this:

BLAH BLAH

"Why have you got so much undeclared food and you are only allowed to have X cigarettes."

"Oh sorry, me not understand English good."

"Yes but your incoming card is written in your language."

SILENCE

"You have also exceeded the maximum cigarettes"

"Me first time in this country."

"According to your passport, you have been to this country 9 times in 3 years, you should know the rules."

"We are going to have to fine you $X for the two incidents."

"Oh, I can't leave this airport without the food and cigarettes because I will lose face."

"Sorry sir, the fine still stands."

"But I am poor student, have no money, no fine."

"Sorry sir, the fine still stands, you have the option to challenge but the food will be destroyed."

"Ok so if I give you the food, no fine?"

"No, sorry, it doesn't work that way."

"But I am poor student, have no money, no fine."

"if you don't pay the fine, you will go to prison, so it's up to you, do you have a credit card."

"No credit card."

"Well you are going to have to find a way to pay the fine."

The guy then pulls out a wallet with close to $2000 in it, and a few credit cards, and pays the fine. As he is walking out, he says "I hate this country."

I find this issue of face to be highly hypocritical, ridiculous and convenient. Much like those people that blame everything on God when anything in their life goes wrong, but yet when anything goes right it's usually due to skill or good luck (no mention of luck). People seem to think by quoting face, is an excuse to be ok to lie, cheat, deceive, be unreasonable, or a complete retard.

Finally, if my grasp of face is reasonably spot on, I stand by my opinion, that this face stuff is just ridiculous, and I absolutely hate it and I hope that I never am part of it. It's just pointless, uneconomical, inefficient, and is simply a backwards step in the name of progress of a culture to simple dispute resolutions such as a broken printer.

So maybe someone can email me and explain, what you should do in Thailand if I have a broken printer, get served the wrong drink, get taken to the wrong place by taxi, or have a bad steak.

You don't have to have super perfect upbringing or morals to accept you made a mistake and apologise or to at least try and fix it or hide at the least. So this is what absolutely puzzles me!!! So if you are a local Thai person and get a speeding fine, do you simply hire the most expensive lawyer to try and get you off even though you were doing 70 in a 30 zone, to avoid losing face?

Where does it stop, or is it just when it suits you or your image. Unfortunate to say, but this is one of the reasons subconsciously I will always look down ever so slightly on Asian people in general, even in my home country. To me, fixing a problem that you caused is not a courtesy but a bare minimum of human decency.