An Expat Learns From The Flu Hysteria
This submission looks at the current flu hysteria from an expat perspective. No attempt to be politically correct. It may offend some. No apologies.
What flu hysteria taught me about how Thais think collectively.
Group loyalty first. If any choice between facing reality or following the group, ignore reality and follow. Group is family first, then village / school / work, then nation, in that order. In normal life, that order is clear with no need to make explicit. But in chaos, it gets confused. If we see any appeals to loyalty, “We are all Thai so we must …,” that is a strong signal of impending chaos.
The family unit still strong here. Families may not work smoothly, but they do function when most everything else is descending into chaos. In Western Civilization, Cultural Marxism has destroyed family loyalty, but not in Thailand. Not yet. I’m impressed and relieved about that.
The local village is also a strong social unit here. Obligations and duties well understand. Hierarchy and lines of communication clear. There is more social cohesion in the villages than I realized before.
Official pronouncements always lie. Not just mistakes, but intentional lies. Every country, everywhere. If any official pronouncement matches reality, it’s random chance. “Official” can be elected politicians, or government bureaucrats, or large organizations such as hospitals, business associations, NGOs, etc. The larger the organization, the larger the lies. When I read or hear such pronouncements, I look around to the sides and behind, wondering what is really happening.
Established “news” media is worse than wrong. It almost never points in the direction of reality, but usually in any other direction except reality.
In recent years, a few independent news curators have appeared with web sites, podcasts, and blogs. They are rough, but overall, they align with reality. This web site, Stickman, was one of the first sources of useful information from non-establishment sources, both weekly reports and free-lance submissions.
What the flu hysteria taught me about how Thais think individually.
Expats complain plenty about the education system here. The locals are not stupid, but they just can’t think clearly in any direction, except up and down their social hierarchy. But from observing closely during this flu hysteria, I’ve been surprised and impressed. Individually, many adopted quickly and in productive ways. Many of the changes they made, I never would have imagined.
In the past, when some locals came asking me for advice about some problem, I would offer my best advice. Then they went away and did something entirely different, but something that worked just fine. Similar, now in the flu hysteria. So I learned to stop giving advice to local people. They can solve problems, albeit in their own way. Now I consider requests for advice as nice compliments, rather than as any real need for advice.
What the flu hysteria taught me about how Thais do business.
Three levels of business here. Each operates very differently. To lump all business together would be a mistake.
Top level is huge companies like shopping malls, chains of mini-marts, mobile phone operators, etc. Those always march in lock-step with the official line.
Mid-level businesses are specialty supermarkets, hotels, medium real estate like apartments, and local markets. Almost all run by Chinese-Thai and so follow Chinese goal to accumulate money in any way possible, with total disdain for customers who provide that money. As an expat, I try to avoid as much as possible, but cannot avoid entirely.
But individual business owners, sometimes, can be like a ray of sunshine in a dark sky: A taxi driver, a maid, a small shop selling tools. Not always, but sometimes they will kindly help an expat. Maybe advice like, “Don’t go over there now. Big crowd people. Not safe for you.” Or, “Better take local street. Expressway big traffic jam because many police.” Or, “My store closed, but what you want? Okay, wait here outside door, I bring to you.” When I do encounter that, it’s a joy.
What the flu hysteria taught me about local medical care.
In 10+ years here I’ve learned the medical system is a lot of “show” and “big face”. There is good equipment, but the skills to use it are thin. The flu hysteria is not really about any medical or public health situation. It does not fit observable facts. It is an organized cover-up for something else, a smokescreen. Not just in Thailand, but world-wide. For what and why, I don’t know, may never know. I continue to adopt my life in trying to avoid doctors and hospitals.
However, there is an important distinction in that general conclusion. For internal health problems (like flu), local doctors try to sell more medicine or tests that generate profit for themselves, but may not benefit the patient. Private and public hospitals alike. Pharmacies, too. But, on the other hand, for surgical procedures, outcomes can be excellent. After all, fruit carving is a respected skill in the local culture. Good surgery seems related, somehow.
What the flu hysteria taught me about my fellow expats.
Avoid, just avoid. Even before the flu hysteria my opinion of intelligence and thinking ability of my fellow expats was declining steadily. In expat social media and forums, very little of any value. So little that a waste of time even looking. In person, the few expats I still encounter seem “out in the ozone” if they are even sober. Only a very few that I even listen to any more.
Social media is highly perishable and mostly wrong. Normally I don’t look at social media or forums, but when the flu hysteria started, I looked at some for any information or help. Waste of time.
How my actions have changed as a result of these lessons.
Mostly, I’ve rearranged my life to stay at home and keep my own company. The longer I’ve been in Thailand, the more I was “self-isolating” anyway. Now, the flu hysteria brought that into clear focus. Inside my front door, a very pleasant, very comfortable life. But outside, much less pleasant.
My person-to-person conversations with local people have improved greatly. The local people I talk with regularly are doing very well at facing the reality in front of them, albeit in a Thai way, not my way.
The people I’ve learned to rely on for clear information and dependable advice are invariably the Thai-Thai and Thai-Isaan. Not all, of course. And from Thai-Chinese, I can’t ever depend on any honest information.
Like most expats here, more and more I’m using Internet shopping and delivery. The Internet shopping is nowhere near Amazon or similar. Variety and quality still limited, but sufficient for a comfortable life. What has been impressive are local delivery services: Kerry Express and Thai Post, to Grab, and LaLa Move, to one man with a pickup truck, the delivery services have impressed me.
And more local businesses are adopting. HomePro and Office Mate online shopping is getting better, but Central and Robinson’s not so much. Grab food, FoodPanda and similar are expanding and improving quickly. DASA book shop in Bangkok always had good delivery service, even better now. Some little local restaurants are saying, “Just call us. We deliver freeee!” So less need than ever before to go out the front door.
The local markets are better than I thought. Local markets do whatever they need to, to survive. With a little bit of looking I’ve found some quality food and decent products in local markets. Still mostly low-end, but some better. More than before, I’m shopping at the local market, or, even easier, giving my shopping list to my maid to go there for me.
On-line shopping still very risky. Lazada is terrible, albeit popular. Some products okay, many not okay. Many merchants cheating, but not all. Lazada customer service very bad. AliExpress, the parent of Lazada, similar. I only buy from Lazada as last resort, if I can’t find any other way. I don’t expect that will improve soon.
What these lessons portend for my future as an expat in Thailand.
More convinced than ever that Thailand offers the last best place for an old, retired farang. I’m relieved to be here. My expat life in Thailand is far, far better than anything back in the USA “homeland”. I’m staying.
Thoughtful comments welcome. Email: [email protected]