Thailand is Thailand and no matter how hard we try to succeed by using tactics, concepts and ideas that would likely be successful in the West, it is those who adapt to Thailand and try and follow and use Thai ways who will be the most successful. Applying Western ideas to life in Thailand will not always be successful, and sometimes may even ending disaster.
At my place of work there is an older Thai woman who is very popular and as far as management is concerned, she is a very valuable member of staff and a popular teacher. We will call her Ajarn Bee, not her real name.
Ajarn Bee is, to all intents and purposes, absolutely hopeless at her job. Having taught English for over 30 years, one could reasonably expect her to have a more than fair command of the language, yet even a question as basic as "how was your weekend" is often answered with "I fine thank you and you". In fact if you asked her what she plans to do tomorrow, she'd probably respond with the "fine thank you" line, delivered with her absolutely best, warmest smile.
Yet despite her lack of proficiency of the language and her consequent inability to effectively teach combined with other issues such as being unable to manage a classroom, Ajarn Bee is considered a very valuable member of the staff at school. She is popular with all of the people that matter, from the students to the administration – and thus her job is as secure as the crown jewels.
Sitting back and observing the way that she conducts herself at work, I have tried to consider why she is so successful, notwithstanding that she is, with all respect, an absolutely dreadful teacher.
Ajarn Bee has got through life by smiling, by being pleasant and convivial at all times and by always projecting a positive, cheerful image. She never presents anyone with a problem, and if she is asked to do something, she'll happily do it without question. She has diplomacy skills that would put many ambassadors to shame, and she uses them beautifully. While she may not be so good in the classroom, she projects an image of a positive, cheerful person who is happy to carry out all that is asked of her.
In many ways, she serves as an example of how one can be successful in Thailand. At school functions she is always there, immaculately presented and ready to flash her best smile. Whatever is asked of her will be done quickly and this helps to cover up her lack of proficiency in the core area of her job. But perhaps most importantly, she never rocks the boat.
Almost everything that she does goes against all that us Westerners believe in. However, she has been largely successful, slowly moving up the ranks into a position where she can now enjoy a comfortable life. That there may be little substance to her teaching, but she projects the image that the school wants to see.
Being diplomatic goes a long way to helping you in the workplace – and in life in general – in the West, but ultimately Western managers will look at substance, and they look for results. What have you produced today? How many new customers did you bring in? How much did you sell this week? Fail to produce results and you'll eventually be shown the door.
In Thailand, especially in Thai owned and run companies, result oriented performance is seldom looked at. One's ability to fit in, to be seen to be doing the right thing (even if one is not) is so often put at the top of the list. In Thailand, what can be seen on the outside is often so much more important than what is happening on the inside. It's all about image, about face and about the way that you present yourself. Unfortunately this means that second best is often accepted.
Where is this pic?
Last week's pic
It was McDonalds at Silom
This week's pic
First to get last weeks pic right won $25 worth of goodies from the good guys at ClubHombre.com. The picture from last week was of the McDonald's sign on Silom, opposite to Patpong. Remember, there are TWO prizes offered for the where is this pic. First person to get the pic right, irrespective of location, wins the prize of $25 worth of goodies from ClubHombre. In addition to this, the first Bangkok based person to answer the pic correctly wins a tube of MyCreme sexsational cream. You MUST be in Bangkok to claim this particular prize which will be delivered to you. So, to all Bangkok based folks, make it clear in your email that you are Bangkok based so that you qualify for the cream that will send your teeruk to heaven!
Have you tried Asian yet?
A beautiful temple in Chaiyaphum that
I visited this past week. Name escapes me.
If you are the Englishman from Leeds in the UK who sent 100 pounds to your teeruk in Bangkok by Western Union this week, please be advised that 5,000 baht of it was immediately handed over to her motorcycle taxi rider boyfriend her cursed her upon receiving it and stormed off. Hmmm, why do people send money?
The new big bar being developed on Soi Cowboy, sort of opposite Suzy Wong's, is apparently going to be decorated with an Egyptian theme and is being tipped to become the pride of Cowboy. The theme is all very good and well but remember Cascade in Nana? Bar decorated beautifully, but seems largely to have failed. There is more to opening a new bar than getting the best interior decorators involved.
Shadow Bar in Cowboy changed their name to Cocktail Lounge on January 1st but apart from the name change, everything else is at it was. Why the name change, I wonder?
For some reason, I thought construction on that huge shopping complex at Pratunam had stopped, but passing by in a cab this week, I see that construction is indeed going ahead, and that real progress is being made. The Pratunam Complex looks huge, even bigger than the World Trade Centre though whether the city centre needs another monstrous shopping centre is debatable. It seems as though Bangkok is trying to aim for the sector of the tourism market currently dominated by Singapore and Hong Kong, the major Asian shopping centres. Bangkok has a bit of a way to go to catch up to these two, but with construction on the Pratunam Complex steaming ahead and with the mammoth new shopping centre planned at Siam Square, there will be even more here to keep the shopaholics happy. Bangkok does have cheaper prices on clothes, and the other places simply cannot compete when it comes to the likes of handcrafts, so who knows…Bangkok might become even more popular as a shopping destination.
Quote of the week comes from a colleague of mine. We were chatting about the way that many Thai people so annoyingly attribute complaints or criticism from foreigners about Thai people or Thailand in general to foreigners lack of understanding of Thai culture. My colleague responded, "I don't want to be a Thai person – Thank God I'm not. I like being able to state my opinions rightly or wrongly". The point he makes is valid. I am slowly getting sick and tired of calling Thai people on certain issues and watching them either "do the turtle" i.e. crawling into their shell and going absolutely silent, or going wild, because they are unable to respond rationally to criticism about them or their country. Still, this throws up the whole argument of fitting in…so I had better stop now or this paragraph will never end.
And another quote from a Thai girl who speaks very good English and was asked where she learnt it. "I learnt at the University Of Patpong"!
On Christmas Eve a number of bars stayed open late, some until 4.30 AM although a lot of the bars were closed long before then. Hollywood Rock, Cascade, and Carnival were all closed between 2.00 and 2.30. Playskool and quite a few other go-gos closed shortly after around 3.00 AM. They were boasting how well they did last year but this was at a time when some of the bars were closed! This year it was sweet revenge for Hollywood Strip which seems to be the most popular bar in Nana Plaza, even out shadowing the Rainbow bars and the best that the Crown Group has to offer. Rainbow 2 in particular is not doing so well this Xmas due to a shortage of Japanese punters….SomNamNa!
Normality has returned to Cowboy with the bars that had been ordered closed re-opened. One can once again move in Cactus Bar which had been home to girls from two other bars.
Bright lights in Korat for new Year.
This site was hacked this week! Yep, I have no idea how they did it, exactly when they did it and for that matter, know very little about how they did it! All I know is that for the 30 minutes that I turned my phone on while I was relaxing upcountry, the damned thing started beeping like a malfunctioning robot, destroying the peace and tranquility that I had found in rural Thailand as a number of friends called or SMSed me to tell me that the site had been hacked. Well, when I got back to Bangkok, the site was back up and running as usual… Hmm, who knows just what happened? But all seems ok for now.
If you ever wondered why some of the Thai dailies have such a bad reputation, picking up a copy of Thai Rath this week would have provided all that you needed to see. On the front page was a colour photo of an unfortunate Thai citizen who had been born with what appeared to be both male and female genitalia. You would think such an article could have been slotted into the paper in a less conspicuous spot. But that they printed a photo of this ON THE FRONT PAGE is bloody questionable, in my opinion. Quite frankly, this sort of reporting makes some Western tabloids look like the vicar's weekly newsletter.
Andy, former partner in The Dollhouse Gogo bars, and the person largely attributed to the bar's success will see his new bar open in Pattaya this week. From all accounts, this place might really be something special. If you are down in Pattaya, let me know what it is like – I'm sure it will be great.
Just what is it with the staff in the S+P chain of restaurants? It really does seem to me that their recruitment department hunts for buffaloes, dresses them up in a nice fancy uniform and has the audacity to call them waiters. This chain seems to have absolutely the worst service staff I have ever encountered. They really have no idea what the hell they are doing. But worst of all is the way that they waltz around the restaurant with an air of arrogance, acting as though it is you who should be grateful for them serving you.
Why is it that the public toilets in the likes of the World Trade Centre and Mahboonkrong, shopping centres that get lots of affluent customers are much worse than the toilets in shopping centres on the outskirts of the city? And I see that MBK have started charging 3 baht to use the public toilets in there though I can't see that lasting very long at all.
I'm happy to tip taxi drivers as generally they do a good job – and I truly believe the rates we pay represent excellent value for money. What's more, a lot of them don't make much money and I am happy to tip a little. However, I notice a trend amongst the taxi drivers that has made me think. Whenever I am in a taxi on my own, they will round the change off to the nearest 10 baht or so – which is fine with me. But whenever Miss Stick is in the cab with me, they give me exact change, virtually every time. This to me represents the fact that many Thai people insist on exact change from cab drivers, which is fair enough. But I can't help that think that it is just another instance of the predominantly Bangkok Thai customers refusing to give a little kindness to the people of Isaan – who make up most of the cab drivers.
Pattaya is positively booming and hotel rooms in most of the popular places are booked up through to at least the end of the month. However, Pattaya has SO many hotels that you can always find somewhere if you don't mind pounding the pavement a little.
While I was 250 km northeast at the time, word is that the countdown party in front of the World Trade Centre was crazy. I've never been one to party with the masses, and word is that it was so crowded that all sorts of madness was taking place. The skytrain was, from all accounts, busier than ever too. And with me being away from the big city for most of the week, the column is a bit lighter than usual, so that's all from me for another week…
Your Bangkok commentator,