Perception is reality. How we interpret our world is unique to each and every one of us. We all are a summation of our past experiences and our individual upbringings. It’s what makes all of us tick, our perspective on how the world works. In today’s society we have begun to lose sight of this. We are becoming less culturally aware and more selfish in nature; we don’t seek out differences we want people to accommodate to our lifestyles. We need to change, let’s talk.
First, let’s talk about how we have become so unaware of other cultures. We go as Americans to other countries and expect everyone to speak English, eat hamburgers, and drink bud light. I will go into some of the culture differences I saw in Thailand later, but why is it that we are so insensitive and close minded? I’m not sure what the trigger is, but we have begun to push our culture onto people rather than the preservation of their cultures. I believe is that we have become arrogant in our capabilities as a country. We think that we are always right as Americans and think our way is the only way. We need to walk a mile in their shoes, see things how they see things, learn to appreciate our differences. If we had more appreciation and understanding for other peoples beliefs and cultures I think we would see the world become a more collaborative and productive place to live.
It is amazing that in my first trip overseas I was enlightened to the fact of how unaware of the rest of the world I was. I want to touch on some of the differences I saw in the southern islands of Thailand.
Number one, phone plans. When I first arrived in Thailand my phone did not work, which you too will experience unless you buy a phone plan. I opted not to buy a plan and only utilized Wi-Fi where I could. The thing I noticed about the phone plans was that they were opposite of our traditional plans here. The calling and minutes were limited and data was not, while in the US data overages are what phone companies thrive on.
Number two, driving and roads. Other than in Bangkok the rules of the road were never posted nor talked about. I did not see a single speed limit, stop, yield, or any similar sign that we see here in the US down in the islands. I spoke briefly about this in my last blog as well in being mindful of the people around you while driving. Also, road conditions depended on what part you were in. Some roads were gravel, some dirt, some paved. It was all relative to how close you were to the main part of the island.
Number three, the service industry. No shoes, no shirt no problem. I think Kenney was talking about Thailand when he wrote that song. Most places of business in Thailand ask that you take your shoes off at the door. Try walking into a target shoeless, ha. The other thing I noticed about the service industry is there is no sense of urgency. When you go into a restaurant in America it is often a well-oiled machine, pushing customers in and out as fast as possible. In Thailand, you often have to ask for the check and even flag the server down to place your order. The pace of life is a lot slower along with the service. They are in no rush to push you out the door. I often forgot to pay and had the server run after me because I was so used to having the check brought to me.
Number four, schedules. Feeding off number three, the concept of schedules is very vague and quite unpredictable. You may have a ferry scheduled for 8 in the morning and it may show up then, or 9:00, or maybe even 9:30. Schedules are not a steadfast thing in Thailand and you need to be flexible when it comes to planning surrounding them.
Last, but not least number five. business in general. As I touched on there are some key differences in the way businesses function over in Thailand and one of the main ones is the way a business starts and is marketed. In order to open a business you must have a Thai partner in the business, you cannot start one unless you are a Thai citizen. Once opened the typical marketing strategies are used except in my experience most of the recommendations I came across were by word of mouth. Most businesses are tied together somehow and will recommend each other’s establishments for this word of mouth marketing. So when you are eating that hamburger at a food stand and don’t have a place to stay yet, I guarantee that the Hostel the chef running the stand will recommend is the same place that recommends his hamburger stand for food. The culture is very tied together and impacts how their businesses work together.
We are not the only culture on the planet. There is so much exploring and adventuring one can do in this world to bring awareness to what is happening in other cultures and countries. What is stopping you from becoming more aware? Get out and experience the world, experience life.