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One of the most difficult Thai concepts for Farangs to comprehend is the behavioral pattern defined as krengjai. Krengjai is a combination of deference and consideration. In Thai society, with its emphasis on social place, krengjai is most often an attitude displayed toward one higher in the rank, social status, or age scale. It is diffidence, deference and consideration merged with respect. It also includes proper and appropriate behavior.
“I also find it interesting and somewhat revealing that the Thai language does not have a single word for “Stranger”. The most commonly used expression for stranger is “Khon plairk na” (literally “person strange face”). My own dictionary also lists “Poo ma mai” (literally “person comes new” – I suspect that “newcomer” would be a fair translation). I’ve also heard “Khon tee mai kheuy hen (ma gonn)” which could best be translated as “Person never seen (before)”.
I think that it would be mischievous to suggest that because there’s no single word in the Thai language for stranger that there’s no such thing to a Thai person as a stranger. But I do strongly suspect that the omission in the Thai language of a single word for stranger and Thai peoples’ behavior toward all people whether known to them or not indicate that Thai people feel to be very connected with one another, very connected with their local community, and very closely connected with all people, strangers and colleagues alike, with whom they come into contact in the realm of their everyday experience.
To the Farang with his emphasis on equality, frankness and directness, the tendency to show deference and avoid imposing upon someone often appears to indicate a lack of initiative, weakness and subservience. These qualities are ones which will hardly recommend one for advancement in the Farang business world, but which Farangs must understand in dealing with the Thai business world. Thais, generally, are not impelled by the Calvinist work ethic of Western industrial society. Their responsibilities lie first with their family and friends. Their family, social and religious obligations are paramount. That is to say, allegiance, obligation and responsibility lie elsewhere than to the boss, job, or factory. This extends to the servants in the home who, without prior notice, may leave with no reason given. The servant, on his part, may feel that he is being kind and considerate and deferential in not overtly and directly breaking the relationship.
For the Thais there is a life-long debit relationship to one’s parents for having been born and brought up. He must constantly repay this debt through kind and generous behavior. One can never totally repay favors and support given. Thus, the child remains eternally grateful and continually committed to his parents. Obligation to one’s parents is a cultural and moral imperative in Thai society. It is impossible to transfer such responsibility to impersonal institutions.
In general, perhaps the most pervasive of Thai cultural imperatives is the personal avoidance of social confrontation. One of the factors determining such behavior is Buddhist teaching which places a positive religious value on the avoidance of emotional extremes, commitment, and confrontation.
To the American, confrontation and conflict are the norm in many kinds of interpersonal situations. It is not only acceptable but often appropriate to speak bluntly and frankly. Criticism and argument in an overt and public context are not necessarily to be avoided. In Thai society, on the other hand, a positive value is given to avoiding confrontation and even the overt expression of anti-social emotions such as anger, hatred and annoyance. While desirous of being sympathetic, compassionate, generous and kind toward others, there is, at the same time, a bias toward avoiding emotional extremes. Resolving conflicts usually takes the form of compromise, with an attempt to avoid the jagged emotional edges of direct confrontation and the attendant displays of anger, annoyance and even hatred.
One of the defining qualities of Thai people is the fact that they rarely show strong emotion in public. You’ll find that it takes quite a lot to make a Thai lose his/her temper and if they do it is a very serious matter. If you’ve done something to make a Thai person lose their temper with you I suggest you immediately attempt to either diffuse the situation or remove yourself from the situation.
Jai yen literally means ‘cool heart‘. In a country that’s 95% Theravada Buddhist, jai yen is the preferred approach to any situation. If a cop pulls you over and sticks you for a bribe, jai yen dictates that you pay it to avoid an unpleasant scene. If someone cuts you off in traffic, you shrug your shoulders and suppress your natural urge to run the guy into a ditch. Jai yen. For Buddhists, an emotionally moderate, non-confrontational approach to life will bring its reward when you are reborn. Practice jai yen, and you may come back as a demi-god; get a little hot under the collar and you may find your new, single-celled self bobbing on the surface of a sewage treatment plant in Bang Saphan.
Steve (at) http://www.thailandmusings.com
Saving face is of paramount importance. Most Thais are far more concerned than most Americans with the form and the appearance of harmony rather than with the bedrock actuality. Better to preserve a satisfactory form than unearth a disturbing reality. The very use of the term “reality” in this context displays a cultural bias, for, to Americans reality IS the substance or content. The Thai concern for maintenance of the proper forms looks hypocritical to Americans, who view the form as meaningless if it masks a contradictory substance. Thais would not think of the form as masking reality, for to them the form itself has a reality which is in many ways more important than the substance or content.
To most Americans it is an offense to accept an invitation and not appear. However the Thai, in his own cultural terms would prefer to avoid offending by the abruptness of a refusal of an invitation graciously tendered and would not consider his non-appearance at the function unusual. The American prefers to be told in direct face to face contact if someone disagrees with him or is hurt or offended by his behavior. To the Thais such confrontation is socially unacceptable, emotionally uncomfortable and to be avoided. The Farang, coming to Thailand with his cultural baggage filled with concepts of equality, frankness and direct confrontation, expects his Thai colleagues and subordinates to show less deference and more initiative, to be more argumentative. The Thai employee or counterpart, adapting to the cultural realities of the Farang world comes to realize that his Farang colleague often wears his “heart on his sleeve” and is not reticent about showing either his pleasure, friendliness or annoyance openly and with gestures.
The Coca Leaf Papers (2014)
This remarkable collection of long-lost books on the sacred Coca plant offers the curious reader an in-depth look at original medical and scientific source materials from the 1800s on the remarkable medicinal properties of Erythroxylon Coca. This book would be over 800 pages if printed and includes newly digitized full editions of five long-lost books on every aspect of Coca. This is knowledge gained through over two centuries of exploration, experimentation, and full development of Coca as a natural medicine of unsurpassed powers. Almost all of this knowledge has been lost as a result of having been actively suppressed for generations by a combination of corrupt government bureaucracies, venal corporate exploiters, and hypocritical moralists – none of whom care at all that pure, natural Coca Leaf has been proven beyond any doubt to be a safe and effective treatment and cure for dozens of major conditions and diseases that “modern” medicine cannot address.
Hyper-Migraines & Exploding Brains: The Suppressed & Forgotten Coca Leaf Cure (2014)
Because of my personal interest in finding a cure for Migraines I was drawn to the research done in the 1800s by pioneering doctors and scientists on the use of pure, natural Coca leaf teas, tonics and extracts in treating a wide range of nervous system diseases. This book offers readers a detailed look at the work of one of the since-forgotten pioneers in the field, Dr. William Searles, a New York homeopathic physician whose impeccable research and incisive writings reveal the truth behind the existence of a simple, natural cure for Migraines.