Reminders ...

Just the other day I was reminded of something.  One of the village girls, with her Bangkok boyfriend, is in the process of building a new house, much as we did last year.  Watching a well-to-do, big city Thai, doing what we did is an interesting study.  He is able to call on family, friends, and long established business and social connections, unlike most foreigners.  The ability to network, local style, is a definite advantage.  In the village, people often use the same networking technique but with a much different outcome.  They are limited to a much smaller and less sophisticated pool of contacts.  I will be interested to see how his results vary from mine, if at all

We have met on several occasions.  First time was up at the dam.  I had walked there and they had driven.  Even then the flow of our conversation was distinctly, non-village.  During our most recent encounter, in his front yard, conversation again flowed easily.  Of course there was the talk of house construction which eventually diverged into motorcycles as I was trying out our new scooter.  He has friends in the BMW camp and I have a friend in the Harley camp.  We also talked dogs, as he was given two beautiful Golden Retriever puppies, by a friend in Bangkok, and moved them here.  After they get there shots we may arrange a play date for our dogs, as we have done with the manager of the rubber-wood plantation and his GR puppy. 

Apparently, I am rambling and have yet to get to the point of this writing.  I was reminded by all this, of the vast spectrum, of Thai society and social class.  I have observed that far too often, foreigners, enter into their relationship with Thailand through a very narrow door and remain confined to a very small room.  Obviously it is impractical for the majority of individuals to do as I have done.  To spend twenty plus years developing their own unique relationship with Thailand.  To have a distinct, individual identity separate from any connection to one particular Thai family.  Only then settling down with a partner into a much more balanced relationship.

Whether associating with the dregs of Thai society or the educated and well-heeled elite, marrying into a Thai family with no language or cultural background makes things more difficult than they need be.  It seem, also, to lead to a lot of negative stereotyping and generalizing, about “Thais”, by foreigners.  Often but not always, foreigners are exposed to the poorest, least educated and least sophisticated of Thai society.  You stand little chance of being introduced to a broad spectrum of social classes by a Thai partner.  Even if, they are working or middle class, Bangkok Thais.  Class consciousness remains strong and there is an understandable reluctance to venture outside of the group they identify with and are accepted by.

As lovely as my wife is, she could never have introduced me to the people I have introduce her to.  As an unfettered young foreigner I was able to cross all social lines, in time.  Then, by virtue of my own standing in Thai society and long-term relationships, my wife has been able to slip the bonds of her village upbringing.  To mingle with and befriend those with whom there would have been a mutual reluctance.  Remembering those early encounters still brings a smile to my face.  Me pointing out someone of note as we dined in a restaurant.  Her being embarrassed and admonishing me not to bother, people like that.  Followed by those individuals seeing me and coming over to our table to say hello.  It happened on overseas flights, in hotel lobbies, restaurants and health clubs until she got quite used to it. 

The point being, that with a broader exposure to all things Thai and less emphasis on one limited group, I can’t help but believe there would be fewer of the shockingly narrow minded bloggers and forum junkies generalizing and complaining about Thailand and Thai people.  To me, those rants say more about the raconteur than the people they scandalize and denigrate.  It is unfair and disingenuous to make sweeping generalizations with little if any knowledge.  Perhaps it is just one of those, more unpleasant aspects, of human nature.  That we so enjoy making fun of those who are different or that we do not understand, is sad.  Technologically we move forward in leaps and bounds but as human beings we seem to have stopped our evolutionary development.