Sunday, June 25, 2006

No requests for improvement please, we're Thai

Thais seem to have a problem with criticism. Any suggestion, no matter how diplomatically couched, is typically met with anger and accusations of whining (or worse). Sadly, many 'bamboo' foreigners in Thailand parrot this low-brow reactionary line, for reasons that are still unclear to me.

The letter below serves as a good response.

from letters to the Nation

Asking for improvement is not simply whining

Re: "Farangs like low cost of living but want it to be like home", Letters, June 21.

Meechai Burapa said he thought farangs were "whining" too much regarding lack of English commentary in Thailand for the World Cup. Why that should upset him is anybody's guess since Thailand's image would have been enhanced in the eyes of visitors, in that it would have come across as a progressive, modern, and forward-looking country. He also makes the unrealistic observation that there was never any Thai language commentary for televised sports events during his stay in the United States.

Meechai is wrong on several counts. Firstly, there is nothing wrong with complaining. On the contrary, complaints very often result in better products and better services, thus complainants provide a public service for which they should be commended, and it should not be referred to as "whining".

Second, farangs in Thailand must come from about 40 different countries, all with their own national language, yet none of these farangs would expect television commentary in their own national language because, like Thai, these are national languages. On the other hand, English is an international language spoken by billions across the globe, which is why English television commentary is expected, and why it is unrealistic for Meechai to expect Thai-language television commentary in the US - or any country besides Thailand.

Finally, Meechai seems to object that farangs "would like it to be like home" in Thailand. Again, this is a rather strange observation to make. It would seem that he prefers that farangs live under some sort of hardship in Thailand. I would urge Meechai to reflect on his stay in the US, where he was a free man in every respect and was no doubt encouraged to feel at home there, and by Western standards rightly so. [ed. Thais complaining about some aspect of their living conditions while in the US would not be told to 'go home' etc at first flush, which is the rude and unjustifiably smug response foreigners are likely to receive in Thailand]