Understanding cultural norms and differences can prevent uncomfortable moments and work stoppages and break local laws and political issues. As I was doing my first job overseas, I spent more time explaining, drawing pictures, and learning some cultural differences to perform simple tasks. To be competitive overseas while overcoming the unknowns, I began bidding a language translator into the jobs. This proved to be very instrumental in the production and fostering quality work relationships while working abroad. It also helped in overcoming the cross-cultural communication barriers that are prevalent due to the diverse cultures.
Thailand people are non-confrontational with strong religious values and find pride in both work and personal activities. To make good use of this work ethic and prevent confrontation causing work stoppages, I looked for a local. His name was Nucharin Choomkhamnoy. He began working as an interpreter to earn himself money, which he badly needed for college and helping his family. His father works as casual labor in a local factory, while his mother is a housewife. Currently, he is pursuing a degree course in engineering and aspires to start his engineering firm in the future. I was introduced to Nucharin by one of my customers, who occasionally hired him to do various chores. Since I met him two years ago, he has become a friend and continues to surprise me with his very imperative values practiced each day in Thailand but forgotten in America. Nucharin remembers most of his early childhood experiences as he narrates.
Nucharin clearly remembers how his parents raised him in Thailand since he was a young boy until now that he is a grown-up. He recalls how his parents used to take him to the temple to receive essential values such as having respect for others, the importance of not being attached to properties, and the essence of hard work. Nucharin was raised up together with his younger sister, who is one year younger than him. He gives credit to his mother, who played a major role in impacting appropriate life skills in them. This was mainly because their mother was a housewife, whereas their father was working and was rarely at home unless later in the evening after work. “My father and mother were more protective towards my sister than to me, especially to matters pertaining to relationships. My father could not tolerate the young men who harassed my sister while on her way back from school or the river.
Similarly, my mother emphasized to my sister the importance of remaining pure and virgin until they are married off. This explained why my sister is highly disciplined and did not put up with any nonsense from any young men who were determined to win her heart. My sister did not pursue her education to a higher level since she was married off while she was seventeen years”.
Currently, things have changed in Thailand. Young people do not possess the values we had while growing up. The youth rarely respect the elderly or each other. Most of the young people in Thailand are now passionate and attached to money and material things, unlike during our times when this was regarded as a weakness. Many young girls are also engaging in pre-marital sexual activities, unlike during our days when they waited until they were married. This sudden behavior change can be attributed to the changes witnessed with the current parenting. Nowadays, the living standard has greatly risen. As a result of this, several parents have realized the importance of taking their girls up to the highest education levels. This has made modern Thai girls more educated and independent, unlike the latter days where women wholly relied on their husbands to meet all their needs. This has made modern women spend most of their time in their work such that they do not have enough time to train their children and especially the girls on relevant values of living.
Nucharin was brought up in Thailand since his childhood. His parents made sure that they taught him the Thai culture and the Buddhist religion during his childhood. The religion has equipped with the Thai culture, characterized by respect for others, detachment from material things. By being raised in Thailand, Nucharin has effectively mastered the Thai culture from which he has enlightened me about very important things, which help me live cordially in Thailand as I do my day-to-day activities. This information has greatly improved my cross-cultural communication with the locals, which has in turn greatly boosted my business performance.
Thai culture is one of the most distinct cultures that we have in the world today. The culture has its origin from the various groups of people who migrated to Thailand. Thai culture has borrowed mostly from India’s culture that is based on India’s religion and mythology. The culture is Buddhist, where people are taught to reason out and think and not be manipulated by the religious leaders, as is the case with Christians, Muslims, and Jewish religions (Sandler, 2010).
After hiring Nucharin as my interpreter, we used to talk a lot about the American and Thai cultures. Initially, I would greatly differ from him about the culture of the Thai people, which I considered as being primitive and outdated. On the other hand, he used to complain very much about the western culture, which he regarded as a culture that is disrespectful and arrogant. However, after sharing with him about the Thai culture for a while, I came to appreciate the culture due to the great values. The Thai culture is characterized by respect for others. This has enabled the Thailand people to be regarded as one of the most peaceful and hospitable people in the whole world. Although Thai people are known to be very respectful, they are also considered as being very assertive. This is because, during their early years, Thai people are taught relevant principles that are instrumental in the Buddhist religion. The Thai religion makes the people differentiate between self-delusion and reality. Also, the Buddhist religion teaches its members the principal of the nature of cause and effect. This principle makes the Thai people realize that everything they do, whether good or bad, has short-term and long-term effects. This is something that has greatly facilitated my friendship with Nucharin.
Such principles have made Nucharin a very effective employee. He has proved to be very hardworking and very loyal, both in time and respect for my resources, ranging from money to other properties. He is not driven to work hard due to the desire to accumulate a lot of wealth and excel in whatever he does. Initially, I could not fully trust him with my finances as well as other properties. This was because I thought that he would disappear with my money or some of my properties that are of high value. Nevertheless, this was a misconception that I had since, from what I later learned, the Thai culture does not hold a strong attachment to material things. Instead, they consider strong attachments to such things as a weakness.
On the other hand, the American culture is characterized by strong attachments to material things such that anyone can do anything to possess what they are pursuing. The lack of attachment towards such things in the Thai people has greatly changed my attitude towards the American perception towards material things. It has enabled me to shift my motivation for working from being driven by the desire to accumulate more wealth to that of ensuring that I excel in what I am pursuing (Asian Publishing Ltd, 2011).
Another thing that I have learned from the Thai culture is that it is wrong for us to combine self-delusion in our thoughts or conversations. For instance, we should shun delusions such as; superiority complex, arrogance, and social status. On the other hand, some cultures, such as the American culture, are known to be highly characterized with distinctions both in business matters as well as in private relationships. The Thai culture is characterized by great respect for other people and particularly to the elderly (Unknown, 2011). Respect for others is not an element of the Americans or the western culture. During my early days in Thailand, I faced a lot of difficulties while interacting with the local residents. This was greatly attributed to the American culture that was dominant in me. I was by then very arrogant and suffered from a superiority complex for being an American who comes from the strongest nation in the world in terms of economic, political, and technological advancement. I also discriminated against people on the basis of their social status. More often than not, I preferred to work or to be close to those people who belonged to the same social status as I did. From the lessons that I learned from Nucharin, I changed my American superiority perception and started to respect and interact with everyone, which greatly boosted my relationship with the locals. This, in turn, promoted my business performance greatly (Asian Publishing Ltd, 2011).
On the other hand, The Thai culture does not regard women to be equal to men. This makes the girl child in Thailand to be highly discriminated against in terms of education, leadership, and possession of the property. The women in Thailand are regarded as housewives whose main duty is to procreate and look after their families. During their childhood, the females are equipped with relevant skills that assist them in becoming very effective housewives. Most of the Thai girls do not pursue education beyond the elementary level. Conversely, the Thai boys are given appropriate education up to the highest level possible. This has enabled them to get very good jobs with major international corporations. I contested greatly with Nucharin on this issue.
He still believed in the supremacy of men over women due to the influence of his nurturing. He believes that girls should only be given basic education and then trained on how to look after their families, while men should be given adequate education so that they can get good employment to provide for their families. This is contrary to the American lifestyle, where every kid is treated equally despite their gender disparity. Of late, Nucharin seems to be changing his perception towards the role of women in society by embracing the view that they should get equal opportunities as men to help them compete equally academically, in leadership, and also in their right to own and inherit property. He has come to appreciate the American lifestyle and, in particular, with regards to the gender issue, where there is no discrimination between men and women.
According to Thailand for You (n.d), the Thai people use different shopping methods to those that are used in western societies. Shopping in western societies and especially in America, usually involves buying goods that have their price labels attached. In Thai, shopping is characterized by high bargaining. This is the reason why the Thai people are often regarded as professional bargainers. These kinds of negotiations were very annoying to me in my early days in Thailand, but with time, I came to appreciate this shopping method, which I later employed in my business (Jandt, 2010).
The executive, judicial, and legislative are the three major independent authorities that hold the balance of power in Thailand. The Thailand constitution gives the King some power, which is mostly regarded as a symbol of unity and identity. This ensures a great deal of moral authority that is often employed to intervene in instances of political crises, which influence the course of the government. The presence of the King in the Thailand government, who symbolize unity and resolves political crisis, forms a very effective government with sufficient institutions to facilitate the smooth running of the government, which has boosted the political stability of the country (Anzinger,2003). On the other hand, The United States of American is more democratic than Thailand, with no one being considered to be above the law. This has enhanced transparency in government spending, which has curtailed instances of corruption greatly. The United States of America has a very strong economy.
It has a well-established infrastructure with major airport destinations, which acts as hubs to major world destinations such as Europe, Asia, and Africa. The good infrastructure in the USA has boosted communication within and outside the USA greatly, which has resulted in greater integration with foreign cultures. This has enhanced the economic performance, which has attracted many foreign investors. Nucharin was very much impressed by the American political and economic development and wished that the Thailand government should borrow from the American government so that; they can adapt its form of governance to enhance their poor infrastructure and low-performing economy. After being furnished with all information pertaining to the American and Thailand governance, both of us agreed that America has the best political system that is highly democratic. Similarly, we were both unhappy with those governments that are highly authoritative such as Libya.
Thai women are known to be very professional cooks. Similarly, Thai restaurants are renowned for their good foods. The main diet in Thailand is rice that is well prepared through steaming and is referred to as “khao soway.” Food in Thailand is usually served to be taken with spoons and forks. There are no knives that are given while eating Thai food since everything that is served can easily be cut with a spoon. Almost every food in Thai usually has added spices, which are common ingredients in meals. Having stayed in Thailand for about two years, I have come to appreciate Thai meals more than the American ones, which often consist of junk food prepared hurriedly, served, and taken anywhere at any time. Eating in Thai is done at specific times and places disparate from the American style, where it is done at anytime and anywhere, even while driving.
The interview with Nucharin was very educative since I learned very important values that are not reflected in the American culture. Respect for others is one important value that greatly boosts communication within and across borders. It also results in mutual understanding, which will result in successful communication. For effective communication, there should be no instances of arrogance or superiority complex where some factions feel more superior to others. Therefore, for effective cross-cultural communication, both parties should take sufficient time and effort to understand each other’s culture. This is because different cultures are known to interpret similar situations differently, something that can cause a lot of conflicts if not appropriately identified early enough. The use of an interpreter can be a very effective strategy to help one understand and appreciate foreign cultures.
Boarders and waters separate lands and people, creating cultures and lifestyles to live by. For one to relate with other people succeed in a foreign land, intercultural communication is vital. Without an interpreter to translate language and cultural norms, one wrong word or action can turn a good day into a bad one.
Anzinger, G. (2003) Governments on the WWW: Thailand. Web.
Asian Publishing Ltd (2011). Thai Culture. Web.
Jandt, F. E. (2010). An introduction to intercultural communication (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Sandler, L., (2010). What-Can-Laws-Do-Without-Morals. ezinearticles.com. Web.
Thailand for You (n.d).Thailand Colure and Thai Customs. Web.
Unknown, (2011). Discover Asia Thailands World. Asian publishing world limited. Web.
Questions Used for the interview
- What fascinates you about the US culture?
- How do you feel about the Americans and the Western lifestyle as compared to the Thai customs?
- Given Thai food and American food, which would you prefer? Why?
- Are you religious? Explain.
- What do your parents do for a living?
- How did you begin your career and why?
- What is your long-term goal in life?
- What are your likes and dislikes about the Thailand government?
- What are your most favorite and least favorite countries?