Good Manners Are Not Universal….

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Happy Tuesday to everyone out there, and thanks so much for stopping by. There, I got the pleasantries out of the way cause this is going to be a bit of a rant. However, I will try my best to be as objective as possible but if your looking for happy thoughts then this isn’t the post for you.

So I was at the gym today finishing my workout and having a shower in the tiny locker room this “trendy” gym offers its members. It was not crowded as i like to go early to avoid the crowds, and was standing in front of the very long mirror and bank of hair dryers getting ready to leave. My stuff was on the counter in front of me and i was occupying the space in front of one of the hair dryers members can use as they primp themselves to leave. I was half way through getting ready and had already applied a bit of hair product, when this Thai guy walks up…reaches across me and grabs the hair dryer out from in front me. No excuse me, no “are you using this?”…nothing. He just picks it up from my stuff and starts using it himself as if I hadn’t been standing there at all. I froze and glared at him as hard as i could, but got no reaction at all…so i huffed/laughed in disbelief and stormed away to use another hairdryer down the counter as we were the only 2 using the facilities at the time.

Now, the reason i bring it up here is that it’s not the first time this has happened to me there. This exact scenario has played out about 4 or 5 times where Thai guys will just reach across you to take what’s in front of you. This got me thinking today about people and their manners here in Bangkok, or should I say the lack of. I realize this post might bring on a bit of heat, but be reminded these are just my observations. There are so many Thai guidebooks about how to correctly observe cultural manners and how not to be polite in Thailand. We learn not to touch another on the head. We learn never to point at anything or touch anything with our feet because it is considered rude. These things were the first things i learned when i moved here and It is hard for me to even accept rude behavior, since growing up in the south we live and breathe good manners. Southern culture in the US is intertwined with good manners and polite behavior is a sign of good upbringing and education. You’d think, or obviously wish in my case, that some other manners would be a universal common ground and that polite behavior would be the same regardless of the border one crossed. However, this is not always the case in Thailand. Case in point:

  • I have observed over the years that many Thai people will often not wait for people coming off a train or out of an elevator before they attempt to push their way in or on. I have been on public transportation here many times and you prepare like a linebacker waiting for the “hut, hut” to charge out the opening doors of trains and elevators so that you can actually get off without being run over in the mad dash to get on.
  • Escalators are another area where good manners seem to not be universal, as Thai people will often stop right at the bottom/top of the escalator to decide where on the floor they need to go or fish the latest and trendiest phone from their pocket or purse. I cannot count the times over the years where I have unavoidably bumbled into someone coming off escalators because they can’t be bothered to move to the side or out of the way.
  • Line or Que jumping is probably the one that makes me the most angry on a daily basis as Thais (especially, if not almost exclusively female Thais) are very bad about jumping line if your patiently waiting your turn to be served. I have even seen a Thai short film before where someone had taken hidden cameras around the city and filmed people constantly jumping in front of others waiting in line, so its obviously not just me. I don’t get this one either! Its not like you can’t see others standing there waiting there turn at the register or whatever. Furthermore, and even worse is that if you “say” something about it more often than not you will get an offended dumb stricken look, like you are some crazed person with anger management problems. Guess i will never work it out.
  • Finally, last but not least is the army of sales staff you will find in any major department store all the way down to the 7-11 on the corner. Now i know what your thinking…how can you complain about a store having enough help to service everyone, right? No…hear me out first. You go to browse clothes, electronics, even personal items like underwear and stuff, at which point a little dollied up staff member will begin to shadow you constantly. Now at home if store staff does this we know it means they think its cause you might be a thief, but not here. Here every shopping experience is plagued by over eager sales staff who follow you constantly pointing out things they like that you should buy for yourself. Ask “Do you have this red shirt in size large,” and get back “Noooo, we have green one in small size only….very nice for you sir.” Now imagine that every single time you go shopping for anything at all. You can’t turn around and say…”I’m just looking thanks,” which should be their cue to walk away….No, they will then begin to point out things to you that they think you need or would like to have. However, with this one i usually either pretend to be on the phone when shopping in department stores, or actually call up another friend who knows whats up and will talk to me till i’m done….however, don’t get me started about cell phones in certain public places like trains and restaurants…ugh!

There, i’m done with my complaining for the day and really before you send angry emails remember that i “do” realize I live here as a guest, and I am usually quite light hearted about these kind of circumstances in reality when these things happen to me. You learn to accept the good with the bad, and one positive thing I’ve learned to do over the years is to let things go. I don’t go to sleep upset minor things, but more often than not have a inner chuckle at bad behavior. Because remember I was raised right! Have a great week and talk to you soon.