Thai vs Western Culture
Many countries have different religions and cultures. Culture is a form of human intellectual achievements. It is like learning a human’s behavior pattern. It does not matter what background you have or which part of the world you are from, everybody has a culture in them in some way. It involves interactions between people, for example verbal communication, non verbal communication and or facial expressions. For verbal communication people tend to greet each other in the politest way using common phrases such as, ‘Hi, how are you?
How have you been? ‘. Non-verbal communication is where people use hands or bodily gestures to greet others. For facial expressions people usually express emotions such as a smile for happiness or frowns for sadness. People that have different backgrounds and religions usually have different kind of cultures. Different cultures have different rules and expectations. Sometime people need to have a good understanding of various rituals and cultures due to the differences in religion and beliefs. Argyle & Trower (1979, p.104) that ‘Rituals are standardized pattern of social behavior which are symbolic rather than instrumental’.
By not adapting to other cultures and rituals, there might be some difficulties in communication and acceptance of a person with a different culture. There are some similarities and differences between western culture and eastern culture. This essay will compare and contrast the differences between Thai cultures and Western’s culture (British, Americans etc. ) and some similarities between them.
Western countries such as Britain and America have their own ways of greeting. Normally they greet each other by saying ‘Good morning’, ‘Good afternoon’ or ‘Good evening’ but when they say ‘Goodbye’ it normally means to farewell. (englishwilleasy. com 2011). Bodily language is considered to have an important role in western culture. Due to (Argyle & Trower 1979, p. 104) “People in the street do not normally speak to strangers. If someone wants to ask the way, he or she has to approach another person, catch his eyes, apologize or seek permission to converse and speak”.
People tend to use bodily language often for example, when people meet each other they tend to give a handshake. The history of the handshake began in the early 5th century which has the meaning that neither ‘shaker’ had a weapon in their hand. (Kim 2011). A handshake is commonly done upon meetings, greeting, parting, offering congratulations, expressing gratitude, or completing an agreement. With apologies, westerners usually just express the guiltiness by expressing the sad face. This is where face expressions takes place.
Argyle & Trower (1979, p. 108) note that ‘Most British tend to conceal their feelings writhe inwardly in situations’. However, most Americans tend to express their feelings by bodily language or in other words ‘non verbal communication’ when they are angry, annoyed or frustrated. (1979, p. 108). Also Kissing and hugging are considered to be polite in western cultures. To give someone a kiss or a hug that person has to be either a close friend, family or your partner, other than that a handshake is more appropriate. (spottedbylocals.
The majority of teenagers around 18-21 years old are considered to be an adult. It is considered that westerners over the age of 18 are an adult and can take their own responsibilities. They tend to move out of the parents’ house and start fresh in their own life. At a young age teenagers like to have life experiences and opportunities to try out different things and find out where their interests and talents lie and what they really enjoy doing so that they can study something that they really want to and find a career path.
Now days, a lot of people are not as religious as they use to be, with many not being religious at all. There are many religions and cultures within western countries, such as Catholics, Protestants and various other forms of Christianity as well as other cultures religions. Some families still stick to the rules and rituals but some do not. Although westerners have different kinds of religions, most people that go to church, do so to listen to the minister to learn how the bible teaches them how to live their lives so they can gain benefits that can help improve them.
An interesting culture that has stunning rituals and religion based on eastern countries is the country that people identify as the land of Smiles; Thailand. The rituals in Thailand are very profound and fascinating. Greetings are considered to be a very important role in daily life style. Thai people have special ways to greet, apologize, and to say thank you. Consistently they put their palms together like in a prayer gesture and slightly bow, this called ‘wai’ and then they say ‘Sawadee’ (meaning Hello). followed by ‘kup or ka’ deepening on whether you are male or female.
Kup or ka are just polite particles. Normally if you say hello to someone that is older than you then you have to Wai them but if you are younger then you do not have to Wai. In the early days people were very strict about bodily contact. They would not hug someone that is on the opposite sex because it is considered to be inappropriate and discourteous as was most forms of contact between men and women. To perform an apology, Thai people also put their palms together and slightly bow to show respect and guilt to the other person. Religion has a very important role in Thai culture.
Buddhism is a very interesting religion. Buddhism was originated in northern India In the early 5th or 6th century BC. Siddhartha Gautama is referred as a Buddha or the god of Buddhism religion. As he meditates throughout his cycle of life he had indicated rules and Buddha’s teaching of how to live in this world. (Hardy & Kinnard 2008). Thai people are very religious people. The rituals are mostly based on the religion. Another significant thing that Thai people do is that they go to the temple and pray to get what they call ‘merit’.
They believe that the way people act and the way people converse is a form of ‘good action’. If you have good action then you will get good merit and you will go to heaven in the afterlife. Due to this belief, Thailand is considered to be ‘the land of smile’ because the majority of people are always welcoming and have a good heart. They are good at concealing their feelings because Buddhism teaches them to have a good heart, that we are not animals therefore, it is inconsequential to get angry or be rude to someone. (Knell 2009).
Most westerners are not as good at hiding their feelings. They tend to reveal or express their feelings verbally or by physical impressions where as Thai people conceals their feelings and alter the problem in their head before reveling the anxiety. Western and eastern cultures have many differences but also some similarities. The similarities start with greetings as they are very important in both cultures. Facial expressions are a universal factor that everyone in the world carries out. Smiling is an important role in social interactions and social behavior.
It is considered rude or anti-social when you do not greet someone or smile back at them. Also, bodily language is considered to be imperative as a social behavior. So although there are obvious language differences and slight ritual differences, the importance of greeting and politeness is of equal importance in both cultures. I feel a contrast between the two cultures is that Thai people attend the temple often due to the rituals and cultural matters. They pray and meditate the rituals how the monks have taught them and pray at the Buddha to get merits.
The Buddhist life style is an inseparable part of Thai culture, however, the westerners usually only attend church once a week to get the benefit of the minister’s knowledge and how the bible teaches them how to live their lives, so they can gain benefits that can help improve their chances of getting to heaven and living a good Christian life. Also the numbers of people attending church or being involved in organized religion has been declining for some years. Nowadays young people tend to be very informal with their greetings due to the relaxed life style of the modern world.
The Thai people still live in a quite structured cultural society as opposed to the western world where the formalities of the society have been very much relaxed. Whereas once upon a time there were great differences between eastern and western cultures, in the twenty first century the two cultures are becoming more similar. I think the advances in technology and the way internet access has made the world much smaller is starting to create less difference between the cultures of the modern world. The young people of today seem to share, almost, if not the same pop culture.