At Sriwittayapaknam School this morning, students from every grade took part in a competition for Thai manners. What they had to do was walk around the playground and then act in the correct manner for each situation. I am not sure about you, but I find in general that Thai people have very good manners. I am not talking about their habit of barging into the lift before people have a chance to get out or jumping the queue at 7–Eleven. But, more their demeanour and general behaviour as they go about their business.
I can actually give you a good example of this. I was at the Ancient City a few weeks back with some guests of mine. We were just leaving one of the buildings when a group of people pushed past us. They were certainly Asian in appearance but their demeanour was definitely not Thai. They were also loud and and a lot more extrovert than the average Thai person. A Thai person wouldn’t have tried to go through the door at the same time as me. A Thai person would have certainly avoided physical contact. If they had inadvertently invaded my space they would have immediately apologised.
I see this kind of behaviour whenever I leave the country. Thai people are so much more timid than their neighbours. Their manners are a hundred times more polite than what you would see in other countries. OK, I agree that isn’t the case for every Thai person. Some are better educated than others. I work inside a school so I see good examples of manners all the time. But, I do glimpse watered down versions of good manners out in the community.
Like when I go to one of the local shops to buy my eggs from this old lady. She always gives me my change with her right hand. Not only that, her left hand is supporting her right arm in the correct manner. Then sometimes, if I am dressed up properly, a child that doesn’t even go to my school, will stop and wai me in the street as I pass by. And while I am looking at the beverage display cabinet in Family Mart, someone will bow their head down as they walk behind me. I think if you act in a respectable manner yourself, then people will treat you with the proper respect. I tell you one thing, I get such a culture shock when I go back to the UK for a visit. Living in Thailand, it is inevitable that you start acting like a Thai person without realizing it.
As Thai manners have become so diluted in Thai society, it is really nice to see schools actively promoting the correct use of Thai manners. Like in these three pictures illustrating my blog today. They show how to correctly receive a gift from an adult, how to pay respect to the King’s portrait and how to walk in front of an adult.