Thailand Scenarios (or all the ways you can be rude without knowing.)

Scenario 1:

If it is Sunday, and you've been at the internet café for an hour, while one of the kids played games and the others watched a movie, and if you're paying for your time, you may notice that the young woman who owns the internet place with her husband has a tupperware container full of an unknown fruit on the counter. They look like a cross between grapes and cherries.

If you ask her what they are, she may frown and say she doesn't know the English word. She may then pull enough out of the container for all of you to have two, saying they come from a tree in her backyard. You will have to put your hands out for them, thanking her.

If you taste them, you may find that they are very sour, the kind of fruit that sucks moisture out of your mouth, something the kids don't like, and you don't like. You may find yourself looking for a place to put them as you walk out the door and down the street.

If all of this happens (and it very well may) DON'T drop them into your purse. You'll pay for it later.

Scenario 2:

If you live in a house with a couple of tiny houses on the same property, you may share the property with your landlord's young cousin. He may be very sweet and quiet, and speak little English. Your communication may be limited to nods and smiles.

If you happen to share the leaky, manual washing machine with him, you may struggle to be thankful for that machine every day, as it doesn't quite clean your clothes. You may, however, find the other tenant to be the best washing machine roomie you've ever had, since he is a bachelor and only does laundry once a week, immaculately, on Sundays.

If you decide that Sunday is the one day of the week that you will therefore not do laundry, both for a rest from the terrible machine and to give him complete freedom, you may find yourself slightly puzzled when he doesn't start to wash his laundry. (He is like clockwork.)

But if you leave your house just as dusk is falling, you may run into him and he may speak the first words you have ever heard him speak in English. "Can you get..." and he tugs on his shirt. You may run to the bamboo stick under the awning where he hangs his clothes and see that you put two pieces of fabric that you prewashed there and forgot about them.

And he's been waiting all. day. for you to take them off. Cornered, he has done something very uncomfortable for Thai people. He has been direct and simply asked. Next time, you vow, you will make sure the line is clear.

Scenario 3:

If your landlord comes over to bring you a couple of papayas from his tree, and it happens to be rent day, and he fixes some things around the house, then pauses, shuffles his feet, then gets on his bike and gets ready to leave,

USE YOUR BRAIN AND GIVE HIM THE RENT. He can't ask for it, it is impolite. You have to remember and bring it up yourself!

If in fact, your landlord comes over with fruit, it MAY be just because he is kind, but you should always sort through the rubble in your head to see if there is any money you might owe him... for electricity, internet. Because the fruit just might be an indirect way of saying, "I'm here, I need that money now."


We're learning, slowly but surely. I have a head start on Chinua because I'm from Canada and we're already indirect and polite, but he has a head start on me because he lived in Korea for a year, and he finds that many of the same rules apply. So I guess we're tied.