Friday, January 23, 2009

Why So Secretive?

Another Thai culture note: Almost all Thai people cover their mouth when they talk on the cell phone. I know this isn't anything really earth-moving or in anyway bizarre but I just noticed it a lot today. They don't talk quietly or anything, it's apparently just the polite thing to do. It looks like they're afraid of someone hearing their conversation, only that the spy would be watching them through cctv. Talking on a regular telephone is totally fine but there's just something about cellphones that prompts the secrecy. Don't get me wrong I don't think it's weird at all and it wouldn't hurt for more people to do it worldwide.

One thing that apparently isn't rude is to talk about other people when they're standing right there. I am of course talking about me. I don't speak Thai very well but I can pick certain words out of a conversation and the easiest one to hear is 'farang'. (I'm not sure if I said this but farang is the over-arcing term for any Caucasian foreigner). Now granted, they might not be talking about me but it seems strange that I happen to walk past so many conversations right in the middle of a farang anecdote. I don't know if it's just not considered rude here or what but I feel like it's only happening under the assumption that I don't know what they're saying. I say this only because I've heard of other incidents where Thai people start talking about a farang unscrupulously only to have the farang turn around and speak to them in Thai which would prompt a flurry of embarrassed apologies followed by despondence for having lost face. I'm not learning Thai just so I can listen in on conversations and nail people when they talk about me. Not at all. It's just something that kinda disappoints me to have Thai people (at least in Bangkok) think that farangs can't, or won't, speak Thai. I say won't because most English-speaking people would have no problem getting around in Bangkok without a word of Thai. A fair percentage of locals here speak passable English and the most typical reaction I get when speaking Thai to someone is "why?". Don't bother learning our language, we're already committed to learning yours. I like learning new languages, which is probably the biggest reason I'm studying like I am, but I can't help but feel that part of my learning is an unconscious effort to correct this feeling of obligation on the part of the Thai people. You don't have to learn my language, I'll come to you. Haha, although at the rate I'm learning it would probably be better if we met in the middle somewhere.

Much Love

1 comment:

yatpay said...

It seems like asians in general are always a little stunned when they see foreigners speaking their language. I've heard that even the most broken, basic Japanese will get you tons of praise for at least trying.

Haha, I do like the idea that you just happen to accidentally stumble across a lot of farang-related anecdotes.