How To Survive in Thailand; Saving Face, Understanding Thai Culture & Language



I interview Christopher G. Moore who has spent 34 years in Thailand. We discuss the culture of saving face in Thailand and how to navigate face as a foreigner. We also talk about how the Thai language underpins the culture with a focus on heart words. #thairishtimes #thaiculture #howtospeakthai

Amazon link to Christopher’s book Heart Talk: https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Talk-Christopher-G-Moore/dp/9749411897

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49 comments

  1. What a great discussion! I had read about jai already but this was explained with such emotional fluency that it made more sense! I've experienced a few cases of nam jai, situations as described in the video, like letting someone go before you in a queue, or giving them way, etc and the reaction from the Thais has always been so grateful and at times surprised! Many foreigners complain that Thais don't like them but so far by showing kindness I've not had any major negative interactions, so it's very much about how you behave yourself, after all we are guests 😊

  2. The tie story in the lift reminded me of the time I was working as a supervisor and a person called to make a complaint about one of my really good employees. I thought the complaint was frivolous and I put the person on hold (or I thought) while I told another coworker what an idiot the person on the phone was. I then picked up the phone again and the person said they heard all my comments about them because I inadvertently didn't have them on hold. Talk about my face turning 6 shades of red…I really lost face that day 🤣😡

  3. Losing face is absolutely childish, so I hire someone, ask them to do a job and they turn out to be awful and don't turn up on time, but don't say anything to them as they may lose face…. F right off

  4. That part about Jing jai is spot on. If you are or appear to be of true heart. Thai people will give benefit of the doubt and overlook minor transgression. I am not promoting to put on the appearance of you aren't genuinely sincere. Just stating the fact that the perception of sincere people are esteemed.

  5. Hey Pete, there's something i noticed in thais that i was shocked, and i'm surprised i haven't seen yet been approached here. Perhaps was just that group of people, or maybe something reflected on more rural areas.
    It's related to how thais shift their behaviour and attitudes when there's money involved. From a chilled environment, suddendly they become serious. And i'm not talking about any amount that is worth fighting for.
    What shocked me is that i was hanging out with a small group of thais for a while who were bartenders (a normal live music bar) and i never seen that coming.

  6. Buddhist culture is very rational, nothing to do with emotions, in the contrary it is a technique in fact, not a religion even, which teaches people to control their emotions and "running" thoughts.
    I do not deny all the sensitivities however in the daily life of the Thais, in the contrary but one should not generalize.
    A lot depends on the background, education and spiritual development in general, Thai people like other nationalities are not all the same.

  7. I was threatened by the Russian mafia on Koh Samui and shown a shocking picture of a murder victim dispatched recently because I refused to enter into real estate deals involving coning Chinese millionaires with illegal contracts. I fled the island the same day and hid at the airport with my hear thumping checking every car that pulled up in the distance. I never went back to that island and discovered more peaceful places.I also may have escaped prison because I fell in love with a stunning Russian girl and had a brief affair with her. She invited me to live with her on koh Phangan but was later arrested on drug charges.

  8. Another great interview. Just came across your channel accidentally a few days ago, watched many interviews and really enjoyed them. As a Thai man moving out of Thailand for a better life, it is Interesting to know how foreigners think about the country I escaped ( and unlikely to go back for a long haul) 😂

  9. I think this extreme fear of "Loss of face" holds some cultures back from developing, it's like being unable to challenge power – the culture and society festers. In the West we have to get used to criticism – even a lot of jokes and banter involve someone losing face, just suck it up or you're soft! Then give it back. Very different kinds of communication.

  10. His comment about age and Krengjai are traditional Thai culture. For today's generations, the young have no respect for the elder. It is all about money and materials under the US influences and Thai media. Thais are cunning especially, in BKK; their attitude is not different from greed, power, and fame. The SE Asian culture is not confronting, arguing, and hurt others' feelings. But they like to gossip.
    It is pros and cons.
    Asia culture is soft, indirect, and compromise; the western is hard, direct, and open. That is why cross-culture study is important. Especially, for the US politicians who are acting like Rambo or a tough guy. It is a ridiculous and stupid mentality.

  11. Face holds thr Thais back, it also makes them lazy “when I get older I’m more respected” simply down to age.

    When I first met the in-laws I explained from the get go I won’t be living by this tradition. 7 years on all is perfect

  12. Thanks for this Pete. I have been married for over 20 years to a Thai Woman and have just learned so many more things from your video.
    Very interesting.
    Hope your having a fantastic day Buddy!

  13. Outstanding interview; thank you both. Serious thought: Chris should be teaching as a professor there. Classes for Western students who are serious about being in Thailand for whatever reason and classes for Thais wanting to do business in the West or just because they want to learn about another culture. Some teachers, like Chris, are the ones that made college really special for me–providing both knowledge and inspiration.

  14. Very enjoyable!!! I just finished his book Spirit House. Btw, I was born in New York city but my parents came from Leitrim and Offaly.

  15. Great interview. The "Heart" books are fascinating and instructive. I have read all of Christopher's "Calvino" books – detective stories with a bonus: they all tell readers a lot about Thai culture

  16. I have a story about ‘Face’ which some might find interesting! I was with my ex….a Thai girl and I was in the room on Koh Chang suffering with a bit of sunstroke! I was hungry and asked her to go next door to 7-11 for a ham/cheese toasted sandwich. She returned with some weird spicy burgers that I just could not stomach. I was a bit annoyed and asked her why she brought me these! She told me 7-11 had sold out of ham/cheese toasties so she thought I might like the burgers because farangs like burgers! I was starving by this point and decided to go to 7-11 by myself and see what I could eat. I headed to the sandwich section and what did I find? Yep, ham/cheese toasted sandwich. Upon later questioning her further it turned out that when she was looking for my food another farang was hogging the sandwich area, taking his time deciding what to buy! Rather than ‘lose face’ and asking him to move over so she could get a toastie, she just went to a different section and bought me something completely different!

  17. I would really appreciate some input regarding an incident of saving face I experienced on my last trip to Thailand.
    I bought a kilo of Mangosteen from a stall and was served by a young local who had his teenage friends present. I saw the guy put loads of broken mangosteen shells onto the scales to rip me off a few bhat. It was really frustrating as they were rude to me from the start, laughing at me when I greeted them in Thai.
    I didn't do anything at the time, but I always wish I had said something about the fruit. I had a native thai with me and she could have spoken to them.
    What advice would anyone give if they were in this situation? Let it go? Tell them in front of their customers that they were ripping me off? I am grateful for anyones advice. Thanks

  18. To lose face, have no face, give face, is not something unique to Thailand. I really wish there were fewer compound words using JAI. Try learning 35 JAI words in a week and see what happens.

  19. 🤩 wow I have Never seen such an in in depth description about Thai Culture. Don’t mind me being married to a Thai for 3 years and living here for 5 speaking the language. I have always wondered how to put it into words!

  20. "Thais are more comfortable with the emotional side of things, not confining their experience to rationality etc." Devil's Advocate here: how does that exonerate the thoroughly foolish and childish behaviour of many Thais?? (e.g. the lift episode, where 2 extremely foolish, presumptuous and disrespectful people badmouthed a "stupid Westerner".)

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