Thai students in England

I’ve been really impressed, most recently in particular, with the differences between Thai and other asian nationals in England who are here for the purposes of study. When I say study, I do of course mean “a little bit of reading and a large amount of everything else not related to books”.

As some of you may be aware, we have a real problem with attitudes to foreigners at the moment in my country. Immigration and asylum are ranking very high on the election manifestos (General Election UK is 5th May). Politicians are using the topic of the non-British in Britain as a way to garner votes.

Unfortunately, as with all problems of attitude, much like stereotypes, they are based on some, however small, fact. Many foreigners in Britain do not bother to learn about the country and its customs in the same way that many farangs in Thailand do not bother to do the same.

I have Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai and a mixture of other nationalities as friends who study here at my Uni. Out of them all, it is the Thais who make the most effort to integrate. They are still very shy (of course!) but they do not concentrate as much on the forming of cliques so that they need not face the outside world. By this I refer to a group of Chinese people who eat at local chinese run restauarants, buy everything at local chinese run shops and speak only to Chinese people. I very much doubt they have any farang friends. They even gamble in Chinese run bookies and visit Chinese run clubs!

However my Thai friends seem to honestly understand, if not appreciate, English culture alot better. As to why this is; I have no firm idea. We could look to the education system in Thailand or the general exposure to the West they get from a young age, at least in Bangkok. The same cannot be said for communist China, I suppose.

It’s deeper than that, though. At the core of the individuals I know there is a ‘feeling’ that the Thais are simply more open to my culture, but no less Patriotic to their own than the Chinese I know. As with many things in Thailand, the key is in the subtlety of expression. My Thai friends are aware that ones country means alot to oneself. I feel the Thais here could teach the other Nationalities a thing or too about living abroad. There are many things they don’t get right but that’s to be expected. If all visitors to England were like the Thais in Oxford I feel the politicians might have less to say about immigration.

Given that your average Brit cannot tell the difference between a Thai, Chinese or Japanese, you cannot blame the differences on localised persecution. The British who are racist don’t bother to differentiate between asian countries!

I should add that one of my best friends is Chinese and by no means are all as one. Generalisations are unpleasant but a necessary evil. My comments are only based on the small group of people I know.

p.s. I don’t go in for pictures, sorry. Just imagine a Thai person beaming out and then a few lines down, a Chinese man looking grumpy. Instant imagery!

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