Thai American Youth Heritage

Ancient City

In 1990, a few Thai nationals in America decided to set up an organization in order to encourage Thai youth born in America to love and understand their cultural heritage. It started with a few families joining together to bring their families to Thailand on a tour of the country. They visited historical landmarks, watched traditional dancing and visited orphanages. Soon, other families asked to join these trips and that is how the Thai American Youth Heritage Program was created. They now organize trips to Thailand every two years. They have many sponsors which help subsidies these trips. This morning they came to the Ancient City in Samut Prakan which is where I met up with some of them.  My school was asked to provide a welcoming committee for the youth.

It was actually interesting for me to talk to some of the people on this trip. And also to compare my own Thai students and the Thai youth born in America. And there is a big difference. For a start, many of them don’t speak Thai. If they do, then they often cannot read or write. In our forums, we often have posts from half Thais or Thais born abroad who say that as a youngster they didn’t have much interest in Thai culture. Their parents also didn’t speak Thai to them. It was much the same for these youth. They said it was a bit of a culture shock to come to Thailand, but despite the heat they said that they were enjoying their trip so far.

Sriwittayapaknam School

Observing these Thai youth from America was so strange. They looked Thai on the surface but they weren’t. Everything about them said “Western”. Sometimes it was their haircut, or the way they wore their clothes. But, mostly it was about posture and how they interacted with their friends and the adults. To our Thai teachers, the way they acted might seem to be disrespectful, but to the youth, it is all about freedom of expression. Being an individual. As much as I like Thailand and how much respect they show for their seniors, you don’t often see individuals amongst the youth here. Everyone conforms to a strict formula and pattern. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it  helps build strong families and communities. But I think it dampens any creativity or innovation amongst the Thai people.

It was a shame that our students didn’t have much time to talk to the Thai youth from America. I think they could have learned a lot from each other. Maybe next time the organizers could arrange a trip to our school.

13 responses to “Thai American Youth Heritage

  1. is that a buddhist temple the american thais are prayign in?

  2. It is not a temple, it is a reconstruction of a temple from Ayutthaya

  3. I wonder what the American-Thai youth took away from the experience? Hopefully something very positive, but maybe they did not have time to absorb very much at all. It is a shame that they could not spend a few days at the school, taking part in those lessons conducted in English and other activities.

  4. Lack of individualism, may be part of the reason, Thailand’s economy has not grown, as to the heights of western countries.

  5. Being a regular visitor to Thailand and a teacher in America who has had numerous Thai/American students I have witnessed first hand the change that takes place in Thai kids as they aculturate and become independent minded American teens. It is a sight to behold.

    My other observation is how much bigger Thai/American teens are as compared to Thai nationals. It must be the growth harmones in American meat that has accomplished this feat. It is not unusual to see a Thai/American boy the is over six feet tall; a sight rarely seen in Thailand.

  6. heyy. I am one of these people from the Thai American Youth Heritage Program. (in the pic). First off, I would like to say that this program is very packed with many activities for us to do. it is true that we can’t stay for hours and hours and the places we go, but we feel very welcomed wherever we go, and we DID learned alot. We went to so many places in Thailand in two weeks. For me personally, i love thailand because I was born here. i felt so happy and appreciative to come to these places and see the things my ancestors have left me. The great craftsmanship that goes into the making of the Thai arts. The great architecture. It, infact, made me love thailand even more and have more stuff to brag about to other people. hehe. there is much more i want to say but i’ll just leave it at that. ^_^

  7. Welcome to the blogs Gift. I for one would be very interested to read more about your trip to Thailand. Not only your thoughts on the places you visited but also what you and your companions got out of the trip. Did it change you in some ways?

  8. what i got out of the trip….

    i learn that there are alot of people out there that are not as fortunate as me; not just not being able to have money for education and a chance to come to another country for better a better life and opportunity but those who were born crippled, the ones there were born with mental and/or physical disabilities. i feel very lucky to have this chance to visit these places and see the other side, this world is not full of unicorns and rainbows.

    ….to be continued?

  9. Hey! I’m also one of the people in the program! I thought that it was a great experience and I definately feel that I have learned so much more from the trip. I have always loved Thailand but since the trip I think I love it even more than I did before. I am one of the few that can read and write and speak Thai. To see some of my friends on the trip having the same capabilites makes me even more happy. It’s great to know that kids my age still take a good interest. Also — we always feel so welcomed and I would have to say thank you for the warm welcomes and everything. It truely does make our day better after a nice long ride.

  10. Welcome May.

    I am glad to hear that both you and Gift got something out of that trip.

  11. I just got back from Thailand where I visited with my two Thai “sons”– exchange students we hosted for 1 year each. In one of the parks we went to, they were mistaken for Americans. I thought it was because they were with me and speaking English. But the woman said no it was their posture and clothing.

  12. Hi Rosie. Interesting to see that they changed so much from their brief one year stay with you. What did you do to them?!!! Only joking. I have seen it before. When they come back, they forget to take off their shoes when they come in the house, they don’t “wai” their elders and they give personal opinions on every subject. For many of them, it is difficult, though not impossible, to adapt back into their culture.