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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!

A Thai business abroad

The way things are done in Thailand is very Thai – and quite rightly so. Far be it for me, as a foreigner, to ethnocentrically dictate what is and is not ‘good’ for Thailand. I do have my opinions (who doesn’t).

‘Corruption’, as we call it here in the UK or ‘playing the game’ as it might be seen in parts of Thailand, is often a natural part of Thai business. It’s a very natural part of Russian business. It’s a very natural part of UK business too, in somewhat different ways. Many bloggers talk about corruption in Thailand. I have a particular example here.

There is a business operating here that doesn’t legally employ its workers. “Hold the press!” I hear you scream. Admittedly, this isn’t as rare as it should be. However, this particular example highlights several things about these Thais working and living in England.

The business in question gets visas for Thais to visit the UK, under pretences of tourism, when in fact the Thais in question go straight to work. The ’employees’ are not afforded anything like British minimum wage, yet what they earn is a small fortune back home. The business also ’employs’ several Thais who live in the UK already. They pay cash, do not deduct tax despite heavily taxed prices on their products to the end (British) customer and lie to both their staff, the customers and the I.R. (tax office).

Recently they were investigated for fraud, apparantly not for the first time. Knowing full well the possible ramifications if caught, the owners (a Thai husband and wife) instructed, no – ordered, their Thai staff to lie to the Tax inspector should he ask them any questions. They were given precise sentences to repeat in answer to specific questions. They were instructed how much to say they had been paid and when they had worked. They were told to lie to the tax men. Not a good idea in England.

If ever found out, these girls and boys will face prosecution and possible deportation. Many are not yet finished with their degree or whatever else they had originally come to the UK for. Would the owners of the business put themselves in such a position on behalf of their staff? I, for one, think not.

There are many issues at play here. One could appeal to Buddhism, to the ethics of business or indeed to simple honesty. Any way you spin it, it is exactly this kind of thing that fuels the ever-heated debates over immigration and the general place of foreigners in the UK. I would certainly hope that this particular family never complain about the farang influence in Thailand, for they certainly have no right to such a gripe.

/with all errors.

A little about myself

Many blogs start out with a list, or similarly some sort of ‘mission statement’. I’m not sure I can be so organised, so apologies in advance to anyone hoping to better themselves from the thoughts I may from time-to-time come up with.

In fact, if betterment is your game, I really cannot advise seeking it with my blog. This is more than likely going to be somewhere I can post specific content that relates to my time in Thailand. I currently visit the Kingdom each year for a period of no more than two months. As with many visitors, I feel I know pretty much all there is to know about Thai culture and modern Thai life. As with many visitors, I am frequently proved wrong. With a little luck, this space will provide me with a way of seeing some sort of progression.

From reading over the other guest blogs here, it seems the norm to provide a little information about yourself before getting down to business. I study Philosophy which I one day hope to study in Chulalongkorn university. I own and run a small internet business. I live with my Thai partner in Oxford and I have been learning Thai and Japanese for a while now.