I was eating dinner with Phopon the other day at this nice little bar/outside restaurant before going somewhere one night and started talking about the difference between Thai and Western culture. Obviously, some things are the same; don't sleep with your friends girlfriend, don't steal your friends pet turtle or telling people they are handsome/beautiful is a fairly universal friend thing to do.
Here is something I never really noticed and learned about a slight difference between Thai people and some other Western cultures and thought I would write about it. For example, say I'm in Canada and I call up Kelan and say we should go grab a drink then go somewhere after. He accepts and we invite a few other people to join in. Kelan picks me up, we grab a drink, meet up with Roger, Russell and Colin, eat dinner and drink a bit. After we finish eating, there is talk of going downtown for a bit then maybe the casino after. Kelan isn't really feeling it so he goes home but the night continues on with me and the rest of the guys. Maybe we meet up with some of Colin's friends downtown. After being downtown, Russell and Roger head home while me and Colin go and gamble a bit at the casino. We obviously win money. Colin drops me off, I go to bed. Solid night. No problems.
Second example: Phopon calls me on a Saturday night in Nakhon, wants to hang out somewhere, talk a bit, split a bottle of Johnny Langer and see what happens. I'm obviously in and I meet up with Phopon at De Belle. We hangout a bit, then we invite a few other teachers to join, they come by for a drink and either come with us to the next bar or head home. Phopon, me and 2 other teachers go to Bangkok bar next, maybe lose a few teachers but other people might meet up with us. Then Phopon and I go to Cindy pub with whoever is left, invite a few people to come, some do, some don't, then we go to Vientian together. Phopon and I and whoever else is left. Phopon wants to grab food, I go with him, then we both say we have had enough, go our separate ways. Solid night.
Any major differences between the two?!
Major difference? Not really.
What Phopon explained to me, which some people in Western culture probably do anyway just not consciously, is when a group of Thai people go out together, they are together from start to finish. Go to dinner together, get drinks together, go dance together, then all leave together. My friend was saying that you are obviously allowed to leave the group but it is kind of frowned upon and if the group is OK with you going, usually means you have lower status in the group. That is why I hardly ever see Thai people eating alone or out solo. You hardly ever see one or two people leave early. They come together and they leave together. There are downsides to this: You might want to just eat dinner with people then have to get up early to go to work the next morning, staying out till 3 might not be in the cards.
However, I do like the idea of whatever happens, I'm with you. So now whenever I go out with him, I'm consciously thinking, whatever he does, I'm right beside him and vice versa. I think it builds stronger friendships. Knowing someone always has your back that night wherever you go is comforting. At home, people come and go throughout the night, might end the night alone but here, go out with a Thai friend and you have someone by your side throughout your adventure. And I think I like it. Hope I explained this well, Teacher Bert is not so good with the words.
“Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you; be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them.”W. Clement Stone
ps: As I was looking at friendship quotes, it made me think that I am unbelievably lucky to have a high number of people I would consider great friends. Definitely makes life more interesting. So, if we are friends, thanks for letting me have a bit of access to you. I appreciate it.