Just in case you hadn’t noticed, Thais and Westerners think differently. Dr Ren Lexander, PhD, outlined some of the key reasons for this in a talk he gave on the 8th December at the Pattaya City Expats Club meeting. A key part of his talk focused on the legacy of religious beliefs in the West and in Thailand.

Even if you are an atheist, your belief system about what makes right and moral action has been influenced by the West’s Judaic-Christian heritage. Much of this is enshrined in the Ten Commandments. These are very black and white: thou shalt/thou shalt not. For instance, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’. And ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness’ — which is usually interpreted as “Thou Shalt Not Lie’.

By stark contrast, Thailand is a Theravedic Buddhist country and follows Buddha’s Eight-fold Path: Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. This is much greyer in concept. What is ‘Right Speech’? Perhaps it is telling people what they want to hear rather than what is strictly speaking the truth. By way of comparison, Dr Lexander asked what a husband in the West might say if his wife asks him ‘Does this dress make me look fat?’

So, Thais will tend more towards a greyer version of the truth than Westerners do. Dr Lexander used the example of: If a Thai woman has a sick buffalo upcountry and bending the truth will get her money to look after the poor sick buffalo the Thai might consider that bending of the truth ‘Right Speech’.