Thailand: Face, money, gossip and Status

Face What is ‘face’? It’s the same as ‘losing face’. Being humiliated or loss of dignity, the Thais hate it and to keep face is a big part of their lives. We Farang (foreigners) as the Thais call us don’t mind sounding off or making our opinions known to others. The Thais do not like confrontation in all essence they are placid people. They constantly smile, they are kind, caring, loving, warm and generous people as a norm and although they do go off on a tangent every now and then it’s hardly ever at a farang.

The Thais would rather lie to you or tell you what you want to hear, just to make you happy and not to cause a scene. This can make life a little difficult at times or a little confusing but once you get a grasp of it, you can work out what is right and what is wrong.

For a Thai to lose face can bring shame on the whole family and the family is almost the most important thing in a Thai person’s life.

Don’t believe because they are small and look weak that they are. I am 6ft tall, weigh 90kg and can handle myself but I would never pick a fight with a Thai male. They can be brutal and very protective of their own nationalities. If at any time you feel something is wrong you can do one of a few things. Leave it and walk away. Approach the person in a friendly manner and smile a lot. Get angry and they will play dumb and you will get nowhere.

Talk to another Thai who just might help you.

The friendly approach is almost certainly the best way, they will appreciate it and you could almost get the result you were looking for or some sort of compromise. Getting angry and making them lose face will get you nowhere, it may make you feel good in the short term but you will never get the result you want.

The Thais take heed in a lot of what other people think, especially in their community, where as we as foreigners may not care who thinks what, the Thais place a lot of credence in it. They do not want to become ‘the talk of the town’; they don’t want to be the gossip, although they love their gossip.

But to lose face is probably one of the worst things that can happen to them. Some women would rather let their husbands play around with other women than cause trouble over it. To humiliate a Thai is asking for trouble, they may not be as well educated as some or as rich as others but they work hard, some live to survive and do a good job of it. But don’t humiliate someone just because they are different or may not be as well dressed as you. Show a Thai respect and the majority will take care of you.  

My advice is always be good and always smile. Never look down on anyone. A smile or a good word will go a long way to making your holiday or life a lot better. Treat the people, the laws, the culture with respect and never abuse anyone.