Saturday, October 07, 2006

Stars In Our Eyes....

I have had a brief correspondence with someone overseas and she raised a very interesting question with comments that prompted me to do some hard thinking. While this might test my growth at times, I'm grateful for the opportunity to remove the glaze from my eyes and look at things squarely. Thanks, CA :)

The comment that brought on this thought is "Of course, ways of addressing one another and interacting, gestures, habits and all differ, but those are just superficial."

On one hand, yes. They are surface behaviors.

On the other, no. They are manifestations of a deeper mindset.

All of these things have an underlying message. The acculturation process involves internalizing a way of thinking, a way of relating, a way of viewing the world and our place in it. It is how we pass along cultural mores and standards. Nearly all the customs in this culture, as an example, involve extreme self-sufficiency, social politics and competition. The core value is self-interest and self-advancement. Sure, there is surface merit given to selflessness, but nothing in the culture demands it. It is not unacceptable to NOT be selfless. It's just "kinda nice". Even generosity is tainted by taking credit. "I gave $500.00 to the Katrina fund and now I'll have something to deduct from my taxes." You see lists of names of contributors to nearly everything because, after all, one deserves to get credit.

The saddest part is that this culture gives only lip service to real healing which involves commitment to others, willingness to be a "part of" instead of painfully "apart from", and most importantly, a willingness to put the higher good above personal aspirations.

When I chose the path I am on now, so many of the things I did in the beginning felt theatrical. It didn't quite "fit". While the underlying cultural mores felt like "coming home", acting them out felt clownish. It began to feel "authentic", the longer I did it. I'm still in this learning curve however and it will probably take the rest of my life. That, I believe, is the acculturation/socialization process in a nutshell.

Most of us who want to move overseas or ex-pat in one way or another probably do so with stars in our eyes. We believe our adopted culture and country will become Nirvana, a Land Of All We Ever Wanted. This is what I most importantly want to avoid. For that reason, I look at Thai culture without the rose-colored glasses and know there will be things that will be very challenging. No matter how long I live there or even if I choose to become naturalized, I will always be "farang". I can stick my Thai passport in their faces and that will never take away the "farang" stigma. I will always look different than 99.99% of the population. Some people will not accept that. Just like here, there is racism in Thailand. Just like here, there are people who choose to be dishonest and criminal. There are homicides, burglaries, domestic violence, alcoholism, drug abuse and all the things that plague every society. And then there's the Bangkok stuff that simply doesn't need to be mentioned. I'm too young to go to Heaven just yet and I have no illusion that it is located in Southeast Asia.

There are no stars in my eyes about this move. None. I'm doing it to survive. Life here almost killed me once. I'm not giving it another chance.

At least the fundamental stuff makes sense. I can thrive in my own little way instead of constantly being at odds with the culture. That is a big one to overcome. There's a possibility that I can even have a relationship and get married again without having to live up to ridiculous and unrealistic western standards. Regardless of the contortions I have tried to perform here, no matter how much I have tried to squeeze myself into the little boxes, no matter how much I have tried to convince myself that I'm wrong and it's right, I simply can't do it anymore. It's a mismatch. No judgements. No recriminations. It's just a mismatch.

It's time to go. It's been time for many years. I just didn't have the courage to do it.

Until the things holding me have resolved, I will continue on with my customs, habits and traits. Superficial though they may be, they are my connection.

May we all find peace ~

Thailand Gal


Ginnie said...

I applaud you for having the courage to follow a may lead you to unexpected places but at least you will know you have done your best. Good luck on your journey and thanks for the insightful comment on my blog today. Ginnie

Dogwalkmusings said...


Terri said...

Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment.
You have a great blog here....I read quite a few entries. Especially found the baby boomer one interesting.
How great that you have a goal set and you're making it happen along your journey.
I wish you all the best and I'll be back to visit again.

Anonymous said...

I still don't understand. How do you "adopt" another culture where you are? Do you wear clothes like that picture? NO offense intended. I really don't get it.


Potato Print said...

Hi Thailand Gal,
Thanks for the nice note on my blog. I highly recommend making corn husk dolls! Very relaxing and fulfilling.

You have selected such an interesting path. I can relate to what you say here in this post. I lived in France for three years and then came back here because I didn't like being a foreigner, even though I passed for French.

I really believe in the power of those formal, ritualistic gestures. For example, in Buddhist retreats, I had a really hard time bowing to the leader. But now I have come to understand that these gestures are a way of belonging and of upholding certain aspects of mindfulness and courtesy when done with the heart intact.

I wish you the best on your adventure.

Orawin said...

Thank you so much for appreciate Thais Culture. I am Thailand Gal myself..feeling really good hearing that ..I think you know it is not harmful to get to know..anything about Thailand. It is very deep and not shallow..I am here in Texas for seven years and missing Thailand very much. Please let me know if anything that I can help.

Orawin Rungsinan

Visit my blog at