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Lesson Transcript

Ryan: All About Thai, lesson 8 - Top Five Things You Need to Know About Thai Society! Hi and welcome back to All About Thai. I’m Ryan!
Rawinporn: And I’m Rawinporn!
Ryan: In this lesson, we’re going to tell you more about life in Thailand.
Rawinporn: There are so many aspects to Thai society. It’s hard to know where to begin.
Ryan: Well, since the title of this lesson is the top 5 things you need to know about Thai society, I picked five topics to cover.
Rawinporn: Which are?
Ryan: Thailand’s city life, family life in Thailand, Thailand’s work culture, politics, and general trend.
Rawinporn: Wow! So, we’re all set then?
Ryan: Right. Why don’t we start with city life, shall we?
Rawinporn: Okay. Did you know, Thailand is divided into 76 provinces. Bangkok or grung-thêep is the capital of Thailand and is the city with the highest population.
Ryan: There are an estimated 11 million people living in the city of Bangkok. That’s a huge number and it explains why Bangkok is so crowded.
Rawinporn: Some parts of the provinces bordering Bangkok are also referred to as Greater Bangkok. These provinces include Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakarn, Nokhon Pathom, and Samut Sakorn.
Ryan: Bangkok and these five provinces are called grung-thêep-láe-bpà-rí-mon-thon.
Rawinporn: Bangkok has expanded, in terms of population, very quickly, due to the success of its education, work, infrastructure, services, and tourism sectors. A large number of workers from the provinces, including illegal foreign workers, have overflowed into Bangkok for the reasons above.
Ryan: Where is your hometown, Khun Rawinporn?
Rawinporn: I’m from Bangkok. My house is quite close to Thonglor, which is a popular place for night life.
Ryan: Uh, I see.
Rawinporn: High-rises along Sathorn and Sukhumvit Roads are the core business centers for the private sector, while many government offices are located on Ratchadamnoen Road.
Ryan: How about Khao-san Road. I’ve heard about this road from every foreigner who has visited Thailand.
Rawinporn: Of course. Khao-san Road is very popular among foreign tourists since there are many inexpensive guesthouses, shops, and restaurants along the street, and the location is just a few steps from the principal tourist attractions in Bangkok.
Ryan: Khun Rawinporn, can you tell me about family life in a big city like Bangkok?
Rawinporn: There are a few interesting things to note. One is that you won’t see as many big families in Bangkok compared to other provinces.
Ryan: It is very common for three generations; children, parents, and grandparents to live together in the same household. However, a trend towards nuclear families can be seen in Bangkok.
Rawinporn: Also, something that is kind surprising is how long children live with their parents. Well, into their adults years. Sometimes, even until they are married.
Ryan: That’s quite a big difference. I think that in the United States, there would come a time when most parents would say, okay, you’d been here long enough, it’s time for you to get out and live on your own. I can’t really imagine any Thai parent saying that.
Rawinporn: Yeah. And speaking of marriage, more and more people are waiting until they are older to get married. It’s a fast-growing trend.
Ryan: It used to be that you should be married by the time you’re 25, or else, it’s too late.
Rawinporn: Well, some people still think like that. However, things are changing, especially in the big city.
Ryan: Why is that?
Rawinporn: Well, there are a lot of different factors that contribute to it. People are less willing to settle and are choosier about their partner. A lot of young women these days worry about their careers, and in some cases, getting married will hinder advancement in their careers, so there are a lot of things.
Ryan: But it looks like parents will still encourage their children to marry once they reach a certain age.
Rawinporn: That’s true. Some parents might even have a matchmaking service help with the search for a partner.
Ryan: Okay. Let’s talk about Thai work culture. Are there any unique facets of Thai culture?
Rawinporn: Yes. The most important things you need to understand in Thai culture are that Thais are extremely careful about losing face or making someone else lose face.
Ryan: Right. You shouldn’t complain about someone in front of a big group of people.
Rawinporn: Exactly! Moreoever, salaries in Thailand are quite low compared to the salaries in the West. However, the cost of living is comparatively low as well.
Ryan: How about work-life balance? Do you have very long working hours per day?
Rawinporn: Luckily, the Thai work-life balance for white-collar workers is quite good.
Ryan: That’s good.
Rawinporn: Oh, one thing you should keep in mind is that kisses, hugs, and familiar touches are uncommon in Thai culture.
Ryan: Right. Now, let’s get into politics for a moment. We don’t have a president in Thailand. Instead, we have a Prime Minister. But Thailand also has His Majesty the King.
Rawinporn: Yes, and that’s a good point. Thailand does have a king, but the king does not hold any political power. Kings are there mostly out of tradition.
Ryan: Oh, okay. So, they’re mostly there as a symbol. By the way, how old do people have to be in Thailand to vote?
Rawinporn: Eighteen is the age when people are allowed to vote.
Ryan: Okay. So that doesn’t change much from other countries. Finally, let’s talk about general trends in Thailand.
Rawinporn: Thai society is changing quickly in a lot of ways.
Ryan: So, a lot of people probably aren’t doing things the way their grandparents or even parents did before them.
Rawinporn: As we mentioned earlier, the population of Bangkok has increased greatly in recent years. More and more people have been migrating to lush urban areas in search of employment in manufacturing and other sectors. Fewer people have chosen to stay in their home villages and carry on their agricultural lifestyle of their parents and grandparents.
Ryan: The countryside seems so much more peaceful than the cities. It’s much quieter with green ricefields and clean air to breathe. I would think more people would stay in the villages if their economic situation was better.
Rawinporn: It’s true that many people who move to the cities do so out of economic necessity, but their family ties are still strong. It’s very common for city workers to send money back home to support their extended family. And during all the major holiday periods, Bangkok thins out with people going back home to visit their relatives.
Ryan: Well, that was our glimpse into the Thailand of today. We hope you’ve learned a lot. We certainly covered a lot of information.
Rawinporn: Yes, and you’ll get to know more in the next All About Thai lesson.
Ryan: See you next time!
Rawinporn: sà-wàt-dii khâ.