Profound Multicultural Misunderstanding and Understanding is the title of one of Evelyn Rodriguez’ most recent posts. She is on a very special journey; last year, she suffered the injuries and trauma of having been in a spot which was badly hit by the tsunami. This year, she vowed to return to Thailand in time to honor the first anniversary. Reading these words from her, written in such a profoundly different context from what I’ve been writing about recently, yet touching upon and articulating so well what I’ve been struggling to say, I wanted to share them,
Sometimes the misunderstanding is a bit more fundamental and profound than simply not being privy to a type of highway lane.
A European business owner that’s lived here for nearly
twenty years tells me that sometimes Thais have such petty concerns.
(You must understand this is after a nerve-wracking telephone exchange
with a clueless customer service rep at the cell phone company: "I must
have interrupted her from filing her fingernails.") The griping
continues: "Even here, the staff often have no better topic of
conversation than when they’re eating next. Sadly, a common greeting
literally translates to ‘Have you had your rice yet?‘ They actually go around asking, ‘Have you eaten rice yet?’"
It’s taken me two weeks to realize how deeply misunderstood that greeting ‘Have you had rice yet?‘ is. And it would be so easy to never have truly been enlightened to its meaning but go on believing that I might know.
The National Identity Board of the Royal Thai Government
(yeah, sounds officious and it is) recently published a book "Tsunami
2004: Nam Chai Thai". In its preface they explain the subtitle. I won’t
need to say more after their explanation, but it kind of makes
you wonder how often we miss the profundity and fecundity around us
because we already know all the answers.
While it would be natural to highlight the bold words in context of the global brands and business I’ve been writing about, it is far more respectful of her words to simply leave them be to work their very own power.