Learning More About Thai Culture Is Essential
You could argue that everything in Thai communication starts with naam-jai, literally “juice of the heart” or “flow of the heart. “While independence is at the core of a Westerner’s self-esteem and image, Thais judge themselves and others in Thai society primarily based on the degree to which they show naam-jai. Naam-jai is “generosity,” a desire to give one’s time, resources, and attention to others just for the good feeling it generates in both.
A person who shows naam-jai will not ask for money or any kind of payment in exchange for her generosity.The Thai will even feel uneasy accepting a payment that is offered for her generosity, because this suggests that she did it for the payment instead of the good will. Thais also show naam-jai each time they show concern for another’s welfare. When Thais show naam-jai, they will not expect a direct return from the person they have helped, but Thais do believe that generous thought will bring them a reward in the long run. This is partially influenced by Buddhism. For example, in small, rural farming villages, when one family harvests their fishpond or has a bumper crop, they will share it with their neighbors, without asking for payment, as a matter of course. Many villages also practice the custom of joint harvesting (Iongkt£k), where the entire village moves from field to field harvesting each other’s crops. When the work is done, the villagers do not ask each landowner for crops or money, even if that landowner’s field is much bigger than everyone else’s and thus requires more work. The villagers do the work out of naam-jai and they want to demonstrate that.Thai people will drop their entire life, without much thought or fanfare, to come to the rescue of an orphaned niece or nephew (or even some unrelated child whom they know) by taking in the child permanently as their own child. Thais will also welcome any adult relative who has no place to stay into their homes, without asking for rent or asking how long they will stay.
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