Freshly back from my recent one month trip to Thailand where I combined some research work with pure, unashamed relaxation. I am now ready to give you chapter and verse on some of the fine book products I picked up.
In this post I would like to recommend ” The Cultural Detective” by Christopher G. Moore. Analysing Thai Culture with a foreign author that really knows Thai Culture.
Books kindly signed by Christopher G. Moore in Bangkok recently
The Beauty Of The Cultural Detective
The beauty of the Cultural Detective is that you can be opening the book at the start of any new chapter and have the information for that chapter within five to ten minutes of reading. Better still is the knowledge that doing this does not ruin any of the other chapters at all. I say the beauty meaning if you are like me and desperate to get to the chapter titles that could hold that life changing information.(By the way I look for that in all books). On the other hand you could just read it from cover to cover like any ordinary person, either is fine.
Christopher G. Moore is probably most famous for the Vincent Calvino crime fiction series, his latest book ” 9 Gold Bullets” being the twelfth novel in the series. Aside from this or should I say including the Vincent Calvino series it brings up a very creditable tally of 22 novels written to date.
The Cultural Divide Between East And West
The Cultural Detective is a fascinating set of essays that looks at some of the cultural divides between east and west and essentially looks at life inside Thailand. It is the look at Thai life that excites me most. I myself have had a deep affection and affiliation for Thailand for the past 27 years, but I still manage to put my medium-sized western foot in it on many occasions.
Over the past 27 years I have continued the love affair by drifting in and out of her shores, but Christopher Moore has been in the kingdom day in and day out. There are many so-called foreign experts on Thailand and it’s culture, but Christopher Moore would be one of a very few who I would pay to read what he has to say as he is well worth listening to.
A salute from the man in white at the door of the Emporium, Sukhumvit Road Bangkok
The Time Challenge Culture
The Cultural Detective is composed of four parts consisting of many interesting essays to each part. My personal favourites are too many to mention, but I enjoyed immensely the chapter on Time challenging concepts in Thai and the flexibility that phrases such as (kamlang ja pai) about to leave, (kamlang ja thueng) about to arrive and (kamlang ja set) about to finish give the Thai. The about to leave, arrive or finish could of course be any time within the next 10 minutes to 2 hours. I would love to tell my client here in England that I will be with you anytime within the next 10 minutes to 2 hours, but in the west they want precise timings.
Many subjects are looked at including the almost urgent matter to discover the truth in the west and squarely pin the blame some where. Declaring someone a winner and someone a loser in the east can lead to fatal consequences. This is not only for the person concerned , but to his or her family and friends as well. A far bigger picture is looked at in the east , being a face-based culture.
To Complain Or Not To Complain
Two of my other favourite superb chapters are that of the deference system and the culture of complaining. Christopher Moore does a fantastic job explaining why Thais sometimes feel uncomfortable around foreigners, why exile is more painful for the Thai than other nationalities,and the deference culture that is built around age, rank, family and wealth in Thailand. The complaining chapter has the English down as masters of the art of complaining , where of course in Thailand the tradition is very much on not to complain.
I have to agree that us English do like to put in a complaint or two. My complaints were normally aimed at no one and possibly everyone, but with a Thai wife and in the early days she took these as being directed at her. These were taken as personal insults, my complaining these days are confined to myself and the four walls of my office. Here again Christopher Moore explains how this works in his chapter on complaining, classic stuff.
A walk along Sukhumvit Road Soi 11 Bangkok
The Removal Of One’s Shoes
Another favourite is if entering the home of a Thai person as a foreign guest and the host says you could keep your shoes on. The first point is would you keep them on or not? Bearing in mind shoes are to be removed when entering the homes of Thai people. The second point is does the host really mean that you can keep them on? Once again a huge insight is given in to the Thai mind-set and mind reading skills could well be an added bonus.
Finally the events that unfolded from 14th – 19th May 2010 in Bangkok with regards to the political protests were also captured by Christopher Moore. He ventured to the front line daily chatting and shedding some light on the events during that period with his own observations. Fantastic detail is given from the large political demonstrations starting from mid-March , through the events that unfolded during April and May 2010.
Well Worth The Money
The Cultural Detective is a whole host of fascinating cultural essays, with something new to learn in each chapter. It is a thoroughly good read, but from my point of view thoroughly educational and informative as well. I have long since given up buying products on Thai culture as it’s a nut that’s very hard to crack, but I am pleased I purchased the Cultural Detective another fine product from Christopher G. Moore.
The culture of going no where fast, Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok
A link to ” The Cultural Detective” by Christopher G. Moore can be found here. Analysing Thai Culture appears to be a never-ending job, but this book will give you great insights.
A Final Note
I did find myself having a right giggle during one chapter where Christopher Moore mentions the two books that created the image of the Asian woman that Western men are drawn to and it was the exact first two books I ever read on Asia and in the exact order. ”The World Of Susie Wong” closely followed by ” A Woman Of Bangkok”. The laughter was for the fact that he even got that right. I committed the cardinal sin and let a friend barrow my copy of ”A Woman Of Bangkok” and never saw it again, but I well remember that book.
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