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Tenure = Expertise


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Nod:

By the way when I need a lecture from you about how things work over here, I'll wait till you've been over here as long as I have ....

I have no bone to pick with Mr. Nod, but I was thinking about this. I spend just over 20 years living in Taiwan and regarded myself as being pretty much on top of everything Taiwanese and relating to the ROC and to a large degree, the Chinese as well.

I have only been living in Thailand about 15 percent of the time I spent in Taiwan, so I would rank myself as a relative newcomer. However, having said that, I think that there are a few elements of Thai society with which I am pretty familiar, although I am still learning.

So here's the question: How long does one need to be here to earn some stripes? How much of it is time served and how much experience? Does speaking Thai really matter that much (remember, a great many think-tankers in the West are considered "expert" in foreign countries the language of which they cannot speak)? If you spend a great deal of time in Thailand -- even speak a bit of the language -- but live in Koh Samui the whole time, does that mean your overall experience is so blinkered that you can only be thought of as a "specialist" in the area in which your life touches?

Does being here in shifts of a few months on and some months off (or many months off) over years equate to someone who actually has resided here all that time?

(By the way, I have no idea how long Nod has been in Thailand. Either consecutively or in irregular/regular junkets here. So I have no idea what "as long as I have" means to him.)

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OK I’ll bite.

I think expertise depends on a lot of factors with time in kingdom an advantage but not necessarily confirmation. Everyone has their own little world but no matter what anyone thinks there’s always something new to experience and learn every time you venture outside.

There are so many cultural differences around the country. What one considers normal in Bangkok can be completely different to a normal experience on an island or down the south, up north or in the east.

You also have to take into account lifestyles. Someone living in a remote village will have a different take on Thailand life to someone spending all their time in a tourist area. Making Thai friends and communicating in their language greatly improves knowledge about the people and country.

I think no matter if you are a long term resident or a long term regular visitor, overall expertise is hard to come by. That’s the benefit of a forum. You can share your experience and see how others view and experience Thailand, at the same time learning more and more about this fascinating country.

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-- but live in Koh Samui the whole time, does that mean your overall experience is so blinkered that you can only be thought of as a "specialist" in the area in which your life touches?

For sure and staying in one small party town such as Lamai or chaweng will narrow the view of those blinkers even more.

On a slightly different subject ,hanging around in the darker or naughtier huants does seem to blunt social skills and reduce vocabulary after an extended period.

(Westerners speaking to me in tinglish is really annoying)

I have noticed that some go from starry eyed Thailand lovers to bitter and twisted "know it all Thai hatters" at around the five year mark

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Well put, Farma.

Pilchard:

...hanging around in the darker or naughtier haunts does seem to blunt social skills and reduce vocabulary after an extended period.

What you say? You talk me no good?

I think there is a downside to living in any country where the people speak your language secondarily, if at all.

I do think that there are trends in cultures that run through all walks of life and styles. The longer you are here (or anywhere), the better your odds of understanding them. This doesn't mean that everyone will pick up on the right clues -- I have seen my fair share of suckers falling for the same old tricks (pun intended) in the "darker or naughtier" sides of life here -- people who ought to know better through their time here falling for the same phony-baloney.

To answer one of my own questions, I never put much stock in people who came (to Taiwan) for a few months then left for a year or so, then came back for a few months and then repeated the process for 10 years or so, and then pontificated on what they understood about the local people and the nuances of their lives and ways. I think you really have to be immersed in a place to fully appreciate it. Not that that sort of experience is worthless, but it's still a form of holidaymaking.

Pilchard:

I have noticed that some go from starry eyed Thailand lovers to bitter and twisted "know it all Thai hatters" at around the five year mark

Oddly enough, I never saw this in 20 years in Taiwan. People sometimes are miffed at the "inscrutable Chinese," but Thais seem to spin on a completely different axis than what one might expect. I'm sure this is true of other peoples as well, but here we are....

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To put this thread in context, you really should read the closed thread entitled "Thai Girlfriend Looking for a Job" , then decide on who is acting like a so called "Expert"

Cheers!

Good idea if you think that helps.

As far as simply talking about time, I think three to five years would give a person a pretty decent insight into where he is living, be it Bangkok or Kinshasa. Five to 10 years more so. After about 10 years I think you start to get into more serious "respect" territory. Fifteen to 20 and you are in the range of someone in an adopted home for sure. Of course, you can be somewhere your whole life and not have a clue, but I think we are talking about normally average people with reasonable intelligence and powers of observation.

However, I might add that I have met people who were in Taiwan for only a few years who had a very keen grasp of things, sort of a prodigy of cultural observation. So I suppose there are exceptions to every rule, just as the person who has been an expat somewhere for 10 years sometimes knows little about the essence of where he is. I have met expat business people in Southeast Asia who have been posted out here for years who have remained isolated from the locals -- living in little Western enclaves, eating "sanitized" versions of local foods and who hobnobbed with other expats exclusively. Granted, they knew more about their drivers and housekeepers, along with the plant managers and secretaries than I ever would, but as for daily life and customs, not only didn't they know much, they didn't care to know.

By the way, I never qualified myself as an expert on anything. Nod would do well to remember what I posted: "...I would rank myself as a relative newcomer [to Thailand]." Clearly, I never said I was an expert, so-called or otherwise. Whatever observations I make regarding Samui are personal opinions based on observations, conversations and experiences. And as an aside, to show you how little I think of the term, when I was deputy managing editor of a newspaper in Taipei I all but forbade the use of the term "expert" in the paper, since I feel that the term, for the most part, is simply an honorific. Juan Cole is an expert on Middle Eastern affairs, for sure, but few others can lay claim to that. So it is with the vast majority of "analysts" and "seasoned observers" elsewhere.

But as I said, the longer we are in a place, the more opportunity we have to develop our sense of what the nature of the place is.

Oh, and as for me, I first came to Thailand in 1986 and visited several times until I came to Samui in 1999. I have been living here continuously for three years. I have not lived in my home country since 1985, having been in Asia instead. So I had a bit of Asia experience before I came to live here.

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Anyone that has taken the trouble to learn the language and apply for residency then citzenship is worth taking seriously...people living in a country for years not knowing the language and still doing border runs really havnt got a clue

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Anyone that has taken the trouble to learn the language and apply for residency then citzenship is worth taking seriously...people living in a country for years not knowing the language and still doing border runs really havnt got a clue

what a load of cr*p

are you seriously saying that someone who chooses not to apply for citenzenship of a country thus must know nothing about a country

so say for example somebody who say has lived here for 15 years but chooses to go home very year to renew there visa and then come back know's nothing?

unless you are a resident a retiree or have a business with a work permit that you allows you to visit your local immigration office every 90 days then my understanding is that everyone has to do border runs

does this make these peoples opinion nvalid because under thai immigration law they are required to do this?

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Anyone that has taken the trouble to learn the language and apply for residency then citzenship is worth taking seriously...people living in a country for years not knowing the language and still doing border runs really havnt got a clue

what a load of cr*p

are you seriously saying that someone who chooses not to apply for citenzenship of a country thus must know nothing about a country

so say for example somebody who say has lived here for 15 years but chooses to go home very year to renew there visa and then come back know's nothing?

unless you are a resident a retiree or have a business with a work permit that you allows you to visit your local immigration office every 90 days then my understanding is that everyone has to do border runs

does this make these peoples opinion nvalid because under thai immigration law they are required to do this?

Hey...calm down....if someone takes the time to learn a culture and language of an adopted country and integrate as it is their intended new home...thus obviously applying for residency and citizenship I would think that person has a fair Knowledge of their adopted land and would listen to their views.

A person that opens a European bar/restaurant and does border runs for 10 years with very little knowledge of the language and even less so of the environment they live in I would let any comments/opinions go over my head as they have not integrated into the society they have chosen to live in. Maybe they know local people etc etc but they really are not to be taken seriously

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Regardless of how long you stay here you will never know the half of it. If you begin to feel you're becoming an authoritative voice its usually time to try and get out more. As the olde aphorism goes...' opinions are like <deleted>, everybody has one and they all stink '....................actually, anyone who has a local girlfriend will point out this is not strictly true but you get the idea. If you have a reasoned opinion don't let some old hand fob you off with a seniority claim :o

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Regardless of how long you stay here you will never know the half of it. If you begin to feel you're becoming an authoritative voice its usually time to try and get out more. As the olde aphorism goes...' opinions are like <deleted>, everybody has one and they all stink '....................actually, anyone who has a local girlfriend will point out this is not strictly true but you get the idea. If you have a reasoned opinion don't let some old hand fob you off with a seniority claim :o

i agree with your comments

i lived on samui for a year and got sick to death with people saying to me 'i know about this because i have lived here 4, 6 ,9 12, years' [fit the years in to whoever you were talking to]

i have lived in hua hin for 3 years and do not claim that i know much about the thai way and if anybody asks me for advice about thai related things i ask them to ask advice from someone else

sorry potthai but i just cannot agree with your comments

i beleive [although i may be wrong on this] that the thai goverment only grants 300 citenzenships each year to foreigners

i would estimate [again please correct me if i'm wrong] that there are between 50-100 000 western people living in thailand at present

so by what you are saying you would not give the time of day to 99.99% of peoples opinions just because they don't hold a peice of paper to say they are a resident of this country?

again please note that i do not claim to be a thai expert or a expert in anything thai in anyway, i just feel your comments are a little short sighted

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I believe it is 100 to each nationality....my English boyfriend has after only 5 years to stay here. I work and know many people that do not speak any language and only know some ladies that work in the bars etc......this is not Thailand and only on the surface. If you want to know you can speak the language and hear people on the MRT/Bus/Train speak about the news, then maybe have an understanding of Thailand. Everywhere is the same, you must read the newspaer and look at the news, speak about everyday life....most foreigners only talk about the bars and buying a house, OK you know something but very little. I can converse with my boyfriend about politics and the economy, he will tell me about his work and me about mine. He has some friends that come to Thailand for many years but only talk about some bars...

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Anyone that has taken the trouble to learn the language and apply for residency then citzenship is worth taking seriously...people living in a country for years not knowing the language and still doing border runs really havnt got a clue

Does that make you clueless about every country except the one you are citizen of? Or that every Thai speaker and citizen knows everything about their own country (or insert the nationality of your choice)? I seriously doubt it.

A person that opens a European bar/restaurant and does border runs for 10 years with very little knowledge of the language and even less so of the environment they live in I would let any comments/opinions go over my head as they have not integrated into the society they have chosen to live in. Maybe they know local people etc etc but they really are not to be taken seriously

That all depends on the subject, doesn't it? Of course it does. :o

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So here's the question: How long does one need to be here to earn some stripes? How much of it is time served and how much experience? Does speaking Thai really matter that much (remember, a great many think-tankers in the West are considered "expert" in foreign countries the language of which they cannot speak)? If you spend a great deal of time in Thailand -- even speak a bit of the language -- but live in Koh Samui the whole time, does that mean your overall experience is so blinkered that you can only be thought of as a "specialist" in the area in which your life touches?

Does being here in shifts of a few months on and some months off (or many months off) over years equate to someone who actually has resided here all that time?

It depends on the individual. Some people might have been coming here on and off for over 15 years, speak a bit of the language, have a family, their own company and still be clueless.

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My experience has shown the longer I live in a country the less I know.

And that, for some people, applies equally in their home country.

There is no hard and fast rule, some people pick up the ropes real quick, some people quickly lose the thread and some lose the plot.

It is a little irritating but some people judge a poster's ability to talk sense on their length of membership of TV. Thus anyone tagged a newbie has no right to challenge what anyone else says.

Truth is we only think we know as much as we know until we meet a situation that teaches us otherwise. Then maybe we learn.

Life is a learning curve from cradle to grave.

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i total agree with the above posts.

i believe it has to do with "will to know".

I think, you can live, as in residing in a house, everywhere. but then you are total oblivious an ignorant of your surrounding. or you can dedicate the time and effort to understand the language,culture and history of where you stay and then you become part of the society in which you live in.

language gives you the sate of mind and the way the people who speak that language think and feel.

culture gives you a sense of why the people have the attitude and conduct of behavior.

history gives you the heritage that that effects the way the people refer to present and maybe future.

i think that there are no experts in this matter there are those who want to know and those that don't.

it is unfortunate that in some cases we meet the third kind. those who don't know.. don't want to know.. but have plenty to say about it based on ignorance, false sense of superiority, and prejudice and is worst cases racism.

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i total agree with the above posts.

i believe it has to do with "will to know".

I think, you can live, as in residing in a house, everywhere. but then you are total oblivious an ignorant of your surrounding. or you can dedicate the time and effort to understand the language,culture and history of where you stay and then you become part of the society in which you live in.

language gives you the sate of mind and the way the people who speak that language think and feel.

culture gives you a sense of why the people have the attitude and conduct of behavior.

history gives you the heritage that that effects the way the people refer to present and maybe future.

i think that there are no experts in this matter there are those who want to know and those that don't.

it is unfortunate that in some cases we meet the third kind. those who don't know.. don't want to know.. but have plenty to say about it based on ignorance, false sense of superiority, and prejudice and is worst cases racism.

emm, that would be "affects"...not "effects the way" :o ...speaking of taking time to learn the language.

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AFAIK, highdiver is not a native english speaker, and to criticize someone who makes a few mistakes in a language that is not their own is poor forum netiquette.

Might I suggest you cease bringing your issues into the forum, thanks.

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Mr Wolfe,

Unfortunately the only type of Thai society you are familiar with is of the lowest level. I have spent a few hours reading your posts and it is very easy to work out the type of people you hang around with. Bargirls and sexpats. You will learn nothing about Thai society hanging around with these people. These types are regarding as the lowest of low in Thai society.

Secondly you live on Koh Samui, a place far different than any other place in Thailand. Samui is an opportunist island for certain types of Thai people who want to be where the "farang" is on holiday.

Do you actually speak any Thai?... other than Thai slang words picked up in bars?... Have you made any effort to learn the language? If you wish to be an Oracle on Thailand (like your post suggests) then you will need to have a good understanding of the Thai language, if not speak it fluently.

I read your post on the guy looking for a job for his girlfriend. Your comments are disgusting, you should be ashamed. At first I thought you were joking, but to my horror realised you were serious! You really need to give yourself a shake.

I mean do you work here?... Do you integrate with Thai society on a working level (and I don't mean paying bar fines or bargirls each night) To me it sounds like your another bar owner here...

Topper.

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TopperHarley,

First, I never said or suggested that I wanted or presumed to be an oracle. Read more carefully, please.

I never hang out with foreigners, sexpat or otherwise.

I fully realize that Samui is not a representative sample of most of the rest of the country. I have said as much repeatedly.

No, I do not speak Thai. I also think that learning it would be nice, but I do not believe that makes one smarter about the culture in and of itself.

I do not own a business here.

I am not ashamed of anything I post. I gave an option previously. Feel free to disagree. Believe me, there are far more unusual situations out there.

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Mr Wolfe,

I would love to know what elements of Thai society you are pretty familiar with?... Connect 4 maybe?...

Personally, I believe living here and not making an effort to learn the language is both lazy and ignorant.

You don't own a business here?... Then what do you do?... A long holiday?...

Topper.

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Whoo hoo! I have a fan! :o

TopperHarley:

I have spent a few hours reading your posts...

Then you already know what my occupation is since you have read my posts.... But since you might have misspoken and only read some of my posts, I will tell you that I am a journalist.

I agree about the learning of the language being lazy not to do so. But ignorant? Ignorant of what?

Funny, I asked my old friend in Bangkok about this language thing some months ago. He has been here over 18 years, speaks Thai perfectly (I once asked, "Is that anything you come across in Thai you don't understand," to which he thought a second or two and said, "No.") has been married for 13 years and has three children. He is the top dog at a decent-sized jewelry manufacturer. My question to him was, "Since you speak Thai so well, that must give you a keener insight into the workings of the Thais, yes?" His answer was, "No, not really," and he went on to say that while it was helpful it getting things done, it wasn't a skeleton key for understanding society.

I wouldn't say my past experience in Taiwan and speaking or not speaking Mandarin was any sort of key to understanding the Taiwanese or Chinese. I would, however, agree that mixing with different facets of society is important and that Samui is but one aspect. I would also say that the "scenes" in Samui, Phuket and Pattaya for example are not so isolated that they should be more or less discounted. In fact, from the standpoint of what the foreign visitor is exposed to, these areas have a disproportionate "contact rate," for lack of a better term.

Anyway....

Oh, and you are certainly free to label me lazy and ignorant, and I am flattered you think this tread is all about me, but actually it isn't. It is a general inquiry.

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Well, I have to disagree somewhat with your friend Mark. I think the suggestion that it is not necessary to understand the language to learn about Thailand is incorrect, and that while understanding the language doesn't necessarily give one a complete insight into Thai culture or the Thai mind, it certainly gives one a better understanding of what people think and how things work. One cannot learn much about a culture if one cannot speak the language. All you will know is what people choose to tell you in the language that you do understand, either from academia or the local level.

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Well, I have to disagree somewhat with your friend Mark. I think the suggestion that it is not necessary to understand the language to learn about Thailand is incorrect, and that while understanding the language doesn't necessarily give one a complete insight into Thai culture or the Thai mind, it certainly gives one a better understanding of what people think and how things work. One cannot learn much about a culture if one cannot speak the language. All you will know is what people choose to tell you in the language that you do understand, either from academia or the local level.

I concur SBK. If you don't speak Thai at some level you just won't 'get it'. Life here, particularly in cities or when traveling around, is even more interesting when you can understand those snippets of conversation that are going on around you. But to understand a people obviously requires some understanding of how they communicate. (You would think someone in the communication arena would know that by instinct if nothing else)

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There's a lot more to learning to speak a language than just proper grammar and spelling. While learning a language you learn about culture as well so I agree if you don't study the language of a certain group of people than you'll be missing out on a part of their culture as well. Think of how many sayings or phrases in your own language require cultural explanations to be fully understood. That said, just because an idiot learns some of the language, doesn't mean that they aren't still and idiot.

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It seems to me that Thai people and Thai language are highly socially contextual. That means, while knowing what is being said is important, it is not sufficient. You also need to know the social relationships, hierarchy, personal histories, and immediate and distant background to the situation under scrutiny, before you could really be said to 'understand' what is going on. While to some extent this is true in all social situations, the greater contextual basis of communication here makes extended understanding more critical for comprehension than for similar situations occurring, for example, in English.

Hmm.. what kind of example could I offer? Suppose a person is asking another person for help. It would be important to know how obligated the other person was, which person was higher in the hierarchy (although this would be displayed in the language and body language), how much of an imposition such a favour might be for both persons, and possibly a whole host of factors about past relationships not only between those two individuals but also among their extended family and friends.

So, while understanding that the request is for help is at least necessary linguistically, it is not sufficient socially to really know what is going on.

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It seems to me that Thai people and Thai language are highly socially contextual. That means, while knowing what is being said is important, it is not sufficient. You also need to know the social relationships, hierarchy, personal histories, and immediate and distant background to the situation under scrutiny, before you could really be said to 'understand' what is going on. While to some extent this is true in all social situations, the greater contextual basis of communication here makes extended understanding more critical for comprehension than for similar situations occurring, for example, in English.

Hmm.. what kind of example could I offer? Suppose a person is asking another person for help. It would be important to know how obligated the other person was, which person was higher in the hierarchy (although this would be displayed in the language and body language), how much of an imposition such a favour might be for both persons, and possibly a whole host of factors about past relationships not only between those two individuals but also among their extended family and friends.

So, while understanding that the request is for help is at least necessary linguistically, it is not sufficient socially to really know what is going on.

Sorry, but in the case you cite .... the language being used TELLS all those factors.

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