Coming back to the US I always get hit with a reverse culture shock, a “wow these people are really weird” moment in regards to my own people. It gives you a chance to see how much you yourself has changed.

Here are the key things which I noticed:

Me, Myself and I
There’s a very strong sense of me here. What do I want, what do I think. And everyone will let you know their opinions.

Complain, complain
Americans are really good at complaining. I think we’re the best at it, we could win awards. One thing I’ve noticed over the years – if you complain about something, the negativity expressed will make you feel worse, not better. I know many people would argue about this, but try it out first.

For example, the couple next to me on the plane complained from takeoff to landing loudly about everything. They made the flight attendants and everyone around them uncomfortable. It created a sort of umbrella of negativity around them, which puts people in a bad mood. Thais would have handled it by just brushing things off, and not letting them bother them, or perhaps have made a joke about it.

Lack of ‘Greng Jai’
There is a concept which is foreign to Americans which all Thai people grew up knowing. Imagine thinking about the consequence of everything you say and do before doing or saying it. Think “will this offend/hurt/make this other person uncomfortable?” And then if so, not doing it. Value others in front of yourself. Sounds like a nice concept doesn’t it? Americans don’t do it (me, me, me) and Thais do it way overboard. I think a nice happy medium would be ideal.

More about greng jai here:

6 Responses to Americans

  1. Chani says:

    Thanks for the link.

    I feel this culture shock every single day – you know – if I leave the house or anything! Sometimes the only way to escape it is to stay inside!

    American culture is very, very abrasive!

  2. Dan says:

    I just saw this today, sorry. Are you still in the States?

  3. Michael says:

    I felt the same when returning from a couple of years traveling in Latin America (mostly Mexico), particularly the sense of caution, even distrust, and the lack of courtesy between strangers. The sense that commodity, not personality, was the ground of any transaction (…. caveat this was all long ago and all our American countries have changed since then …) But so what? I don’t often criticize Costa Rican cuisine, Bolivian llama rituals, or Argentine blues because I believe in meeting a culture on its own standards. (My redneck friends probably are not fit company for most earthlings but they do present a certain cultural fascination for the intrepid cosmopolitan explorer.) One could say that ‘American culture is very, very abrasive’ — and yes it is, for me and many– but millions continue to relocate here in spite of all that, and become that.

    I’m inclined to do the opposite thing and try my luck in the less-developed(?) world, but am not blind to the irony.

  4. John Berns says:

    I agree with you on the complaining part. I was struck when I went home by how many people were complaining about their lives all the time. “My $120,000 a year job sucks I work so hard and never have time for the spa and blah, blah, blah…” I look around and see Thai laborers working their a**es off 7 days a week for $200 a month–and smiling.

    The other thing I noticed last time I was back in the USA is that people have become way too opinionated about how YOU live YOUR life. Americans seem to have the opinion that they do have the correct recipe for everybody else’s life as well: from anti-smoking zealots to religions fanatics to political correctness (you should think this way, act this way, talk this way about whatever subject because they should have this right for you to think this way about them) and on a larger scale, forcing democracy down the throats of countries at gunpoint.

  5. Cel Mizcroft says:

    I still recall when i took a vacation to manila after spending like a year and a half here in thailand… and i met my friends in the previous gov ofc i worked with, they were all surprised seeing me so modest and calm. Actually in manila people are used to shouting and talking to each other even face to face, but that’s the norm though, very usual anywhere. I don’t know if we really got that habit from Americans, but filipinos do copy everything uncle sam, just like the ‘yo’ and ‘wtf’. Sometimes we really need to be in a place where it tames even the inner anxieties we have, those feelings that are hidden and nobody knows.
    I also had some sad experiences with Americans who always contradict and critique on everything i said, can’t name them all but i guess they’re only few compared to many good americans i know. Well that made me end-up with having more european, cuban and south friends hahaha.

  6. Cel Mizcroft says:

    correction on the last line of my post: “…that made me end-up with having more european, cuban and south american friends hahaha.”

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