Friday, April 27, 2018

Insight to get understanding of cultural differences (2)

This is part two of sharing some insights to get more understanding of cultural differences. 

Eating and drinking are social group activities in Thailand and Laos, particularly in rural villages. Were in The West there is much more an isolated eating culture in the East and for sure in Thailand there is a group eating culture.

When eating, lengthy social ‘shit chat’ is not the norm as we often have in the West. The topics of conversation are relatively limited and a lot of time has to do with what you are eating or drinking or about family related things.

Food plays a central role in the life of Thai people. They tend to eat three meals a day, but with lots of snacking in between. Whenever I drive on my scooter to Mae Rim or Chiang Mai, day and night food sellers are working selling a wide variety of actually always fresh grilled, baked, cooked, steamed or (deep)fried food. Rice or sticky rice always is the main dish.
It is nice to see many Westerners or other tourist do not eat food prepared on the street. Their home doctors and the internet advise them not to do. Actually this is a shame because it’s the cheapest and most healthy food you can find. This food selling is the primary job of this ‘shop’ owners. If there ever is something wrong mouth to mouth ‘marketing’ will be responsible they have to close their ‘business’ so no income… I invite everybody to try, taste and eat the more than delicious (and cheap) street food.

The food is made with many ingredients that Westerners are not so familiar with, such as lemon grass, tamarind, galangal, and of course lots of red hot chilies that give the food such a tremendous depth of taste and spiciness.

In many parts of rural Thailand people also enjoy eating a wide variety of food made up from wildlife caught in the fields, waterholes, rivers and lakes. Insects and ant eggs are specialties.

In families the food is usually prepared and cooked outside even if the house has an inside kitchen (most houses in the rural parts don’t). One or two small cooking stoves (as shown on the picture) using charcoal and/or wood is used to cook the food.

Food ingredients are invariably very fresh as I told before. Having just been picked or killed that day. Ingredients such as chicken and fish are normally killed just prior to cooking.
During my visit to the sister of my girlfriend in Laos we got in the evening chicken soup (I want to be honest I have never taste such a delicious soup in my life before). The food preparation (killing the chicken) was done in my sight. There where I did not want to see the slaughter of two huge water buffalos and three big pigs in sight of me as preparation for the wedding party, now I could not choose to miss this ritual. Here it’s very normal and part of life. I grow up totally divorced from the food raising and killing process. 
The sensitivity shown by me, also with other animals during that week, was not really understood and brought a lot of fun talk.

Eating (and drinking) is generally eaten on a large slightly raised (In Laos the chickens and ducks walked underneath) platform made of wood and bamboo. On that platform, mostly covered with a reed floor mat, the food is placed on a metal round again slightly raised big plate. Each person has his/her own bowl and utensils (spoon and fork and sometimes chopsticks, no knife).

Enough for this week.

Gangey Gruma (Frans Captijn)

Captijn InsightCatalyst in developing tranquility & in-sight to get in a sustainable way real connection, purpose, pleasure and flow in life, love, family, business, career and work again.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Insight to get understanding of cultural differences (1)

Joining a wedding party in the rural part of Laos, and having more and more insight of countryside life in Northern Thailand as well, once more made me clear that cultural differences have a lot to do with our programming. And because of this, the understanding of cultural differences with our willingness to open our mind(set) and to be curious instead of judgmental. Our truth is not the truth but only a truth.

One of the things that strikes you when you visit or live in rural Thailand and Laos is how many parties start at the crack of dawn, and the duration of these events. Some parties last three or more days! (Songkran, Thai/Lao New Year, we just celebrated, took 4 – 5 days at our place).

Parties tend to be huge, the wedding party in Laos we joined had over 1000 guests. Catering for hundreds of people, all requiring food and drinks (the whole day(s) in the West is a huge organization as well. Several companies are ‘specialized’ in that.

At our places Thai and Lao families and villagers show something about the remarkable nature that catering for guests on such a scale is done without any of stress, worry and nervous breakdowns that would accompany such a task in the West. No specialized companies involved in that. Family, friends and neighbors all pitch in to help, and the spirit that prevails in the planning, preparation and duration of the event is one of fun and enjoyment.

Food and drinks are shared. Bottles are for sharing amongst a group of drinkers and not for solo consumption. Therefore, for instance, if there are three people and three bottles of beer, the etiquette is that one bottle of beer is opened first and shared out with the other two people. When the first bottle is finished, the second bottle is opened and shared before opening the third. You do not open all three bottles at once and give one to each person. The host adds ice and beer to each glass and tops up the glasses regularly.

Going to a restaurant you order food you like. No problem. You only need to be aware that everyone joining the dinner can (and will) taste ‘your’ dish that will work out not to be ‘your’ dish but only one of ‘group dishes’ provided on your table (or sitting mat).

While heavy drinking is common on party occasions, loud or overly exuberant behavior is not. Although the people here are very fun loving, a number of very important values dictate acceptable behavior. Boisterous drinking behavior in public shows both a lack of politeness and consideration for others, as well as a lack of discipline and order. Consequently, social drinking tends to be a quiet reserved affair compared to some of the more rowdy drinking we see in the West.

Next week more,

Gangey Gruma (Frans Captijn)

Captijn InsightCatalyst in developing tranquility & in-sight to get in a sustainable way real connection, purpose, pleasure and flow in life, love, family, business, career and work again.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Wedding party in Laos

A good friend of mine got an invitation to join on April 6th a wedding in Laos. The sister of her together with her husband and children live in Laos for over twenty years already. A nephew of them invited me to join with her the wedding party as well. We decided to join the party and visit her family for one week.

A total new experience in a total different culture and without any knowledge of Lao language for me. Being the only foreigner as part of a celebration with all together more than 1000 guests. No possibility not to be seen, being the longest person of the party as well with 1.91 cm, bald and different face and clothes. And believe it or not, I did not feel a stranger at all. Totally accepted and lots of fun.

I did not join the traditional and cultural slaughter of two big water buffalos and three pigs the day in advance of the party. It takes for me some time to adapt to this different culture.

Next week I will write a bit more about the family tradition. At the picture already the wedding couple.

Gangey Gruma (Frans Captijn)

Captijn InsightCatalyst in developing tranquility & in-sight to get in a sustainable way real connection, purpose, pleasure and flow in life, love, family, business, career and work again.