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CULTURAL SHOCKS

chocolate
A Belgium society published an advertising showing a monk being clasped by a woman. A monk is not supposed to touch any part of the body of a woman. So this publicity was removed after the Thai and Laotian embassies complained about it.
Belgium chocolate


A few years ago when a famous Thai monk was visiting the USA, a woman - new adept of Buddhism - wanted to kiss the monk to greet him. The bodyguards have to do their best to protect the monk.



In year 2004, an American company was selling a Buddha-laden swimsuit on the Internet. News of the bikini controversy reached Thailand, where government and military officials criticized the bathing suit.
Victoria's secret
Victoria's secret

Westerner people make advertising, TV commercials, music clips with their own culture in mind and don't think about cultural conflicts that could happen. In foreign societies, monk are always seen like quiet, peaceful, undisturbable persons, always concentrated on meditation. So showing monks having a big fun and forgetting their rules shows that the product can even disturb them from their ultimate goal.



Ecobuddha
In year 2004, an Australian shoe company used an imprint of a Buddha image on the back of shoes, causing Thailand to register its displeasure.
Ecobuddha


In year 2003 airline Lufthansa has apologised to Thailand for an offending picture in its magazine showing a woman sitting on a statue of Buddha. The publicity was removed after the Thai embassy complained about it.



In year 2004 the movie "Hollywood Buddha" poster depicts the lead actor sitting on top of a bust of Buddha. The Foreign Ministry has assigned the Thai Consulate in Los Angeles to raise the issue of the promotional poster with the movie's producer. To Thai Buddhists, the head is the most sacred part of the body and is not to be touched, let alone sat upon.
Buddha head
Hollywood Buddha


Buddha
These two old pictures are offending pictures as these two men are sitting on a statue of Buddha.
Buddha


In 2007 the censorship of controversial scenes in Apichatpong Weerasethakul's film "Saeng Sattawat" (Syndromes and a Century) has led to a call to liberate Thai films from state intervention.

Syndromes and a Century
The film's director refused to cut the scenes and instead agreed not to screen the film in Thailand at all. The scenes involve the portrayal of monks and doctors in inappropriate ways, according to censors. Two scenes feature a monk playing a guitar and a monk playing a game. The Culture Ministry objected to the scenes.
Syndromes and a Century


In 2007 the Culture Ministry received complaints about an American company which had been advertising products using the Buddha as their logo. The image of the Buddha was displayed on clothing included women's strings, men's underpants, dog warmers and women's spaghetti-style tops.
The Philosophy Shop
The Philosophy Shop


In year 2008 two German tourists were arrested for having sex on a wall of the Srisanphet Temple in Ayutthaya. The couple were handed over to police and were fined Bt500 each before being released.



Buddha
These two pictures are offending pictures as they show the Buddha image used on public toilets.
Buddha

In year 2013 the Dutch company indicated they were not aware about the impact of the pictures. They have withdrawn the pictures and offered apologies.



Vietnamese Buddha image
In year 2013, the picture raised controversy with Thai Buddhist citizen as they claimed it wanted to give Buddhism a bad name.
Vietnamese Buddha image


In year 2013, a French hotel that used toilet covers with an image of the Buddha's head outraged many Thais.
Buddha's head
Buddha's head


Fallen Buddha in Munich
In year 2013, an art exhibition raised controversy with World Fellowship of Buddhists. They protested against the use of a Buddha statue in an art festival in Munich. Members marched outside the German embassy in Bangkok and complained about art disrespecting Buddha. They said "Buddha is not an art object" and "Buddha's image is not furniture".
Fallen Buddha in Munich


In year 1998 a wife of a north European diplomat slapped the face of a little Thai boy because he threw water on her evening dress. This happened during the Songkran feast. Traditionally this ceremony is aimed to pour water into the palms hands in order that bad actions, bad thoughts flow away with the water. But nowadays Songkran is better known for the tourist game of throwing water. The wife had to excuse herself to the family of the little boy.



In 2011 Thai Ministry of Culture complained about some young Thai girls dancing topless during Songkran celebrations in Bangkok. Thai culture ministry warns of moral decline and the three girls were charged with indecent exposure. But at the same time, the Thai Ministry of Culture website banner was showing a traditional painting of young topless women also!
Thai Ministry of Culture
Thai Ministry of Culture


Thai people are always ready to help. If somebody asks for his way, Thai people might prefer saying a wrong indication instead of saying they don't know. The concept of saving face is very important.

To criticise is not popular in Thai society. Thai society is based on harmony, consensus. In a factory, a boss shall not criticise one staff in front of all employees. It shall be done with tact with indirect critics and not direct critics. It is the contrary of western methods. For example teachers are never criticised because they represent the knowledge.



In Thailand, the Royal family is highly worshipped, especially the King Rama 9. Nobody dare to criticise them. There is even a law for crime de Lèse-Majesté. A few years ago a foreigner did have big problems when a misunderstanding happened with a restaurant owner. Disagreeing on the bill, the foreigner did walk on a bank note on purpose. But on every Thai bank note, there is the King's face! The restaurant owner gave him a painful correction for this serious offence.

Buddhist enlightenment is reached by using meditation through the mind, so the head. The head is the most valued part of the body. Of course the King's head is the most valued. The feet symbolize the attachment to the ground, so the human beings' suffering. The feet are the lowest part of the body.

500 Baht banknote
In 2001 a Scottish man could have been sentenced to death for allegedly urinating on or near a picture of the King of Thailand. Following Thai law, this man faced Thai death sentence for shameful exposure. He was finally deported.

500 Baht banknote

A French businessman was charged with lese majeste in year 1994 for uttering an swearword on a airline after a flight attendant asked him to turn off his reading light to avoid disturbing a nearby princess.

In year 2006, a drunk Swiss faced jail for royal graffiti. This Swiss man was arrested for drunkenly defacing portraits of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the revered monarch's birthday and faced up to 15 years in jail. It was a lese-majeste case. In 2007, he was sentenced to 10 years in jail but finally His Majesty has granted him a pardon and he was deported from Thailand.

In year 2007, Thai authorities had blocked the popular website YouTube, over an insulting video of His Majesty the King. The video showed pictures of King Bhumibol Adulyadej with a pair of woman's feet superimposed on his face.
King
King

In year 2008, a cabinet minister was forced to resign after he was accused of offending the King in a speech about the 2006 coup by royalist generals who ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thai Politicians often use such 'Lese Majeste' argument to attack each other.

In year 2008, a Thai woman was arrested for refusing to stand as the royal anthem played in a Bangkok cinema. She could face up to 15 years in prison.

In year 2012, a Thai man nicknamed "Uncle SMS" has died in jail. He was jailed for 20 years after being found guilty of sending SMS disrespectful to Thai Queen.



beach
Thai people are rarely seen in swimming suit. They swim with their pants and tee-shirt. Skin shall not be dark. A sunbathed skin is not appreciated by Thai people because it is the symbol of the peasant. If one has a skin dark, it means that he is working outside. Symbol of beauty is the whiteness. For Thai people, it is also to do with their level of self-decency. So in Thailand foreigners are looking for sun to get a sunbathed skin - symbol of nice holidays - but Thai people try to escape it!
BangSaen beach

Thai people are also puzzled to see topless foreigner women on the beach. A normal Thai woman will never do this. Two places with a serious contrast are Pattaya and Bang Saen in Chonburi area. Pattaya is the famous international beach resort dedicated for foreigners. Bang Saen is a beach resort only frequented by Thai people.

Seeing a Thai woman with an umbrella when the sun is shinning ? In all Asian countries umbrella is also used to protect against sun.



In year 2007 actress and student Chotiros was rebuked for wearing a revealing outfit to the Subhanahongsa Awards, Thais version of the Oscars. She has attracted criticism because she is a liberal arts student at a leading university. The university rector said its students should be responsible not only to themselves but to the school and society. She had to perform community service as part of punishment meted out by Thammasat University.
Chotiros Suriyawong
Chotiros Suriyawong


Thailand's Got Talent
In year 2013 Thailand's Got Talent TV show created a controversy after a contestant painted a canvas using her bare breasts. Thai Culture Ministry complained that nudity on TV is not considered appropriate in Thai society.
Thailand's Got Talent


The way Thai people close the car doors is different from the foreigner way. In Thailand doors are closed in order to avoid somebody opening it from the outside. In westerner countries doors are not closed in order to allow a fast opening in case of an emergency.

When having a shower, Thai people shall not use the same towel for the whole body. The correct way is to use one for the upper part (the head) and another for the lower parts.



Some Thai people greet foreigners by saying "Hey you !". From a foreigner point of view, this is not a polite way to greet people. What will Thai people think if foreigner greet them with the word "MEUNG" (มึง), i.e. "YOU" used by person of lower social status. Anyway when they say "Hey you !", Thai people always use a nice smile.



However customs are evolving fast, notably in Bangkok where more western customs are adopted.



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