Maid in Bangkok

Maid in Bangkok

Postby SiamBob on Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:50 am

I recently purchased a condo here in Bangkok. I’m trying to be a good and considerate neighbor and resident, but without knowing I apparently violated one of the Thai cultural taboos.

Sometimes while waiting for the elevator or walking around the building I speak to the neighbors and the condo staff. Most of the people in the building don’t seem to speak much English, so I use elementary Thai . My Thai language skills are somewhat limited to such phrases as “How are you?”, “Have you eaten lunch yet?”, “It’s a hot day, isn’t it?” and other such phrases. I enjoy making small talk with my neighbors or staff, regardless of their positions in Thai society. I say the same things to both the rich and elite and the poor working class. Usually such conversations don’t last much more than 30 seconds or so. Most people respond in a friendly way and seem to appreciate it that I am making an effort to speak their language.

Yesterday I was informed by the condo management that some of my Thai neighbors (co-owners of the condo) have been offended that I would speak to the building maids. Apparently because of my middle class status and the maid’s low class status, it is not appropriate for me to converse with, nor make eye contact with ‘such people’. These middle class neighbors of mine have been so upset that they felt it was necessary for them to send emails to the building manager complaining of these acts by this foreigner.

I have never heard of such cultural taboos here in Thailand before. I would be interested to hear if anyone else has encountered such behavior and how they dealt with it. I would like to continue to be friendly with everyone, but I really don’t want to get a maid fired.

Any comments?
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Re: Maid in Bangkok

Postby Eggmeng on Mon Apr 05, 2010 1:20 pm

Probably most of the Thais in your condo don't make chit chat with the maids and handyman etc., for the reasons mentioned. But I doubt they would find it odd or untoward that you as a Westerner would do it.

My guess is that most of your neighbors couldn't care less, but that there is one would-be hi-so who has as they used to say, "a bee in her bonnet."
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Re: Maid in Bangkok

Postby gipchimsa on Mon Apr 05, 2010 3:25 pm

Have a talk with the Building Manager asking what it is all about and the possible consequences of you continuing in these harmless actions.
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Re: Maid in Bangkok

Postby ThaiTripping on Mon Apr 05, 2010 3:37 pm

We live in a house. Cleaning woman comes once a week and cleans everything inside & out. She speaks no English. I speak no Thai. But we get along like family.

She saw I had a toothache and brought me traditional Chinese medicine – that worked! She helped serve the cake at our wedding.

Yet, going on three years, if she has to pass in front of me, she crouches very low so as not to disturb my gaze. I lack the words to say how unnecessary that is, and I’m just a regular guy. Such deference probably speaks to some Thai class protocol that put your neighbor’s nose out of joint.
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Re: Maid in Bangkok

Postby Eggmeng on Mon Apr 05, 2010 4:23 pm

Yes, interesting the crouching thing. Our nanny and our staff do it when they pass in front of me. But I've also noticed people in public situations do it, who I wouldn't have thought placed themselves beneath me in the social hierarchy. I base this on their ages, dress, professions etc.

So I'm convinced it's simply polite when passing others, if your head is higher than theirs, to bow it slightly. And since I don't wish to be impolite, I now do it too.

Perhaps some Thais would care to comment on this custom.
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Re: Maid in Bangkok

Postby mekong on Tue Apr 06, 2010 11:36 pm

I thank these types for the great service they provide not judge their status ,I also welcome their friendship,my society was taught never too judge a book by its cover
,
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Re: Maid in Bangkok

Postby LabelBasher on Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:23 am

So I'm convinced it's simply polite when passing others, if your head is higher than theirs, to bow it slightly. And since I don't wish to be impolite, I now do it too.

Perhaps some Thais would care to comment on this custom.


You're right about that. It's just our tradition, and I always do that to everyone no matter what their "status" are. It's safe to say it's a must for youngster when passing somebody who's older than you.



As for the OP, maybe it's another case entirely, like the staff felt threatened by you and asked the manager to do something about it? Or maybe the neighbors felt like you sexually harrassed the staff or something? Have you had a chance to talk to the building manager?

Well, I'm not saying you've done that kind of thing but you have to bare in mind the way (most) Thais regard foreigners and the country girls. It can easily give the wrong impressions by being too friendly to the staff you know, and you being male foreigner certainly wouldn't help. Because really, I stay in rather upscale condo myself and I have no problem conversing with the staff or my own maid. Maybe that's because I'm a girl. My dad would never go hello-how-are-you with all my maids because it would just look inappropriate, not because the social taboo thing because my mum is quite friendly and close to the staff actually. Same as I wouldn't feel comfortable seeing some daddy 2 floors below chitchating building's maid everytime I see him either.

Well, sorry for long post, just want to give you some insight from Thais' point of view. Hope this helps one way or another. Nice subject name, BTW.
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Re: Maid in Bangkok

Postby nongjuan on Wed Apr 07, 2010 9:38 am

It is not true, you can talk to anyone regradless of class. I often talk to hotel maid, driver, and even maid of the house. None of my friends ever mention about talking to servants. So, the person that reported you just jealous.
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Re: Maid in Bangkok

Postby thaiexpater on Wed Apr 07, 2010 2:45 pm

Kh. SiamBob,

I can guarantee you that this case has nothing to do with class issue. I am Thai and I am an expat working abroad and I can tell you exactly that this is the classic case of westerner and country girl. Your neighbor would feel very uncomfortable when you talk to their maid as

1. they think you could be sexually harassing the maid
2. seducing their maid (Thai people has the image that many westerner just come to Thailand to find wife)
3. country girl are easily attracted to westerner as a result of quick cash and easy life (they fear their maid will leave them)

As a foreigner, it is always nice to be friendly. However in Thai culture it is important to be aware of what you are doing and what kind of message you are sending out. Saying "hi" will do no harm, but regular chit chad can bring a lot of false impression.

These day it is very hard to retains maid as they always flock for westerner or a quick fix for easy life. As a result most people would want to protect their maid, and their way of protection might have given you the wrong impression.

I hope this help, I honestly believe that class issues appears in every country however many people uses as an excuse so they can feel sorry for themselves. I believe that you might have mistaken class issues with traditional politeness of Thai people.
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Re: Maid in Bangkok

Postby mekong on Thu Apr 08, 2010 4:25 am

nongjuan wrote:It is not true, you can talk to anyone regradless of class. I often talk to hotel maid, driver, and even maid of the house. None of my friends ever mention about talking to servants. So, the person that reported you just jealous.

GREAT POST
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