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Book Review: by Lang Reid
Bridging the Gap
the Gap is back on the Bookazine shelves, now in soft cover. It was written
by well known columnist Kriengsak Niratpattanasai and reprinted this year by
Asia Books (ISBN 978- 974-8303-93-2).
The publication Bridging the Gap has been collated from the weekly newspaper
columns written by Kriengsak, and following that format, the book is divided
into four main chapters containing very readable small sections that can be
picked up and put down at will.
The four major sections cover ‘The Way We Are’ - an insight into the
cultural make-up of Thai people, complete with the socio-historical reasons
for many of these features; ‘Spotting the Gap’ - a review of studies into
the perceptions of each group to each other (Thais and foreigners); ‘At the
Workplace’ - presenting true case studies and the effects and how to counter
them; and finally ‘Out of the Workplace’ - an expats pocket guide on
etiquette and behaviour at functions outside of the workplace, including
weddings and funerals.
Author Kriengsak leads the reader gently into the Thai society in the first
chapter, with an introduction to the history of the monarchy and a
description of the reasons for the respect given to the current monarch, HM
King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Other facets of Thai history that impinge on today’s outlook are also
covered, including religion, the military, the government, the education
system and the family.
The mini-study on attitudes and perceptions from both groups is very
interesting. The way the Thais see the expats they work with (in most cases
work ‘under’) is very revealing, and while there are two pages of good
attributes that the Thais feel the expats show, there is a similar number of
pages that delineate just where the expats can go wrong, in the Thai eyes.
Inadequate understanding of the cultural interaction amongst Thai colleagues
and intolerance and even ignorance of other cultures and disrespect rate
high. It seems that ‘ignorance’ is certainly no excuse, something that
should be remembered by newcomers.
The third chapter is weighty, with explanations of the “kreng jai”, “nam
jai”, “and other expressions used to describe Thai customs and mores.”
With an RRP of B. 495, it is a cheap read, but is one book that can save the
expat manager many hours that would otherwise be dedicated to frustration
and recurrent staff replacement interviews, so it is a small investment.
Kriengsak writes in easily followed English and gives both the Thai and
‘farang’ viewpoints through the book. He does not take sides, nor does he
make moral judgments. In these situations, there is no ‘right way’ and
‘wrong way’ vis-à-vis the two cultures. There are only ‘different ways’.
However, the pervasive thread that runs through the book is that we are all
living in Thailand, working with Thai people and we (the minority expats)
can gain much by the way we work and integrate with the Thai (majority)
society. This lesson is often forgotten, unfortunately.
There is no expat who will not gain something from this book, even those
retired from active workplace responsibilities. A ‘must read’ and a ‘must
have’ for all business bookshelves!
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