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MAIL OPINION  By Shana Kongmun


We all wear uniforms

Thailand is a country of uniforms; from the security guard to business clubs, wearing a uniform of a type identifies who you are, what you do and how you fit into society. Many foreigners often seem to have difficulty understanding the need for uniforms but if we look at ourselves a bit more closely we will see that we, too, wear uniforms of a type. They may be less “official” but uniforms they are, nonetheless.
Today I was at a café and saw two youngish foreign tourists. Immediately identifying them as twenty something backpackers, I had them placed in the niche I knew. It wasn’t that they were carrying backpacks, they were not, but they both (one male and one female) wore a style of clothing that only the young backpacker tourist type wears. Long term expats, regardless of age, generally don’t dress this way.
They were as easily identifiable as tourists as are the men who wear the Beer Chang singlets or the Chinese tourists with their loose, colorful clothing and predilection for hats. Clothes that local resident expats would also not wear since these, too, identify one as a tourist. This may not be an official uniform but the fact that these are widely worn by a certain group of people doing a certain kind of thing make it, in my eyes, a kind of uniform. Something by which we immediately identify this person, their place in society and what they do.
We have an old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” but the fact of the matter is that we all do. It is human nature and the ability to meet a stranger and judge them as a friend or foe, dangerous or safe, goes back to before we became human I believe. That ability to assess and judge was key to our survival and is something that, although we in the West disdain, is something we do nonetheless. Here the uniforms just make it clearer and easier to assess.

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We all wear uniforms