Thaiways and byways

September 4, 2006

Amused the other day by a friend telling me how he solved a problem with some telecoms engineers. ‘I solved it the Thai way’, he told me. He’s been  here 20 years and although he hasn’t made any attempt to learn Thai, he should know. When the engineers told him they would have to return the following day, my friend flew into a rage, cursed them and the whole Thai people then produced a visiting card from the Governor and said ‘he’s my personal friend. Fix it today or else.’ They did. But the following week it was out of action again.
Now that might be some Thais’ way of solving the problem, those living in Bangkok, perhaps, but, in my experience, it’s not the Northern Thai way. The Northern Thai way, which takes place regularly in our household is as follows:
Arrival of engineers with news that problem can’t be fixed today as they’re too busy. Engineers invited in to share sticky rice and water bugs, or whatever is being consumed at the time (there’s always something). Prolonged discussion on the hot weather, likelihood of floods, price of petrol, bird flu etc during which it emerges that someone knows the cousin of someone else in the village the engineer comes from. Problem solved there and then. One week later engineer returns to check that the phone line is still working and brings a bag of wild mushrooms. Well, you take your pick which you prefer. I know which I do (I’m quite partial to wild mushrooms, you see.)

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