Cultural Adaptation Challenges

Cultural adaptation -  Thai traditional dance– A new look on cultural adaptation –

Many people believe that, when you live in a foreign country, you will never be fully accepted by the locals. Especially in countries with complex and closed cultures, like for example Japan or China. They think that it will always be you and them, no matter how hard you try to blend in.

Having lived in Asia for long periods, I also believed that. But then I read a comment from someone who considered this a weak excuse. He stated that people give up too quick. I started thinking about that opinion, and after a while, the thought slipped into my mind that it could be true. Did I complain too much in the past instead of taking more efforts to really become one of the locals?

Fresh impulses 

A lovely moment. Visit a new country and suddenly there is that feeling of excitement. You experience sounds, tastes, views and smells, which never before made a connection with your brain. You are constantly getting tickled by new sensations. However, the cultural sensations that you experience can quickly become numb if you decide to stay for a longer period. You might experience a stagnation in your cultural adaptation process.

Stagnation

Now that I am back in Thailand for a longer period, I start to notice a decrease in my interest level for its culture. I feel that my interest level reached a certain point and then slowly started to decrease, because the whole experience was not new anymore. Therefore, the longer I am here, the harder it becomes to dive into the Thai culture with 100% motivation.

Once I learned how to get around in Thailand, I basically stopped learning and showing interest. I do not often visit cultural sights anymore. These days I am working at my laptop most of the time. A downgrade for my offline social life. The number of Thai people I met also declined. As well as my excitement to meet them. To keep things short, it was time for a change.

A cultural adaptation boost

I was looking for a deeper cultural experience, as I did not want to have the feeling that I could be anywhere in the world. So I decided to start a cultural adaptation challenge. People say that learning the local language is the best way to bond with a foreign culture. Language is indeed important, but there are other interesting methods as well. So I decided to raise the bar a little higher.

What I want is a 100% involvement with the culture of my guest country. I try to accomplish this challenge by only eating Thai food, watching only Thai movies, reading only Thai books, listening only to Thai music etc. By doing this I will also quickly increase my knowledge of the Thai language, so it is a win win situation. Use this fun method if you find it hard to learn a language.

An amazing journey full of new discoveries

The result of my effort is an amazing journey full of new cultural discoveries. I am now having much deeper cultural experiences because of these discoveries. It is a whole new journey that requires no need for relocation. I like that because I will be stuck in Bangkok for a while. Now I can still travel this country but in a different way. I am making a fascinating cultural journey.

Side note

This challenge is a lifestyle experiment that I created to get out of my comfort zone. However, as it involves everything that I am doing on a daily basis, I find it important that it stays a fun challenge. I am not going to eat food that I do not like or listen to music that I hate, just because it needs to be Thai.

To tackle this problem, I choose Thai equivalents for the things that I already like. For example I like dance music, but it never crossed my mind to start looking for Thai dance music. The same thing counts for Thai books, movies etc. These Thai equivalents make it easier to deal with the difficult challenge of a 100% cultural adaptation. Otherwise, I will quickly return to my old habits again.

Thai statue in Grand Palace

Are you up for the challenge?

Are you interested in (Thai) culture related subjects or do you also want to tackle this challenge? Make sure to read all the upcoming posts about my cultural experiences and discoveries. I will share new discoveries about books, music, movies etc. on my blog, in my newsletter or on any of my social media profiles. So make sure you also sign up to my mailing list, or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

How do you usually try to adapt to a new culture? What methods do you use to make the integration process as smooth as possible? Do you believe you can fully adapt to every new culture? Share your views on this subject, and let me know if you got inspired by my culture challenge.

Useful links

 

City Pillar – Prayers For Buddha And Thailand

Shrine of the city pillarAbout a visit to Bangkok’s city pillar

The dancer seems bored, so does the guy who is playing a monk. He falls asleep while the lady is making her traditional moves. She finds out what he is doing and walks to the back of the stage. Then she comes back with some papers and slaps him awake. What follows is a funny dialogue between the two of them. It leaves me wondering, is this part of the act?

Lak Muang

Lak Muang is the Thai worth for city pillar. These are common objects in Thai cities. Most of them are placed in a shrine as they have a strong spiritual function. Bangkok’s city pillar embodies Phra Sayam Thewathirat (Bangkok’s guardian spirit). This object also marks the center of the city.

Location

The pillar is standing in a shrine at Th Ratchadamnoen Nai & Th Lak Muang (The old part of Bangkok). The building is located next to the Grand Palace and a busy intersection. You can recognize this intersection because of the two large elephant statues, which are standing in the middle of the road.

Getting there

Take the Chao Phraya river ferry to Tha Chang pier. From there you can walk in a strait line to Lak Muang, while you keep the Grand Palace on your right. After a while you will see the shrine on the other side of a large intersection. The walk from the pier to the shrine will take about five to ten minutes.

Remember that you march into a heavily touristic area. The Grand Palace absorbs everything in its huge gravity field. Many tourists and scammers orbit around it, so you have to overcome a few obstacles in order to get from the pier to the pillar. Certain problems that will most likely cross your path are tuk tuk driver and bird feeding man. Avoid these dodgy figures at any cost.

What to see

When I visited the temple I was lucky to see some people performing a lá-kon gâa bon (a traditional dance). The dancers wear beautiful colored costumes and a golden head piece. They sing, tell stories and perform dances, which consist of small hand and feed movements. While performing they are accompanied by people who play instruments, like a drum and a wooden xylophone (rá-náht-èhk).

Everyone speaks in Thai during the lá-kon gâa bon performance so it can be hard to understand the story line. However, I recommend watching it as it is a nice display of Thai tradition. Worshipers commission these kind of performances with the intention of earning merit. It is part of a series of prayers and offers that are being performed at this place.

The city pillar

Offers and prayers

People come to this shrine to worship and pray. Therefore, all kinds of praying accessories are available for purchase. The gods give you no excuse to say that you forgot your cash money as there is an ATM available. You can buy accessories like amulets, flowers and incense sticks. You can also purchase oil, which you have to pour in bowls. You offer this oil to worship the birthday of Buddha or to dispel misfortune.

Offering oil for Buddah

 

Did you ever visit the city pillar in Bangkok? What was your impression of this sight?

 

Useful Links

  • Tour Bangkok Legacies: A site which offers a lot of information about Bangkok. By visiting thinks link you can read Eric Lim’s detailed description of the city pillar.
  • Virtual Tourist: This link will bring you to the Virtual Tourist page of Lak Muang. There you can watch pictures and read reviews from people who visited this sight.
  • Back to the Home Page

 

Art And Culture In Bangkok

Bangkok Art and Culture CentreArt and Culture – Sophistication in a rough city 

An elderly woman who combs the grey hairs of her husband, colorful protesters who raise the Thai flag in front of colorless policeman, the Baiyoke Sky Tower surrounded by the calm dark blanket of the evening. Aspects of the daily life in Thailand, captured by artists and admired by me in Bangkok’s Art and Culture Centre.

Location

The Bangkok Art and culture Centre (BACC) has a very convenient location. It is situated at 939 Rama I Road in the middle of the city centre. The building stands next to the MBK shopping mall and the National Stadium BTS SkyTrain station. Other nearby buildings are Siam Discovery and Siam Paragon.

Getting there

Take the BTS SkyTrain to the National Stadium station. From there it is only a short walk to the Art and Culture Centre. You can reach the building via the skywalk that is connected to the BTS station. You can also get of at Siam station and take a 5 minute walk. You reach the BACC by walking in the direction of Siam Discovery. Opening times are 10:00 AM till 21:00 PM (closed on Mondays)

BACC next to the MBK Mall

What to to see

At the lower floors of the building you find a variety of shops, which sell artistic products. For example t-shirts with creative prints, colorful post cards, shining jewelries and large paintings. The building also houses an art library and some restaurants and cafes. There are exhibitions at the higher (7th, 8th, 9th) floors of the building. These exhibitions show the works of various (Thai) artists.

The art

The displayed artworks impressed me, especially the paintings. It was nice to discover that many Thai painters really manage to capture the beauty of every day live. It made me realize how beautiful every day life can be. The artworks also have interesting names, which make you think about what you see, like the paintings they capture the imagination.

Why you should visit the BACC

This art gallery in Bangkok is a very convenient sight to visit during daytime. The place offers a calm, cool and sophisticated escape from a hot and rough city. The gallery is not crowded with tourists and you will enjoy the cool air conditioning instead of the boiling sun. Another good point is that you can enter the building for free.

Tip

At the ground floor you find a little restaurant/cafe which is called Art Cafe. It is a nice place to sit down after you walked around in the building. The friendly staff serves good food and drinks. Sit down and listen to some relaxing music, or start working on some of your own art if you got inspired by the creative atmosphere.

Art Cafe in BACC

Do you visit art galleries and museums on your trip? What is your favorite museum in Bangkok?
Useful Links

  • www.bacc.or.th: The official website of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. Learn more about BACC and its current exhibitions.
  • BACC on TripAdvisor: Do you want to know if it is a good idea to visit he Bangkok Art and Culture Centre? Read information and reviews about this sight on TripAdvisor and make an informed decision.
  • Back to the Home Page 

 

4 ways to get in contact with locals

 

4 ways to get in contact with locals. For example by engaging in sports activities with them.4 ways to bond with locals

Your trip becomes a total different experience when you get in contact with local people. They can provide you with “expert” information about their country, and you will often be surprised how friendly and hospitable they are compared to people who work in the tourism business, who often seem fatigued about foreigners.

Once in contact with locals you will notice that many of them are really friendly. They show a genuine interest in you, are willing to give you advice and love to tell you about their culture. However, sometimes they are too shy to approach you. Here are 4 ways to overcome boundaries and get in contact.

1. Sports

Recently, when I strolled along the bedding of the Mekong river in Laos, I was invited by some local boys to join their football game. I never reject such an offer. It is a great way to get in contact with local people. A fun aspect about sports is that it does not necessarily require you to talk, so for some people it it a more easy way to be in contact with you.

Shyness disappears and there is a lot of fun involved when you are playing a (football) match with each other. A park is a good place to get in contact with local people who are playing sports. While traveling in Southeast Asia I noticed that a lot of people come together in the parks, to do sports activities like aerobics, running and playing badminton. Good opportunities to join them.

2. Language

Try to learn some words which exceed the standard tourist lines like thank you and hello, when you travel abroad. Many locals really cheer up when they notice that you talk to them in their language. Often they are to shy or unable to speak English. Having some small talk with them in their own language is a great way to make them feel happy and at ease.

3. Music

Many people love to dance and sing songs. A really nice way of bonding and sharing a cultural experience is by playing music with each other, but if you do not play an instrument then try to join them in other musical activities like karaoke, dancing in clubs, or partying in bars.

Dancing can take away boundaries because it is a physical activity, so language is not that important. Singing songs together also can be a lot of fun. Many people know English songs even though they do not speak the language, and listening to songs from the country that you visit is a nice way to learn more about the culture of your destination.

4. Couchsurfing

If you want to have a great local experience then I recommend joining the Couchsurfing community. Couchsurfers are people who share their home with travelers. Couchsurfers do not stay in a hotel/hostel but instead choose to stay with a local. It is a great way to get to know more about a country and culture, because your local host is an expert on the subject.

Get in contact

Remember to get out of your comfort zone when you want to get in contact with locals. Usually they are eager to talk and bond with you, but often the are to shy to actually approach you. Be the first one to take away that boundary and you could have many wonderful experiences with locals.

Do you often get in contact with locals? How do you usually approach them? What was the most memorable experience you had with a local?

 

4 more reasons why you should visit Thailand

 

4 more reasons why you should visit Thailand. Like for example temples.4 more reasons to put Thailand on your travel list

Are you planning a trip to Asia? Don’t forget to put Thailand on your travel list. There are many reasons why this country is a great travel destination. In a previous article I already talked about 4 of those reasons. In this article you will find 4 more reasons why you should visit this kingdom in Southeast Asia.

4. Nature

Thailand provides many options for nature lovers. Even in the cities you can find beautiful green gems. Many Thai cities have parks which are clean and quiet oases in the noisy and polluted concrete jungles. You can also visit many beautiful beaches, national parks, mountains, rice fields, caves and jungles.

Visit Chang Mai and cool down at the many surrounding mountains, which are the starting point of the Himalaya’s, or take a hike to the beautiful waterfalls in Kanchanaburi. Recommendable nature spots for city dwellers are for example Bung Ta lau Park in Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat) and Lumpini Park in Bangkok.

3. Transportation services

When traveling around you can choose a wide variety of transportation options. Those options include minivans, buses, boats and trains. Prices for these forms of transportation are cheap. Long distance travel within the country becomes much more convenient when you take a cheap flight. More and more budget airlines offer flights to many destinations in the country. All these options make it easy and affordable to travel.

In Bangkok you can use the very comfortable sky train and subway system’s. These transportation options make it easy to avoid the many traffic jams. If you do prefer to travel on the road, then you can choose one of the many taxi’s. They are also very affordable if you ask the driver to turn on the meter.

2. Medical care

The excellent medical care facilities and services are another reason why I love going to Thailand so much. This country offers one of the best medical services in the region. Chances are you are being transported to Thailand when you get a medical problem in one of the surrounding countries like Cambodia or Laos.

Especially Bangkok offers a variety of excellent hospitals. Many of them are specialized in certain healthcare issues, like for example eye care or medical care for children. Hospitals costs differ from very low to very high, which means that the more you pay the better service you will get. You will also find many pharmacy’s in Thailand. The staff of these pharmacy’s is often well educated and they can give you good advice in English.

1. Temples

If you are into Buddhism and temples then Thailand is a must see country. You will find a huge amount of temples in this kingdom. There are many busy touristic ones but there are also many hidden temples, who rarely get any touristic visitors. You can find many of  those temples in local neighborhoods or in the countryside.

Did you ever travel to Thailand? What was the most memorable moment of your trip?