Expat Eavesdropping

Two cool things (to me) overheard on the Skytrain today from a (probably) British business man to a Thai colleague.

1) British business man, “When I was on the board, we had code names for a lot of our projects so that nothing would be written down when the secretary took notes. The problem was, our chairman couldn’t remember to which project the code names referred. So we had to remind him and each other every time. We did try to have a naming convention but it was always somewhat arbitrary. For example, the CEO of the other company’s name was White so we called our project “Black.” But we still couldn’t remember.”

It’s stories like these that allow me to glimpse into the corporate world, especially into the C-suite.

2) Same British man, “Do you think Thai people need more personal space?”
Thai colleague, “Probably, but not with family and friends.”
British man, “Of course. But, I’m talking about in common areas.”
Thai colleague, “Yes, I think Thai people need more personal space.”
British man, “I agree. I notice that Thai people usually leave more space compared to some other cultures.”

I thought about this and on the one hand I didn’t agree because, for example, Bangkok is so crowded = there is almost no personal space and shops and stalls are crammed together. On the other hand, Thai people rarely touch each other. We don’t touch each other through greetings (the “wai” where we put on hands together and bow our heads down) and for strangers to hug even after some team success (besides sports teams) would be really strange.

Imagine the “horror” when Thai people saw me greet my French friends at the airport!


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