- May 10, 2017
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Thai time, it’s not wrong, it’s just different…
The concept of “Thai time” can often leave us foreigners scratching our heads in utter confusion. Why do they say 9am when they don’t mean 9am? Why is everyone always late in this country? These are just some of the questions we ponder upon. Even for those hardened expats, who have living and working here for years, it can still cause frustration and confusion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not stereotyping here, I’m rather making an observation and a generalization. Not all Thais arrive late for appointments.
We must understand that Thais see time differently than westerners and there is nothing wrong with that. Unlike westerners, Thais do not equate time to earning a living. For Thais “ time does not mean money” Rather, they tend to go by the “Mai Pen Rai”(no problem or don’t worry) attitude. Thais do not mind waiting. This is evident in traffic, in restaurants and even for Thai teachers in a classroom.
Firstly, Thai Time is based on a six-hour clock rather than a 12 or 24 hours clock. A day is divided into four parts and these are: dawn, morning, afternoon and evening.
Secondly, Thais see time as cyclical rather than linear like us westerners. For a westerners, every moment past is a moment lost. Lost forever, never to get another opportunity again. However, for a Thai, if they miss the opportunity today, another opportunity will arise again tomorrow or the day after.
Thirdly, when a Thai says 9am they see it as a 1 hour block of time. This can be anything between 9am and 9.55am. So if they arrive at 9.45am, to them they are still on time.
So rather than getting annoyed with Thais, try to see it from their point of view and understand it. Remember, not all Thais think like this partly due to their westerner influence. It’s not wrong, it’s just different.
Colin Gallagher, lecturer for Intercultural Communication at Prince of Songkla University in Phuket.