The influence of Western Europe on Thailand & the other way around

Hi everyone!

Welcome to my blog. I hope you are doing okay!

Today I will tell you something about a topic that I think it is very interesting, ‘the influence of western Europe on Thailand and the other way around’.

I would like to start with asking you a question, which you can think about before reading this blog, the question is: ‘How big do you think the influence from Western Europe on Thailand is? And what is the influence from Thailand on Western Europe?’

Ever since there are so many ways to be able to connect with different people all over the world, like social media and travel, the influence on each other has definitely increased. The influence of different people and cultures can happen on different aspects, like daily life, culture and travel.

Nowadays, in Thailand, the influence of Western Europe is huge. The influence can definitely be noticed in daily life, especially in the city, like Bangkok. It does make sense, because Harkis J. (2016) has mentioned that around 29 million people a year visit Thailand. According to Harkis, J. (2016) the European influence shows in the countless hotels, restaurants, bars, supermarkets, malls and different businesses, to the small level of western people who actually live there. The country is changing, on a cultural aspect for both people who have lived there for their entire life, and for the foreign people who live there now. Another aspect where that is shown, is the mentality of the people. Where tradition and culture is still very important, people have become more fast – pace in the cities. Working, and business is important. This is something that the westerners have brought to Thailand over the last couple of years, by involving the country more and more in companies, trade and other parts.

Another aspect that shows western influence, is architecture and technique. This aspect goes back into history. Technology first entered the country, when the sons of the king went to study in Europe. They brought back European technology, according to Jackson, H. (2019). To keep the technology updated, and improve it, from that moment on western people had to come to Thailand. Also, westerners came to Thailand because they had been hired by the king, to work on different architectural projects.

With the westerners coming into Thailand, not only the architecture and technology changed. The mindset of people also changed back then. Things changed around some old traditions, like not picturing or describing the kings physical appearance. When the king realized is was actually very normal, and even important, to have a royal portraiture in the mid – nineteenth century, the king commissioned paintings, sculptures and photo graphics of him. Ever since, royalties are being photographed by European artists.

According to Watson, K. (2015) Thai rulers where strongly influenced by western ideas. To fit with the Thai culture, they were modified. Thai leaders used, adapted and modified western university models, to develop a personalized and own system of higher education. But, as a result, Thailand began to have an unusual blend of traditional and modern approaches, without fully fitting the cultural values. In the last couple of years, this has improved a lot and the country has found a more fitting way.

What stands out when doing research about the influences of different culture, is that, according to Statham, P. (2018), partnerships between Thai women and Westerners have lasted for more than a quarter of a century. The partnerships are significantly changing social structures of many villages in rural regions and changing woman’s aspirations for achieving social mobility. In the research that has been done in the article, it shows that couples evolve in stages over time, like material and emotional. The degree in which a woman is empowered by the partner, is different than the initial position of the woman. It is shown that the couple are shaped and improving in security, wellbeing and status. It increases access in individual rights, mostly through marriage, and can lead to a more independent lifestyle. The marriage also changes the obligations to the natal family, because priorities change. Which bring new opportunities. The research shows that because of the marriage between a Western man and a Thai woman, almost every aspect of a woman’s life changes drastically. Most woman consider the change definitely worth it, but many women eventually start suffering with psychological costs because of the life changing, long term decision.

West – Europe has also had some other, smaller influences on Thailand. For example, religion. Although the biggest part of Thailand is still Buddhist (94.6%), Christianity keeps to a percentage of 2%. Christianity was brought to Thailand, when the king first asked the European people with him and increased when tourism began to play a bigger role in the economy of the country, according to Vongvipanond, P. (2009). Some other smaller influences are working behavior, appearance and fashion.

When thinking about Thai influence on Europe, something that comes to mind is food. The Thai food culture has come to Europe and is growing in popularity. According to Wongprawmas, R. (2012) the trade in Thai products to Europe has been increasing for some years already. Products like fruit, coffee, vegetables and spices are most popular.  According to the research, other influences of Thailand in Europe are Buddhism, because that has become more popular and familiar these past years. Also, different kinds of fashion and different communities in Thailand have influenced Europe. An example is the LGBT- community, in Thailand that has become very normal, while in different countries in Europe there is a lot that still needs to be worked on, and Thailand is, and can definitely become more of an example in how to do that.

So, when talking about the influence of Thailand on Western Europe, that seems to be smaller. The biggest influences from Thailand, are the food culture and Buddhism.

Another fun thing to add, is the way the people in the countries think about each other. What do European people think about Thai people, and the other way around? My own experience is that Thai people are always nice, friendly and very open. Family and friends are priorities and nothing you ask is too much. I think, Thai people maybe think that European people are too busy with other things, with different priorities. Maybe we are a bit more show – off? And are more thinking about ourselves first? According to Hutton, M. (2020) the ‘land of smiles’ might be faking the open and friendly welcome to western visitors. That is because there is a crazy big number of tourists every year, and although Thailand needs them, this might be too much. That might be caused by the fact that tourists from other countries usually spend more money than western tourists, and that those tourists adapt more, instead of bringing their own culture to Thailand. And, as I already mentioned, Thai people might think that Europeans are too direct, and live in the moment more instead of always wanting more fast. Hutton. M. (2020) also shows some more details about what European people think about thai people. The overall image is that people in Thailand are always friendly, they always smile and they work hard to make living for themselves. The Thai food culture is still a very important culture with traditions, and they have a great sense of humor.

So, as you can read above, the Western Europe has had a pretty big influence on Thailand, and still has nowadays. But do not be scared, because Thailand is still such an amazing place to visit! That there are some European influences does not mean that Thailand will become a copy of European cities. Thailand has so much history and traditions, they will never go away. Thailand is definitely worth a visit, and make sure you find the right balance, between visiting the cities, but also go more local, meet local people and go into nature. To see all the different sites the country has to offer. It will be an experience you will never forget; I promise you!

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog and are even more attracted to visit Thailand some day! Please let me know if you liked this blog and if you would like to read more blogs.

See you soon,

Esmée

Some nice movies to deepen your knowledge about the topic:

  • Make a nice green spicy curry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIbKVpBQKJI
  • Learn more about Thai history in a few minutes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfOMEP_7AJM
  • Do’s and don’ts when visiting Thailand: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4nxUpRM78Lc

References used for this blog:

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