Thais occasionally indulge in complaining about the behaviour of Chinese tourists here, but we need to be able to take a little criticism too, especially now with Thai tourists earning a foul reputation in Japan.
The famously well-behaved Japanese are muttering on the social media about Thai visitors being "uncivilised". Our compatriots are, for example, using mobile phones on the subway. (To tell the truth, we didn't know there was anything wrong with that.)
Complaints online about such apparently awful habits would be tolerable enough, one supposes, but the fact that more than 450,000 Thais visited Japan last year makes our misbehaviour an international issue in high places. The Thai Embassy in Tokyo felt compelled to issue a set of tips on its Facebook page, and the Japan Times swiftly reprinted the guidelines under the headline "Thai tourists get list of 10 do's and don'ts".
So here are some other things we're getting wrong and must immediately cease and desist:
- Don't rest your chopsticks in serving bowls.
- Never jump a queue even if you have small children with you.
- Make sure your phone doesn't ring while you're riding public transit.
- On the escalator, stand to the left so people can walk past you on the right - except in Kansai Region, where they do it the other way round.
- On the lift, the first person aboard holds the "open" button for everybody else and shall be the last person to leave.
- If you're driving, stop at every zebra crossing for pedestrians - and stop honking that bloody horn.
- While shopping, never interrupt a salesperson serving another customer.
The folks at the Thai Embassy were apparently hearing lots of complaints about Thai tourists - and mostly from Thai expatriates living there! They were appalled at their countrymen's inappropriate ways.
"Maybe we don't understand why such behaviour is alien to Japanese society," is how the embassy puts it diplomatically on Facebook. "Like Thailand, Japan is rather unique, and we'd better adhere to 'When in Rome, act like Romans'."
Both countries do have common rules that differ only in the details. Thais learn about marayat - good manners - at an early age. We forget it later, but that's another story. The guide to Japanese customs is a handy extrapolation of that and no one seems to be taking offence at what might otherwise be perceived as poor hospitality among the Japanese. On the contrary, the list has been widely shared on the social networks in Thailand - more than 1,300 times since it was posted last week.
The comments about the list generally praise the embassy's initiative and the practicality of the tips. One visitor to the embassy page, Chaiyot Thongchai, pointed out that Thai people must be worried because they're not exactly used to following rules at home. "It's a very basic rule of good behaviour that should be applied everywhere, not only in Japan," added "Miss Somsej". "This is how we live in harmony and peace."
And there was common agreement that, apart from encouraging everyone to follow the list, Thais should adopt similar manners at home too, so that Thailand might be seen as a more developed country. Civilisation, here we come.