Lazy Thais?

It’s almost too common to hear the stereotype that Thais are lazy. Now I think stereotypes are a good, simple way to understand a majority of people (as long as they’re not taken as absolute truth). But after spending a lot of time here, I don’t know if I can agree with the statement that Thais are lazy. Or, at least, I think it’s way too simple.


I can see the behaviors that people are talking about– I can see it in the need for a separate person to ring up a customer and another to bag your purchases. Motorcycles going the wrong way down the highway for short trips instead of going around the block. People saying “I’ll get to it tomorrow” when right now they’re just sitting around chatting at work. And I can definitely see it in my co-teacher, who has almost never showed up to my class, and quickly walks in the other direction and hides whenever she sees me approaching her.


However, I read an interesting article that discusses the working lives of workers in several different industries:


The article argues that many people would “rather leave a decent job and start their own small shop doing little all day but waiting for customers.” I’ve seen this to be true– as you walk down the streets, there’s and endless parade of tiny shops, with shop owners chilling and watching tv/doing nothing until a customer comes around. Which seems to be rare, since there are so many different shops in a row selling the exact same things. I sometimes wonder how the economy of a small town like that stays afloat, when the majority of people are just trading money back and forth for the things they needed to purchase but didn’t have in their own shops. It seems like money would flow out of the town, but not in– there aren’t many visitors to Song, and not many services that the town offers to surrounding areas. At any rate, this seems like another vouch for the “lazy Thai” theory.


There’s one thing that’s clear from the article, and from experience– if Thai’s are “lazy”, it’s not because they don’t work a lot. Most people in this country have to work all day, every day, just to put food on the table. The example of the two sisters who work 7 days a week, 18 hours a day for 180 dollars a month was so sad. And regardless of whether people would rather own their own shops and sit around all day, or work some other job, there’s really no escaping it– they will basically be working their lives away.


If I had to work 6-7 days a week, 10-11 hours a day, just to survive, I think I would have the same attitude as many Thai workers. I would be really burnt out, and a bit frustrated that I was spending my life just providing something so basic for myself, not even able to get onto the interesting parts of life. So, I would bring the interesting parts into my work, incorporating more play time into the work day, and try to make it more pleasant and relaxing. And maybe lazy isn’t really lazy, it’s just a way of resigning to a bad situation. So I can’t blame some of the teachers for spending the afternoon drinking a bottle of whiskey at school the other day… if they are at school every single day, day and night even, when else would they have time to enjoy?


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