By Mary Rendon and Justin Giles
The differences between Thai and American cultures stretch beyond simply customs and traditions. During my home stay in Kalasin, my “sister,” Boom, really put into perspective the differences in the ways we live our lives. Every night we would stay awake later than we should have and compared our homes, education, and daily activities. Talking to her made me ask myself: why do we do the things we do? I feel like we have a lot of customs in America that we can’t really explain…we do them for pleasure. For example, I explained to Boom that in America, women paid about 1200 baht to have another person paint their toenails and fingernails. Apart from being horrified at the price, she asked me ” why do you do that? Why don’t you just do it yourself?” Her question caught me off-guard…I didn’t know how to answer that. Why DO we pay another person to do something we could do ourselves? She asked me why Americans buy so much furniture to fill up their homes…in Kalasin, she explained, people didn’t have money to buy furniture to fill up their homes. Her home had a dresser and a chest on which her parents set their TV. That’s it. I didn’t know how to answer this question either. For decoration?To fill empty space? I certainly couldn’t say it was out of need. And that’s really what it comes down to: need. Do we need all the things we buy? Will we survive without them? Now, this blog post is not meant to be condescending. I assure you, I will still get pedicures and buy couches for my home. But it’s eye opening to see just how spoiled we are in America. We have privileges that we wouldn’t consider as such because we are so used to them. If I learned anything from Boom and the Thai people in general, it is to be thankful, spend wisely, and never take anything for granted.