Last night I sat at a restaurant here in Bangkok with a Thai family on the same street where the bloody Red Shirt protests took place earlier in the year. You can still see the damaged buildings from what ensued. Of course, none of this crossed my mind as I donned my lovely red shirt to dinner! Typically gracious, as the Thai people tend to be, my hosts fully forgave my ignorance as I apologized profusely for my cultural faux pas.
Later that evening I dropped into a discussion about the benefits of universal health care (as one does) with some Admissions folks that are here in Bangkok for a boarding school fair. As I proudly waxed poetic about Canada and our philosophy of health care, one gentleman from a very conservative military school in the eastern U.S. eventually leaned forward and offered me a barrage of choice expletives. The topic was clearly not a favorite of his. On the contrary, apparently I’m a communist….
1. Don’t do either of these things again.
2. Cultures can clash but they don’t need to. Sensitivity to the nuances of culture, especially when one is travelling, must be on a daily ‘to do’ list.
3. At home or abroad. Sometimes it is just better to stay quiet and wear drab clothing.