Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Thai Time

I ought to explain the concept of "Thai Time" that I keep referring to. Time is generally a much more flexible concept in Thailand than we westerners are used to. This is why it was no great surprise when we arrived on Phangan at 1pm, an hour and a half later than advertised, and why I don't expect to arrive in Bangkok at anything close to the scheduled 12:10. Efficiency doesn't really feature in the Thai concept of time either, which is why they're loading each of the four buses individually instead of having everyone find the bus that corresponds to their colour-coded sticker, and we're sitting on our luggage waiting to be called forward to bus number 4. It would be frustrating, but you can't get frustrated with Thai time, because it makes no difference. Thai people don't take time seriously, so they're oblivious to the notion that anyone else might.

Thai time is why there appears to be no set timetable for the sorngtao buses (so sometimes they follow only a few minutes apart, and other times you can wait for 25 minutes with no sign of one), and why they don't finish at any particular time in the evening.

Even in school this notion of “Thai time” still applies (except for the ajarn-farangs, of course), so the students roll up anything form 5 to 15 minutes after the start of the lesson, and equally will quite happily stay long beyond the bell if you don't dismiss them. In fact, my favourite class, 4/1, have twice completely ignored the bell to the point where I thought I'd imagined hearing it. In the Christmas card lesson I eventually managed to get out of them that yes, they did have another class to go to – but it was another five or ten minutes of frantic tidying, sweeping, gathering my equipment back together, shouting “yood'nai”s (“where is”) and “you really have to go”s, and fielding “teacher may I use”s (every time I'd get something back someone else would ask to use it and I hadn't the heart to say no) before I managed to pack the grinning students off to their next class twenty-five minutes late clutching sparkling, streaming, colourful Christmas cards.


At 12:29 pm, Anonymous Dddy said...

It is no surprise really that you have fallen so easily and naturally into the Thai way of dealing with time. Some members of the family, not my side of course, have lived a lifetime like that. Love dddy

At 2:04 am, Blogger Charlotte said...

You know, it occurred to me yesterday that that's exactly why I don't find it as frustrating as do some of the others. The Thais don't believe in rushing, which is an attitude of which I thoroughly approve. My watch is actually currently residing just off the coast of Ko Samet, where it has been for four weeks now, but I don't miss it. But when Cassie forgot her watch this weekend she kept asking me the time (my phone has a clock), and I realised how little I need to know what the time is (except in class, where there are no clocks and I have to keep asking students how much of the lesson is there left – not that they're particularly bothered either).


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