Biggs tries to explain krengjai

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parrot
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Biggs tries to explain krengjai

Post by parrot » October 12, 2014, 9:32 pm

I doubt many, if any, expats can understand the idiosyncratic definition of the thai word เกรงใจ krengjai. Andrew Biggs has lived in Thailand for over 20 years.......is as fluent in the language as most any outsider can hope to be.......has worked with and employed Thais for most all those years........yet he still struggles with the word. That nuance confirms in my mind that no matter how hard we try....no matter how many years we might be married....our brains are wired differently and there are some things we will never understand about Thai culture.

http://www.bangkokpost.com/lifestyle/so ... ed-quietly



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Biggs tries to explain krengjai

Post by Astana » October 12, 2014, 9:46 pm

And that seems to be true of Thais as it is of anyone else.

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Biggs tries to explain krengjai

Post by mortiboy » October 12, 2014, 10:42 pm

Iv'e always been gengjai. Wish I wasn't! Is it fear of imposing on one?
Its not an asset. Its a bad habit to have. If some one invited me to a free dinner or booze, I would feel so genjai.
Or like a free buffet that were been available at times In Udon. I would have loved to go. But .... gengai
I always wonder is there a word in English mean the same? Cant think of one!
Mai mee tahng !

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Biggs tries to explain krengjai

Post by GT93 » October 13, 2014, 12:05 pm

This might be as much about Biggs as about the young lad who disappeared. He might be a scarey very big fish. It might also be as much about the lad's idiosyncrasies as krengjai. It would be fascinating to have the young fellow's response to this. Who knows? We ain't all Romans. 555

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Biggs tries to explain krengjai

Post by semperfiguy » October 14, 2014, 12:13 pm

mortiboy wrote:Iv'e always been gengjai. Wish I wasn't! Is it fear of imposing on one?
Its not an asset. Its a bad habit to have. If some one invited me to a free dinner or booze, I would feel so genjai.
Or like a free buffet that were been available at times In Udon. I would have loved to go. But .... gengai
I always wonder is there a word in English mean the same? Cant think of one!
Mortiboy, I personally think this feeling of imposing to which you are referring has more to do with not wanting to "owe" anyone anything. We in the West have more of a sense of fairness and want to settle accounts right away. I don't want someone paying for my meal because I don't want to leave the restaurant feeling as though I have to return the favor at some point in time. I don't like that cloud hanging over my head, so as a matter of practice I usually insist on "going Dutch"; otherwise, I won't put myself in that awkward position.

On the other hand I think the Thais will help someone or pay for a meal because they like the idea of having someone owe them something. Then weeks, months or years later they can "call in the favor" when they need help. If they can get several people owing them favors then I think it gives them a sense of control over other people. It's how they climb the social ladder!
"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf". - George Orwell

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Biggs tries to explain krengjai

Post by semperfiguy » October 14, 2014, 12:32 pm

I have a hard time believing that the guy in the story, Meuk, disappeared the way he did because he was concerned about hurting Biggs' feelings. I tend to agree with Biggs in that his actions were nothing but cowardice and pure selfishness. Anyone who has been in this country for any length of time knows that the Thais are all about one thing...looking out for number 1! If you don't believe me then get in your car and drive around Udon for 10 minutes and in the traffic you will witness every selfish act imaginable. Or go stand in a line without a queue and see how many people try to jump the line. Do you want me to continue....?
"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf". - George Orwell

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Biggs tries to explain krengjai

Post by Laan Yaa Mo » October 14, 2014, 10:06 pm

Yes, please continue. You seem to be on a roll.
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Biggs tries to explain krengjai

Post by davecryan » October 14, 2014, 10:15 pm

Yes and I think he is spot on with his comments..........he does not wear pink spectacles and lives here full time.....unlike you, and can see and accept reality. No doubt your Thai biased mind agrees with what is happening in Ko Tao and the Thai culprit/s are blameless.....hypocrite !

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Biggs tries to explain krengjai

Post by Laan Yaa Mo » October 14, 2014, 10:20 pm

A lot of accusations, but what is the basis for your assumptions, pray tell?

By the way, other than sunglasses, I have never worn spectacles.
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Biggs tries to explain krengjai

Post by GT93 » October 15, 2014, 2:31 pm

semperfiguy wrote: GT 93 changing poster's "this country" to "this country [the US]", "Thais" to "Black Americans" and "Udon" to "New York":

Anyone who has been in this country [the US] for any length of time knows that the Black Americans are all about one thing...looking out for number 1! If you don't believe me then get in your car and drive around New York for 10 minutes and in the traffic you will witness every selfish act imaginable. Or go stand in a line without a queue and see how many people try to jump the line. Do you want me to continue....?
Now we can see what this is really about. Hopefully only sloppy writing but it's written so widely to include my Thai family.

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Biggs tries to explain krengjai

Post by parrot » October 16, 2014, 10:21 am

I was hoping others would weigh in on the difficulty of defining krengjai.....rather than a (another) smear campaign against Thai society. Love it or hate it, agree or disagree, understand it or not.......krengjai is a way of life here. I'd argue that it's easier (on the mind, heart, and soul) to try and understand Thai society for what it is.....rather than sling mud at it at every opportunity.

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Biggs tries to explain krengjai

Post by GT93 » October 16, 2014, 11:57 am

A cut and paste from the internet:

Khun Narisa, could you please give us your description of เกรงใจ?

เกรงใจ [krengjai] is to be afraid of disturbing someone. For instance, “I’m afraid to wake you up if I walk loud. So I walk quietly, slowly”.
ฉันเดินเบาๆ เพราะเกรงใจว่าคุณนอนอยู่

chăn dern-bao prór grayng jai wâa kun non yòo
I walk lightly because I’m afraid that you are asleep.

I see เกรงใจ as having two parts:

Not causing discomfort to someone.
Respecting someone of a higher rank or age.

But number one, not causing discomfort, is the main meaning of เกรงใจ.

ทำให้อึดอัด /tam hâi èut àt/: to cause discomfort

In your opinion, how important is เกรงใจ in Thai culture?

Very. It’s the same as the western concept of being well-bred. Being เกรงใจ is being considerate and having good manners, as opposed to being rude and inconsiderate to others. In Thailand, being เกรงใจ will either bind you or cut you from connections and opportunities in Thai society. By not being เกรงใจ, you will disturb the Thais you meet.


Read more: http://womenlearnthai.com/index.php/tha ... z3GHSNyRMb

I think many farang are also krengjai but the Thais seem to do it differently from us. Explaining the difference is the challenge. I love the mysteries of Thailand.

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Biggs tries to explain krengjai

Post by semperfiguy » October 16, 2014, 1:51 pm

Yes, I would agree that this idea of krengjai is a very mysterious concept to those of us from the West. I cannot speak for all Thais, but I can relate experiencially with those who I have met and observed over the past four years, especially those living in my village and particularly on my soi. What I have seen is what I perceive as a double standard and a great deal of hypocrisy. I have neighbors that have drinking parties and keep me up all hours of the night with their loud music. Others throw their trash in the street and make no attempt to clean up after themselves. They see me sweeping up after them and yet they continue on with their bad habits as if to mock me. Three separate neighbors have small yapping dogs that disturb me all hours of the day and night with their continuous barking and are allowed to roam loose and crap in my yard and in front of all the neighbor’s houses on the soi. Several of the neighbors have at various times cranked their stereos up during the day to the point where my windows are vibrating. So, my question is….are they practicing krengjai and being considerate towards me and the other neighbors and demonstrating concern for our comfort?

On occasion we have business meetings within our village, and without fail the residents bring their dogs and children that are allowed to continually distract the meeting with their noise. People throughout the crowd are having personal conversations and talking above the moderator while others are answering and making calls on their cell phones as if there is no one else around. To me all of this is extremely annoying, distracting and rude. Are these people practicing good krengjai and showing consideration and concern for the comfort of others?

If I were to confront any of these persons in the above examples, then I would be the one accused of being inconsiderate and causing discomfort to others. I would be the one bound and cut from connections or opportunities in Thai society. And since I do have a habit of confronting what I consider to be disrespectful behavior, I am experiencing firsthand what it means to be somewhat of an outcast on my soi. Thus, therein is the double standard, hypocrisy and ultimate frustration for me. Perhaps the root of the problem after all lies in the Thai definition of “what is inconsideration and discomfort to others”. It is obviously not the same as for those of us from the West. My wife’s pet answer is to say they are simply not educated people. I think what she’s trying to say is that they have poor breeding!

If I were back in America I can meet an individual and within minutes surmise if that are well-bred or not, if they are moneyed or not as well as determine their age and ranking within the social structure. In Thailand this seems to be an exercise in futility for me, for I can never figure anyone out. There is no doubt that the breeding of the typical Isaan resident is different from that of say the Bangkokians. What I fail to realize is that my neighbors typically have one foot in the rice paddie or are only one generation removed for it. So, I guess it boils down to a matter of expectations for me. I expect my neighbors to be well-bred and civilized individuals, but unfortunately not all of them are. They are practicing krengjai to the best of their understanding and by their definition of what it means to be a good neighbor. And I am the one who has to adapt, accept, understand and tolerate if I am to learn to live in peace in this country. After four years I can say that I have made great strides, but I have not yet arrived. I’m trying guys!
"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf". - George Orwell

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Biggs tries to explain krengjai

Post by GT93 » October 16, 2014, 2:21 pm

Good post sfg. It explains where you are coming from. I took your earlier post as venting frustrations. I never had it as tough as you. I'm not a fan of yapping dogs and rattling windows. My home in Udon is in a rich soi by Udon standards. We still have some yapping dogs and neighbouring sois where one has to be wary of the dogs.

School assemblies in Thailand are similar to the meetings you describe. Behaving like that is acceptable to the Thais. It's their culture and not considered inconsiderate as far a I can see. I don't see it as all negative. It's just different. There's invariably a lot of crap at meetings and assemblies.

Confrontations don't work in Thailand. Again, it's their culture. You gotta get smarter to try to get what you want. You gotta let Thais preserve their face.

I don't think you should bench mark Thai village life with middle class western life. I think it would be better to benchmark it against deprived urban areas in western countries. In that context it's not too bad. There's more loud music, litter and anti-social behaviour in western deprived communities.

Many Thais will have little idea of what you value. They just don't know. Keep trying. You'll get there.

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Biggs tries to explain krengjai

Post by Jed » October 17, 2014, 4:33 pm

I agree that krengjai is among the slipperier concepts to understand here, Mr. Parrot (to krengjai you). Many of us grapple with the subtler aspects of Thai culture for years until they gradually become absorbed, or at least come into sharper focus. Others have little interest in Thai culture, which is their prerogative, and if they have little interaction with the locals, it probably doesn't much matter … until of course it does, which can sometimes be quite a big, dangerous deal.

I remember a situation similar to Mr. Biggs’s when I worked in a small, Thai tourist office in Bangkok about 20 years ago. One of the staff’s husbands cheated the company out of a small amount of money for a ticket; the next day she was gone. I heard the boss and other office staff begging her to come back, telling her that it wasn't anything she had done, that it was OK; but it was too late: she lost serious face in this incident and was too humiliated to come back. Seems understandable enough, especially in an Asian culture, which are based more on shame, while Western cultures are based much more on guilt.

As for krengjai, it has a wide range of meanings, depending on context, as several posters note above: not wanting to impose upon or annoy someone, typically a social superior; showing respect to someone by not imposing upon, bothering, or annoying them; and my personal favorite: displaying proper social behavior through deference. This is typical of more class-based societies; to see it in action, watch any episode of Downton Abbey.

The smaller and more discrete the social circle, the more pressure to conform, and the greater the social and psychological consequences for violators. Thus, offices are virtual Petri dishes where individuals’ behavior is under the microscope; the same for the family unit.

Krengjai derives from personal relationships and is based on them. If no formal interpersonal relationship exists, say in a large housing development, krengjai becomes a more optional behavior, one based (even) more on enlightened self-interest. Accordingly, the way to increase the actors’ krengjai would be to develop these relationships, which should lead to a lessening of blatant social violations. This obviously takes a lot of time, effort, perseverance, and patience. Good luck.

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Biggs tries to explain krengjai

Post by semperfiguy » October 17, 2014, 6:43 pm

[quote="Jed"Krengjai derives from personal relationships and is based on them. If no formal interpersonal relationship exists, say in a large housing development, krengjai becomes a more optional behavior, one based (even) more on enlightened self-interest. Accordingly, the way to increase the actors’ krengjai would be to develop these relationships, which should lead to a lessening of blatant social violations. This obviously takes a lot of time, effort, perseverance, and patience. Good luck.[/quote]

Great post Jed! Sounds like you are one who is "in the know" since you have spent so much time here. I particularly like your last paragraph above. This clearly explains why my neighbors seems to be so inconsiderate, rude and disrespectful to me. On my soi there are 14 families/houses and I have established relationships with 3 of them over the past 3 years. Those people are extremely kind to me and are very careful to be a good neighbor to me in all respects. Others are very aloof and simply turn their heads and act as though I do not exist, so I have never had a good opportunity to get to know them. And they are the ones who continue to demonstrate very poor social behavior in the neighborhood. They all pretty much stick to themselves and don't even get to know the other Thais on the soi. As you said, if they don't have an interpersonal relationship then they don't have to account for their behavior. As far as I can tell they probably all have a background in the provincial villages, so when they upgraded to our village in the city they most likely decided this was their opportunity to break the cycle of having to be accountable to a small circle of neighbors like back in their home villages. I'd say they purposely make a point not to get involved to save themselves the hassle. The same thing happens back in the States. Residents live on their streets for years and never know their neighbors. It's just too much trouble and nobody wants to be accountable for their behavior.

I was talking with my wife about this subject over dinner tonight. I was asking her why the neighbors demonstrated bad krengjai to us. She said it had less to do with good or bad breeding and more to do with individuals just being good or bad-hearted people. I can understand that since good and evil know no social barriers. That simplifies it for me!
"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf". - George Orwell

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