stalking you with my greng jai

Relationships in Asia involve a lot more thoughtfulness and anticipating people’s needs, in a way that Westerners would interpret as being intrusive and even “stalking”.

At home, love is that if you are trying to sleep, and you ask me to turn off my music, I will do it. But in Thailand, love is that I will have already noticed that you want to sleep, and I already know that you need quiet to fall asleep, and quite on my own, I won’t play any music, because I also want to spare you the embarassing feeling of potentially annoying me by having to ask me to turn off my music.

In Thailand, this is part of what is called “greng jai“, which loosely translates as “considerate heart”. “Do foreigners have a word for kreng jai?” my landlord asked. “No”, I said, “mostly because we’re inconsiderate”, and we both laughed.

The funny part is that if you greng jai Westerners too much, they get really stressed out, and feel like you’re stalking them. It’s just weird to us to be the subject of so much attention, and to have people doing stuff for us that we didn’t ask for. People take it as a lack of respect for their autonomy, whereas in Asia people see individuality as a bunch of bullshit that just means being lonely all the time.

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A blog about culture and technology in South-East Asia.

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