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The Color White

Prologue: As we interviewed our Thai colleagues from Buzzwoo for the following article, please note that the text is in English only. Enjoy.

In the latest blog postings, we talked about how we live and work in Thailand. We compared design and tech topics from a professional and procedural perspective. So now it’s time to give insights into what we do in our spare time to discover people and country. To do so, let’s clear some facts about Thailand together with the folks from Buzzwoo!

What a unique way to greet family and friends! In Thailand, it is common to ask people if they already ate something. We were surprised by that and the fact that you can get something to eat at any time, on any day and every street in the city. Thai cuisine offers everything that your heart desires. Picky Eaters attention please: We got you. From fried chicken to Khao Soi, the cuisine delivers freshly cooked meals within minutes. Still hungry? Alright, get some mango with sticky rice to round it up. We've been learning that it is more than just having a meal: "It is about caring for your loved ones, well-being and because we all know sharing is caring." We asked Maprang (Marketing Manager at Buzzwoo) if she cooks at home or goes out for food.

It’s common to go out to eat as it is cheap and does not take much time. In addition, you can have meals delivered at any time via grab. Food and cooking are an essential part of their culture, it brings the family together, create conversations, and bind deeper connections. Mel told us that dinner is likely the most important meal of the day. We agree. And a dinner without dessert is bad manners, so watch out for a dessert.

We learned that the Thais are super family-oriented. Looking after your loved ones and taking care of them is of great importance. But it’s not as easy as it seems because some families require you to take care of them and give back to them what they gave you in childhood. As we know, a family is defined not only by a mom, dad, brothers, and sisters. It is often about friends becoming family. With this attitude Thais treat foreigners like friends and family♥️.

Thailand is a Buddhist country. Like in Germany, villages and small towns are often more religious due tue to how they have ben raised. “When I was little, my parents took me to the temple. After I got older and moved to Chiang Mai, my environment changed and I ended up not practicing it today." It’s like you move out, do your own thing, and do not pursue it anymore. People who live in cities like Chiang Mai or Bangkok are more independent and not as religious as people from villages.In keeping with the Yi Peng & Loy Krathong Festival, the city is decorated with colorful lanterns. Each color represents a day of the week: starting with yellow for Monday, pink for Tuesday, green represents Wednesday, the color orange Thursday, blue has Friday, purple grabs Saturday and the color red has Sunday. The decoration is complemented by white lanterns, completing the circle of colors. And white embodies purity and represents Buddhism.

Meditation and peace are key. It’s essential to find peace, control emotions, and think about words before putting them together into sentences and actions. It is also about facing reality and accepting how it is. We were told that most people are not aware of what they are preaching or what the actual message behind all of this is. For us, it somehow seems like they want to find something to believe in, even if it is a nightmare telling them the lottery numbers.

Thai people are warm, welcoming and friendly. We learned that they treat people as if they are a part of the family. During our city strolls, we noticed that everyone keeps a smile ready, talks to each other on another level of harmony, and greets everyone “สวัสดีเจ้า - Sawatdii Jao”. Their selflessness stands out in all situations, whether something is needed or needs to be done.

The interests of others come above your own. Similar to Germany, there are differences depending on the area you are located. For dialects, there is a distinction between north, south, and northeast. The differences are also noticeable in the general lifestyle and behaviors. While in the north people are more relaxed and the city life is calm and slow, the south is louder and faster. Speaking of south and north, we were curious about what they think of our folks up in Europe.

“Germans are so organized but at the same time they seem to be very strict and serious.”

Wait, maybe they’re onto something.*

“If Germans are about to do something (sports, work,…), they’ll do it right. I also noticed they say what’s on their mind whereas we are not like that.”

“I think and know that they love beer, so I stick with that. Or when I think of Germany, I think of sausage and German Pork Leg”.

We’re out here getting exposed.

Let’s dig deeper.

“I think the typical German is like Angela Merkel, she seems serious - like all the time” “I think they’re all like very strict. They would barely break rules. I think they would never run a red light.”

It is amusing that typical prejudices we have about ourselves are perceived as actual character traits.

But we were still curious.

From a Thai perspective: What doesn’t make absolutely no sense or what's random?

Wherever you are, you will meet social media influencers and see how they are faking their life on social media to get likes, followers, and attention. We’ve seen some of them buying clothes, wearing them once for pictures, and then returning them because they couldn’t afford them. We wonder if that’s the reason why their return policies in shops are that strict.

Business culture and Thai culture

Thanks to our Buzzwoo colleagues, we got deep insights into living and working in Thailand.

In general, the working culture in Thailand is deeply influenced by the Buddhist culture in Thailand. That is why work culture in Thailand has its own set of rules and etiquette.

Working with Thai people

In general, Thai people tend to avoid confrontation, even in business meetings. E.g. if you make a mistake at work, it is unlikely that it will be pointed out to you directly. Why? Because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.

Thai people are also not very competitive, so don’t expect the same competitiveness that exists in the West. However, you are still expected to do your best.

Another point to note is that Thai people often say they understand even when they don’t. Of course, not everybody is like this, but if you give a Thai team member a task and ask “Do you understand?” they will typically reply “yes” even if they don’t.

Working on digital products and services

The business culture also applies to organizational structures and working processes. As a relatively traditional culture, hierarchy is important in Thailand, which means employees and managers alike respect their position in that hierarchy.

Teasing or playfully mocking the people with whom you are speaking is not expected and may be taken seriously. Also – even if it feels needed from a western point of view – avoiding to correct others is expected.

In terms of working processes, the Buzzwoo/Thai and our processes at 21TORR  differentiate.

One of our core mantras is that we believe the best experiences live at the intersection of design and technology. Reflecting on our team setups and working processes means that we combine our core capabilities (design and technology) into a holistic, interdisciplinary approach. We always work in cross-functional, agile setups. Our design and software development are in contrast with the traditional waterfall method that exists in some technology companies across Thailand and Asia in general.

Our one more thing summary

One thing – that for sure applies for every culture – is that everything calls for a differentiated approach.

On the one hand Chiang Mai had us right away with its creative and extraordinary atmosphere, the polite and precious people, delicious cafés and great food when and where you want. But if you look a little closer, ask more questions or leave the main route, you’ll find things that may cause you thinking:

The children playing in a dirty corrugated iron hut in the backyard?

The grab driver who lost his restaurant during Covid and now needs to deliver food with immense fees for the platform you order?

The monks sitting in the temple just to make money from the donations?

The policeman that makes money out of everything?

The tons of plastic waste for either street food or the convenient food delivery via App?

As for sure, corruption, bribery and fraud are issues in Thailand that can be seen in many places.

But besides all that, people in Thailand are so full of energy and joy of life. Grateful for what they have and happy to help wherever they can. We can learn a lot from their positive attitude, boldness and openness towards strangers and will hopefully bring some of this with us to Germany.

More insights needed? Let’s talk to these guys: