Watching the Thais


A rather different book this week, and one that I found initially very confusing.  Watching the Thais, was written by Tom Tuohy (ISBN 978-178-17666-9-9, 2012, published in the UK by, but the cover was obviously one of Mike Baird’s cartoons.  Had Mike assumed a nom de plume, I wondered on opening the book, expecting to see more cartoons?  But no, this was a serious book which was using a Mike Baird original cartoon as the front cover.  “Curiouser and curiouser,” said Alice!

On reading the book, written by academic Tom Tuohy, it becomes apparent that some sections of the individual chapters are probably taken from his blogs, and now collated.  Author Tuohy is a teacher by profession and at the time of producing this book was working on his PhD (Writing).  This has a great bearing on the format of this book.

Tom Tuohy, in his introduction, states his aim of not denigrating the Thais, but wishes to examine them and explain their true nature.  Unfortunately, the front cover does not fit in with the author’s aims.  Amusing (and oft times correct), but definitely mocking the Thais.

There are 10 chapters, plus some ‘mini’ subjects which are from his blog ‘’ between 2009 and 2011.

The first chapter covers the Thai smiles, this country being the renowned LOS.  He quotes one of my favorite anthropologists Desmond Morris and follows that up with the 13 smiles as suggested in the book ‘Working with the Thais’ by Henry Holmes and Suchada Tangtongtavy.  Tuohy’s anecdotes fit well within the framework he presents and there are 12 references to round out the chapter (again the academic format).

Other chapters cover such diverse subjects as the Thai Social System (individualism Vs collectivism), Thais and movement (walking!), Superstition, the Office situation, the Thai Education system and its flaws, Shopping (the country’s number two pastime after sleeping), Thais and Wordplay (a difficult subject for those readers who are not fluent in Thai), Thais and their customs and then Thais and their food.

The two years of blogs begins with the very recent Thai floods and he opines that when politicians are left in charge of a disaster, instead of rising to the occasion they take the opportunity to profit from it.

At B. 395, this is an inexpensive book, which does give some insights into the Thai psyche, but once again, I found the academic format a distraction, and wished he would just get on with it, and tell us, the readers, more.  Three pages of a complete list of works cited, and an index of authors are standard fare for resource material in the hallowed halls of academia, but not in a paperback with a cartoon on the cover.

Having said all that, the book does have merit in its quest to educate the westerner in understanding the intricacies and nuances that perplex the expat attempting to fit in to the Thai society.  Some of the differences between the two races are chasms, about which you can do very little, but other differences can be accepted with better understanding.  This book can help.