What prompted my earlier fuss over the lack of critical thinking in Thai culture was a series of road-blocks to my ability to perform at work. You see, I don’t think like a Thai. I also don’t fully know all the methods or standards of this office. I was not trained with the same process for rendering, presentations, technical drawings, etc. Sometimes this doesn’t matter, my seniors explain what is typical and expected of me and I copy. Other times, we spend days correcting my mistakes. Only, they aren’t always mistakes. That’s the issue.
I had created a presentation drawing (think – colors! and textures! not just lines), and when my boss looked at it, he explained that I had put things in at the wrong angle, some of the items showed the wrong side. I fixed it…but internally I was confused. That’s how I presented my drawings for 5 years at school. The angles change as the things get farther away from the viewer. Some people DO lay them out differently, but that is not “correct”, just a different style.
Here I am in Thailand, though, and I could not question their approach, style, understanding. At minimum I wanted to say, “Oh, that’s how you do it. I do it differently. I’ll change it so it matches your style.”
Instead, I had to accept the clear-cut correction and explanation of what I had done wrong. Out of respect.
Things that are done differently are typically seen as wrong. Try being creative in that environment! Some people are creative. A few people. There are brilliant hard-working engineers, designers, doctors and scientists in this country (as in all countries, if we’re honest). I know some of these people, creating NGOs, studying for their Doctorates, learning a fifth language, raising creative children.
In the end, though, most designs are copied, mimicked, mirrored and repeated. Copyright essentially doesn’t exist in South East Asia, so that’s okay. It’s a different way of thinking. When I am feeling facetious, I want to say, “You’re wrong, because you said I was wrong.”
That’s my warning, my experience, my frustration. It’s not very kind. It’s not very forgiving. It doesn’t mean I have had a bad time working here. I’ve learned a tremendous amount. I have also hit my head against a brick wall a tremendous amount.
I like being right, it’s true, and when in a constant state of stretching, being wrong even when I am just approaching it differently is trying.