language exchange lunch. icu.
After completing two lunch periods with the Thai students I emerged with a many new acquaintances and lots of new information. Many of the conversations while centralized around very basic information, such as family, school, and home life were really interesting and taught me a lot. All of the students I encountered were really genuinely friendly and interested in speaking to us, especially in asking about our homes and way of life. While all of my talks produced some memorable aspects there was one in particular that confirmed for me firsthand a stereotype very prevalent here. Talking with a student and Ajarn Lexi about Riverside, where the student works, the conversation turned to the great live music that is featured there nightly. The student then told me I should attend and as i've heard it is rather expensive I questioned the price. Yet, instantly after asking this I was greeted with a stream of responses about why would I even ask such a question as all farang are very wealthy and don't have to worry about money. At first taken aback by the response I tried to give my own answer and was once again met with a second stream of speculations about my life and monetary situation. Then upon trying to explain school loans and financial independence I think a bit of the conversation was lost and took a much lighter turn but it left me feeling somewhat disregarded. Never having been in a position of significant wealth I was extremely uncomfortably being spoken about in that context but, after reviewing the conversation again the stereotype became clear. Backed not only by western media and the ever-present tourists here who deem it necessary to flash thousands of baht when purchasing a 35 baht lunch the principles behind their assumptions are completely understandable. It was somewhat surprising how the ladder of inference here played a role for both parties and how these split second speculations and preconceived notions have the potential to negatively affect intercultural relations.