Sunday, May 30, 2010

An Instructive Story on Culture Shock

Anyone who has traveled within 100 miles of their home has probably experienced culture shock to some degree. Culture shock in basic terms is the act of being introduced to an unfamiliar environment or situation. CS runs the gamut from noticing that your new bathroom is a hole in the ground to realizing that your host family won't truly accept you until you've downed at least 4 shots of homemade whiskey. CS can be extremely frustrating, but in many cases it is also hilarious and instructive in the different ways people view the world. In that vein, here is an Onion-like parody of culture shock in Thailand:

American Tourist Accidentally Breaks Every Faux Pas in Thailand

CHIANG MAI, Thailand – A Michigan man was arrested in Thailand this afternoon after reportedly breaking every Thai faux pas in less than five minutes.

John Lakes, 37, has been taken into custody by Thai police after a mob of offended Thais surrounded him outside of a Buddhist temple in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai. “I was so offended! There is no other word for it,” local university student Kanya Bakul told reporters Tuesday.

Witnesses claim Lakes was surrounded by angry Thais at around 4:30 Tuesday afternoon after committing a series of faux pas within Wat Chedi Luang. “He vomited on the Buddha!” one elderly monk remarked, referring to a sacred reclining Buddha image housed in one of the pavilions on the grounds. The monk, who wished to remain nameless, finished the interview with, “In Thailand we believe in jai yen, or cool heart, but I want him to f***** die!”

“I don’t know what happened,” Nikom Shinawatra, Lakes’ tour guide, was overheard telling police. “One minute I’m giving him congealed chicken blood to try, and all of a sudden he starts looking really queasy! He asked if it was tofu, and I said, ‘No, it’s chicken’s blood,’ and that was it.”

After apparently eating the Thai snack, Lakes ran into the chamber of the Buddha image and projectile vomited over the image, along with a local family that was being blessed by a monk. “We can never pray for luck again,” one tearful little girl said, pulling a wet noodle out of her hair. “The Buddha must be displeased with us.”

In his haste, Lakes further offended Thais by not removing his dirty shoes when he entered the temple. After Lakes finished throwing up, he then pulled out a twenty baht note, printed with the image of the venerated king of Thailand, and proceeded to wipe his face with it. Several monks then tried to restrain him before he could commit any more horrifying acts.

Lakes, possibly relieved to have assistance, handed the twenty baht note to one of the monks. The monk, who had previously taken a vow not to touch money, dropped the note with alarm and ran from the room screaming. Lakes, reportedly six-foot-three, then finished the series of faux pas by using the heads of the remaining two monks to help balance himself as he stumbled. The head is considered the most sacred part of the body in Thailand, and at this point a crowd of on-lookers grabbed Lakes and threw him into the courtyard outside the building. Luckily for Lakes, police arrived at the scene at the same time.

“I was going to go all muay thai on his ass,” one young man told a foreign journalist, referring to the national martial art of Thailand. “I know it’s a stereotype that all Asians know martial arts, but it’s true.”

Lakes, who has not yet turned up at any police station, could not be reached for comment.

“I am really excited to visit Chiang Mai,” Lakes wrote in his blog, NoCultureShockForMe. “I can’t wait to experience real Thai culture.”

-Ted Gault, former hostel intern

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