A friend of mine was playing a football match when, after storming off the pitch in protest at a heavy challenge, one of the players ran onto the field with a machete and tried to kill the person who tackled him.
This wasn’t in some Thai equivalent of a ghetto where gang tensions had simmered over. This was on the playing fields of a major international school.
What drove this seemingly psychotic outburst?
He had lost face.
Face is a hard concept for western people to understand and whilst a feature of many Asian cultures – is taken very, very seriously by Thai people. It basically revolves around honour and identity and the attitude of never backing down. Ever.
Any perceived threat to a person’s face runs the risk of being met with extreme violence, and don’t think that your street smarts from home will help. Arguments have the potential to go from angry raised voices to deadly in literally seconds. My advice to anyone travelling in Thailand is to avoid confrontation in any guise.
But hey, we’ve all said and done stupid things after one too many Changs, right? Well here’s a handy guide that should see you right if you’re in a sticky situation in Thailand.
It’s a bloody public service I’m running here.