The Thai Culture of “Never Mind”

Had a lazy day today and relaxed re-reading Hollinger’s Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind. I’m always astounded when I realise how her observations of Thais in the 1960s are still so relevant today. She put Thainess in a nutshell and was brave enough to question the sometimes-entrenched views her fellow compatriots held of Thai people and their culture.

She spotted quickly how stratified society was. That has not changed. Thais over many decades have been used to powerful feudal-like class systems and dictatorships. Where they have been benevolent and helped the ordinary Thai, they have been welcomed and accepted.

Where they have been totalitarian and governments have been too controlled by the military, they have not been so accepted. But the Thais are not like the French, who overthrew their rulers and sent them to Madame Guillotine. They accept the cards that are dealt them.

Execution by Guillotine. You can see the head, about to be chopped off.
Execution by Guillotine. You can see the head, about to be chopped off.

Hollinger saw through what she called “humph” farangs — those who stayed in fancy hotels and moobaans, always travelled with the air conditioning on, and saw very little of the real Thailand. They did not understand the Thai; the Thai did not understand them.

She was able to step outside her own nationality and see foreigners as Thais saw them. She could adapt her western worldview.

Matt Owens Rees as a writer on Thailand Culture and Lifestyle.

My focus group took time to develop but is now paying dividends. I can bounce ideas off Thais from varying social classes. From poor farmers and construction workers to those working in offices and shops. From bankers to well-off business owners.

The group includes members of the so-called hi-so elite as well as military and police officers. Interaction sometimes needs to be one-to-one as Thais are cautious expressing their views in front of their other countrymen.

To understand Thailand and to integrate better with the Thai people and their culture, it’s important to observe and listen rather than doing all the talking oneself. After all, God gave us two eyes and two ears but only ONE mouth.

Through field research and discussions with Thais, either in normal conversation or in the lecture theatre, Matt presents a rich picture of the real Thailand, warts and all.

He has written extensively on Thais and Thailand with 20 published books already available in ebook and print format.

Despite not being similar in style, his books reflect on some of the observations in “Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind.” ln his opinion, the best introductory book on Thais and Thailand. Written by Carol Hollinger in 1965, its insights are still very revealing and up to date. Unfortunately, it is not in ebook format.

Sadly, Hollinger passed away at 45 years old before she could see her best- selling book in print. Matt also then lost an opportunity to collaborate with her on a new book on the concept of Face in Thailand.

Saving or Losing Face is an important Thai cultural concept
Saving or Losing Face is an important Thai cultural concept.

Readers can take a look at all the books written by Matt Owens Rees at where they can find full details and excerpts for each title.

Just scroll through the easy-to-navigate menu, where you can read extracts of Matt’s books and purchase any that are of interest.

Matt encourages comment from his readers so that everyone can join in discussing the topic. In that way, we all extend our knowledge and understanding of this amazing but sometimes mysterious country.

For really professional photos on Thai cultural traditions and Thai lifestyle, I recommend
Lode produces high quality photos which can usefully be viewed in conjunction with the stories on this website.

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