How do You Know What You Are Experiencing is Also What Everyone Else Around You Is?

So many expats that I meet in China, Indonesia, Thailand and other countries around the region tell me that they get around just fine without knowing the local language. I suppose that is a fair enough statement. It’s a bit like the movie The Matrix though. Once you’ve had a taste of being ‘out’ of the matrix, it’s hard to go back as you realise a whole new DIFFERENT world going on around you that wasn’t apparent before.

I was standing at Suvarnabhumi airport recently waiting to pick up my luggage from the carousel. As I gazed down, I realised something that I had never noticed before - and it might actual explain different behaviour at the carousel by Thai speakers, Chinese speakers and those who depend on the English signange.

English

NO TROLLEYS ALLOWED

The Chinese and Thai however all have slightly different messages.

Thai

จอดรถเข็นกระเป๋าบริเวณนี้
Park your trolley here

Chinese

禁止使用手推车
Baggage trolley forbidden

In English, the sign is clear ... as is the logic. Trolleys are not permitted in that area and for good reason. Not having trolleys cluttering up the space around the baggage carousel means that everyone can happily stand back, and step it when their bag comes around.

The Thai, makes sense that if you park trolleys there, you will be leaving space for people to get their bags and people probably won't push in.

The Chinese is just as abrupt as the English, prohibiting trolleys in that area.

Were these translated differently because of linguistic incompetency - or because of extreme linguistic and cultural competence, and people were translating it to be culturally appropriate?

I'm not sure which one it was, but it was a good reminder for me at least that just because I see something and interpret a situation around me, it might not necessarily be the same thing everyone else around me is experiencing.

This is why I spent so much time on the Thinking in Meanings' section of my Cracking Thai Fundamentals programme. Once you develop the core skills in putting meanings together the way locals do, you often start to see things in a very different perspective.

If you haven't checked out the programme yet, try it out - and if you haven't gotten your hands on a copy of 'Cracking Thai Fundamentals - A Thai Operating System for your Mind' Book yet, you can order here for delivery in Thailand, or order from Amazon here.