November 22, 2017

Demystifying Kreng Jai


Kreng Jai, which literally means “awe of heart” but can best be translated into “consideration”, is a cause of much frustration for foreigners who live in Thailand or foreigners with Thai partners. The concept of Kreng Jai is an important on in Thai culture and has been characterized as “the essence of Thai-ness”, but what specifically this nature entails can be hard to describe.

Kreng Jai manifests itself as a general desire not to disrupt the happiness of others, even at the expense of efficiency, honesty, or one’s own interests. When guidebooks describe Thai people as being “accommodating”, they are (perhaps unconsciously) describing the effects of Kreng Jai.

Kreng Jai is usually a function of feeling uncertain or distanced from from people and desiring to avoid offending them; as such Kreng Jai is usually not a factor among nuclear families, or between couples, who are close enough to show their true feelings and avoid formality; Kreng Jai is a greater concern for foreigners who are establishing relationships with new in-laws and new Thai acquaintances.

Kreng Jai might affect the lives of guileless foreigners living in Thailand in a number of ways. When a coworker fails to correct an error you’ve made in a meeting because he doesn’t want to embarrass you, he’s feeling Kreng Jai. When your spouse refuses to send back a meal at a nice restaurant even though the dish is substandard, she’s feeling Kreng Jai. When a salesperson assures you that a delivery can absolutely, certainly, definitely be made within a required time frame but even if said time frame turns out to be impossible….that salesperson is certainly feeling Kreng Jai.

There’s also flip side to Kreng Jai – when foreigners cause offense by misinterpreting or abusing Thai feelings of consideration or concern. A young Thai woman who feels offended by the behavior of an older foreign man may feel unable to correct him due to the constraints of Kreng Jai, which then allows the offending individual in question to continue his bad behavior.  A Thai coworker may be grossly offended if you critique his work in blunt, critical terms. In return for their consideration of others , Thais expect to have their own feelings considered as well. Too often, foreigners grossly insult Thais by thoughtlessly accepting their consideration and generosity without offering any in return – or worse, by interpreting Kreng Jai as a sign of weakness that can be exploited.

Sadly, there’s no real manual on Kreng Jai, and its a skill that can only be learned through repeated exposure to Thai culture. Our main advice to foreigners is to twofold:

1) When dealing with the frustrations and inefficiencies that occur when and individual feels (and acts on) Kreng Jai towards you, take a deep breath and tell yourself “Mai Ben Rai“.  The concepts of Kreng Jai is as old as Thai culture and definitely isn’t going anywhere. If you wish to live in Thailand, marry a Thai spouse, or interact with Thais at all, you’ll just have to accept the little delays that at side effects of receiving such consideration.

2) Avoid abusing Thai feelings of Kreng Jai by practicing treating those you interact with deference and respect. Notice how your Thai coworkers and acquaintances interact with you, and mimic these behaviors, as they’re probably a good example of how these individuals expect to be treated. If your coworkers never interrupt you, never interrupt them. If your new friend continually offers you rides, try politely refusing and offering to transport him somewhere instead.

Kreng Jai is essentially a dance – a figurative give-and-take of consideration and good manners. To give Kreng Jai is to receive it… so go forth, readers, and be considerate.

Thai Spouses and Showers

It’s no coincidence that the biggest Thai holiday of the year is Songkran,  an annual water festival that is essentially  a 3-day-long country-wide water fight. Young or old, man or woman, Thai or foreigner, no one emerges from Songkran without at least one sound dunking – and when your Thai co-revelers see you walking down the street, wringing water from your clothes, they’ll probably enthusiastically tease you about “taking a shower”.

Showers are, to put it mildly, a very big deal in Thailand, and indeed in most of Southeast Asia. Thais shower a lot. And if you are planning on even being friends, let alone a partner of a Thai national, you should be aware that the practice of showering will, at one time or another, become an issue in your relationship.

The average Thai considers 2-3 showers a day (whether they need them or not) to be the foundations of good hygiene. While their western partners may protest the waste of both time and water, and argue that denizens of a country so hot and humid should be used to sweat and body odor, the fact remains that dirty, sweaty, smelly bodies elicit total disgust in Thais. This is, after all, a country where people compulsively huff menthol sticks and openly hold their noses whenever a slightly sweaty individual walks by.

Most Thais will take one shower in the morning, a second in the middle of the day or before going out to meet friends in the evening, and a final shower late at night. Thais who live in houses not blessed with air conditioning may take several showers a day during the hot season in an attempt to keep cool.

Staying comfortable, clean, and sweet-smelling is after all the basis of the Thai shower addiction. Westerners may be affronted that the 1 shower-a-day habit that usually kept them clean in their native lands is regarded as gross and barbaric by their Thai spouses, friends, and in-laws. However, the Thai habit of incessant showering is probably one custom that you should adopt, at least if you plan to live in Thailand. Cold showers multiple times a day will help keep you in the good graces of the locals, and more importantly, you’ll be a lot more comfortable in the paralyzing heat of hot season. Think of showering not as a troublesome custom, but instead as a weapon to aid you as you battle Thailand’s climate.


Respect Thy Elders

Making nice with your in-laws is a universal rule. The specific manner in which you respect these in-laws, and any other individuals who are considered “elders” does matter, however, so please pay attention to this blog post if you know what’s good for you.

You may protest “But I do respect my grandparents, in-laws, aunts, uncles, and fairy godmothers!” Maybe you do; however, most westerners show the respect they feel for elders in ways that differ dramatically from the ways in which Thais show respect.

Think about the ways you show your grandparents, parents, ect that you love them. Maybe you joke with them, laugh with them, include them, email them, and invite them to family events. Many western families show their love for each other through loud arguments and uproarious conversation. Moreover, westerners in general seem to feel that the respect they feel towards elders does not need to be formally expressed; love and respect are believed to manifest themselves in small ways.

Thai culture has its own very specific way of honoring elders, and showing respect towards elderly friends and relatives is believed to be both a duty and the basis of good manners.

Thais show their elders respect in very specific ways. These include:

1) Greeting elders with a wai.

2) Never standing over or sitting above an elder.

3) Speaking in a quiet and respectful voice, and using formal language. This rule is often a problem for some westerners, as many western families show their love and respect for elderly relatives by including them in conversations and boisterous arguments.

4) Never interrupting an elder.

5) Treating the elder as an honored guest, rather than as a friend. Thais are hospitable people as a general rule, and they roll out the proverbial red carpet for elder guests with snacks, drinks, and other goodies.

As a general rule, individuals who marry into a Thai family should be aware that merely feeling and expressing respect for elders is not considered sufficient in Thai culture. Manners matter to Thais, and showing respect via the avenues outlined above are considered basic good manners – they are not an option, but a duty.

Thailand Child Support Law

Child support cases can take place between parents who are either married or unmarried. Typically, the mother of a child will be suing the biological father for child support. However, it is also possible for a father with custodial rights of a child to seek child support from the mother of the child.

Do Thailand child support agreements need to be settled in Thailand Courts?

If the mother and father can agree to child support, this agreement can made part of a divorce settlement agreement. If the mother and the father can agree to such terms it’s possible to register a divorce agreement with a government district office in a simple procedure as part of a divorce case. If the mother and father are not married, it is still possible to reach a settlement agreement or to file a court complaint depending on the circumstances.

What happens if parents cannot agree on child support?

If parents cannot agree to the terms of child support, a complaint can be filed with the court demanding child support. Cases are decided by judges in the Central Juvenile and Family Courts of Thailand. The Family Court will take into consideration various factors in arriving at a child support schedule.

How do courts determine the amount of child support?

If the Courts determine that one parent has a duty to pay child support to another, the Court will then consider relative incomes of the parents, the expenses of the children and other factors to determine an amount for child support.

Thailand Adoption Law

Can Thailand adoptions be conducted through both private and public agencies?

Adoption in Thailand is dealt with exclusively by the Child Adoption Center of the Department of Welfare (DPW).  There are no legally authorized private adoption agencies that adopt Thai children to foreign parents. All applications are processed by the DPW, though there are non-government agencies that work directly with the DPW and are licensed to recommend placement of children with international adoptive parents.

What are Thai adoption requirements?

1) Adoptive parents must be married.

2) Both adoptive parents must be at least 25 years of age.

3) Both adoptive parents must be significantly older than the child to be adopted.

4) Prospective parents must be legally qualified to adopt in their own country.

5) Prospective parents must receive confirmation from an authorized agency in the foreign country that the adoption will be legalized before the DPW will begin the application process.

How long until I can take my child home?

The length of time from the commencement of the adoption application until the time when the adoption procedure has been completed in bothThailandand the new parents’ home country varies greatly from country to country. One important consideration is the process of acquiring visas for the adopted child for the adoptive parents’ home country, which may be a particularly time-consuming process.