For many outsiders, Thailand still conjures up images of the East at its most mysterious and enchanting—a view largely formed by Hollywood films like The King and I. Never conquered by foreigners, this proud and ancient land has been shaped by Buddhism, the monarchy, and the military. Today, it is a representative democracy with a populist female prime minister and is ranked among the tiger economies of Southeast Asia. It is a manufacturing powerhouse, the world’s largest rice exporter, and a tourist paradise that welcomes twenty-two million visitors a year to its beach resorts and its vibrant capital, Bangkok.
Yet despite the veneer of Western modernity, the country and its people remain an enigma for many visitors, smiling and inscrutable. It conceals a unique system of personal values and attitudes, developed over centuries. You may find that Thais react to you in surprising and unexpected ways, coming as they do from a culture based on respect, status, self-control, non-confrontation, and harmony. They are also naturally generous and have a great love of fun.
Culture Smart! Thailand describes how the Thai people view the world and themselves. It helps visitors become more culturally aware and better able to interact successfully with the locals. Thailand’s charm lies in being different, and visitors who make an effort to understand the differences will find their stay in “The Land of Smiles” a richly rewarding experience.