Photo: Baci ceremony, Luanag Prabang.

Culture and politics forum

A 'culture' issue

Posted by BruceMoon on 20/8/2009 at 18:27

On another Forum 'discussion', some contributors took the view that because they are married to a SE Asian, and regularly travel to SE Asia, they are more able to make comment than mere 'tourists'.

Implied in their stance is that only westerners that have an emotional and psychological 'bonding' to SE Asian culture (read have 'partners' to teach/explain) are in a position to comment authoritatively on matters of SE ASia.

The question this raises is should only these 'bonded' people answer social/cultural questions on Travelfish?

The expressions by a couple of contributors living outside SE Asia, but with an SE Asian partner, is that despite the fact that they live away from the region because they regularly return for family visits, they know more about SE Asia (or specific parts therein) than mere tourists (however frequently or otherwise these tourists visit).

Essentially, these contributors rest their apparent superiority on their knowledge gained from their marriage partner.

This also begs the question of how experienced/knowledgeable is the SE Asian partner.

- - -

Turning to a different perspective as a means to illustrate the above, here in Australia rural people have a clear cut method to sort out 'authority'. Their method is to quote time associated with the town/area as a criteria. So, a local has to be born to the town/area, and an 'authority' has to be from a reputable family with several generations of ownership of a property (preferably a large affluent property).

Clearly, these rural people overtly express the criteria for establishing a pecking order.

- - -

Are these westerners married to SE Asian partners also seeking to belittle 'tourists', merely to seek to establish themselves as somehow more elevated on a pecking order (than others, especially tourists)?

If so, because they gain their knowledge largely from a partner (who may also be biased/uninformed), does this provide a basis to say they are sufficiently more experienced to thus assert some form of 'authority' over others contributing to Travelfish?

- - -

I raise this point not to belittle or demean westerners with SE Asian partners. Rather to seek answers about pecking order - or relevant 'authority' - in relation to Travelfish contributions.

Cheers

#1 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by somsai on 20/8/2009 at 20:03

"should only these 'bonded' people answer social/cultural questions on Travelfish?"

Good question. Absolutely not. Even people living for years in a country or culture are sometimes less aware of what is going on around them or less informed of the basic history of a place. Also a spouse can simply misinform with thier own cultural biases.

Many people everywhere have never traveled within their own country.

First time tourist or citizen of the country actualy going some where and seeing something is first hand information. Of course speaking the language and being able to talk to people to inform what you see, or being able to put what you see into a cultural context helps.

I am often astounded by the knowledge of some of the 20 something backpackers I meet in some of the strangest places. Age, or connection to a country or place need not be a hindrance.

#2 somsai has been a member since 1/3/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 568


Posted by SBE on 20/8/2009 at 22:09

"I raise this point not to belittle or demean westerners with SE Asian partners. Rather to seek answers about pecking order - or relevant 'authority' - in relation to Travelfish contributions."


What makes you think that a "pecking order" is a necessary or indeed a desirable thing to have on this forum Bruce?

I thought this site was primarily set up to provide people with accurate travel information, not as a platform for posters to show off and vie with each other about how knowledgeable they are?

As far as I'm concerned the "pecking order" is Somtam at the top (because it's his site) and the rest of us all have an equal right to contribute and express our own opinions as long as we don't overstep a line which Somtam (as owner) can set. No one else has any special privileges I don't think?

#3 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,004
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Posted by somtam2000 on 21/8/2009 at 06:48 admin

This reads quite a bit like a veiled swipe at some very long term members of this site ... but I'll assume I'm mistaken and answer what I think is the question:

No.

#4 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,507
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Posted by BruceMoon on 21/8/2009 at 06:56

SBE & Stuart

While the 'idea' did come from some comments to Travelfish over recent weeks, it's not a veiled swipe.

Rather, when I read those 'comments', it reminded me that all humans tend to want to place ppl on the pecking order ladder (preferably with self higher than others).

I got to thinking that those who have a familial relationship with SE Asia often (but not always) couch their contributions in a different way to we mere 'tourists'.

Given this, I was hoping for an 'exchange' of ideas about how the fact of having a familial relationship affects the way the contributions are constructed/fashioned.

Cheers

#5 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by exacto on 21/8/2009 at 06:57

i'm not sure i witnessed anyone claiming that their observations were more valid than others due to having a local spouse as bruce suggested, but i do believe that those with local spouses and who travel frequently in a country do often gain unique and valuable insights that aren't always available to the rest of us.

i think that many of the posts by Rufus and Jon_Mak_Mak and Thaiman and MADMAC, for example, have demonstrated some deep and valuable perspectives. the message board has been better off for it.

similarly, i think longer-term expats often develop views that can see right through the mythology of the place they live, and their comments can often be very enlightening.

at the same time, some of the most spot on observations i've ever heard about different cultures came from people who were relatively fresh off the boat. because of that, i think that everyone can have valid and useful ideas to share.

i remember from my own experience dating local women in both thailand and turkey that i got to enjoy a vast and different set of experiences in those countries while i was dating the local girls than what i experienced as an expat or what i experienced initially as a tourist in each place.

i also remember someone on this message board responding to a particular question, noting that they had three advanced degress in whatever that particular subject was. it didn't necessarily mean that they were the final word on the topic, but it did suggest to me that their response was worth extra consideration.

i think that is generally true here as well. so, while i don't think there is a heirarchy either, i do think that people like Rufus and Jon_Mak_Mak and others have something of extra value to say. more power to 'em. keep it coming! best wishes.

#6 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,632
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Posted by Rufus on 21/8/2009 at 07:59

Many of the answers or posts I make are provided by my wife, who was a tour guide from Vientiane to Luang Prabang. I find she has some interesting insights to add.

#7 Rufus has been a member since 22/4/2007. Location: Laos. Posts: 973

Posted by SBE on 21/8/2009 at 14:19

I think everyone is expert on something and non of us are expert on everything. Most people don't feel obliged to post their opinions on every single topic on this forum. Most of us prefer to keep quiet and learn if we aren't experts and have nothing in particular to add to what other people have said. Most people realize that intervening just for the sake of it won't make the thread any easier to follow or add anything in terms of information.

We are all expert on our home towns ... naturally if someone LIVES somewhere I will give their opinions about, say, transport options in their home area, a lot more credence than I would those of a mere tourist. I would also tend to give a poster married to an expat more credence about the cultural norms of a country than I would a tourist, though I have met expats married to local women who know nothing whatsoever about Thai culture ... they eat nothing but English food, play darts at the pub every night and who don't speak a word of Thai.

You can usually suss out pretty quick when a poster doesn't really know all that much about a topic or are relying mainly on the internet and guidebooks as a source of information. It does get rather annoying when such people noisily try to drown out everyone else, including people who DO have good reliable info based on solid personal experience.

*hint hint*

#8 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,004
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Posted by MADMAC on 21/8/2009 at 14:28

In my view, does living here and having a "close connection" provide you with valueable insight? Of course. How could it be otherwise (unless you're tone deaf). Does it mean you know everything about everything? No way. Bruce, for example, knows a lot more about different parts of SE Asia than I ever will.

#9 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by SBE on 21/8/2009 at 14:31

PS. Forgot to say that there are things that even a mere tourist probably knows better than an expat with a local wife.... things like what a particular guest house is actually like to stay in.

#10 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,004
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Posted by spikybrain on 21/8/2009 at 14:59

I thing farangs living in asia think they know more, but in fact don't know nearly as much as they think they do.

#11 spikybrain has been a member since 21/8/2009. Posts: 20

Posted by MADMAC on 21/8/2009 at 16:02

Spiky
On the other hand, a critical component to learning a foreign culture is language. And it's much easier for an expat to learn the local language than a tourist who simply lacks the time. Sadly, many of them don't bother - a huge mistake in my view.

#12 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by Thaiman on 25/8/2009 at 15:36

I only ever use my experieces in Thailand to show newcomers to the site that there is more to Thailand than Full moon parties,Khao San road etc.
Never sought to have superior knowledge to anyone.
As for pecking order,I see none.Have to put up with that at work.He He

#13 Thaiman has been a member since 12/11/2008. Posts: 201

Posted by MADMAC on 22/9/2009 at 22:08

"I only ever use my experieces in Thailand to show newcomers to the site that there is more to Thailand than Full moon parties,Khao San road etc."

Man, you got that right.

#14 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by kukuruza on 3/11/2009 at 20:49

"I raise this point not to belittle or demean westerners with SE Asian partners. Rather to seek answers about pecking order - or relevant 'authority' - in relation to Travelfish contributions."

#15 kukuruza has been a member since 29/10/2009. Posts: 13
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