Sunday, January 23, 2011

When in Rome...

Guess who wears the big shoes in the middle? I suppose you don't even have to guess.

This is what it looks like outside of every house in Thailand that has a number of people inside it at that particular moment.

It is part of the Thai cultural identity. There are many other things that are integral to the historical Thai culture. Thai dance (ramthay), muay thai (Thai boxing), extreme respect for elders (take note young people), and flamin' spicy food.

What brought me to write this short note was due to a song we sang at worship last week. Americans are rather abstract in their thinking but Thais, generally, are very concrete. The following illustration is a perfect example.

We were singing the hymn, 'Standing on the Promises' but I noticed in the Thai translation that the translator did not use the phrase as we sing it. Rather, he wrote, 'chuu thuu,' which means 'to hold or carry the belief.' Those phrases, I suppose, could be similar but the meanings seem to be a stretch.

Then, a friend reminded me of the cultural significance of the foot in Thai culture. It is considered very dirty and unclean. As a matter of fact, it is impolite for someone to even see the bottom of your foot. Thais, with their concrete thinking, would literally visualize someone standing on a Bible. That, also, is of cultural significance.

Thais would never set their Bible (or any other book, for that matter) on the ground. It is very rude and impolite. So, to put their Bible on the ground and then to take a stance on top of it, would be extremely insulting and something no Thai would ever, ever do.

Now, we know that 'standing on the promises' does not literally mean to stand on the Bible but, to the Thai mindset, that is exactly what is being said. This is just another reason that we must be sensitive to understanding the people and historical culture of where we are living.

I just wish eating hot, spicy food wasn't something that was culturally significant.