History of the country or countries from where the cultural group comes from
The first Thais came to the United States were Chang and Eng Bunker, the famous Siamese twins. Of mixed Chinese and Thai ancestry, they were brought to the United States in 1830 to become a sideshow attraction. They adopted the family name “Bunker”, and then settled in White Plains, North Carolina. They both married and had children, spending alternate nights in each other’s home. Their descendants are numerous.
He Thien was the first Thai who aim on study in the United States. (Original name “Thien Hee”). A Thai Chinese who was brought by a returning American missionary. He Thien graduated from a New York medical college in 1871. Then he returned to Siam, eventually adopting a Thai name. He Thailan was an influential businessman and father of Pote Sarasin, a former Prime minister of Thailand. He was the founder of the powerful Sarasin Family.
Thai immigration process to the United States was very slowly. It began in earnest during and after the Vietnam War, in which Thailand was an ally of the US and South Vietnam. Records show that in the decade between 1960 and 1970, about 5,000 Thais immigrated to the United States. In the following decade, the number increased to 44,000. From 1981 to 1990, some 64,400 Thai citizens moved to the United States.
According to the 2000 census there were 150,093 Thais in the United States.
In 2009, 304,160 US residents listed themselves as Thais.
Thai migration has passed through three stages:
- Pioneer migration
- Group migration
- Mass migration
The first stage which called pioneer migration, coincided with the two post-war decades, when only a handful of educated, middle-class Thais immigrated each year. The second stage was group migration. This stage benefited from the change in American immigration laws; it was marked by a slow but steady increase in numbers and by a gradual change in the composition of the migrant flow. At the present time, the third stage or mass migration is occurring, which includes many economic immigrants seeking new opportunities. Of the three stages of Thai migration, the last stage starting from the 1980’s until now, is characterized by immigrants with lower educational attainment (only up to a third grade level of education) and an unskilled or semi-skilled workforce whose lack of English language proficiency and undocumented status. All these factors make them vulnerable to the most severe and egregious forms of exploitation. It is this group that represents the target population of Thai.
Reasons and conditions for immigration to the United States
Thais, unlike other Asian groups, began migrating into the United States of America quite late, with the first definite records being in the 1950s. The very first Thai people to come into the United States were generally the elite. They came into the country voluntarily most of the time. Since then an influx on group immigrants and mass immigration of the Thai people has been recorded. There are different motivations to the latest surge in immigration ranging from pursuing studies to being political refugees, but the most common is the economic immigration. They Thais come to the United States in search of better opportunities.
While most of them come to the United States with high hopes, getting into the US does not always result in the happy fulfillment of the American dream. For one, since a huge number of the Thais come in as economic immigrants, they are not privy to the privileges accorded to the people who come into the country as refugees. For this reason, in the event that their businesses do not take off as they might have hoped, they are plunged into the lows of poverty, in a foreign country where most of them usually have no one to turn to.
Worse still, there is a huge language barrier that prevents them from building social contacts and getting any form of help, even medical help. The United States in culturally parallel to the Thailand. The two countries differ in the way people relate to one another, talk to one another and interact with one another. Assimilation into the US culture is usually a tough process. Along with that, coming from Thailand where almost everybody else is Buddhist, the diverse US religious practices come as a shock to the Thai immigrants.
Educational experiences in the country
The style of classroom management as of now in Thailand is very discouraging. The number of students doing well in their examinations is very low compared to the number of students who are failing. The results, furthermore, are losing credibility due to the increased falsification of students’ results. Management of schools in Thailand is very different from that in the US this is because of the challenge it faces both from the behavior of the students and the prevailing socio-economic problems. Teachers spend most of their time in the organization and control of students than in teaching. The different management styles employed in schools in Thailand are; authoritative style, authoritarian style, indulgent style and permissive style. In authoritative style behavioral expectations are normally laid out and they clearly states why students are expected to behave in a particular way. Authoritarian style is where there are stipulated regulations on the accepted code of conduct of the students. The students have no say in the management style the teachers use and they tend to be punishing to the students. Indulgent style is whereby students’ efforts to achieve their own needs are supported. Lastly, permissive style is where there are no demands on the students to behave in a certain way. In Thailand instructors often use indulgent style followed by authoritative style and then permissive style. Authoritarian style is used though not in many schools in Thailand. Immigrants to the US always have difficulties coping with the new learning environment as they are accustomed to a completely different learning style. Language barrier is also a significant problem since English is not their native language and this is the language schools in the US use to teach.
There is very little or no students participation in class. This is evidenced by the students’ tendencies to go to class late. This behavior is bolstered by the no fail policy applied in the education system, where the teachers are not supposed to give the students low grades that would translate to failure. This no fail policy has made students to lack seriousness in their education. Some even report to class without books and pens as they are assured of a pass at the end of the semester. The system has made them lazy and passive in their participation in class. In the recent past increased development in technology have resulted to students carrying their electrical gadgets to class. This includes mobile phones and iPods. These devices take all the attention of the students and therefore they show very little participation in class or none at all. Students are also not encouraged to raise their hands to ask a question or to question anything the teachers say. All these factors make teaching in Thai schools very challenging.
Teachers in Thailand are treated with a lot of respect by the students. Teachers have the mandate to instill discipline to the students in any way they see fit in most schools. This perception has led to introduction of corporal punishment in many schools. Corporal punishment creates resentment between teachers and students. The teachers are also generally unmotivated and show little concern for the students. It does not help that the government keeps implementing new laws almost every semester regarding the curriculum, timetable and lesson plans. These rapid changes affect the teacher’s ability to plan ahead. Thai people in America have a hard time coping with the change in the education system. Their perceptions and what they deem right in their country is sometimes considered as an offense in US for example, corporal punishment.
Most Thai schools run on the same policies in its public or private schools. Different policies have been implemented in many Thai schools to reduce the amount of homework given to students. These policies suggest integration of two or three subjects into a comprehensive homework. The amount of homework varies depending on the school. The ministry of education in Thailand has suggested the reduction in the amount of homework given to the students whereby, primary level students should be given less homework and upper-secondary students should have a bit more homework. The ministry also recommends that the primary students should spend one hour on their homework or reviewing their class work while upper-secondary students should spend two hours.
The schools run on stringent rules regarding the appearance of the students, with most having a uniform dressing code and haircuts. The interaction between the genders is thoroughly checked and the flouting of such rules attracts punishments of varied nature. Respect to the authority is expected and demanded, such that the student is not allowed to challenge the decisions and opinions of the teachers just as the teachers cannot voice opposing opinions on the system for the fear of losing face. Communication is therefore hindered and curtailed which reflects in the poor performance of the children.
Teaching profession in Thailand is so different from the one in the United States. Teachers are treated with a lot of respect by the students. School atmosphere is so relaxed which is as a result of the influence by the Thailand people way of life. It is not a strange thing to find teachers sleeping in the staffroom something that would never happen in the United States schools. Deadlines for submission of exams and lesson plans are usually extended. Lessons also do not follow the stipulated time and they often start late or end early. Sometimes teachers do not even have to follow the curriculum as long as they instill basic knowledge of the subject they teach to the students. The difference in the educational structure of Thailand and the US is very great. While the Thai people adopt a relaxed system of education the American people have a more serious learning environment. Immigrants to the US, therefore, have a lot of trouble adjusting to the system.
Language characteristics, similarities and differences between the language spoken and English
Thailand’s official language is Thai as spoken and written in Central Thailand. Thai is very different from English. These differences can be seen from pronunciation codes, grammar rules and orthographic.
Values and Beliefs
The Thai people are mostly Buddhist, with almost 95% practicing Theravada Buddhism. They draw their cultural influences and beliefs from the values stipulated by this religion. It reflects in their social life and which in turn affects their school life. Buddhism proposes self-control, patience and hard work and but this is not the script most students follow in the Thai classes. Most of the activities carried out on the schools must be within Thai people religious beliefs. A good example is the practice of children removing shoes before they enter the class. They also have to put down their shoes if they are carrying them on their hand when a teacher passes as this is considered unholy. Students also have to kneel when addressing a teacher who is seated as standing in front of a teacher is considered to be a source of misfortunes. School managements offer sacrifices and prayers to the Buddha for success and fortune of their schools and the students offer them for success in their exams.
Thai communities are majorly male-dominant, such that the males are usually given greater societal precedence than the females. In such a setting, education for a long time was viewed as a conserve of the male children while the females were relegated to performing house duties. This changed recently when the government passed laws that allowed the females to break away from the confines of traditional law, and allowed them to engage in professions that were previously male-dominated such as medicine and politics. This change is yet to set well among the Thai community living in the US. They are still working around giving equal opportunities to education to the boy and girl child.
Thai people accord much respect to people who hold social status and people in authority. The teachers especially are to be granted maximum respect. This kind of mentality towards authority at times curtails free communication since the students are used to a system of taking instructions without question. The families do not pay too much attention to the education of their children, since quality education is still an alien thing to them.
Since the military coup in 2014, Thai military forces have put measures in place to regulate the information that is circulated to the people. This is in violation to the people’s right of expression. The declaration of a martial system created fear among the residents of Thailand as they were afraid of the consequences they would incur due to speaking their mind.
The military regime banned any information that would incriminate the government they had formed which had a negative impact on the people’s freedom of speech. This situation was further worsened by the inability of the court to act independently and without prejudice. This was due to a decree by the government to the court system to hear cases using the laws they had formed. People who dared speak against the government were imprisoned in very unfair trials. The government also enforced bans on both print and online media which kept people in the dark.
These bars on the freedom of speech have been reflected on the education sector. Teachers have imparted the same laws on students whereby students are discouraged from giving their own views and disagreeing with their teachers. Teachers, on the other hand, are not allowed to speak against the way the education systems functions as this would lead to grave consequences for example, imprisonment and loss of job.
There are many differences in the culture and the accepted code of conduct in the United States and in Thailand. In America people have the freedom of speech whereas in Thailand people have no freedom of speaking their mind. In America there is limitation on what is perceived right by the law and the society. In Thailand, however, limitations on social behavior are less. These has therefore made Thailand a destination for people who don’t like being bound by the law. Another difference is the materialistic nature of Thai people. Thai people like to boast about what they owe for example, the type of houses they have and the number of degrees that one possess. Thai people also perceive west countries such as America as a destination for wealthy people and an opening for greater opportunities.
Families also plays a vital role in their children education. This is because they provide the resource necessary for the children to go to school. The level of schooling is determined by the families’ financial capabilities. Large families with many children to tend to leave some children at a disadvantage as they are not able to go to school or they get stuck at some point in their education. Reduced birth rates in Thailand have led to an increase in the number of students going to school.
Rice is the main dietary staple of Thailand. Thais eat two kinds of rice: the standard white kind and glutinous, or sticky, rice. Sticky rice rolled into a ball is the main rice eaten in northeastern Thailand. It is also used in desserts throughout the country. Rice is eaten at almost every meal and also made into flour used in noodles, dumplings, and desserts. Most main dishes use beef, chicken, pork, or seafood, but the Thais also eat vegetarian dishes.
Thai food is known for its special combinations of seasoning. Although it is spicy, Thai cooking is carefully balanced to bring out all the different flavors in a dish. Curries (dishes made with a spicy powder called curry) are a mainstay of Thai cooking. Hot chilies appear in many Thai dishes. Other common flavorings are fish sauce, dried shrimp paste, lemon grass, and the spices coriander, basil, garlic, ginger, cumin, cardamom, and cinnamon. Soup, eaten with most meals, helps balance the hot flavors of many Thai dishes as do steamed rice, mild noodle dishes, and sweet desserts. Many dishes are served with sauces, such as Nam Pla Prig, for dipping. Coconuts play an important role in the Thai diet. Coconut milk and shredded coconut are used in many dishes, especially desserts. Thais eat a variety of tropical fruits for dessert, including mangoes, papayas, custard apples with scaly green skins, and jackfruit, which is large and prickly and has yellow flesh.
Thai food differs somewhat from one region to another. Seafood is popular in the southern coastal areas. The Muslims in that part of the country favor curries. The spiciest food is found in the northeast.
Songkran (Thai New Year) –April 13th-15th
Songkran is one of the biggest and most important Thai holidays. The 3 day celebration is often combined with the weekend to make a 5 day break. This holiday is celebrated with parades, religious ceremonies, and festivities throughout the country. Water plays a big part in this holiday. It is associated with purifying things for the new year, bringing rain for a good harvest, and with fertility. The tradition of splashing water on people has grown into a multi-day water-fight, where water guns, buckets, and hoses are used to drench everyone in sight. If you are in Thailand during Songkran, expect to get wet!
Makha Bucha (Magha Puja) –Feb 7th, 2012
This is a traditional Thai holiday celebrated in the third lunar month, on the night of the full moon. In 2012, this falls on Feb 7th. The holiday celebrates an important date in Buddhist history, when over 1200 of the Buddha’s disciples gathered to hear a sermon laying out central principles of Buddhist teachings.
Cultural influence on America
Thai Americans are famous for bringing Thai cooking to the United States. Thai cuisine is popular across the country. Even non-Thai restaurants may include Thai-influenced dishes on their menu.
Thai culture‘s prominence in the United States is disproportionate to their numbers. The stationing of American troops in Thailand during the Vietnam War exposed the GIs to Thai culture and cuisine, and many of them came home with Thai wives.
Formerly, the Thai American community took no part in politics. However, with the recent controversy over former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, activity in the Thai community increased. Prior to his overthrow, there had been protests against him at the Thai consulate in Los Angeles.
In 2003, two Thai Americans ran in municipal elections, one in Anaheim, California, the other in Houston, Texas. Both lost. However, on November 7, 2006, Gorpat Henry Charoen became the first US official of Thai origin, when he was elected to the La Palma City Council in California. On December 18, 2007, he became the first Thai American mayor of a US city.
Tammy Duckworth, a Thai American Iraq War veteran, ran for Congress as a Democrat in Illinois’s 6th district in the 2006 mid-term election. She was narrowly defeated, and served for two years as Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. She was previously the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. She was considered a likely nominee for appointment to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by Barack Obama‘s election to the Presidency of the United States; however, Roland Burris was appointed instead. On November 6, 2012 Duckworth was elected to the US Congress to represent the 8th District of Illinois. On November 8, 2016, she was elected as the junior Senator from Illinois, the seat previously held by Barack Obama.
Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King and Head of the State of Thailand, was born at the Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on December 5, 1927. At the time, his father was studying at Harvard University. He is the only American-born monarch in history.