The Elderly in American and Thai Culture
People’s customs, their social conduct or behavioral mannerism, celebrations and ceremonies, traditional wears, their music, food among other things usually determine their culture. Culture does not remain constant in any society be it in the west, Africa or Europe. As years advance and civilization picks up its pace, the trend taken by cultures vary in many aspects. For example, certain foods were never eaten in Africa.
If you visited Thailand, you may get a culture shock especially if you are an American. The same is true of a Thai who visit America. This is simply because of the diverse cultural differences between these two countries. In America for example one doesn’t have to bow when greeting elderly people. What is considered respect in one culture can be different in another.
Cultural Differences Between Thailand and America
It is important to understand various cultures of the world. This is possible by seeking to know the expressions that people use in a day to day conversation. Some of the common expressions used by cultures vary in their meaning. But can all the expressions used play a role in interacting with various age groups in a culture?
It is true that both Thai and Americans understand the age divide between young people and the old. Young people on both ends understand who an elderly person is. The government takes care of those whose ages are beyond a working class by providing them with social amenities like shelter and other basic needs.
Some cultures have a tendency of elevating some age groups than another. This means that an expression in one culture could mean disrespect to elderly individuals in one culture unlike the other. If you think of elderly people in a society, you will immediately notice that some cultures value their presence more. Some cultures however, are not at all bothered by the length of years that a person has lived on earth. In such cultures, all are equal.
Anne Brodgesell in her articles notes that in today’s society, people who are appreciated and respected have done nothing to deserve it. She insists that those who are deserving of respect and appreciation are left to fade away in poverty. Do we value the elderly in the society? Is the respect given to the elderly in your society reducing as years pass by? May be, the growth of industrial revolution is having impact on how young people interact with the older age groups in the society (society and lifestyle).
As people interact in the work place and in other social forums, it is common for them to get used to each other. If the group is mixed, in most cultures, you will realize that people begin to interact as peers even when they belong to different age gap. In the Nan Province, Northern Thailand, for example, guardian spirits are normally appeased through sacrifices. These guardian spirits constitute Panthon who is the main spirit. This is done three days after every three years in a calendar.
American’s especially the northern ones never regard the elderly as compared to how other cultures endear them. Among Thais, a young person is not allowed to sue an elderly person in court. If you did this, it would be considered a curse. Elderly people must be respected. When they wrong you, you need to restrain yourself and not to react harshly against them.
For a Thai, when a young person is talking with the elderly, they should not show an attitude of teaching but rather speak to them politely as if it is in a normal conversation. They can only be allowed to teach their parents on religious matters when they become monks among Buddhist. Younger people are not allowed to give teachings on religion in the presence of the aged. This is unlike in the American culture where a young person can be a pastor leading a big congregation of old people.
Among the Thai, there is never any room for an argument between parents and their children. Thais value the formation of a child’s life through discipline. But Americans would commonly argue with their parents even in public. In a bus, women, children elderly, and monks sit while the rest can stand.
Among the Americans on the contrary, children do not regard elderly people with so much respect. You will find a young man sitting in a bus while the elderly is standing. It is surprising to a Thai that an American child can sue their parents in court. This is seriously scaring and disrespectful to a Thai who feels that old people are the ones who are supposed to sit while young ones to stand.
Since over centuries, culture has evolved in societies, it is true to say that it is not easy to change people deeply rooted culture. Culture is a way of life. The truth about cultural evolution is amazing. History tells us that the early man had a particular way of life. They hunted and gathered. Although we still have hunters and gathering in some today’s cultures, urbanization and industrialization put together have drifted people away from primitive uncivilized lifestyle to a world where great civilization is market by presence of modernized systems of doing things.
Children’s Behavior Towards Elders
Cultures evolve in a certain manner depending on what is new and what people adore most. Fashion affects culture. Children’s behavior towards elders affect the way others will view you respect. It is not possible to have children just chatting when elderly people are present.
Americans value the aspect of achievements as compared to age. Even the elderly regard a young person who has achieved more with respect. For Americans young people are valued most since they are able to influence economic growth; new is more valued than old. The elderly are most out of connection with new hence you is given more chance. Economic empowerment is more targeted to younger generation who are considered to be the cream of the society. They are meant to work but the problem is that they never consider that older people have wisdom.
Thais value the elderly by the virtue of their age. They consider old people to have lived long so the assumption that their experience is so much. Americans on the other hand would want to consider what a person has achieved in life. Since they have stayed long enough, they have been able to acquire more experience that us. For that reason, they are consulted on every aspect of life matters. They are taken to have vast knowledge like a walking encyclopedia. The aged have answers on how to live a happy life according to Thai culture.
When greeting an elderly person, a Thai is expected to bow his head. When walking past or to and elderly person, for Thai culture, you are supposed to lower your body just a little as a way according them the respect due.
In a gathering, when people are sitting down, a Thai young man is expected to sit at a lower level or at the same level but now above the elderly. It is mandatory to talk politely to an elderly person. It is disrespectful among the Thais, suggestions by elderly people is always true and correct. Younger people must listen to them as the give instructions. You are not supposed to argue with an elderly person (Stoller and Gibson 157).
An earlier survey in America revealed that each yea, older Americans is caught in the quagmire of social evils conducted against them. Some may differ with the statistics found but, the reality be said that most elderly people suffer abuse of some kind. Research conducted in the United States reveal that cases of abused elders lead to their demise before their real time, Elder abuse and neglect.
An article in the Elderly Website define elder of American culture as homeless population who are never cared for by the public. Most young population stereotype against older people. They perceive them to be the rich self-sufficient people. In depth, study would reveal that these are the poorest individuals in the society. The kind of poor and negative attitude attributed to the elderly in American society has made some to even reject aid from rich people who are willing to help. This is not the case with the Thai who would rather die but see elderly cradled.
The kind of young people’s attitude in America about the elderly is influenced by social media industry. The television has worked hard enough to convince young people that heroes are found among the young adults unlike the old who have no more strength to conquer. Movies show young heroes while the old are portrayed as dependant beggars. It is unfortunate how the rich who are young and able do not regard the old.
A better understanding should be accorded older people in every society. A society that value elderly people will give care and recognition to them. It is necessary for all, whether American, Thai or other cultures to understand the place of elderly men and women. A society which lacks elderly people is a sick one.