It has now been 10 years since I last came to Thailand, and not much has changed. I was expecting the city of Bangkok to have reinvented itself, as most big cities in the world have over the same period of time. Here, time has frozen, the buildings and the people stuck between tradition, tourists religion and modernity.
The Chinese are leading the economy in this country through retail and banking. The workforce is imported from nearby countries such as Burma and Laos – as the Thai put it: they look like us but they speak English.
In the middle of the constant noise and traffic of Tuk-Tuk and pink taxis, I am observing my 9 year old son.
He is looking around at this environment which is new to him.
He has no fear, he is noticing differences but is not comparing nor judging.
He’s studying his surroundings.
He is trying to work out why the locals he meets cannot help but touch his hair and skin, and then he gets it: he looks different from them so they are surprised and fascinated to see such an unusual little boy.
So he smiles and says hello, bringing his hands together and bending gently the way they do here – to reassure them perhaps?
Unconsciously, he has adapted, as quickly as a chameleon would.
Unconsciously he has learnt the most important lesson in order to do international business: Learn and understand others’ environment and point of view so you understand how they see you and you can act accordingly.
And consciously, I hope he will keep this lesson in mind all his life.