Difference between pages "Philippines" and "Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand"

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{{CountryboxAlternative
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{{Diversity_and_cross-cultural_issues_by_country}}
|Countryname= Philippines
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In fulfilling its mandate to share the face of America with host countries, the Peace Corps is making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years. Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences.  
|CountryCode = rp
+
|status = [[ACTIVE]]
+
|Flag= Flag_of_Philippines.svg
+
|Welcomebooklink = http://www.peacecorps.gov/welcomebooks/phwb492.pdf
+
|Region= [[Asia]]
+
|CountryDirector= [[Sonia Derenoncourt]]
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|Sectors= [[Youth]]<br> [[Education]] <br> [[Environment]]
+
|ProgramDates= [[1961]] - [[1990]]<br>[[1992]] - [[Present]]
+
|CurrentlyServing= 105
+
|TotalVolunteers= 8233
+
|Languages= [[Tagalog]], [[English]], [[Visayan]], [[Ilokano]]
+
|Map= Rp-map.gif
+
|stagingdate= Aug 20 2009
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|stagingcity= Los Angeles
+
}}
+
  
 +
Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In Thailand, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Thailand.
  
The program in the Philippines is the second oldest in the Peace Corps. It began with the arrival of 123 education Volunteers in October 1961. Since then, more than 8,000 Volunteers have served in the Philippines. In June 1990, the program was suspended because of a threat from Communist rebels; it resumed in 1992. Currently, Volunteers are addressing the country's development priorities through projects in youth, education, environment and business development.
+
Outside of Thailand’s capital and other cities, many residents have had relatively little sustained exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles, though they may have had some contact with the many tourists who visit each year. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes.  
  
 +
The people of Thailand are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners. However, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.
  
==Peace Corps History==
+
To ease the transition and adapt to life in Thailand, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual. For example, female trainees and Volunteers may not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions need to be handled with great care; and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these and other limitations.  The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.
  
''Main article: [[History of the Peace Corps in Philippines]]''
+
===Overview of Diversity in Thailand ===
  
In October 1961, the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers in the Philippines arrived to begin classroom assignments in the areas of language, mathematics, and science. Those 123 Volunteers were the second group in any Peace Corps country.
+
Although the majority of Thailand’s population is both Buddhist and ethnically and linguistically Thai, there are regional linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic differences.  The presence of many non-Thai groups also contributes to the diversity of the country. Thais generally emphasize their commonalities and the strengths that diversity contributes to their country. When differences are expressed, it is generally in subtle ways that require linguistic and cultural understanding to grasp. Thais’ emphasis on tolerance, maintaining smooth relationships, and a sense of order creates a generally welcome environment for Volunteers.  
  
Today, approximately 200 Volunteers continue to work with Filipinos to train primary, secondary, and tertiary teachers; to support organizations working with children, youth, and families at risk; to assist in the management of coastal resources, water systems, and waste management; to provide livelihood assistance; and to promote biodiversity conservation. Since 1961, more than 8,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in the Philippines, and it is the country in which the largest number of Volunteers has served.
+
Despite the ideal of social harmony, there are some conflicts, which are readily apparent in the tabloid press. Thailand’s social structure includes an inherent hierarchy, with competing beliefs about who is entitled to what. Thais often attempt to hide conflict from guests, something you may experience with your colleagues. Nevertheless, Thais manage to find extraordinarily beautiful ways to maintain harmony in the face of diversity, many of which you will no doubt find intriguing.  
  
The fact that more than 8,000 Volunteers have served in the Philippines is significant. Filipinos tend to like Americans in general and Peace Corps Volunteers in particular. Many of the Filipinos you meet will recall with great fondness former Volunteers they have known.
+
The Peace Corps staff in Thailand recognizes the adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexual orientations, and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture.  
  
==Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle==
+
===What Might a Volunteer Face? ===
  
''Main article: [[Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles in Philippines]]''
+
Thai hospitality is legendary. You are unlikely to experience direct confrontation if you practice the basic do’s and don’ts introduced in pre-service training and balance your needs with those of your Thai co-workers and community members.  Of course, the Peace Corps cannot control every host country national’s treatment of you, nor would you want such intrusion. You should be able to handle most situations on your own. Some Volunteers may experience blatant bigotry, but subtle discrimination is more common. Part of your role as a Volunteer is to promote, through your actions and behavior, a more thorough understanding of the United States and Americans among the people in your community.
  
Your housing and site location will depend upon your assignment. For Volunteers assigned to rural areas or to small islands, housing is typically composed of hollow concrete blocks, wood, or bamboo. Education Volunteers are often assigned to towns or cities, where housing is better than in rural areas. Most houses in both rural and urban areas have running water (some with toilets that flush and others with toilets that require flushing with a pail of water) and 24-hour electricity.
+
Thai people are very direct in regards to physical appearance in a manner that may be considered rude by American standards. Volunteers should expect to hear comments about their height, weight, hair, etc.  
  
 +
The following information is provided to help you prepare for challenges you may encounter in Thailand based on your gender, ethnic or racial background, age, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or disabilities.
  
Trainees are required to live with a host family during pre-service training, and Volunteers are required to live with host families during their first three months at their assigned site (the families usually are identified by the local agency the Volunteer is assigned to). After this period, you may choose to continue living with your host family or move into your own dwelling. Living with a Filipino family can help you integrate into your community, provide you with a deeper understanding of the local culture, and help you become comfortable with the local language.
+
====Possible Issues for Female Volunteers ====
  
 +
In recent years, the proportion of female Volunteers in Thailand has reached close to 75 percent, including those who are married. Most female Volunteers experience a high degree of security in their communities and when they travel within the country. Physical harassment is not common, but precautions still need to be taken. The higher status of men compared with women can manifest in both subtle and not-sosubtle ways. For example, women are often expected to take on more work than men are, and they often do so. This can be frustrating for both female and male Volunteers. Additionally, young females may face an uphill battle to gain the respect of their male Thai counterparts as age and experience is often valued over youth and enthusiasm—especially for women.
  
==Training==
+
====Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color ====
  
''Main article: [[Training in Philippines]]''
+
Many Thais are not well-informed about the ethnic and racial diversity of the United States, and they therefore expect Volunteers to be Caucasian. In addition, many Thais view lighter skin as more beautiful, a perception based more on an aesthetic bias than any racial prejudice and one that existed long before encounters between Thailand and the West. African-American Volunteers, in particular, should not take Thais’ views of skin color personally and should try to see them within this context. In addition, people in villages may have a difficult time seeing some people of color as Americans.
  
The goal of pre-service training is to provide you with the language, cross-cultural, community entry, safety and security, and personal and health management skills necessary to work effectively and live successfully at your site.
+
Unfortunately, in recent years, heroin smugglers have used West-African nationals to smuggle drugs out of Thailand, which has led to a belief among some Thais that American blacks are Africans who smuggle drugs. Fortunately, professional and personal relationships between African-American Volunteers and their Thai counterparts have broken down these stereotypes.  
  
As management changes in all Peace Corps posts at least once every 5 years, it should be noted that Pre-Service Training changes methods and policies to better suit the percieved needs of the trainees. Batch 265 (Official swear-in date, June 1st, 2006) used the training model shown below:
+
It is common for Asian Americans to be mistaken for Thais, which can have both benefits and drawbacks. One advantage is that Asian Americans blend better into the community and thus may not receive as much unwanted attention in public.  A disadvantage is that Thais may initially expect you to have the language skills of a native speaker. Thai friends told one Asian-American Volunteer that they were disappointed they did not get a “real American” as they had requested. This Volunteer also felt that her Thai co-workers initially valued her less than they valued Caucasian Volunteers because they thought an Asian American was not very different from a Thai.  But once people know you are not Thai, you are likely receive the same celebrity treatment that most foreigners receive in Thailand.
  
Pre-service training has three phases. Phase 1 is a one-week orientation, in which you will learn about the Peace Corps’ role in the Philippines, receive administrative and medical information, and be introduced to Peace Corps policies. Phase 2, which lasts nine weeks, includes community entry/technical skills, language, cross-cultural, safety and security, and personal and health management sessions and activities. This phase takes place both at the hub site and cluster sites in the community. Phase 3 is held three months after you have been at your site. This training focuses on enhancing your capacity to carry out the technical aspects of your role based on your assigned sector and the goals and objectives of your project plan.
+
If you are an Asian American, Thais may ask you about your ethnic origin, wanting to know the country of your ancestors. Thailand is home to many Asian minority groups related to contemporary Chinese, Burmese, Khmer, and Lao peoples, many of whom lived in the area before there was a distinct country known as Siam (later Thailand). The small Vietnamese population arrived primarily in the 1950s, and most have remained in the northeastern Thai towns and cities where they took refuge.  
  
The training for Batch 266 (Official swear-in August 2007) is similar to that stated above, but Phases 2 and 3 have been merged into one 3 month training.
+
====Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers ====
  
Here is the more recent training scheme used for Batches 271 and 272: The first phase, called Initial Orientation or Center-based training, included 2 weeks of language, technical and cultural training with all PCTs in the same location. After the first two weeks, volunteers moved to their training sites (in clusters) for approximately 8 weeks of community-based training in which each PCT lived with a host family. Both training phases also included sessions regarding matters such as health, safety and security, and Peace Corps policies and procedures. After swearing in, PCVs have various opportunities for continued language, cultural and technical trainings as well as IST and MST conferences.
+
Thai government workers are subject to a mandatory retirement age of 60 (with exceptions for some with specialized skills), so Volunteers over 60 will have Thai coworkers who are younger than they are. Thais give great respect and importance to senior family members, and senior Volunteers often receive similar deference and respect, though this does not necessarily translate to greater respect for their professional competence or technical knowledge.  Your co-workers may smile, nod, and appear to agree with you when the opposite is true, perhaps because they do not want to offend you.  
  
==Health Care and Safety==
+
Although more seniors are joining the Peace Corps nowadays, most of your fellow trainees are likely to be under age 30, and the Thai training staff is largely composed of recent college graduates. Generally, seniors are warmly accepted by other trainees; still, there may be times when you miss interacting with people of your own age, especially in social situations.
  
''Main article: [[Health Care and Safety in Philippines]]''
+
The Thai language trainers recognize the different learning styles and needs of seniors and will endeavor to provide the most suitable training for older trainees.
  
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in the Philippines maintains a clinic with two full-time medical officers and a medical technologist, who take care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Other medical services, such as additional testing, are available at local, Peace Corps-certified hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to the premier medical facility in the region or to the United States.
+
====Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers ====
  
 +
Thais do not usually view bisexuality and homosexuality as sinful or unnatural, nor are there criminal penalties against sexual acts between members of the same sex. However, some bisexual and homosexual Volunteers have found it necessary to adjust their behavior to be effective in their jobs and respected by members of their communities. Most choose to remain “in the closet” to Thai friends and co-workers at their sites.
  
==Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues==
+
Physical contact in public between members of the same sex (such as linking arms while walking down the street) is a common way for Thais to show affection, and it is important for Volunteers to realize that such displays of affection likely are nonsexual in nature. Volunteers who are accustomed to being part of a large gay community in the United States may not get the support to which they are accustomed. However, gay communities do exist in urban centers such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and you will probably find significant support within the Peace Corps community.
  
''Main article: [[Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues in Philippines]]''
+
All women will have to deal with questions or teasing about boyfriends, marriage, and sex. All men will have to deal with questions about American women and girl watching and may be pressured by co-workers to visit brothels. During pre-service training, trainees are encouraged to think through these issues and plan possible responses.
  
In the Philippines, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in the Philippines.
+
====Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers ====
  
Outside of Manila, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The Filipino people are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.  
+
A high degree of religious tolerance exists in Thailand. It is doubtful that any religious issues will arise, unless one breaks the Peace Corps’ prohibition against proselytizing by Volunteers.  
  
* Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
+
====Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities ====
* Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
+
* Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
+
* Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
+
* Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
+
* Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
+
  
 +
Thais’ respect for others extends to individuals with disabilities, and the country has made efforts to help disabled individuals have productive jobs and lives. One example is the tradition of blind masseuses and masseurs in Thailand.  In addition, schools are beginning to mainstream those with disabilities into regular classrooms.
  
==Frequently Asked Questions==
+
Volunteers with disabilities need to be aware of the rigors of the Peace Corps/Thailand program during both training and service. Trainees and Volunteers are expected to arrange their own transportation to the various training venues and workplaces. Any special accommodations needed during training and when at one’s site, such as an alternative to travel by bicycle, should be made known during the placement process in the United States, prior to arrival in Thailand.
  
{{Volunteersurvey2008
 
|H1r=  52
 
|H1s=  69.5
 
|H2r=  57
 
|H2s=  78.5
 
|H3r=  53
 
|H3s=  80.9
 
|H4r=  8
 
|H4s=  112
 
|H5r=  48
 
|H5s=  47.8
 
|H6r=  34
 
|H6s=  84.3
 
}}
 
  
''Main article: [[FAQs about Peace Corps in Philippines]]''
+
[[Category:Thailand]]
 
+
* How much luggage am I allowed to bring to the Philippines?
+
* What is the electric current in the Philippines?
+
* How much money should I bring?
+
* When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
+
* Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
+
* Do I need an international driver’s license?
+
* What should I bring as gifts for Filipino friends and my host family?
+
* Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
+
* How can my family contact me in an emergency?
+
* Can I call home from the Philippines?
+
* Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
+
* Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
+
 
+
 
+
==Packing List==
+
 
+
''Main article: [[Packing List for Philippines]]''
+
 
+
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in the Philippines and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything on the list, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight limit on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in the Philippines.
+
 
+
* General Clothing
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* For Women
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* For Men
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* Shoes
+
* Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
+
* Kitchen
+
* Miscellaneous
+
 
+
==Peace Corps News==
+
 
+
Current events relating to Peace Corps are also available by [[News | country of service]] or [[News by state|your home state]]
+
 
+
''The following is automatic RSS feed of Peace Corps news for this country.''<br><rss title=on desc=off>http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&ned=us&scoring=n&q=%22peace+corps%22+%22philippines%22&output=rss|charset=UTF-8|short|date=M d</rss>
+
 
+
<br>'''[http://peacecorpsjournals.com PEACE CORPS JOURNALS]'''<br>''( As of {{CURRENTDAYNAME}} {{CURRENTMONTHNAME}} {{CURRENTDAY}}, {{CURRENTYEAR}} )''<rss title=off desc=off>http://peacecorpsjournals.com/rss/rp/blog/50.xml|charset=UTF-8|short|max=10</rss>
+
 
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==Country Fund==
+
 
+
Contributions to the [https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=492-CFD Philippines Country Fund] will support Volunteer and community projects that will take place in Philippines. These projects include water and sanitation, agricultural development, and youth programs.
+
 
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==See also==
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* [[Volunteers who served in Philippines]]
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* [[Peace Corps Alumni Foundation for Philippine Development]]
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* [[Inspector General Reports]]
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* [[Pre-Departure Checklist]]
+
* [[List of resources for Philippines]]
+
 
+
==External links==
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* [http://www.peacecorpsjournals.com/bn.html Peace Corps Journals - Philippines]
+
 
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[[Category:Philippines]] [[Category:Asia]]
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[[Category:Country]]
+

Revision as of 22:27, 12 March 2009

Diversity and cross-cultural issues in [[{{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |7}}]]
In fulfilling the Peace Corps’ mandate to share the face of America with their host countries, Peace Corps is making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years. Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences.
  • [[Packing list for {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |7}}]]
  • [[Training in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |7}}]]
  • [[Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |7}}]]
  • [[Health care and safety in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |7}}]]
  • [[Diversity and cross-cultural issues in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |7}}]]
  • [[FAQs about Peace Corps in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |7}}]]
  • [[History of the Peace Corps in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |7}}]]
See also:
[[Category:{{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Thailand| |7}}]]

In fulfilling its mandate to share the face of America with host countries, the Peace Corps is making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years. Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences.

Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In Thailand, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Thailand.

Outside of Thailand’s capital and other cities, many residents have had relatively little sustained exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles, though they may have had some contact with the many tourists who visit each year. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes.

The people of Thailand are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners. However, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.

To ease the transition and adapt to life in Thailand, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual. For example, female trainees and Volunteers may not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions need to be handled with great care; and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these and other limitations. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.

Overview of Diversity in Thailand

Although the majority of Thailand’s population is both Buddhist and ethnically and linguistically Thai, there are regional linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic differences. The presence of many non-Thai groups also contributes to the diversity of the country. Thais generally emphasize their commonalities and the strengths that diversity contributes to their country. When differences are expressed, it is generally in subtle ways that require linguistic and cultural understanding to grasp. Thais’ emphasis on tolerance, maintaining smooth relationships, and a sense of order creates a generally welcome environment for Volunteers.

Despite the ideal of social harmony, there are some conflicts, which are readily apparent in the tabloid press. Thailand’s social structure includes an inherent hierarchy, with competing beliefs about who is entitled to what. Thais often attempt to hide conflict from guests, something you may experience with your colleagues. Nevertheless, Thais manage to find extraordinarily beautiful ways to maintain harmony in the face of diversity, many of which you will no doubt find intriguing.

The Peace Corps staff in Thailand recognizes the adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexual orientations, and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture.

What Might a Volunteer Face?

Thai hospitality is legendary. You are unlikely to experience direct confrontation if you practice the basic do’s and don’ts introduced in pre-service training and balance your needs with those of your Thai co-workers and community members. Of course, the Peace Corps cannot control every host country national’s treatment of you, nor would you want such intrusion. You should be able to handle most situations on your own. Some Volunteers may experience blatant bigotry, but subtle discrimination is more common. Part of your role as a Volunteer is to promote, through your actions and behavior, a more thorough understanding of the United States and Americans among the people in your community.

Thai people are very direct in regards to physical appearance in a manner that may be considered rude by American standards. Volunteers should expect to hear comments about their height, weight, hair, etc.

The following information is provided to help you prepare for challenges you may encounter in Thailand based on your gender, ethnic or racial background, age, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or disabilities.

Possible Issues for Female Volunteers

In recent years, the proportion of female Volunteers in Thailand has reached close to 75 percent, including those who are married. Most female Volunteers experience a high degree of security in their communities and when they travel within the country. Physical harassment is not common, but precautions still need to be taken. The higher status of men compared with women can manifest in both subtle and not-sosubtle ways. For example, women are often expected to take on more work than men are, and they often do so. This can be frustrating for both female and male Volunteers. Additionally, young females may face an uphill battle to gain the respect of their male Thai counterparts as age and experience is often valued over youth and enthusiasm—especially for women.

Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color

Many Thais are not well-informed about the ethnic and racial diversity of the United States, and they therefore expect Volunteers to be Caucasian. In addition, many Thais view lighter skin as more beautiful, a perception based more on an aesthetic bias than any racial prejudice and one that existed long before encounters between Thailand and the West. African-American Volunteers, in particular, should not take Thais’ views of skin color personally and should try to see them within this context. In addition, people in villages may have a difficult time seeing some people of color as Americans.

Unfortunately, in recent years, heroin smugglers have used West-African nationals to smuggle drugs out of Thailand, which has led to a belief among some Thais that American blacks are Africans who smuggle drugs. Fortunately, professional and personal relationships between African-American Volunteers and their Thai counterparts have broken down these stereotypes.

It is common for Asian Americans to be mistaken for Thais, which can have both benefits and drawbacks. One advantage is that Asian Americans blend better into the community and thus may not receive as much unwanted attention in public. A disadvantage is that Thais may initially expect you to have the language skills of a native speaker. Thai friends told one Asian-American Volunteer that they were disappointed they did not get a “real American” as they had requested. This Volunteer also felt that her Thai co-workers initially valued her less than they valued Caucasian Volunteers because they thought an Asian American was not very different from a Thai. But once people know you are not Thai, you are likely receive the same celebrity treatment that most foreigners receive in Thailand.

If you are an Asian American, Thais may ask you about your ethnic origin, wanting to know the country of your ancestors. Thailand is home to many Asian minority groups related to contemporary Chinese, Burmese, Khmer, and Lao peoples, many of whom lived in the area before there was a distinct country known as Siam (later Thailand). The small Vietnamese population arrived primarily in the 1950s, and most have remained in the northeastern Thai towns and cities where they took refuge.

Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers

Thai government workers are subject to a mandatory retirement age of 60 (with exceptions for some with specialized skills), so Volunteers over 60 will have Thai coworkers who are younger than they are. Thais give great respect and importance to senior family members, and senior Volunteers often receive similar deference and respect, though this does not necessarily translate to greater respect for their professional competence or technical knowledge. Your co-workers may smile, nod, and appear to agree with you when the opposite is true, perhaps because they do not want to offend you.

Although more seniors are joining the Peace Corps nowadays, most of your fellow trainees are likely to be under age 30, and the Thai training staff is largely composed of recent college graduates. Generally, seniors are warmly accepted by other trainees; still, there may be times when you miss interacting with people of your own age, especially in social situations.

The Thai language trainers recognize the different learning styles and needs of seniors and will endeavor to provide the most suitable training for older trainees.

Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers

Thais do not usually view bisexuality and homosexuality as sinful or unnatural, nor are there criminal penalties against sexual acts between members of the same sex. However, some bisexual and homosexual Volunteers have found it necessary to adjust their behavior to be effective in their jobs and respected by members of their communities. Most choose to remain “in the closet” to Thai friends and co-workers at their sites.

Physical contact in public between members of the same sex (such as linking arms while walking down the street) is a common way for Thais to show affection, and it is important for Volunteers to realize that such displays of affection likely are nonsexual in nature. Volunteers who are accustomed to being part of a large gay community in the United States may not get the support to which they are accustomed. However, gay communities do exist in urban centers such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and you will probably find significant support within the Peace Corps community.

All women will have to deal with questions or teasing about boyfriends, marriage, and sex. All men will have to deal with questions about American women and girl watching and may be pressured by co-workers to visit brothels. During pre-service training, trainees are encouraged to think through these issues and plan possible responses.

Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers

A high degree of religious tolerance exists in Thailand. It is doubtful that any religious issues will arise, unless one breaks the Peace Corps’ prohibition against proselytizing by Volunteers.

Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities

Thais’ respect for others extends to individuals with disabilities, and the country has made efforts to help disabled individuals have productive jobs and lives. One example is the tradition of blind masseuses and masseurs in Thailand. In addition, schools are beginning to mainstream those with disabilities into regular classrooms.

Volunteers with disabilities need to be aware of the rigors of the Peace Corps/Thailand program during both training and service. Trainees and Volunteers are expected to arrange their own transportation to the various training venues and workplaces. Any special accommodations needed during training and when at one’s site, such as an alternative to travel by bicycle, should be made known during the placement process in the United States, prior to arrival in Thailand.