Local Customs

So here we are in Thailand, and I didn’t get around to blogging any of our trip to Britain!

In my defense, the schedule was insanely busy. Four school visits, three interviews, three “Meet the Author” videos, one stage appearance, three lunches and two dinners with booksellers, librarians, editors, and scouts. Two hotels, four trains, a zillion cabs. One flu (Justine’s) and one almost flu (mine).

More about all this later. But for the moment, huge thanks to the two publicists who shepherded me around the country (this means you, Kat and Elisa!) and to all the way-cool British teachers, librarians, and fans I met.

But here’s my current concern: The UK trip was so busy that I didn’t get a chance to read up about Thailand before we got here. I don’t even know how to say “thankyou,” which is just about unforgivable. Justine has been here before and knows how to say some stuff. But women and men have different sentence endings in the Thai language, so I can’t even imitate her! Argh.

And it gets worse. About half an hour from landing in Bangkok, I was reading a guide to Thai etiquette, and came across these rules . . .

Show respect for the monarchy, Buddhism, and the monkhood. Criticism causes universal offence and may be heavily penalised.

Stand for the King’s anthem.

The head is the highest part of the body spiritually and must not be touched or pointed at, particularly by the feet, the lowest part of the body. So never use the feet to move, shut or point at things, nor step on coins or banknotes (they bear the king’s head).

Treat Buddha images with respect. Don’t point at them (especially with feet).

Step over, not on, door thresholds.

Don’t lose your temper. Anger is viewed (and avoided) as temporary insanity and prevents resolution of problems.
Time Out Bangkok

Okay, now most of this is easy. I rarely give in to temporary insanity, except with printers, MS Word, and the occasional grammar issue. I’ve got my own head of state to diss, so I’m down with respecting the king. (And come on, monks are always cool.)

But the not-pointing part is tricky. I’m a tourist, after all! It’s my job to point at stuff in a charming, slack-jawed way. In fact, a mere hour after reading the rules above, we were cruising down the airport highway, and all these cool Buddhas were planted along the roadside, welcoming us to Thailand.

And I immediately pointed at them. Bad farang!*

Don’t point at the Buddha, dude!

Also, I’m going to have trouble not doing things with my feet. You know, like shutting doors and moving stuff around. What can I say? I played soccer as a kid.

But I’m sure they’ll cut me some slack until the jetlag goes away.

So what, you may ask, are we doing in Thailand? Mostly, we’re getting a chance to stop touring and get some work done. Our six weeks here are like our own little NaNoWriMo!

Speaking of which, are any of you writing a novel in November? It’s what all the cool kids are doing. Plus, it’s fun to say “NaNoWriMo.”

Okay, must start writing, um . . . now. More on the UK later, after I practice not pointing.

*Farang is Thai for “foreigner.” And that’s me.

PS It’s 32C (90 Fahrenheit) here. Woo-hoo!

44 thoughts on “Local Customs

  1. I am doing NaNoWriMo right now. The past two years I breezed through. This year, my wordcount is currently at 2003. Today I decided to stop writing that book and start over on another one. I don’t know what’s wrong with me this year, but it’s just not coming out. So I’m switching in the middle, something I’ve never done before. So, I’ve got to keep going at 1667 a day and catch up on 8000+ words that I slacked off on. Wish me luck–I’m gonna need it.

    Thailand sounds…. interesting. Honestly, that would freak me out a little bit. Is it just culture shock, or is it a government thing? Seems awfully rigid. Hope you have fun, and that there are no more flu-incidents. 🙂

  2. Wow! Sounds like fun! 90 degrees? Lucky! Here in Seattle, all we’re getting is cold rain….

    I’ve been writing a novel, but I’m currently working on a short story for my English class!

  3. Thailand sounds…. interesting. Honestly, that would freak me out a little bit. Is it just culture shock, or is it a government thing?

    Oh, these aren’t laws or anything. Just cultural stuff, but important, like knowing not to stick your middle finger up in someone’s face.

  4. you’re in THAILAND? I strongly dislike you at the moment. I want to go to Thailand… and there’s no “King” perse, there right now… as far as I know. The current Prime Minister was just put there, because of that whole coup thing back in September that nobody knows about (which is INCREDIBLY annoying.)
    Feel free to step on HIS head for me. I don’t like him.

  5. Pointless but amusing bit of trivia: “farang” for foreigner (especially Western European-looking foreigner) almost certainly comes from the medieval Arabic word faranj/faranji, which referred to the Crusaders from Western Europe, who were dominated by Franks (i.e., French). Similar words are used throughout the Middle East, parts of Africa, and South Asia. And, um, in Star Trek (“Ferenghi”).

    So in a weird sort of (historical) sense, you’re “French” when you’re a farang.

    Lyra: there is a King in Thailand, and he is, from what I’ve read, highly respected — so a bit more like the Emperor of Japan than the Queen of England, perhaps. Like most present-day kings, he isn’t involved in day-to-day ruling, for which they have a Prime Minister. (And, yes, there was a military coup; apparently, the King made some indication that he approved of the coup, after it had happened.)

  6. I’m always writing a novel. Okay, make that I’m always writing about half a dozen novels, none of which are finished yet. But that’s probably got to do with the fact that I’m far more dedicated to my martial arts career than to my career (or lack thereof) as a fantasy writer. And I don’t generally have the kind of attention span to sit down and start at chapter one most of the time, so I just write down whatever part comes to mind first. Yes, I know this is probably some high sin in the world of novel writing, but if I didn’t do it that way I’d never get anything done lol. And love the whole Thailand thing, wish I could go there.

  7. 90 degrees would drive me insane. i’m a snowboarding type person… whats wrong with feet? i like my feet!

  8. (he meaning the King…. culture should be respected above most things. But the leaders of the coup were in the wrong here, and so is the Prime Minister.)

  9. Wow. Thailand!!! Exciting. No pinting at naything or doing stuff with feet though? You’d need training for that. Good Luck!

    It’s 32 and you’re CELIBRATING? Ug. WAY WAY TOO HOT. I have enough of that in Summer thank you very much. That would totally ruin fall. But what ever makes you happy.

  10. You’re in Thailand? Cool, but one thing I’ve got to point out. I’m pretty sure that according to Buddhism you’re not supposed to take pictures of Buddha directly, but you’re allowed from an angle. My dad got busted for this a few years back in China, but maybe things are different in Thailand.

    Oh, and just a little off-topic comment – I’m doing a book report on Midnighters: The Secret Hour right now. 🙂

  11. Thailand?? SO COOL! I wanna go!! 🙂
    I love different cultures. They are so RAD. Keep us updated on how you’re coping. Lol.

  12. Thailand is cool dude. The cultures sound slightly.. odd but well I guess our cultures sound odd to them too. I mean I seriously would rather go back to studying China and Thailand and Japan and basically all of Asia rather than the Middle East. GRRR Stupid MOLEY GEOGRAPHY TEACHER. on the good side though since I’m doing my powerpoint on epidemics of the ages since Peeps and The last days talk slightly.. [i] slightly [/i] about the bubonic plague I can add the to my bibliography.

    NaNoWriMo sounds sweet I’ll stick to my tattered, held together with ducktape notebook though. THat I just remembered lending to my friend.. Shoot. She’s going to think Imperfection is retarded.. Oh well.

  13. Wow. Thailand. Cool. (Eegad, harsh customs!)

    Vive la France!

    I’m doing Nanowrimo. I should be working on it now.

    Kenzie’s right; it’s been raining practically nonstop here. *sigh*


  14. Off Topic But Important News:
    A few weeks I posted taht Peeps was nominated for the American Library Association’s Teen Read Week Top Ten Books List. We have the results now and it came in fifth!!! Thanks to everyoen who voted!

    List (There are soem greta books on here so take a look):
    1. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic Press, 2005).

    2. “Twilight” by Stephanie Meyer (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2005).

    3. “Eldest” by Christopher Paolini (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2005).

    4. “Rebel Angels” by Libba Bray (Delacorte Press, 2005).

    5. “Peeps” by Scott Westerfeld (Razorbill, 2005).

    6. “13 Little Blue Envelopes” by Maureen Johnson (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2005).

    7. “Poison” by Chris Wooding (Orchard Books, 2005).

    8. “Captain Hook: The Adventures of a Notorious Youth” by J.V. Hart (Laura Geringer Books, 2005).

    9. “If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince?” by Melissa Kantor (Hyperion Books for Children, 2005).
    10.”Elsewhere” by Gabrielle Zevin (Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2005).

  15. Yay for Peeps and Poison!! Those are two of my favorite books. Also YAY for Twilight!!
    Right now in English we are reading No Logo (yeah, we’re sooo into muckraking) and when we get to the chapter on cool-hunting I get to talk about So Yesterday! (For all you people who didn’t think hunting for cool things was a real job, you were WRONG.)
    Washington State seems to have many book awards (I guess we like to read?), so when So Yesterday was nominated for The Evergreen Young Adult Book Award I just had to vote for it!! (The Secret Hour was in there too, but So Yesterday was my favorite. The description of it on the pamphlet called Hunter ‘XX’, what’s up with that?)

  16. Very cool. I love Thailand, though I’ve never been. My best friend lived there for a while. By the way, has anyone seen the British version of Specials? I just looked on http://www.amazon.co.uk and typed in Scott Westerfeld, and the first book on there was Specials. Pretty weird/cool cover, but I like the Barbies on Uglies and Pretties better. Check it out if you want. But…Thailand…very fun. 🙂

  17. Hey, guess what Scott! I am doing a Nanowrimo! (My username there is Duskamber just to let you all know)! It is totally sweet. I am only 3,000 words in but just finished my other book at 67,395!!! That is novel length, people! I am still celbrating!

    But, for all you eager bevers, my nanowrimo is at this URL: http://www.nanowrimo.org/userinfo.php?uid=168020

    …Okay. That’s all!

  18. Aww when was So Yesterday up for voting on for an award in Washington? I missed it :[

    I’d love it if I could do NaNoWriMo, but I don’t have enough time in my day to get enough written. Guess I’m not a cool enough kid :p but I do have a friend that is writing for it. Maybe next year … or the year after … I’ll have enough time to write a novel.

    Thailand sounds really neat, except for the no-pointing rule. Not even with your feet? That must be tough …

  19. Hey, Lauren-la! I don’t have enough time either! I just write because it is fun and Nanowrimo is a great place for support! I will never be able to finish my story but it is still fun to do!

    Good luck to all you other nanowrimos!

  20. Hey Scott,
    Your one of my fave author’s. Ever! I havn’t read all your books but i’m trying (the biggest reader in school has a lot of responsibility. Ok Ok second biggest reader.). Right now I have so many books to read!

    You’re so lucky!!! It’s absolutly freezing over here! (and not yet snowing for some weird reason)

    Have you heard of the “Barcode” series?It’s sorta like the “Uglies” trilogy. It’s futeristic, and everyone needs a barcode. It carries your idenity pretty much. It’s supposed to improve lives, but itstead it ruins Kayla (the main character) and her friend, Amber’s lives.
    It has alot of stuff on Gov’t control. Not nearly as good as Pretties but still good.

    Have fun in Thailand!!!!

  21. I’m doing nanowrimo this year, which I am currently procrastinating. I should reach 10k tonight, I’m far behind, but fortunately I have a free day tomorrow. The only bad thing about that many words in a day is that I tend to get really wordy when I speak because I’m so used to typing out as much as I can to get my words in.

  22. Hahahaha, you know how I said I was switching books mid-NaNo? I didn’t. I’m still plugging stubbornly away at the same one as before. Don’t ask me, I would be the last to know. 😛

  23. Lauren-la, you can still vote for So Yesterday.. I think. They have the pamphlets at most libraries here in Washington (King County Library System libraries, anyway). I feel sad that I am not writing a novel this month… whenever I start to type my brother comes and says he has homework. Dang his evil Highschool teachers!! Now I feel bad…

  24. Bwah ha ha!! I now have my own NaNoWriMo! I am triumphant!! It’s not much yet (considering I’ve started 10 days late) but you can read an excerpt if you look for Falconrider under authors. That’s all for now! Good luck, everyone, on all your writing!

  25. I’m participating in NaNoWriMo (for the first time). I’m proud of myself for just buckling down and doing it. I just have to keep reminding myself, “This is just your FIRST draft.”

    As for not pointing at things with your feet… do they often have tourists who point with their FEET? I mean, I’ll gesture with my foot if something’s on the ground, but I lack the flexibility to raise a leg shoulder height and gesture emphatically at something interesting (which would defeat the purpose anyway, since I’d end up being something interesting).

  26. umm.. random…

    i checked out “So Yesterday” from my school library yesterday.
    Finised it 2 hours ago.
    Googled u.
    read your blog.

    i left Thailand recently.

    may be we met at the airport.. i think i recognized a farang who looked like u…. lol

  27. wow-that’s neat!
    i’ve just had a writers burst and am writing a short story of zane and tally-wa. i dont know which book it’s taking place in…probably middleish of the pretties.
    you’re books are amazing and keep me going.
    thanks for everything

  28. uh..oops…forgot all about NaNoWriMo..
    *curses self*
    I normally would go head on about these writing events..
    maybe next year…
    (if there is one next year)

  29. WOO! My story is over 10,000 words!! And I was a week behind… I plan on winning — and now the end is in sight! (OK, not really, but I can dream, can’t I?)

  30. Wow. Were you busy. If you ever come to Arkansas, please post it way before the date that you come…It would be awsome to meet you.

  31. I wouldn’t call Thais strict. They’re just so extremely polite (underline ‘so extremely’ fifty times).
    That rule about not getting angry; wow. It just hit me. All my life, I’ve never came across an angry Thai. Not one,and i’ve met loads!
    They’re all so soft-spoken and gentle that I often mistook Thai boys for young woman.
    Have fun in Thailand!

  32. Wow…Thailand sounds wonderfully different!

    All the cool kids were writing novels last month! Ah well I was just reading them! haha!

  33. i want to read Uglies…! ^^ and the others…therefore after christmas i shall take the bookstore by storm and capture the thick volumes…! also, i wish to go to thailand now. >3

  34. I freakin love those little taxi things like i mean they are soooooo colourfullllllll woot woot yaaaaaaaaaaay

  35. Thailand sounds cool, but I’d end up being all stressed out from trying to obey all those customs.
    What happens if you break one of those rules without jet-lag as an excuse?

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