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Cultural Studies

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Based on my life experience, I feel that Thai culture is very different than mine. I was born and raised in Poland, which has a Catholic majority. Thailand's major religion is Buddhism and roughly 95% of the population is Buddhist. Buddhism is very different than most religions that I am familiar with. I was brought up Catholic and believe in heaven and hell, one God and that we all have one life. In Buddhism, the belief is that life does not begin with birth and end with death, but rather one has many lives. Reincarnation as an animal or human occurs based on Karma. The overall goal of Buddhists is to reach Nirvana, which is a state free of desire, suffering, and reincarnation, where an individual is one with his or her surroundings.

When analyzing the cultural attributes of eye contact, personal space, gender variability, gestures, and sexual orientation, I will compare these to my native Poland. Growing up, I was taught to make direct eye contact when being spoken to or speaking to anyone else; it is considered a sign of respect. In Thailand, brief eye contact is the norm and staring is not polite. Rank by age or power may dictate eye contact as well. Phu Noi (lower status) may bow the head to Phu Yai (higher status) individuals.

In Poland, strangers have a different personal space when compared to those who you know well. I would say that about two feet is the closest I would come to a stranger, unless traveling on public transportation, for example. With family and friends, I am more comfortable being closer than two feet away. In Thailand, haptics dictate that people may stand one to two feet away. Standing one foot away from strangers may make me feel uncomfortable, unless the situation, such as travel in a crowed train dictates that distance.

Gender lines are very strict in Poland. Even the Polish language denotes male or female association with objects. Regarding sexual orientation in Poland, there are openly gay and lesbian individuals, but far less transgendered that what I have heard about in Thailand. In Thailand, it seems less straightforward. Kathoey is the word for an individual with undermined sex. The term kathoey includes homosexuals, as well as transgendered individuals. While living in the US, I have heard that many people travel to Thailand for gender reassignment surgeries.

Gestures vary from culture to culture. Some gestures in one culture may mean something completely different in another. In Poland, one points to the forehead when referring to another person to infer that they are crazy. In the US, one circles the ear with the index finger to indicate that another is crazy or acting crazy. In Thailand, the head is considered the most sacred and the feet the least. The biggest insult is to point ones foot at another's head, or to touch ones foot to another's head.

It is very interesting to see the variations in cultural norms from country to



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