The Thai Character - Thai Personality Traits

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While we personally think that cultural differences between people are often greatly overstated, the characteristics of Thai people as described below might ring a bell for those of us who have stayed awhile in Thailand, and this essay may be beneficial for those considering a long term stay for work or pleasure here. The positive aspects of the Thai character (find them throughout this page) certainly contribute to the number of foreigners who have made Thailand their permanent home.

Thai National Character

This lengthy essay will focus on the social cultural forces that influence Thai social behaviors to the extent that they constitute persistent behavioral patterns, thus the personality of the Thai people.

Conceptually, value systems, as relatively stable structures of culture held by representative members of the culture, can reflect to quite some extent, the national character of that culture. The Thai value systems, derived from the empirical data from two national samples, as conducted by Suntaree Komi, which show a remarkable overall consistency overtime and across groups, have provided some highly consistent and culturally meaningful data, indicating the cognitive dimension underlying the Thai social system. This, consequently, enables her to further identify 9 value clusters, based on the relative correlations among values and through use of inter-subjectivity method from a number of scholars familiar with Thai culture and personality.

The 9 value clusters according to the priority of importance, representing the dimensions whereby characteristics of individuals (group) and national character can be meaningfully described.

Characterizing a national culture, of course, does not mean that every person in the culture has all the characteristic dimensions arranged in the same order of importance. Therefore, in describing the Thai national characteristics, we are referring to the common characteristic elements within the Thai culture - the national norms, or group norms in case of describing particular group. This should be kept in mind when interpreting the 9 value clusters in the following section.

The grouping of the 9 value clusters for explaining the Thai national character is based more on the Instrumental values - the common means for the relatively varying goals, due to the nature as well as to its findings.

By nature, Instrumental values, as modes of behaviors serving as means, instrumental to the attainment of the goals, reflected effective social interaction patterns of a culture. Logically, different cultures may have subtly socialized different means to attain goals. Therefore, the findings of Thai Instrumental values should be able to reveal the culturally learned patterns of social interactions, whereby Thai people learn to use them to survive and function effectively in Thai society.

Together with in-depth studies, research data render support to the overall picture that the Thai social system is first and foremost a hierarchically structured society where individualism and interpersonal relationship are of utmost importance. And it is reflected in the following 9 value clusters on a continuum of psychological importance from high to low, as presented below. It should be borne in mind moreover that the higher the order, the closer to the self and more likely to be activated to guide actions.

Each of the following descriptions of Thai Character Traits opens separately :


1. Ego Orientation

2. Grateful Relationship Orientation

3. Smooth Interpersonal Relationship Orientation

4. Flexibility and Adjustment Orientation

5. Religio-Psychical Orientation

6. Education and Competence Orientation

7. Interdependence Orientation

8. Fun-Pleasure Orientation

9. Achievement-Task Orientation

Primary Source : Fr. Peter S. Niphon SDB, Hat Yai
Full unedited text (includes footnotes and references)
Secondary Source :   S. KOMIN, Psychology of the Thai People: Values and Behavioral Patterns. Bangkok, Research Center, National Institute of Development Administration.