I have run cultural workshops across Asia for over 15 years now. It never ceases to fascinate to see the different reactions that these kinds of commercials receive from different cultured audiences.
As hoteliers, it is important to understand the market that you are working in, as well as understand the mindset of the guests at your property. One of the hardest things for many foreign executives to do when working in a new part of the world is getting used to the different paradigms of ‘Political Correctness’ in that new place.
Sometimes it is necessarily at least momentarily take off the PC glasses of our own cultures and try and see and feel the world through the eyes of the people in our host country.
Many expats in Thailand don’t really watch Thai TV. I have met expatriates across Asia who have lived there for over ten and twenty years, but don’t really get more than a few blocks outside of their expat bubble, expat friends or ‘internationalized’ local friends who all speak English. When these expats finally do start to tune in to what is really being said around them (usually through learning the language), they can be quite shocked. Understanding the innuendo and the subtleties that only the language can provide is indeed an eye-opener.
I have put this reel together of four commercials to give the English speaking world a taste of what’s ‘par for the course’ when it comes to racial PC in Thailand. Similar opinions are held by certain demographics in neighboring countries too.
I highly recommend reading through the comments under the clip in YouTube too. Cognitive dissonance seems rife from all sides.
Some may argue that this is merely an issue of skin color and beauty. An issue of aesthetic preferences – that’s all. What’s different to the west’s obsession with getting that perfect bronzed tan look?
While there might be some truth to that, it’s important to acknowledge the direct links between different ethnic groups and races in Asia, the skin color and features associated with them and then the roles that they are ‘permitted’ or ‘expected’ to perform in society. You can see in one of the clips, the Thai actor has been made up to look like an African with shoe-polish like skin colouring, a family portrait of the African-like family, along with his pronunciation of Thai in a mockingly African accent.
These mindsets have a direct impact on your hotel business when it comes to placing people in jobs, building teams amongst staff and also when pairing people to different demographics of guests that are coming to stay. In the end, it is of course your own moral judgement what is right and what is not going to fly. Just understand that the way you think is right may be very different to what your local teams might be expecting.