Thai Culture vs American Culture!

Understanding Thai culture and American culture

Individualism VS Collectivism

Individualism-Collectivism is a major measurement of cultural variability used to explain cultural differences in communication across cultures. People in individualistic society are more self-centered and emphasize personal achievement rather than the group harmony. They tend to put rights and privacy first. On the other hand, collectivist cultures require people to fit into a group; they value their relationship and group harmony over individual’s goals. They view themselves as a member of a group (family, tribe, work unit). People in collectivist cultures are more willing to cooperate and they tend to avoid conflict. Furthermore, collectivist cultures value social obligation, which make them avoid conflict to maintain a positive social relationship.

Hierarchical vs Egalitarian societies

Hierarchical refers to societies that have a formality. It is organized into various successive layers depending on several factors such as status and power. People’s social status is determined by social power; some people have more power than others and it is widely acceptable from people in the society. People will give more respect to others who are a senior by age and by social status. Conversely, egalitarian society is a community where everyone is treated the same way regardless of their social status. It holds the belief that all people are equal and should have the same rights and opportunities.

Thailand, in particular, is an example of a hierarchical culture. Social relationships are defined in terms of one person’s superiority to another.  Teachers are superior to their students, bosses to their subordinates, parents to their children and elders to the younger generation. Even in language, we use different kinds of words with people depending on their social status. For instance, we use different words when talking to a friend, parent, boss, teacher, or monk or when we speak to the Royal family or have a conversation that refers to them. We even use different names for ourselves depending on whom we have a conversation with.

How Thai and American see the boss!


Concept of Self between Thai and American


graphics copyright of Yang Liu

Tightness vs Looseness

In a ‘tight’ society, such as China, Japan or Thailand, parents and teachers emphasis rule abidance. They monitor children’s behavior; a good child or a good student is the one who abides the rules. In Thai culture, people have been taught to follow the rules and the patterns of behavior that their ancestors have passed down to their children. It is something that people have been doing for generations.

On the other hand, parents and teachers in a ‘loose’ society, such as America, tend to encourage children to explore the world more. Parents and teachers in a loose society are more permissive than those in tight society.


Thai Culture American Culture
Social system Collectivism  Individualism
Social relationship Hierarchical Egalitarian
Nature of culture Tightness Looseness
Conflict style Indirect/ avoidance Direct/ confrontation
Social status Characteristics such as age, gender, and family determines social status People’s status is based mainly on their own achievements, including education obtained and level of success realized in their line of work.
Emotional expression Emotional control Emotion is openly expressed
Communication Indirect Direct


Related content:

Cultural Tightness-Loosness

Negotiating Globally by Jeanne M. Brett

The Journal of Values Based Leadership