Inspiring Caring Leaders Across Cultures  

Khun Dusadee Haymond

Published Date : Dec 27, 2017

Crossing Cultures

An interview with Khun Dusadee Haymond, 1987 Fulbright Alumna and member of the Fulbright Thailand’s Board of Directors

As a Thai alumna and, at the same time, an American member of Fulbright Thailand’s Board of Directors and as a former staff of both Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the U.S. State Department, Khun Dusadee indeed brings with her the real sense of Thai-U.S. cross cultural relations.

Once step into her house in the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission’s residence compound, we felt the air of Asian and American mix with books and artifacts from around China, Laos, Thailand, and the U.S.A deliberately chosen by khun Dusadee and her husband khun Peter Haymond. She kindly walked us through her collections including tons of books which make her residence resemble a cozy library. In fact, khun Dusadee herself is a writer and a translator with several publications. If you are fans of ‘Travel Around the World’ magazine (เที่ยวรอบโลก), you might be familiar with ‘Blue Bird’ who wrote ‘Shadows of the Past’ (เงาอดีต) and ‘Student Life in the USA’ (ไปเรียนหนังสือที่เมืองมะกัน). She is the real ‘Blue Bird’!!!

With her language backgrounds, we asked khun Dusadee to share her view on how Thai and English reflects characters of Thais and Americans. While Thai language seems to be softer and more complicated with endings (kha, krap) for politeness and hierarchical word choices for different social statuses, English is more simple, direct, and non-hierarchical. The use of language tells that Thais are very polite and pay much respect to seniority and ranking. The most frequently used words ‘krang jai’ (awe/reluctant to do something because the person put himself into others’ shoes) and ‘mai pen rai’ (that’s ok) also imply that Thais are easy going and will try the best to avoid conflicts or confrontation.
Americans, on the other hand, are straight forward in speaking their mind and will argue for their idea. At work, the differences of characters could lead to misunderstanding and frustration.

A classic example is the situation in which Thais do not want to say no directly. Instead, they prefer to 1) give no response or 2) simply say they will think about it or 3) say it is interesting without committing anything. It is understandable that Americans could interpret it differently. In the same way, it is common for Americans to express their ideas freely. Oftentimes, they simply wish to share their thoughts on some issues but Thais consider their normal self-expression aggressive and their ideas as harsh criticism. If we look through the differences to the real intention while trying to understand differences of nature, it will be less frustrated and less hostile.

We also learned that cross cultures are taken seriously by the State Department which requires most officers to study languages and cultures of the host countries before they start their work. Some language programs including Thai are considered the second most difficult languages and take seven months to complete. At the end of the program, officers must pass the exam but with different levels of proficiency depending on their posts.

Well, language and cross cultures – that are what Fulbright Thailand is striving to promote through all our grant programs! Although khun Dusadee is new to the Board and, according to her own words, is still finding ways to best contribute to the Foundation, her expertise and experiences would be valuable for our attempt to promote Thai-U.S. cross-cultural awareness and understanding. She herself could be our example!