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Thread: Bun Khun

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    The artist formally known as Wabbits Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน wabbits's Avatar
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    Bun Khun

    Bun Khun.... "favor causing obligation"
    Something that comes up quite a lot but i have noticed never seems to be talked about.
    Was sitting around the other night and we were having a conversation about Bun Khun.
    We were trying to work out if it is a concept that works in the west and in our case Australia.

    Simply put in Thailand someone does you a favour at some point they expect you to pay it back!

    Does this work here?
    For me no as most of us will happily ask or do a favour with no expectation of anything in return.

    Its the Australian way and I think fits with most western way of thinking.
    It has caused us problems at time via MW not understanding my thinking and I not understanding hers.

    Hence the discussion for me this Thai concept is quite a negetive one as it seems to me everyone might avoid doing anything or feel pissed off at delivering their obligation.
    Is that my thinking at being expected to give rather than wanting to give.

    My mates in the army would be there in a heart beat at the hint of a problem with no thought of anything in return.

    MW understands me and how we deal in OZ and I her.

    What experiences have you had?

    What are your feelings about Bun Khun??

    For those living in LOS does it come up much??
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    Frequent Flyer kaptainrob's Avatar
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    It's more noticeable since we leased this house as Jo gets on very well with the owners. The landlady started by dropping in home-cooked food when we first moved in ... and very tasty it was too as she has a Taiwan Chinese Muslim husband ... so her cooking is a melting pot of Asian cuisine. Alas, NO pork!

    Jo reciprocated, with fresh vegetables from market, and Khun Porn did same ... anyway, cutting a long story short KP calls in for coffee frequently and there's no longer any obligation on us.

    KP still calls bearing a small take-away of scrumptious southern/muslim-style food. I'm not complaining .... Bun khun a la khun Porn is aloi jung loy!
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    ประเทศไทยเพื่อน Founding Member Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Changone's Avatar
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    Bun Khun appears more than anything to be about control. Control over other people.

    In biblical terms lazy Abel made a stew for his hard working brother Cain and convinced him to hand over his birthright in exchange for the much needed meal. He got killed for his trouble because it just wasn't a fair thing.

    TG are forever indebted to their parents through Bun Khun, regardless of the financial abuses that may follow.

    Bun Khun is the main reason why Thais have been left behind commercially by the Chinese and by the West, who have always been free of this odd constraint.
    Why would anyone work harder than they need to when they can't accumulate capital and they also owe someone else anything they make over subsistence in terms of favours?

    It is different to feudalism in that there is no strict mechanics that determine repayment of obligation, like paying the local lord in bushels of corn etc except that the person remains obliged to repay a favour, and is seen by others to be linked to another person via Bun Khun. That person is socially rated by how namy people he or she controls in this way.

    In Australia we have no such thing. Yes we have people who are indebted financially, but slavery was outlawed long ago. it is just not cool to be seen to have lackeys and lap dogs.

    What we have here is called "Mateship" and it's done us proud for years.
    the only rule is you can't be a part of the "Ujack system".

    That'll do me mate.


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    Uber Star Soi wanderer Uber Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Nomad's Avatar
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    A very similar concept exists in China, called guanxi. Essential to understand if you want to do business in China.

    Guanxi - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    It is very important to quickly return the favour, otherwise you never know what you may be called upon to do.
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    The artist formally known as Wabbits Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน wabbits's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nomad View Post
    A very similar concept exists in China, called guanxi. Essential to understand if you want to do business in China.

    Guanxi - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    It is very important to quickly return the favour, otherwise you never know what you may be called upon to do.
    Like I buy you expensive dinner now marry my daughter or carry this bag through customs.........
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    Organic AI Quarky's Avatar
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    One of the reasons I left NZ. Bun Khun or equivalent. It's endemic there... I never see it in the UK. I see it as an insecurity issue.... but a lot of older Kiwis in business seem to abide by it.
    My only experience was in a pie making factory managing the gravy team


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    The artist formally known as Wabbits Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน wabbits's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Distantpeak View Post
    One of the reasons I left NZ. Bun Khun or equivalent. It's endemic there... I never see it in the UK. I see it as an insecurity issue.... but a lot of older Kiwis in business seem to abide by it.
    I must have been away to long to remember but had a chat with Dad and he said very much so very favor driven.
    I will scratch your back but first you must scratch mine.
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    Foundation Member Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Minder's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wabbits View Post
    .....My mates in the army would be there in a heart beat at the hint of a problem with no thought of anything in return.

    MW understands me and how we deal in OZ and I her.

    What experiences have you had?
    I think Australians help others with an unspoken expectation that they will help us should we ever need their help ...and I also think if we have helped others first then the more eager they are to "return the favour" once that chance presents itself ... that's mateship ...

    Enjoy...
    Last edited by Minder; 18th September 2012 at 16:26.
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    Foundation Member Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Sydney's Avatar
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    i woud say it is an Australian thing to help and not expect anything in return ( definitly more then NZ where every favour is counted and never fogetten 555555). however its not absolute given in Oz either.....counting still goes on, and reminding you often about that favour that they did for you ( this one i hate so much...just send me a friggin bill and shut the fcuk up!!! 555555)

    I would hazard a guess at about 50-60% of people would do anyone ( friend,associate, work college, even a complete stranger) a favour and expect absolute nothing in return..... so not a given but still a very high percentage and much better then LOS or NZ....
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    Uber Star Soi wanderer Uber Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Nomad's Avatar
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    TD is a good example of mateship in action, and some other forums are the antithesis.

    However, it does vary across contributors, which I am sure is for all sorts of reasons; time, personality, knowledge, experiences, etc, etc.
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    Guest Platinum daohoshi Dao's Avatar
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    Bun Khun is a lot for family and most for mum for ever. Find out who real friend and BS friend.

    Example Uncle Ey we give money to fix motor bike to deliver bread to shops. No not get the money back. He help my family on farm and build house just now forever.

    No Uncle Kea give small money for hospital. Not do anything for family so now he never get more and family think bad and gossip him.

    Australia. Jonty give $10000.00 to he friend after flood. Why because friend from baby together. Help help jonty all he life Get the moent back and help me for any problem.
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    Cadet silver bunga's Avatar
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    Exists everywhere in some form or another in my opinion...

    Just a matter of what the culture deems important...

    Couldn't tell you how many times you see this in the corporate world... and I'll be the first to say its not a bad thing... its how you work the system....

    I think in the end, we all expect something in return for our efforts. Sometimes it takes a bit of soul searching to figure out what it is you are expecting and whether you are harming someone else in the process of trying to get what you expect...
    Last edited by bunga; 19th September 2012 at 04:11.

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    ประเทศไทยเพื่อน Founding Member Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Changone's Avatar
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    Bun Khun same as Sucking up, Crawling?
    It works for some I guess. Could be why conversation around the water cooler usually revolves around that.
    Tell it like it is?
    And where the hell was Biggles.....?....when you needed him last Saturday....?

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    Cadet silver bunga's Avatar
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    No, not meaning sucking up. I've seen folks who do the suck up and they get worked up the ladder following those who enjoy being sucked.... 555 When the ladder breaks, and the suck'ee falls, the sucker fall down right with the guy who was bringing them up.

    What I mean is something different.
    As an example, something simple as a co-worker who stays late to help me with a project because I asked him to...
    If he is in a similar situation next time and I leave early and tell him "See ya! Wouldn't wanna be ya!", do you think he will help me again next time I'm working late?
    Am I obligated to help him just because he helped me when I asked? Of course not. But would I feel bad that I am leaving him to his own? Yea... I would.... and "bun khun" I suspect would dictate that I help him in return. If I don't, then yes I deserve to be the topic of the water cooler conversation!

    Just saying that I think in most cases everyone has some form of expectation when they give something... and for me it took a deeper look before I realized that maybe I am actually expecting something in return, even if the active mind is saying I'm doing this out of the goodness of my heart....

    Even when I hand a sandwich to a homeless person on the street, I am expecting the homeless person to be grateful. I've had an instance where the homeless person said "ham? I don't like HAM!" and shoved the sandwich back at me. Threw me for a loop! Why would I give something to someone who would be ungrateful?

    Again I may not fully understand the definition of Bun Khun....and I may have hijacked the thread a bit as re-reading some of the post seems to define it as more strict, socially binding and perhaps even nefarious in some instances?

    In regards to parents and bun khun... at least in my own situation.... I understand why I feel I am "indebted" to my parents. They raised me and cared for me and did the best they knew how. Without them I do not exist. Sure they made mistakes in their lives...Made parenting mistakes... Financially they made some really stupid mistakes that some, who did not understand the full picture called selfish... but for better or for worse, right or wrong, I do feel very much indebted and I would support them until the day I or they die....
    Last edited by bunga; 19th September 2012 at 10:53.
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    Uber Star Soi wanderer Uber Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Nomad's Avatar
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    Probably slightly tangential to the topic also:

    Sucking up is normally up the chain of command or social heirachy. Guanxi doesn't have to be. Bun Khun, don't know?

    Had a discussion with a couple of guys who for a living think a lot about ethical and spiritual issues, and in there case from a Christian viewpoint. Their take on giving, whether financial or favour, is that the giver is rewarded emotionally by giving, ie a feel good factor. The more I thought about it the more I thought they were right. Yes, always better that the receiver appreciates the gesture, but not essential. I donate money to charities and will never directly see or experience the outcomes of my donation.

    Re indebted to parents. I love the way my TG thinks in this regard. On her birthday, she doesn't expect a gift from mum or any special acknowledgement. She gets something for her Mum to say thanks for bringing her into the world and looking after her. Complete opposite of the sense of entitlement in the western world.
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    ประเทศไทยเพื่อน Founding Member Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Changone's Avatar
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    A sense of entitlement in the west? I don't think we are the opposite of anything in that we expect to be given something with no obligation to return it in kind. That is a notion born out of socialism and similar political ideas.

    The Christian ethic on which our culture is based is from a completely different point of view and is founded on 'Giving without measure'. Christmas presents are given on the basis that it is 'Better to give than to receive'.
    This is in discord with say a Buddhist who gives to try to 'Make merit'.
    In the end both are trying to make up 'Spiritually' for their shortcomings in life.

    As for that ham sandwich and the expectation of gratitude? The thing to do would be to say something like 'Neither do I mate how about a cheese instead?' You will always get more of that if you simply treat someone with respect, even if you think they are lower down the social scale than you are.
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    Foundation Member Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Minder's Avatar
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    From the pen of Mrs M who has forgotten her TD logon ....


    Bun khun: In my opinion is one of basic / simple attitude for humanity, it does not matter where you are from.
    But unfortunately it is one very important for Thai culture.

    When you help someone that needed help, do not matter what it is. It could be a favour, knowledge, experience or even money. But the last one (money) when it happens often becomes problem with relationship or some cases even between family members. There is a saying that never borrows or lend money to your friends if you want that relationship to last. And have we listened...NO

    I had been brought up to know from my culture that when someone does something for you, help you..... You remember and when you have a chance do favour in return to show that you remember and appreciate what that person did or have done for you.... It is a beautiful attitude not a business attitude.

    Sometimes it takes a long time to get to the point that you could do something to return a favour but is not like you owe them anything.... Some of us are right that when you help someone you do not expect anything back. But it is the person who received that favour attitude to remember and up to them to work it out.

    It does not always have to be a very big thing. It could be just small favour like a meal or a ride home. Etc. And it is not always that when you do something in return - that is it.

    I have a feeling that many have misunderstand the real meaning about “bun khun”.
    Example
    1) Your parent “mee bun khun” to you (mee = have, have done). Because they give birth to you and have raised you up, give everything to you. You are nothing without your parent.
    • You return favour by making them happy, do whatever you can, take care of them when they are old, when they are sick. Etc. For this one it is “a life time bun khun”

    2) Your teacher “mee bun khun” to you because they have taught you in school and give you a lot of knowledge.
    • You can return favour by sending them a New Year card, a Christmas card to show that you remember them.

    3) Your sisters, brothers (older) “mee bun khun” to you if they have help family raised you up. Work and give money to family then you can go to school.
    • You do the same with you parent because of they are your family but you know what is the limit.

    4) You uncle “me bun khun” to your family because he help your father to get a very good job, and he kept working there until retire.
    • you return favour by give him help when he or his family needed. Bun khun never expire. Some time it takes 10 years, 20 years to get a really good chance to do. Because you never know what is going to happen in your life or someone life.

    5) Your friend or some people you know had helped you with some things. They “mee bun khun” to you. They could lend you some money or help your sister to get a job, gives you advise, stand by your side when you were needed.
    • What you can do is do something in return when you get a chance.

    6) Your sister in law “mee bun khun” to you because she is a nurse and working in a big public hospital. And she often helps make convenience appointment for you father to see a very experience doctor.
    • You return favour by giving reasonable help to their family when they need.

    7) Your neighbour sometimes brings a plate of food to your door or invited you to eat at their place.
    • Even you are not the best cook you can bring something along or offer something in your pantry when you are cooking together. Or you can invite them to come for dinner sometime. Or do whatever, whenever you get a chance to help in return. Keep eye on their place when they are away.

    8) Your husband “mee bun khun” to you and your family because he help supporting and always be there when you and family needed. And he loves and willing to do anything for you.
    • In return you take care of him, love him and love all his family members. Well you do not need to be all over them but you get what I mean. Give them reasonable help when they needed or when you can.

    9) Your wife “mee bun khun” to you because she loves you and take such a great care of you and your family. Some even help earn money by working the same as you. But you know housewife ‘s work never end.
    • You can help her with some basic work in the kitchen, house such as washing dishes even you already have so much to do in the back yard and around the house 555

    These are “bun khun” which is the same with favours. Or we all know that it is the same with “give and take”. And “Sum neuk bun khun” = you remember that someone help you and you are looking for a chance to do something in return. Remember it is not like you owe them but you want to do something for them because they do something for you and you are grateful and appreciate it.

    I hope this help.

    Mrs M
    Life is the unexpected ...

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    Wabbits Boss Cadet silver Mrs W's Avatar
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    Thai dreaming bun Khun popular soo far.555

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    ประเทศไทยเพื่อน Founding Member Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน jontymate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nomad View Post
    A very similar concept exists in China, called guanxi. Essential to understand if you want to do business in China.

    Guanxi - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    It is very important to quickly return the favour, otherwise you never know what you may be called upon to do.
    Howdy Nomad

    Guanxi is similar but is more so business related than everyday life in china. So much back scratching goes on. Forget the name of the movie but it was like the God father or something. They will call in a favour if it is not repaid. Never take a favour that cannot be repaid.
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    ประเทศไทยเพื่อน Founding Member Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Changone's Avatar
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    Call it whatever you want.
    Never have subscribed to any of it.
    This is the first and last refuge of the weak.
    Stand on your own two feet, or live on your knees.
    Yep, I just said that.
    And where the hell was Biggles.....?....when you needed him last Saturday....?

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