An example of Everyday Life in Thailand. Sometimes frustrating
Busy day at Immigration. Not easy to find a parking spot and even more difficult to get a seat.
Rules and regulations are not standardised in Thailand. Each government official interprets them differently. Requirements for documentation at Immigration vary from office to office.
Applies to all organisations. One bank manager will open an account for you; another may say it is not possible for foreigners to have accounts in Thailand unless they have a work permit. My local immigration office has a well-deserved reputation for friendliness and trying to help you through the maze of bureaucracy. Not all offices are like that.
They have an on-line system where appointments can be made instead of queuing. My name was called right on time but no one knew which counter to go to. Once seated in front of an officer, we got though the papers quickly. I had made a checklist and there was nothing extra that she wanted. Ten minutes and I was asked to take a seat and wait for my visa extension to be signed off by the big boss.
Chatted to an American to pass away the time and we both agreed the West could learn much from the smooth administration that we were experiencing. But I had spoken too soon. My name was called and I went to the main counter.
No, there are no papers here. Please take a seat. We will get to you soon.
Ten minutes later my name was called again. The same thing happened. There was no file to be seen. I explained that my name had been called twice but they still suggested that I go back to my seat. First rule of bureaucracy: never lose your cool. It seldom gets you anywhere, and will get you nowhere in Thailand.
My new American friend and I were wondering what could be happening. It’s never a good idea to challenge or complain. Thais dislike conflict and don’t like losing face. My friend was all for my asking to speak to a manager. I knew that wouldn’t work. The manager would lose face himself if there was some suggestion that his staff were not performing properly. I deliberated on how I was going to handle this.
I gave it a few more minutes and went up to the counter. I peered over the desks and could see my passport at the bottom of a tall heap of files.
I think that may be mine.
They retrieved it and I was soon on my way. They had been so busy that they had kept placing files on top of an ever-growing stack. When names were called, they were not able to see the hidden files. The interesting point is that, even after realising what was causing the delays for everyone in the hall, they did not feel confident enough to raise the matter with the big boss and fix the problem.
They would be challenging his authority and management ability as well as making him lose face.
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