Folks who know of Bangkok Thai Cuisine are familiar with delicious food and friendly service, but what do we know about the people who work there? To better understand these fellow islanders I would like to introduce Jirawadee. While sitting at the bar waiting for a take-out order I was talking with Jirawadee and asked her if she had a traditional Thai costume? Luckily, the answer was “Yes”. She agreed to participate in this ongoing project, and shared with me her story.
The photo-shoot was scheduled for early morning, and when I saw Jirawadee’s traditional Thai dress I was astonished. She was shinning with positivity from within and without, and told me that she, “…never gets a chance to wear traditional clothing anymore”. Our moments together were fulfilled with light, and she proudly walked on Circuit Ave, surprised islanders who greeted her with many positive compliments. Read Jirawadee’s interview to learn more about her unique story.
For almost a decade now my friends and customers have gotten to know me at Bangkok Thai Cuisine. There I am known by my nickname “Louise”. I was born and raised in Thailand. After I graduated I went straight to work for a Japanese industrial food company as a quality analyst, but after two years my wonder about the world outside made me resign. I came to the Vineyard in 2006 when Bangkok Thai Cuisine opened in Oak Bluffs. I did not know anybody, and I did not have much knowledge about the island but it did not take me long at all to fall in love with this beautiful place and its wonderful people.
What kind of connections have you made since you came to the US? Luckily my job has given me an opportunity to meet and talk with people and many of my customers have become friends. It's also where I met my husband. We got married in 2010 and two years later we had a baby boy. Martha's Vineyard has become a real home for me and my family.
Have you found a community here on the Island? Yes, I have a family, friends and neighbors. I learned more about our community when I had my son, Alexander, and we became a regular at Martha’s Vineyard family center. Here I have met and chatted with other mothers, and our kids can play together. We also often join the Island's libraries for fun activities.
How do you find socializing with Americans? Mostly at work with customers then at home with my husband and his family. I find myself lucky to be a part of his family, they are very kind and very nice to me. They truly love and accept me as I am.
What about language barriers? Oh yes! At first, it was a huge challenge but people here gave me courage, and they would try to guess and understand what I said. I always tried to keep the conversation going and it helped me gain confidence and continue my practice. I can read and write English fairly well but speaking is the hardest for me.
Do you share your culture with people here? Yes all the time. At work conversation usually starts with food then leads to lots of questions about Thailand. I love to share stories about my motherland. It makes me happy every time I get to talk about it. At home, the cultural differences create choices, and we can choose what best for us.
What are the differences in lifestyle between Thailand and the US? Life in the US is more comfortable and more convenient than in Thailand. Average people in Thailand have a simple life. It is slower and more relaxed. In my opinion the biggest difference would be Americans are more independent and have more privacy, Thais have a closer relationship among family members. You often see at least three generations in one house. They mutually depend on each other, for example grandparents will take care of grandchildren while their parents are at work. Living together creates more opportunity to bond. It's unusual for Thais to have our parents or grandparents in a nursing home. We take care of them like when they took care of us.
What kind of advice would you give to a new immigrant? America is a great place to meet people from all around the world, and enjoy experiencing different people and different cultures. I believe everyone loves having friends. We all want to be friendly and helpful, no matter nationality you are. If you speak out you will get a response so don't be shy.
Have you been exposed to any American stereotypes of Thailand? No, not at all.
How would your life be if you were back in Thailand? Hmm!! I thought I might be working for the company still and wouldn’t be capable of travelling the world as much as I do now.
What do you miss most about home? Family, friends and street foods unlike anything you can see here. Yummy food you can find 24/7.
What is your definition of home? A place where I feel the deepest affection, and where I am comfortable be myself, and definitely where my loved ones are. We have two homes and spend most of our time here in the US, but try to make a trip to Thailand every year.