You check-in to your luxury Thai hotel. You are hot, tried and dirty, looking forward to a relaxing and invigorating shower. You dump your bags, take off your clothes, wrap a towel around yourself, and head for bathroom. You turn on the shower -- and nothing happens. You check all the controls, but it simply doesn't work. You call room service, wait for twenty minutes, and no one comes. You dress and go down to reception. What do you say?
Now the obvious thing to do, for a Westerner, is to complain - angrily if necessary - "I have paid 800 baht. for this room, and I expect every thing to work properly, and prompt service - is that too much to ask? In Thailand, this attitude will get you nowhere. Unless the staff are very used to Westerners, you will be met with an embarrassed smile and little, if any action.
There are two factors at work here. On the one hand, Thai society is highly non-confrontational . It is rude and a sign of weakness to show anger. The only time a Thai expresses anger is when they have lost control over their feelings -- and at that point they are dangerous, and their actions are unpredictable. Thais find it hard to accept that Westerners can openly express anger while still being in control. So the angry tourist in front of you is a potentially harmful beast, and is therefore treated to a placatory smile and little else. So, if you want a peaceful life, NEVER show anger in front of Thais - easier said than done, but well worth the effort -- and good self-discipline too.
The other factor here is "face" . By complaining, you are making the hotel, and all the staff, lose face. In a face losing situation, most Thais will back away and avoid contact as much as possible. It is far better to express yourself in a way that allows them to gain face. So, in the case of the faulty shower, if you want the best response, say something like "Oh dear, I am so hot and tired, desperate for a shower, but I can't get it to work. It is probably just that I am a bit stupid, but can someone help me?" The response to this approach will be immediate and gratifying. By asking for help and putting yourself down, you have given them a chance to gain face by helping you, and they will almost always be delighted to do whatever they can.
If approached the right way, Thais are the most helpful and generous people on earth. Ignore their cultural ways at your peril !!