Thai Food: A Gateway to Cultural Understanding

Ratiwan Watanasin


The purpose of this paper is to deliver a key part of fi ndings of the author’s doctoral thesis in order to support a concrete relationship between food and cross-cultural understanding. Food choice is a multidimensional consumer decision making activity. Typically, consumers perceive their native food more favourably; thereby, adoption of ethnic foods is primarily correlated with their openness to new cultures. Seeking symbolic meanings for Thai food products within multicultural American consumers, a qualitative research reported in the thesis was conducted across eight sets of respondents, who resided in Thailand and five states in the United States. The fi ndings reveal that Caucasian Americans have a strong food culture and are diverse consumers. As Thai food can be incorporated with any ethnic foods, it is a unique and valuable cuisine. It is well-accepted among consumers, restaurateurs, marketers, and mass media. Importantly, cultural appreciation is required for a high degree of food acculturation and marketing.

Keywords: Thai/ethnic food, acculturation, cultural appreciation, food marketing