Revealed: German “dual training” of craftsmen in Thailand!

Somchai had to be the right man to do business with! He bought German glass-cutting machinery, loved red wine and drove a Mercedes. He even called his business “Thai-German”. Of all the craftsmen in Thailand, he was surely the one to choose when you want a glass wall cabinet for your modern conference room.

But in fact things quite work out in the beginning like they do when dealing with German craftsmen: we waited weeks for a quote, it was horrendously expensive and the promised delivery date came and went, as did the three firmly-agreed ones after that. We accepted all of Somchai’s excuses so as not to annoy him and used the time to save the money to pay his invoice. We still felt we had hope, because the man seemed to be so “German”!

And so it was with tears of joy that I finally heard the first sounds of anchor bolts being drilled in the conference room. But I cried even more tears when I had a good look at the workmanship, however, and they were definitely not tears of joy.

To cut a long story short: 16 huge anchor bolts had been drilled into the wall and were now sticking out through the exterior rendering of the building as some kind of contingency overkill.  Seven of Somchai’s workers were cheerfully treading dirt, dust, bits of breakfast and fallen plaster into the imported carpet, swinging around huge drills and fixing hooks for the glass cabinet, clearly ready and willing to commit further crimes.

The next thing I remember are how my frightened colleagues’ described me chasing “team Somchai” out of the building, while loudly informing them that I waved my 50% down payment back just to get them out.

After 14 years in Thailand, I should have known better. I once found my new fridge as a kind of attractive centre-piece in the middle of my kitchen (they had used the 1.8 metres to the wall for the drinking water filter and associated piping). The installation of the outflow for my shower should have acted as a warning too! It was ingeniously designed so that the meagre spray from my shower would flow down the slope to the other end of the room and then out under the bathroom door, presumably so my rubber duck would be able to swim downstream to freedom while I was taking a shower.

How, I ask myself, do Thai craftsmen always seem to come up with such heart-breaking solutions? The answer came to me when I was thinking about the German cowboy builder who once hammered the panelling on to the ceiling of my student garret so effectively and permanently that they had to take the roof off to repair the electricity cables that had been damaged by the carpentry nails. Then there was his colleague who made the false ceiling in my fellow student’s living room look like the  waves on the Mediterranean.

There has to be some kind of link between these cowboys and Somchai and his colleagues in Thailand! And there is only one possible explanation: the Thai apprenticeship system for craftsmen must have been influenced by the German dual system. Creating stress with constant delays, daylight robbery and fobbing off customers with unbelievable excuses – all this must have been learned on courses run by the GTZ or the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

So it’s German cowboy workmen, who come to Pattaya to spend their income and their dole money and end up staying in Thailand, who are actually acting as poster boys for the dual practice system.