Thanksgiving holiday is one of the few holidays that we do not have in Thailand. I never understood the significance of this holiday apart from its two-day school break until I traveled on Thanksgiving eve this past holiday. A taxi driver who drove me to the airport hinted about its importance by saying that, “Tonight is one of the busiest travel periods of the year.” I did not completely comprehend his claim until I saw how crowded the airport was. It seemed to me that everyone headed home to celebrate Thanksgiving with his or her family. However, what was most amusing that night was a scene of tens or even hundreds of people waiting for their family members at arrival gate. I was not clear why there were lots of people so I decided to do ethnography on these people to help me understand the reasons behind their actions.
The social behavior that I specifically observed is the phenomenon of an enormous amount of people congregating and waiting at the airport on Thanksgiving eve compared to an average day. Although some may doubt the significance of this phenomenon as airports always seem to be busy, they may have not considered other constraints associated with Thanksgiving Eve such as traffic jams and huge crowds. Possible explanations for this phenomenon is due to peer pressure from the parents’ neighbors, or an economical reason such that it may be faster for parents to pick up their kids as opposed to public transportation that night.
I used ethnography to answer this question instead of quantitative analysis or experiments because of several reasons. First, variables for quantitative analysis must have numbers; without numbers we cannot use any statistical techniques. Possible quantitative variables for the question are the number of people who wait at the airport and the number of people who fly that night or the amount of time they have to wait. But, these variables cannot tell a definite story of why people come to airport because they do not collect data about their opinions. If we were to conduct a survey regarding their opinions, our data will also be problematic as we will not be able to control how people interpret questions differently and thereby provide undesired responses. In addition, because of the different constraints between controlled environment in laboratories and the real world, we cannot use experiments to answer the question. Therefore, ethnography is the most suitable procedure to answer this question.
To conduct my ethnography, I observed people who waited for their family members at the airport by sitting near the gate and watching their reactions. Without asking for their opinions or reasons about their behaviors, I eliminated potential Hawthorne effects which is people changed their actions once they...