6 Things I’ve learned About Thais That Helped Me Understand Them Better
Thailand is a very interesting country in terms of culture and customs. People here have totally different mindset than the one I’m familar with back home. After a few weeks that I’ve already spent here I can draw some conclusions based on observation of Thai people, and their behavior.
I met many Thais from various backgrounds and of distinct characters. They are all somehow different, but they share many qualities that make them alike. These feature can help you understand Thais more profundly and thanks to that make communication with them much easier.
1. Smile never leaves Thai faces
Thais are very positive people. They never seem to worry about their problems regardless their situation. They are always nice and helpful, keeping a smile on their faces all the time.
Thais also laugh a lot, even about the tiniest things. I could especially experience that during my classes at the university. Small jokes by the profesor very often made them laugh out loud, while exchange students were slightly smiling only. What’s more, they have specific sense of humor that might not be understood in Western cultures.
2. It’s always fine for them
There is popular expression that Thais use a lot and you can often hear it. “May pen drai” literally means “it’s OK”, but it actually is something more than that. Locals use them to express their attitude towards good and bad things that happen to them. Your bus is late? – “Mai pen drai, there will be another one soon”. You lost your wallet with documents? – “Mai pen drai, you can get a new one”. Thanks to this mindset, Thais are less stressful and lead a happy, peaceful life.
3. Thai time is something you can’t understand logically
Thai people never seem to rush. They don’t really get attached to deadlines or schedules. Punctuality is not their strong suit. Train and bus timetables give you a vague idea on when you should turn up on the station, not on the actual departure. When planning any trips here you should always add an hour or so to the travelling time. Delays here are a norm rather than exception.
4. Eating is a social activity for Thais
Thai people love food and you can tell it by walking on a random street in any place where they live. Street food vendors flood the pavements everywhere you go. Eating is a kind of celebration for Thais. They usually have their meals together, sharing different dishes from the same plates. They treat this as a social experience when not only can they eat to get some energy, but also they can enjoy their time together.
5. Same, same… but different
This popular Thai expression confuses a lot of tourists when they want to buy something or bargain for a better price. It stems from mistranslation of a Thai world into English. Doubling the word in Thai is very common and often used to add emphasis or slightly change the meaning. Thus, they try to literally (and wrongly) trasfer it into English. That’s why when they say “same, same” they actually mean “something similar”. The expression is widely used by vendors. So when you ask if these Nikes are real, they’d probably reply “same, same… but different”.
6. They always try to help you
It goes in accordance with Thais’ natural willingness to smile and their positive attitude towards others. They are one of the friendliest nation I know. They have embeded desire to help other people. Many times I’ve been offered help from Thais even when I really didn’t need it. They will show you the way, give directions or advice, devoting their energy and time to make your life easier. Naturally, there will also be those who try to scam you, but many of Thais make a living in this way. However, it is not hard to tell the difference between a genuine and bad intentions.
Funny fact is that, Thais also want to help others even if they do not know exactly how to do it. Once I got lost while I was trying to find my way back home in Bangkok. I got off the ferry and took out my map to figure out where I was. A few seconds later a Thai man came up to me to show me directions. In the blink of an eye, there were 3 Thais altogether standing around me and trying to read the map. However, as I later found out, many of Thai people cant really read maps. So they were turnung my map upside down, struggling to help me without success. Eventually, I work my way out on my own.
Personally, I think Thais are amazing people. It might sometimes be hard to understand them, but I really respect the way they live their lives. My goal for SE Asia adventure is to become at least half as peaceful as they are and lead my life in harmony with “mai pen drai” philosophy.
What do you think of Thais? Leave a comment below!