The Land Smile

Updated 2009-09-07 09:48

Every visitor to Thailand has already read somewhere, that Thailand is the land of smile.  Arriving in this country, he will soon find out, that this is true. Thais smile very much, which gives the impression, that Thais are particularly friendly people. That applies in general, but is however not the whole truth. Thais smile in each suitable situation, but also in situations when a smile is rather inappropriate in our eyes.

One must however live some time in the country and among Thai people, to understand that the continuing smile can have completely different meanings.

1. Thais are blessed with the ability to live for the moment, and to enjoy each instant of their life. Unpleasant things are pushed aside as far as possible, or simply not noticed. Their smile can be seen as an expression of the joy of life.

2. The smile is however often also a smile of embarrassment, or to show no emotions in an awkward situation. If a Farang steps in a fully occupied bus accidentally with his big feet's onto the toes of a small Thai lady, it may happen, that she smiles at him, although tears of pain shoot into her eyes. Smile will also the taxi driver, while listening to the scolding of a Farang, which he transported to the kings palace, instead to the main railway station, because he did not understand the Farang, and by his experience, most Farang want to go to the kings palace.

3. Smile replaces also in many situations a 'thank you', particularly for smaller services. A smile connected with a little head nodding means 'thanks', and if you get a smile back, it means as much as "you're welcome".

4. Thais will also smile, whenever they do not understand a question. If e.g. the Farang asks somebody on the street, whether this is the best way to his hotel, he will get an approving smile, which lets the Farang falsely believe, that he was understood, and that the information given with a smile is correct. If after 10 minutes walking in the torching sun, he begins to get doubts, and asks the same question to another passer-by, pointing in the opposite direction, he will also get an approving smile.

5. A radiating smile comes also on their face, if they are witness to an clumsiness which happens to the Farang, e.g. if he runs against a low-hanging advertisement sign, or stumbles in one of the many holes in the sidewalk and falls on his nose. A Farang will hardly laugh, if he sees a person falling in full clothes in the swimming pool. InThailand the people will always laugh, if witness to such or a similar situation. This not because they are gloating, but because they find that to be simply funny.

6. Finally, a smile is also a typical way for the Thais to solve conflicts, or still better to avoid them. Thais will get out of the way with a smile from an unpleasant situation, without saying something by which they later could be nailed down. This makes the Farang often furious, it corresponds however to the Thai philosophy, to have in each situation "chai yen" that means to keep a cool heart. This smile can be best translated with "no comment". For the Farang a smile is an indication of pleasures and well-being. In many situations it would be inappropriate or impolite for him to smile. In Thailand the smile is a part of daily life. The skeptical Farang, who has already spent many years in Thailand, means however to be able to notice, that the typical Thai smile decreases in the measure, as the country is overflowed by Farang.

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