Thailand is known the world over as the Land of Smiles, and that doesn’t just refer to the tourists. Fashions and trends come and go, but one thing Thai people always seem to be wearing is a smile – and here, it’ll never go out of fashion. From a cashier at 7-Eleven to the old ladies you’ll meet on the street, smiles are everywhere, and can have a huge impact on your day.
Whilst some places around the world are known for their standoffish nature – we’re looking at you, New York – Thai people simply didn’t get that memo. Their friendliness is evident from the get go; taxi drivers will ask where you’re from and will make an effort to connect with you, whether it’s mentioning a soccer team or asking about your travel plans. Anywhere you go in the country, there’ll be people wanting to talk and engage with you, and that’s certainly a likeable quality in our books.
Whether it’s because tourists are a vital part of the economy or because they’re naturally that way inclined, Thai people will go out of their way to help you. From recommending restaurants to helping with directions, they make visiting a foreign country and a foreign culture that bit easier. Despite there often being a language barrier, they’ll go to extreme lengths in order to try and help you – a trait that’s admirable and amiable in equal measure.
Whilst there are always exceptions, the vast majority of Thais you’ll come across are unpretentious and down to earth. You’ll find doctors eating street food alongside farmers, professionals driving the same trucks as labourers and everybody feels comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt. That’s the kind of society the world could do with more of.
Anyone who has ever been to Thailand will know just how hard it is to learn the Thai language. From the alien script to the impossible-to-pronounce tones, even learning a handful of phrases is difficult. Fortunately enough, Thai people will try their hardest to speak in English with you. They might not have the pronunciation down, and they may make mistakes, but they put the effort in to communicate with you – and that’s a redeeming quality.
There are a handful of western countries that could learn a thing or two from the diversity that exists in Thailand. Whilst it is overwhelmingly Buddhist, they live peacefully alongside Muslim communities and white “farang” enclaves. Problems between the ethnic groups in Thailand are few and far between, and everyone can live freely and practice their faith in any way they want to. No walls being built here.
Whilst many who talk about Thailand might mention “ladyboys” in a tongue in cheek way, in Thailand there are no jokes to be made. Transgender people are widely accepted in Thailand, and same sex couples are common and accepted too. Whilst many people may have to keep their personal lives and sexuality hidden at home, in Thailand there’s no need to do so – you can live your life however you like, free from judgement.
When it comes to passion, few people can come close to Thai people. Whether they’re passionate towards their king, their country or their sports team, you bet they’ll let the world know and won’t hear a bad word said about them. They’re a people who also embrace traditional pass times just as willingly as they would modern trends. If Thai passion could be bottled and sold, you might finally get around to finishing that project you always wanted to do – until then though, we can only admire and learn from them.
From home stays to food markets, Thai hospitality is hard to beat. They’ll do everything to make you comfortable, from cooking non-spicy versions of Thai food for you to small gestures like inviting you to share their tables at busy night markets. It’s easily to overlook and take for granted, but when you’re tired and far from home, it’s these little things that make a big difference.
So you’ve finally decided to give it a go – you’re going to ask for your favourite dish in Thai. Only, it doesn’t quite go to plan, and instead of getting your spicy papaya salad, you’re fairly certain you said something offensive. But the best thing? They don’t mind. They’re happy you’re putting in the effort, and they’ll help you to get it right. Where you might go to France and try speak the language, only for them to reply in English, in Thailand they’re only happy to teach you a phrase or two – and won’t stop until you’ve mastered it.
For many Thai people, there’s no such thing as a nine to five – Dolly Parton mustn’t have made it this far – and many don’t get the weekend off. Though despite working long hours for little pay, little rest and little holidays, you wouldn’t think it. Work is still carried out to a high level, and service is always performed with a smile. Suddenly, your 9 am meeting after a weekend of frivolity doesn’t seem so bad …
For a backpacker to pick up a guitar on the beach and start to sing (probably Wonderwall), it’s often a forced, unbearable moment. But when Thais do it, it’s different. There’s a magnetism around the way they do things and the way they carry themselves that makes things they do seem effortlessly cool. From Bangkok trendsetters to beach-dwelling rastas, Thailand has it’s fair share of cool people – and rather than looking to keep others out, they’ll let others in. And for that, we’re grateful.