The Real Land of Smile
Lost Your Smile? Get it Back!
Chiang Mai province and Chiang Dao are still the places in Thailand where the old traditions, culture and manners are strongly surviving. Hopefully not only in Northern Thailand, these survive, and Thailand is a great destination, safe if one keeps sensible, welcoming unconditionally, The Land of Smile by excellence. As a tourist, an expat or visitor for business or else, it’s important to remember that you are visiting a foreign country. Thai citizens will most generally welcome you with open arms, and the more you will try to learn about the country, its inhabitants, culture and all, the more you’ll find locals supporting you in your quests. In Rome behave as Romans do. If in certain areas of Thailand, these virtues seem to disappear, adults and teenagers alike, women and men are proud to perpetuate their traditions, their welcoming and rites.
Whatever is happening in a Thai person’s life whether it’s very good or very bad, they will not generally show or talk about it and will smile. Most of the time, Thai people inhibit their feelings, avoid confrontation and simply smile with the famous saying “mai pen lrai” ไม่เป็นไร meaning “never mind”. It doesn’t mean they have no problems, sorrows or pain, they are able to keep happy, whatever the consequences, this is an insight of the Thai Buddhist philosophy.
For years and decades, Thai inhabitants have accepted and respected foreigners until they’ve been deceived or disappointed by the behavior of some. Just like in any other place in the world, the vast majority accept and welcome foreigners or migrants, while a minority will find reasons for their anger or hatred to point to others, just like it happens in Western countries. While most of foreign behavior is accepted, some is more difficult to forgive.
Thai people are certainly good at closing their eyes on weird foreign behaviors because they are tolerant and forgiving, it doesn’t mean they appreciate or accept these behaviors. Many times a way to handle difficult situations for them will be to talk about it openly. That can hurt, and that may be the reason why many foreigners speaking and understanding the Thai language will feel insulted. I personally like to compare it to an indirect sarcastic humor that can be bothering at times (pressing some buttons).
If you come here on holidays for a short trip or longer, behaving the way the Thai citizens expect us to behave will help, considering that the general esteem for the foreigner is quite high, until broken.
Thailand is the Land of Smile, most Thais will smile, it doesn’t mean they don’t have problems or issues, it’s just that for Thais a smiling appearance is nicer than else and against all odds they’d rather be happy.