In Thailand, you have the usual small talk, such as sports, soccer, the President and the election, or the weather (they like to complain about how hot it is). However, there are some topics which would seem foreign to the American conversation. Let me enlighten you…
Thais love to talk about food. When I come in to work in the morning, here is a common example of the how people greet me:
Thai: “Hello. Have you eaten yet?”
Me: “I have already eaten.”
Thai: “What did you eat?”
Me: “I ate bread”
And when I say it is common, I mean like every day, multiple times. It is just the thing you ask around here. You do not fully know someone until you know what they like to eat. For real.
Also, you should be informed that if you happen to overhear a heated conversation in Thai, don’t rule out the option that it could just be about how the food was not delicious. Food is a very serious topic here.
The question “Where are you going?”
In my opinion, the most common question asked by Americans when you see someone is “What are you doing?” That’s not true here. In Thailand, the most common question asked by far is “Bpai nai?”-“Where you go?” (Which is the way the Thais that want to practice their English say “Where are you going?”). Anytime a person looks like they are moving just a little bit in any one direction, someone is bound to ask that question. I get a little annoyed sometimes—sometimes I just don’t want to tell where I am going. Others times, I don’t know exactly where I am going; I just know I need to get out of my house/office! My fallback has become “I am exercising”.
The questions about personal finances
Thais don’t have the American unwritten rule that you don’t ask someone how much stuff cost, or their salary. They don’t see these questions as an invasion of privacy. Some of the common questions when I introduce myself to people is “How much do you make in a month”, “How much is your rent”, and “Who pays for it?” All are questions that I could usually avoid in America….but this is Thailand and I am not living extravagantly.
Also, since being here, I have been asked multiple times how much my bike costs (I actually don’t know since Peace Corps gave it to me), how much my various clothes cost, and how much my computer was. Once I was even asked how much my sunglasses (which are a nice brand) cost. I exclaimed “I can’t remember! I got them over 10 years ago!” …The Thai person was surprised.
These examples of small talk don’t surprise me anymore. I even have answers ready in Thai for whenever I get asked. It probably just means that when I get back to the US, normal question and small talk will seem weird. How will I know what people’s favorite food is???
There is much more Thai style, but I think I will save it for a later post.
Random funny story:
Every month, the day before we hand out the social security money to the seniors, we staple the amount of dedicated money to the name. The stapling is pretty fun and becomes a whole tessaban effort. So last month, I was sitting next to these two guys, not that much older than I, innocently stapling, when I accidently stapled my finger. Now, I have noticed Thais in general seem to be overprotective, and I would guess stapling your finger is nothing worse than a catastrophe. (In my defense, the stapler was broken, and I was trying to figure out how to fix it.) I let out a little ouch, but the guys’ faces turned to utter horror. Their faces looked like the most horrible thing on earth had happened. For me, it just hurt a little and wasn’t drawing any blood, so I simply pulled it out. Oh my goodness! The guys faces turned from horror to utter disbelief. “She must not be human!” their expressions exclaimed. I simply went back to stapling like nothing had happened, and the day returned back to normal…just another day in Thailand.
Since I don’t post pictures on my blog (It takes way too much time to upload them), I am planning on making Christmas cards. Please send me your address if you would like one…and if you are so caring, generous and would like to send me a Christmas card, please let me know and I will give you my address if you don’t already have it.