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Teaching Tales from Thailand: Doing it Thai Style


Well, I’ve been in Thailand for two months today and I’ve learned quite a bit about the people and a little bit of the language. I can now say, with confidence, the following phrases…

~Sawatdee ka….”hello and goodbye”. It’s part of the greeting called a “wai” (pronounced why). There are three levels of a wai depending on who you are greeting. As the picture above shows, you put your hands together and touch your thumbs to either your forehead (for monks and royalty), your nose (for those who are older than you–this is why Thai people will ask how old you are), and finally hands in place just under your chin to everyone else.

~Khop khun ka…”thank you”. During the first couple of weeks in Thailand, I mixed the two up and would often say hello when I meant thank you.

~Tao rai ka…”how much?” This is important when you are shopping. However, I’m still learning numbers so they usually have to type it into a calculator or use their fingers…lol I can count to 10 though!

~Aroi mai ka…”delicious, no?” Thai people will often ask farangs if they like the taste of the food. I’m sure this is because of the strange look on our faces as we try to figure out what we are eating.

~Mai ao ka…”I don’t want.” I had to say this repeatedly to tuk tuk drivers in Bangkok.

You may have noticed that all the phrases end with ka. For women, that is a polite way to end phrases. For men it’s krahb.

~Phad pak gai…chicken with “fried” veggies. I have been getting this a lot lately minus the rice. so I have to say mai ao kao…”Don’t want rice.”

~Kao phad gai…chicken fried rice

~Nit noi…”a little bit.” This is VERY important if someone is making you a dish with chile peppers in it…like som tum–a type of mango salad. Usually served VERY spicy.

Finally, my favorite…

~Mai pen rai…”no worries.” This may end up being my next tattoo. 😉

I’ve learned that Thai people operate on their own time schedule lovingly referred to as “Thai Time.” **Tami Hunt…you would love it. lol** (Side note…Thai people often text “555” instead of “lol” because the number 5 in Thai is ha!) Back to Thai Time…I’ve been on two teacher trips and the van/bus rides are an ALL day and/or night ordeal! A seven hour trip can be stretched into 15+ hours. And….they sing karaoke the ENTIRE TIME! Even at 6 a.m!!

Thai people are pretty laid back and don’t worry about much. For example, all the classes except P1 are left unsupervised at some point during the day. I can’t believe they don’t get into more trouble!

I continue to learn more about the people through their customs. This weekend, I experienced a very interesting Thai custom at the party during our teacher retreat. Our school director was giving money to women who were dancing. Now…let me just say that the dancing was not in any way suggestive. It was just normal side to side white man overbite kinda stuff. Anyhoo…I happened to be on the dance floor during these times and I raked in $160 baht. Before you get too exited…that’s only about $4.50. I guess my moves need improvement. 😂

Some other customs that make me go hmmmm….

~They eat hot food all day long

~Soap in a bathroom is rare; TP is a luxury.

~Did I mention they LOVE karaoke! 😐

~They take LOTS of pictures every chance they get. Often with me and the other American teachers in them as they love pictures with the farangs.

~They love sugar and caffeine!

Although Thailand is different than the good old US of A, I’m enjoying living here. As I have said before, my students are great yet frustrating at the same time. “555” They truly are pretty similar to kids in the US. Thai people are extremely generous and kind. There have been a couple of times when I have been unable to communicate with someone and another Thai person steps in to help.

I miss home but I’m looking forward to the next 7 1/2 months. I hope to be able to explore many areas of Thailand before then and come back to the US with new language and cooking skills and some great memories!

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About the author

Julie Asaro

Julie Asaro has always been someone who loves adventures and is willing to try most things (at least one time), but her move to Thailand definitely tops the list!! At almost 50 years old, she's getting to do what many people only dream about. Now we can all live vicariously through her tales as she spends a year teaching in Thailand.

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