Americans are pragmatic, Australians are easy-going, Italians are extravagant, Germans are reliable – there are stereotypes about the culture, habits and national psyche for a lot of countries, especially the ones we have a relation to – holidays, work trip, foreign friends in our home country or we just hear from them in the news then these images we create can even become negative, for example when they talk about terrorists and violence in certain countries.
Thailand is a country that has foreigners create a lot of stereotypes – both positive and negative. Maybe because we see Thai people doing so many things different here than back home and then think “This must be typical Thai”. For example? Thai people are so kind. Thailand, the land of smiles. It’s easy to get laid in Thailand. But also something like: You cannot trust Thai people. Thai girls only want your money. Thai girls steal your money. Thai people are lazy.
Having lived in Thailand for several years now, being nearly fluent in the Thai language and understanding the way of Thai thinking and thus acting, I have found a lot of these stereotypes are just not true and often created by tourists that have spent an insignificant amount of time here and base their opinion on a couple of experiences made during their two week holiday in one of the tourist hot spots.
Today, let’s look at this one: Thai People take things easy, don’t rush doing things or getting things done. It’s so hot here, after all. Sabai Sabai – Thai People Are Patient.
Really? I have an opinion on most of the stereotypes, but for this one I’m quite undecided. Let’s have a look:
Reasons For Thai People Being PATIENT:
- It’s amazing to see how disciplined and fair Thai people are to each other when waiting for a train. You can watch this at any BTS / MRT / Railway Link station in Bangkok when people line up to the left and right of the door sign – who comes first enters first. Even during rush hour. You very rarely see that people literally fight and push each other out of the way to get in the train the quickest way like it’s common in our home countries.
- If Thai people are told they have to sit down for two hours and wait until it’s their turn – they just do it and barely complain about having to wait so long, sometimes they do but just in front of their friends and wouldn’t go to the person in charge and tell him to speed up things. Thai people even enjoy to just sit and do nothing but people watching (kon tai chɔ̂ɔp mɔɔng, คนไทยชอบมอง). A good example for the Thai patience is every Wednesday you can see a huge line in front of Starbucks (buy one get one free) and people don’t bother to wait for 45 minutes or so just to get that “Hi-So” coffee 50% off and take a few selfies with it.
- If you make an appointment with a Thai girl and then tell her you come 30 minutes late she will not be upset or cancel the date like most western girls would do but just say “Ok I wait you here na”. The downside is that usually it’s us westerners who make it on time while the girl is the one to ask you “Where are you now?” right at the meeting time before letting you know she’s on the way and you don’t even know if she’s going to arrive in 10 minutes or 40 minutes.
I believe the Thai people are patient, and the people at least give me a chance to prove my ability to help them. – Yingluck Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand 2011-2014 until a large group of people have run out of patience and Shutdown Bangkok.
Reasons For Thai People Being IMPATIENT:
- One thing I experience every day in the office and gotten used to yet it’s still annoying is when the elevator opens its doors most Thai people want to rush inside as it was empty or they just don’t care. When they then see that there are actually people coming out they’re usually stopping abruptly and pretending to be very surprised. They then wait but if you look in their faces you can feel how impatient they are. Maybe they need some staff or automated voice like in the metro to remind them it’s good manner to “let people exit first before entering”.
- Another good example for the impatience of the Thai people is when you are out shopping and you talk with the vendor, i.e. make an inquiry about their product or service, there is always a good chance that some random Thai comes and interrupts your conversation instead of waiting until you are finished. Same happens when you order food or drinks at the classic food stalls on the road and while she is processing your order, i.e. making the coffee you requested, there comes a Thai and shouts two ice tea please. Strange because at the “proper” retail stores i.e. True Coffee or more generally inside buildings Thai people don’t do that and wait until it’s their turn instead of just yelling at the personal that are busy doing something else. There were times that Thai vendors asked their customers “ráp àrai dii ká” or “ao àrai dii ká” (รับอะไรดีคะ / เอาอะไรดีคะ) but this seems overly formal nowadays and you hear it only in some of the better restaurants if at all, usually they just go “sà-wàt-dii kâ” (สวัสดีค่ะ) = Hello, and then looking at you, expecting you to order.
- If you look at how Thai people talk to each other you will notice that they speak much faster than Westerners do, as well as taking only short breaks in between their sentences. What you see in the Thai soap operas every night with the “Hi-So” people speaking almost poetic and look in each other’s eyes for several seconds before going on with speaking – this doesn’t have to do anything with real life in Thailand. No one speaks like that not even Hi So’s. Actually it’s these rich people that speak even faster compared to the working class as to demonstrate their power and they always want to get things done as quickly as possible.
- Thai people don’t just like to speak fast, they also leave out words whenever possible and people understand the meaning from the context. A good example for this that most foreigners know is they usually say “sàbaai dii mái” (สบายดีไหม), instead of “kun sàbaai dii mái” (คุณสบายดีไหม), How are you?, omitting the personal pronoun “you” so they can finish the sentence quicker.
- Cutting off syllables from words is another proof for their impatience. Examples: “ngûang” instead of “ngûang-nɔɔn” (sleepy), “roong baan” instead of “roong pá-yaa-baan” (hospital), “bin” instead of “krʉ̂ang-bin” (aeroplane) and I noticed it during the World Cup when they even shorted the words of some countries such as “Argen for Argentina”. You can see the phenomenon of shorting of words also in written Thai: รึป่าว instead of หรือเปล่า (question particle), ไม instead of ทำไม (why) พุ่งนี้ instead of พรุ่งนี้ (tomorrow) etc.
Impatient in Thai means “jai rɔ́ɔn” (ใจร้อน). So whenever you feel a Thai you are dealing with is overly jai rɔ́ɔn, just tell him or her to “jai yen yen” (ใจเย็นๆ, calm down, jai = heart, yen = cool). This should put a smile on their face – but rather because they are surprised you know this popular phrase…