How does a Thai tick?
A good question to which tourists have more bad than good answers. It is not only ignorance that hides the pitfalls of this culture so alien to us. Even the magic that this land and its ever smiling people radiate only lets us guess what is behind it. Especially tourists like to be captured by it. Some experience it as a culture shock, others as a welcomed opportunity to meet people at the holiday destination who are particularly friendly and helpful. It seems pointless to question or even disillusion this magic.
Our Western culture favours our thirst for exploration. We want to know everything, find answers to everything. Unanswered questions leave us restless and nervous. Thais are extremely calm about this. The determining, mysterious life culture of the Thais behind it is very complex. The more one believes to recognize, the more riddles reveal themselves. Some contemporaries experience this phenomenon as a culture shock. Nothing is as it should be. Simply enjoying the magic is a really recommendable alternative. Even if a little discomfort remains that nothing can really be seen behind it.
I have been living in Thailand for a long time; have lived with Thai families for years. But the way they really tick is still mysterious and strange to me. Good for the one who can say the other about himself concerning the tight-lipped Thais. If the reality is not particularly rosy, the Thais come up with beautifying language decorations, in order to bear the hardness better. Or reality is simply blocked out. The truth doesn’t exist, there are many truths. It’s just a matter of perception. Therefore I don’t try to explain, but to look at the Thais and describe them.
To describe the Thai way of life, one must include its culture, deeply rooted in Buddhism and the spirit world. Religion is not the roof over one’s head, but the well from which all cultures feed. This is especially true for Thailand. The term religion is inartfully chosen for Buddhism for Buddha had experienced and practiced a more fundamental change in the perception of things or world view in order to heal himself. With him there is no helping god who merciful helps out of a jam to be taken into paradise. In Buddhism, one can only redeem oneself from the eternal cycle of karma production (samsara).
Even the emergence of karma is completely strange to us. Fortunately, the Thais present us their strangeness with an almost disarming friendliness and warmth. What they really think about us, I will write in another blog. That is to say that they’re looking at us pretty critical. Much more critical than some enchanted tourists might imagine.
Above all, they miss Sanuk in our faces. Sanuk in the face is an expression of a relaxed life. The face in Thailand has more stories to tell than we would care for. Thais are face scanners; they can read our character traits in the face. Loss of face in the figurative sense is an extremely bad thing.
The opposite of a relaxed life is a calculating life for Thais. Influenced by Persian and Greek antique thinking, following the calculating logic, our Western culture presents itself to the Thais completely strange and contrary. Just as our central notion of the “first cause” is an opposing notion, the first cause as a point from which everything emanated. Buddhism lacks a universal beginning, even if the cause of all is controversial. Thais never heard of it. There is simply no such thing as a first cause. Everything was always there, is still there today and will always be there. How atoms recombine is a matter of conditional chance. Buddha speaks here of the conditional origin of all being. A complicated thing that becomes easier if you can explain the action pattern of the Higgsboson (God particle). Also the phenomenon of birth, as the Buddhist Thais see it, becomes understandable in this way. [There will be more blogs on this topic soon!]
A relaxed life is absolute priority for Thais. Mathematics as a support of social policy and insurance is not responsible for a relaxed and carefree life. If the numbers aren’t adding up, you’re poor. Poverty is a difficult concept in Thailand as long as you have food because food is Sanuk, an important element for the quality of life. We eat to fill our stomachs. Thais eat to be able to eat again. Thais who never want to be full in order to savor more!? Considering our eating habits, that seems a little strange…
The state of the heart is responsible for well-being in Thailand, not in the cardio logical sense but in the figurative sense. For this state the Thais have many names. Worth striving for is “djai yen“. “Djai” means heart and “yen” means prudence. “Djai yen” is necessary for a life in the sun, along with “mai pen rai“. “Mai pen rai” in English is “let it be”, then there’s a lot of Sabai and Suay.
If you want to describe the magic of Thailand, you can’t ignore the terms Sanuk, Sabai and Suay. That’s why the next blogs take it one at a time.
More about “Djai yen“, Karma, and other terms mentioned above in later blogs.