This is my seventh month in Thailand, my longest stay in a foreign country to date. And it’s not a secret: I have been in love with the country. In love with its islands (there are about 1.400 of them), temples (about 40.000 Buddhist temples), beaches, jungles, forests, delicious food, exoticness, history, outstanding cosmopolitan cities, bucolic rural areas, and colourful mixture of traditionalism and modernism.
Nevertheless, all that fades in comparison to the most remarkable and of incalculable value aspect of Thailand: the people.
The ‘Thai people’, the citizens of The Kingdom of Thailand — formerly known as Royal Kingdom of Siam (from Sanskrit ‘syama’, i.e. ‘dark’, in reference to the relative skin color of the people), the only Southeast Asian country that was never colonized by an European country (thus the polite form ‘Prathet Thai’, i.e. ‘Land of the Free’) and not accidentally often referred as ‘The Land of the Smiles’ — have an unique way of taking life just right.
Taking life just right
Thai people favour serenity, understanding, and joy over willingness to argue, complain, or be bitter. They naturally foster a peace-loving culture. They are wholeheartedly patient and kind, even when irritation and angry would be — by a westerner — naturally expected. When something goes wrong, they simply smile and let it go, as if they had a natural Stoic understanding of life.
Thai people are magically friendly. They strive to communicate with you, to help you, to make you comfortable, and to engage with you. They will invite you to their table, or they will simply join yours as a gesture of friendliness. Then they will share their personal stories and will be eager to hear yours.
Thai people are down to earth and detached. They live in a reality far away from the consumerism craziness of most other countries. Thai people are humble, unpretentious, and soft spoken (if you hear someone speaking loudly in public spaces, you can bet is a foreign looking for attention). So much of both Buddhism and Taoism there.
Not to mention that Thai people, a population diverse in ethnicity and race, don’t build layers and walls. People from different cultures, economic groups, educational backgrounds, religions, and sexual orientation, including the plethora of enclaves of expatriates, peacefully and respectfully live along, as equals — which, by they way, should be the expected of any civilized people.
Throughout these seven months I have been living in Thailand, Thai people taught me and reminded me in a daily basis how easy is to live healthy and genuinely happily.
Prioritization of the right values and virtues
Curiously, often I spot westerns — both tourists and expatriates — naively criticizing Thai people’s way of life. Americans often say Thais should be more ambitious and disciplined, while Europeans often point out that Thais should be more progressive. What they do not understand, IMHO, is that their values are hyper-valorized, and to the detriment of what’s fundamentally real and essential. Thus, every time I hear someone making such comments, I ask myself how is it possible that these people cannot see the clear and critical relation between such poor prioritization of less essential values and virtues, and how sad, lonely, unhealthy, aggressive, and even dangerous "their own people" are in their home countries.
Let's all learn to smile!
I wish people of all places could experience and learn from the Thai culture, as I hope I can myself effectively internalize such learnings. The learnings about the value of respecting and connecting with other people, about smiling and letting go, about leaving out what is needless or redundant, and about prioritizing what's real and essential — to mention just a few.
I wish we all could learn how to take life just right.