Thai Proverbs And Culture

 

 
 For the next couple of posts I want to take a look at Thai proverbs and how some of them are not so dissimilar to our own in the west, but with a different take. Some of the proverbs contain a lot of culture and traditions and are a great way to learn about the country. I have added some culture notes as well to go with the proverbs.
 Proverb:
In Thailand they say:  
  • In a town where people wink, you must also wink
  • English Version: When in Rome, do as the Romans do
  • เข้าเมืองตาหลิ่ว ต้องหลิ่วตามตาม

Cultural Note:

In Thailand the Thai Buddhist ” wat” temple is not only a place of worship and monastery, but in the rural areas is the center of community life. Some temples teach meditation, traditional Thai medicine and ancient Thai massage. The temple has also been used as a refuge for the homeless, the abused, the elderly and orphans not to mention stray animals and unwanted pets.

Proverb:

In Thailand they say:

  • รักฉันต้องรักหมาด้วย
  • Love me, love my dog
  • Meaning: If you love me, love me with all my faults

Love me with all my faults: ( Bung Borapet Nakhon Sawan)

 Proverb:

In Thailand they say:

  • อย่าสาวไส้ให้กากิน
  • Don’t pull out your intestines to feed the crow
  • English version: Don’t wash your dirty linen in public

Warning:

I received an e-mail recently from a Thai lady who was angry at a westerner who had written an article criticising the way the Thais hold saving face so dear to them. The westerner had been  non complimentary and had angered many.

First of all I found his comments to be narrow-minded at the very least and Thai business has actually nothing to do with him. It was quite surprising as he had lived in Thailand a long time and was married to a Thai lady. It goes back to that old saying of ” change what you cannot accept, accept what you cannot change”. You can also take this back to the first proverb of ”in a town where people wink, you must also wink ” or when in Rome or Bangkok”

The real warning here is great care should be taken when making negative comments about Thai people or Thai related things. Directly criticising Thai people or Thai life can lead to serious confrontations. It is widely known that the Thai’s are a very easy going and peaceful people, but will take extreme measures if a loss of face is involved to themselves, family or friends.

Proverb:

In Thailand they say:

  • กำแพงมีหูประตูมีตา
  • Walls have ears, doors have eyes
  • Meaning:  1) Be aware when you have confidential information
  • Meaning:  2) There are doors into everything regardless of the tight security one has set up to guard the secret.

Did You Know:

Thais are firm believers in ghosts and spirits and you will hear of many different kinds of spirits everywhere. Included in the list of spirits are …

  • Spirits of the water
  • Spirits of the land
  • Spirits of the trees

However most of the spirits as long as treated respectfully and given offerings of food and drink remain kindly.

Proverb:

In Thailand they say:

  • ปิดทองหลังพระ
  • To put gold leaf on the back of a Buddha statue
  • Meaning: To do good deeds without caring for rewards or admiration

Culture Note:

There is a word in Thailand called  Boon (บุญ) that basically means good acts or to perform good acts or deeds. These good acts and deeds for another individual are performed from the heart freely and willingly and is a big part of the Thai society.

Another word is  Gadhanyoo (กตัญณู)   meaning gratefulness, however it is perhaps even more powerful than the English translation suggests and very high in the most important Thai characteristics. One of the major ways it  is expressed is through children to their parents and this is continued throughout life. Family is number one on the priority list and Thais will do almost anything to secure the happiness of their parents.

Proverb:

In Thailand they say:

  • ขีช้างจับตีกแดน
  • Ride an elephant to catch a grasshopper
  • Meaning: 1) Don’t make something easy difficult
  • Meaning  2) Use the correct tool for the job

Using the correct tool for the job

Did You Know:

In Thailand the number 9 is considered lucky. The reasoning behind this is that it sounds similar to (   เก้า,  gao =  ”step”) and reminds one of the words to ” make progress” (gao-na, ก้าวหน้า ). You will often find gifts of money that are given will be in multiple of 9 (e.g., 999 Baht)

Proverb:

In Thailand they say:

  • ดูช้างให้ดูหาง ดูนางให้ดูแม่
  • To check an elephant, look at his tail
  • To check a woman, look at her mother

Culture Note:

The old proverb above notes that just as you can tell a good elephant by the fine tail it has you can also tell a future bride by her mother, in other words like mother like daughter. So it would appear that the choosing of a wife should be delayed until a visit with her mother, or so the proverb goes.

Proverb:

In Thailand they say:

  • รักพี่เสียดายน้อง
  • Love the older sister, but yearn for the younger sister
  • English version: The grass is always greener on the other side of the hill

Great Book:

 The word’ ‘ jai”  (ใจ)  in Thai means heart & mind and is a word deeply connected to feelings and emotions. The word is massive in the Thai dictionary and is a part of lots of Thai nouns, verbs and adjectives. As an example

  • Delighted, happy and glad =  dee-jai ( ดีใจ )
  • To pamper or please =  ao-jai (เอาใจ  )
  • Proud – to feel proud of  =  poom-jai    (ภูมิใจ )
  • Quick temper, hot heart  = jai-rawn (ใจร้อน )

Top western author on  Asian affairs (especially Thailand) Christopher G. Moore  recently wrote a fantastic book called  Heart Talk: ”Say What You Feel In Thai” using just that one marvellous word  ”jai” .  Christopher takes a trip on the emotive side of Thai culture and language and uncovers for us the language of ”jai” or Heart Talk. An absolute must have book from an expert on Thai life and language.

Buy Heart Talk:  by Christopher G. Moore right here.

http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Talk-Christopher-G-Moore/dp/9749411897/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1288640112&sr=1-1

Proverb:

In Thailand they say:

  • รำไม่ดีโทษปี่โทษกลอง
  • Dance poorly and blame the oboe and the drum
  • A poor workman blames his tools

Tip:

For those looking for an introduction into learning the Thai language , make sure you visit the blog of Kaewmala and especially this recent post which will give you a fantastic start. Kaewmala writes with great clarity and it would be a great idea to subcribe to her blog for further Thai language tips.

http://thaiwomantalks.com/phonetic-guide/

Proverb:

In Thailand they say:

  • หนีเสือปะจระเข้
  • Run away from a tiger and face a crocodile
  • To go from the frying pan into the fire

Great book shops in Chiang Mai

Great Book:

There is a whole world of Thai culture and language to be learned in the book  ” Sex Talk”  In search of Love and Romance by Kaewmala. Those who love to know about the wisdom and traditions of Thailand from a native Thai speaker will be over the moon with this book. Proverbs, sayings, fantastic language learning, language explanations, Thai culture and much, much more. I got the book and was so glad I did, it has not only taught me so much, but given me a lot of belly laughs in the analysing of characters …. really excellent.

Buy Sex Talk: by Kaewmala right here   http://www.amazon.com/Sex-Talk-Kaewmala/dp/9749478835/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1288640965&sr=1-1

Proverb:

In Thailand they say:

  • แข่งเรือแข่งแพแข่งได้ แข่งบุญแข่งวาสนาแข่งไม่ได
  • One can compete in a boat or raft race, but one cannot compete in the race of merit and destiny
  • Meaning: It’s about doing good deeds and creating merit. The Thais believe that we create merit credit for doing good deeds and merit deficit for bad deeds performed. If you have carried out a lot of good deeds in your past lives then you will be reborn with a good karma account, that will influence your destiny in the next life.

Culture Note:

The Buddhists believe that life does not begin with birth and end with death, but is part of a chain of lives. Destiny is shaped by voluntary acts  (กรรม) ,( gam) in previous and present exitence that produce good and bad results. The Buddhists believe that one is always accumulating and forfeiting merit and of course then one’ fate can change at the drop of a hat.

Proverb:

In Thailand they say:

  • อย่าชิงสูกก่อนห่าม
  • Don’t eat fruits before they are ripe
  • Meaning: In the words of wisdom and traditions of Thai elders, the youth were told to not start having sex until the proper time arrived and the proper time was the wedding night.

Culture Note:

As times change and not always for the better I believe the above proverb is probably out of date now, but the elder Thai generation will still let the younger Thai generation know what is socially expected of them. However along with the rest of the world and not just in Thailand it appears to be a losing battle.

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