How do you say scary in Thai
Anna's student exchange in Thailand
Anna (from Cologne) | 1997/1998 | Thailand / Bangkok / Samut Sakhon
Survival in Thailand:
How can I tell people who have never been to Thailand and who probably don't know very much about the country and the people about my exchange year in this very same year? The best thing to do is to start with how to survive in Thailand. It's not that easy if you don't know how the Thais do it. Well, there are two very simple basic rules (there are of course a lot more, but explaining the complex rules of the Thai courtesy system would take a little too long. But if you follow these two you have a stone in the board for every Thai person. ): 1. Smile always and at everything! This trick should be used especially when you don't understand anything. That always helps. 2. Eat a lot! It is said in Thailand who does not eat is unhappy. So, always eat a lot so that you don't lose weight. Following this rule is not difficult at all, as the Thai cuisine is one of the best in the world (in any case to my liking).
sabai dii kha - I'm doing very well!
So I always followed these two rules at the beginning. Whenever someone asked me how I was doing, I would smile and say sabai dii kha, I am very well. Of course, nobody noticed that I was really not feeling well. And my family, the cause of this not feeling well, certainly not. Well, I liked Thailand very much. The people there have two main interests: eating and having fun. A wise person once said that Thai people only have one meal a day. This begins in the morning when you get up and ends when you go to bed in the evening. That is actually the truth. "Have you eaten yet?" is a very common greeting in Thailand. If you deny this, an invitation follows, if you answer in the affirmative, there is a detailed questioning about the content of this meal and an almost degenerate enthusiasm for various dishes. In Europe, the favorite topic of conversation is the weather; in Thailand it's the food. As already mentioned, fun is also very important. When a Thai comes back from a business meeting, they ask sanuk mai, was it fun? That's the way it is. If you have to do something that is not fun, you will be deeply regretted.
Festivals and Celebrations
Connections of these two Thai preferences are the festivals. That's why there are so many of them in this country. For example Loy Kratong, the festival of lights. Everyone builds a small islet out of banana leaves and flowers and puts a candle and an incense stick on it. In the evening you put a coin on it, light a candle and chopsticks and let the whole thing slide carefully into the river. When the candle burns as long as you can see it, a wish will come true. New Year is celebrated there three times. Once on the first of January, like everywhere else in the world. Then there is the Chinese New Year in mid-January, early February. On these days the children go to each relative's house, wish them a happy new year and then receive money from them. That is why it is often called "money festival". In addition, a long string with New Year's Eve bangs is hung up on the house and burned down. This is to wake up the house spirit. This festival is also an occasion to commemorate the dead. And finally, in mid-April, in the hottest season, there is my favorite festival: Songkran. The Thai New Year lasts three days and it is difficult to get dry on those days. There are people on every street corner who splash you with water. Some have water pistols, others have hoses or large barrels full of water. Many also drive around on the loading area of pick-ups, on which there are also such bins. In any case, you get very wet, which doesn't really matter because it's very hot. This splash of water is said to conjure up a strong monsoon, and thus a high-yielding harvest.
Family cohesion and change
In any case, each of these celebrations is connected with a family gathering, a huge feast and a lot of prayer. The main religion is Buddhism. Although I actually prefer to call it a way of life than a religion. All in all, my year in Thailand was the happiest of my life so far. And that despite the fact that I have changed families twice. I love my third family very much and I also like the second very much. Even though I miss families and friends very much, I am still happy to be here again. Because I also love my family and friends here. I also have a lot more freedom here. In Thailand I was a child, here I grew up. I will always think back to Thailand with a smile. After all, it is the land of smiles. One thing I know for sure: it wasn't the last time that I was in Thailand. I will keep going back there. Because it is also my home.
This report on my time in Thailand is far too incomplete and not in the least satisfactory in my opinion. But it is not possible for me to fit everything I would like to say in a small space. For potential readers it would be boring quickly if I wrote more. So this has to be enough: The first question people ask me when they find out that I went to school in Thailand for a year, why I chose this country in particular. I cannot give a satisfactory answer to this question. I could have gone to so many other countries, but I chose Thailand because it was the country I knew least about. I was gripped by a pure thirst for adventure, something that never belonged to my characteristics before. And so I ended up in Bangkok at the beginning of the rainy season in July 1997. And now, in retrospect, I can say with the greatest conviction: My year in Thailand was the best of my life so far.
My first family - acclimatization
My first host family lived in a suburb of the provincial capital of Samut Sakhon, about 40 kilometers south-west of Bangkok. I didn't get on very well with them, which was certainly also due to the fact that I hadn't settled in particularly well. They had come to Thailand from Shanghai 8 years earlier and were not convinced of their exile. They believed that there was too much danger for a girl my age in Thailand to go outside. So I was locked in. Could only go to school and do nothing else. At home the family spoke Chinese, which of course I was even less familiar with than Thai. After a month, I decided to change families. And now my real Thailand experience began.
My second family and everyday school life
The next host family also lived in the suburbs and the living conditions were more poor than good. We lived with 8 people in three rooms. The sanitary facilities in particular were almost unreasonable. But I've learned that all of this can be used to get used to. You get used to it and are even happy there, if only the people around you are friendly and loving. And that was my family. Every morning my host sister Pluem and I were driven to school by our father or brother. In Thailand people wear school uniforms and I can't think of any clothes that would look more unfavorable. We went to a girls' school and all 3,000 students wore the same horrible blue and white clothes. The school grounds were completely fenced off and you had to greet the teacher, who stood guard at the gate in the traditional Thai way, with a wai. You put down your school bag (a beautiful utensil that goes with your uniform) and put your hands together in front of your chin. One kinks in the process. At 8 o'clock all the students gathered on the sports field and then the flag was raised to the sound of the national anthem. Then there was prayer. A Buddhist prayer, of course. When I once asked a classmate what the prayer means, she said in a sense that she didn't know, after all it was in Sanskrit. But the people there are almost exclusively convinced Buddhists and the religion - actually it is more a philosophy of life - determines almost every action. I went to the same class as my host sister, but had my own schedule. The only "academic" subjects I took were English (with an American), French and Thai as individual lessons. Otherwise, the plan was dominated by craft subjects, such as making flower arrangements or cooking Thai. And of course sports: badminton, Thai dance and Thai sword fighting. At lunchtime we had a break during which I met my sister and her friends for dinner. The Thai cuisine is fantastic and accordingly a lot is eaten. A popular greeting is the words "Have you already eaten?" If this is not the case, you will be invited immediately. I don't understand how it is possible for the Thai people to stay so thin. You eat all day long and you hardly gain any weight!
School ended at four o'clock and then my sister and I usually went to eat in town before we took the bus home and had dinner around 6 o'clock. When I haven't eaten, my family thought I was sick or unhappy. I stayed with this family for four months and it was a good time, even if I was unhappy at times. The family went on many trips with me and I finally saw more of this beautiful country. The reason for my second move were problems that the family members had with each other and that I didn't want to stand in the way. In Thailand it is a loss of face when outsiders notice something like this. The farewell was sad but I think it was the right decision. My relationship with the family was almost better afterwards than when I was part of them. And today I still have good contact with everyone.
My third family and going out
My third family was perfect. I was fully integrated. It was great. My parents were my best friends. That might sound strange, but it was completely normal. I was incredibly happy with them. I had two younger siblings, but I was still friends with my previous sister, which was important to me. I am often asked how things look in Thailand with the opportunities to go out in the evening. The possibilities are there. But not for a 17 year old girl. It is not customary to take to the streets after 8 a.m. And certainly not alone. You are rarely alone in Thailand. If you want to cross a big street, one or two Thai people come and take you by the hand. This is mainly self-protection and less the conviction that you are not able to cross the street on your own. Of course, it's only people of the same sex who touch each other. A boy is not allowed to touch a strange girl, or vice versa. Otherwise she would immediately advise a slut. However, one often sees girls holding hands or boys arm in arm. They are not homosexuals (although homosexuality is also fully accepted in society), but simply friends.
Part of me stayed in Thailand
Thailand has very complicated rules of courtesy that are very important to follow. But the most important thing is not to embarrass anyone. Nobody is allowed to "lose face". The monarchy is a permanent establishment and the Thais see the king and queen as father and mother. For Europeans it is hardly understandable that the people in Thailand want this form of government. The royal couple is highly admired. Thais are always friendly. You are greeted with real joy everywhere. Smiling is always part of it. At the beginning of my stay, I didn't always smile. The heat bothered me, I was homesick and not many friends. Complete strangers came up to me immediately and asked whether I was sick or sad. So I soon got into the habit of always walking through school with a smile, which can be very difficult at times. That is of course hypocritical, but that is the downside of friendliness in the land of smiles. I've settled in well again here in Germany. But I always live with the awareness that a part of me is waiting for me on the other side of the world. Part of me stayed in Thailand and will always be there.Back
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