How To Make Friends with Thai People
One thing that is sure to make your life in Thailand easier and more fun is to have some Thai friends.
Even with the language barrier it is still possible to fit into Thai society and become an accepted member of your local community.
No matter how good your Thai language skills become, or how many chilli’s you can eat in your somtam, remember you will always be a farang. This means Thai people will want to take care of you as a guest in their country and will usually go out of their way to make you feel happy and comfortable. This can mean that it's not as easy for them to relax around you as it is when they are just with their Thai friends.
In Thailand it is very important to be ‘jai dee’ or have a good heart and show kindness and consideration towards others. Contrary to popular thought this doesn’t mean always paying the bill or throwing lavish parties every other week.
In the same way as in the West a little kindness goes a long way and if someone takes the time to help you or invite you to spend time with them, give them a small gift in return. I must stress the word small, a popular conception with many Thai people (not only bar girls) is farangs have more money than sense and showering people with expensive gifts or insisting on paying the bill every time will only reinforce this theory. So, don’t show off, stay modest and show your appreciation in simple ways.
In Thai culture an important part of peer-to-peer relationships is ‘greng jai’, the easiest way to describe this is ‘not wanting to impose on others or cause them any inconvenience’.
This is quite a hard concept for foreigners to get their heads around as we see the notion of friendship as having fun together and being able to turn to each other in times of need. If you can’t ask your best friend to help you, who can you ask?
Thais say yes, even when they mean no! Ask your Thai friends if they are enjoying themselves when they look bored to tears and they will say ‘yes’ because they don’t want to offend you. So, don’t take advantage of this, just because your neighbour says of course they don’t mind you playing heavy metal till 3am every night while their kids are sleeping, doesn’t mean it’s true and they are probably telling the whole neighbourhood what a nightmare farang you are.
Be a decent human being. This should go without saying in any country, but if you want respect from Thai people you will have to show them respect and that means everyone not just the bank manager or chief of police.Treat your employees well and compensate them fairly, don’t be stingy or expect them to work for nearly nothing. If you’re considered as keeniow (tight) or don’t take care of your staff and customers then Thai people won’t want to know you!
Be considerate, use your manners every time and don’t become over familiar. You are always on display and everything you do will be a hot topic of discussion for the next few hours or days. Don’t flash your cash or do anything to attract unnecessary attention, smile lots and try everything within reason; I draw the line at bpalaa (fermented fish).