Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Language and Society of Thailand

The Language
A rhythmical Thai language is pleasant to the ear as it is consisting of five tonal characteristics - high, middle, low, rising and falling. Spoken and written Thai might be difficult for visitors to comprehend but English is widely used in most tourist areas. Road and street signs are in both Thai and English throughout the country. Each region of Thailand has its own dialect, and visitors can enjoy learning a few basic phrases from the locals who will enthusiastically share their unique identity.

The Society
An old lady offers food to the monks
Surrounded by abundance of natural resources and having Buddhism as the center of their spirits, Thai people’s habits and customs were based mainly on agriculture and religion in the former days. In every part of the country are a Buddhist monastery and a shrine for the community’s deity, serving as a heart for the people’s inner peace, arts, crafts and education. From birth till death, the social system centered round it. No doubt Buddhism softened and tamed animism in many of its cults. Today, the influences from the outside world has modified the traditional Thai cultural identity and created a more modern atmosphere to the capital city and other major cities of Thailand.

Thailand has been recognized as the “Land of Smiles", and no matter where it is in the country, a smile from the heart is always there to greet visitors. 

One of the gestures that illustrate the Thai identity is the greeting called Wai, which is when a person pressing the palms together in a prayer-like gesture, and greet each other instead of shaking hands. 

Generally a younger person would "Wai" an elder, and the elder would return the gesture, but even casual acquaintances will also Wai when they meet. Therefore, if someone shows you a Wai, you should return the gesture. The nature of the Thais is gentle and polite, which can be seen from when they speak and always politely end their sentences by the use of “Khrap” by men and “Kha" by women. 

source: Thailand Travel Manual by TAT

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