Thursday, May 29, 2008

Land of Smiles

"Welcome to the Land of Smiles" was one of the first things I read on a giant sign in the Bangkok airport when I arrived here over five years ago. Arriving from the West, I was immediately skeptical that Thai people were somehow more happy. How could this be possible?

While people here don't walk around grinning every minute, I quickly realized that Thai people generally smile and laugh a lot. In Thai culture, a smile is used in many situations. Besides showing happiness, it's common for Thais to smile during nervous or embarrassing moments. Now that I've lived in this culture a while, I even find myself smiling after I make an awkward foreigner faux pas. Perhaps a more accurate phrase would be, "Welcome to the Land of Happy, Nervous, and Embarrassing Moment Smiles".