When in “Bangkok,” do as the “Thais” do. That might be a twisted version of the old saying, but you should know there are reasons for such an idiom. You always want to blend in a foreign land. So at least, you should try to speak the local lingo. But why learn Thai as an expat?
There are many reasons why you should learn Thai while living in Thailand. The most obvious is to form stronger connections with the locals, whether it’s a personal relationship or a group scenario. However, there are more benefits to learning Thai as an expat. So, learn it at any chance you get.
Even though the Thai language can be challenging to learn, it will still be worth your effort. Read on to discover the 12 edges to learning Thai as an expat in Thailand.
Why should you learn Thai when living in Thailand?
1. To form a meaningful connection with the Locals
As mentioned, this reason is the most obvious. But for those who’re still unsure why here’s a quick recap.
The language barrier is real, so you should never underestimate it. Speaking Thai lets you connect deeper with your local neighbors, friends, and colleagues.
Once the barrier is gone, you will get to know people and learn more about their problems and other things they couldn’t communicate with otherwise. As a result, an acquaintance might become a friend. And your friend might become closer.
2. To be a part of the “Thai community”
While Thai people are very open towards foreigners, you can still feel the distance if you can’t speak their language.
So, the Thai language is the most effective tool to bridge you with them.
Knowing Thai allows you to join a group of Thai friends as “another human,” not as “that tourist.” There’s a huge difference there. Why? Because being a “tourist” is practically the same as being an “outsider.” And you can’t join a group that way.
3. To feel less “ashamed” when you speak
When your time in Thailand exceeds 2 or 3 years, it begins to get “embarrassing” if you can’t speak Thai.
Imagine this. You visited the same Seven-Eleven and met the same clerk every evening. This clerk remembered you and would make a face that said, “Oh, boy. Here we go again. Let me switch to English mode,” every time. Seeing that face often could spike your “shame” and make you feel like an “alien.”
And sometimes, it’s not even because of the locals. You will be self-conscious about it yourself.
4. To gain “credibility” among other expats
If you are an expat in Thailand, you will inevitably spend time with other expats.
In this circle, there will always be “that person” who knows Thai. If that person were you, you would be in for a treat.
Other people in the circle will come to you for help. This will make you feel like a hero among your fellow expats. You can feel the respect other foreigners give you.
5. To surprise the Locals
If you looked like a Westerner and walked like one, Thai people wouldn’t expect you to speak a word in Thai. But if you can pull a fluent “Sawasdee Krab/Ka” out, you will immediately see an exclamation mark on the locals’ faces.
Establish that “I can speak Thai,” and the mood of the conversation will change. Relief, surprise, humility, and welcome — all sorts of emotions will rush your interlocutor’s face. And the tension will disappear.
6. To date a Thai person
As mentioned, the language barrier is real. And you can feel its presence intensifying in a romantic setting.
Even though many Thais can speak English, foreign words and sentences don’t reach their heart as well as their parents’ language. So, they might miss the sweet nuances from your pick-up lines.
Knowing Thai allows you to understand the depth of Thai courting culture. As a result, you will have an easier time stepping into the local’s heart or opening your own.
7. To deal with Thai authorities with ease
Interacting with Thai authorities like police or immigration can be a pain — especially when you don’t know what they are talking about.
Even though many Thai authorities understand English, their speaking pattern is still broken. Sometimes, they might mix a Thai word or two into their sentences.
But if you can at least understand or read Thai, things can proceed smother. You can pull an “Oh. I know what that means” and streamline everything out — impressing the officers and getting them from suspecting you to trying to help you out.
And if you hold an education Visa, these authorities might try to test you too. They will want to know if you have skipped the Thai language class or not. So, you better be prepared.
8. To understand local news
Knowing what’s happening around you is crucial to survival — especially in a foreign land. You don’t want to get to a bar in the evening and learn that the local government started banning alcohol this morning to prevent the spread of COVID.
So, if you understand Thai, you can get the most updated news from various channels faster. These include social media like Facebook and Twitter. You don’t have to wait for someone to bring you up to date at the bar or restaurant anymore.
9. To be able to chat on “Line”
If you have been to Thailand, you would know that Thai people are crazy about a texting application called “Line.” And, of course, they prefer chatting on Line over phone calls.
So, if you know how to read and type in Thai, your life will automatically be more “Thai”. You can communicate with your Thai friend more often, and the conversation topic will be more friendly.
Additionally, the Thai “social media” language or “chat language” is super convenient. The greatest example is the “55555.” Ever wondered what 555 means in Thailand?
In Thai, “5” is pronounced “ha.” So if you see a bunch of “5” in Thai chat, it means people are laughing. 55555.
10. To understand Thai jokes
Thai people are usually humorous. They want you to be able to laugh with them.
Understanding Thai will expand your view of puns, word plays, and linguistic tricks. You will be able to laugh at more things than you imagined. And who knows? You might actually like “dad jokes” when they are in another language.
11. To know when people talk behind your back
Not only are cats curiosity-driven, but so do humans. And, of course, you want to know how people bad-mouth you.
Knowing Thai allows you to catch any locals who gossip about you. It might be positive, sometimes. But as you know, what matters are the negative ones.
If you did catch a gossiper, what to do next is up to you. But you will at least be more aware of how Thai people really see you as a person.
12. To brag about it
Sometimes, all we want in life is some bragging rights. And if you mastered Thai, you have certaintly earned that.
The Thai language is not easy to speak or write. And if you know how to perform those feats, you deserve a certain degree of respect. So, be proud.
Can you live in Thailand speaking English?
You… could. Some Thais are eager to communicate with you in English. But they won’t come up that often. It’s almost impossible to catch a local like that on the street.
In addition, you might have to rely on a personal interpreter or an auto-translating machine daily. And that gets annoying fast.
So, if you have a chance, please learn Thai. Even though Thai isn’t the most effortless language to learn — thanks to its complex grammar and “tonal” nature — studying Thai can give you a rewarding experience. And who knows? You might find a new hobby after your study.
How is that possible? Well. Aside from the 12 reasons above, you will understand Thailand’s unique culture more deeply.
If you can read Thai, you can immerse yourself in Thai literature. Local books and poems are rich with strange tales of fantastical creatures and mysterious places you cannot find anywhere else. Not to mention the exotic values and new mindsets you can explore.
If you understand Thai, you can also enjoy Thai music and songs at a higher level. You don’t just vibe to the melody and rhythm anymore. Now you know the lyrics. And you can finally sing them out.
Let’s learn Thai
What you just read is only a glimpse of Thai culture you might find interesting. Knowing Thai can broaden your worldview more than you can read in this article.
So, once again, learn Thai if you can. You will thank yourself later.
Like always, if you want to discover more about Thailand, stay guided with ThaiGuider. You might learn something you never knew about this unique country.
THINKING ABOUT A TRIP TO THAILAND?
I am working on a FREE Thailand Travel Guide with a FULL 7 Day Itinerary. Be the first to receive it!
Thank you for signing up.
Something went wrong.