It's been a month since I returned home from a year in Thailand. My homecoming was emotional, full of reunions, shocks of cultural differences, and the foreign sensation of stability that only "home" can provide. I spent the first few weeks continuing my adventure by exchanging my 70 liter backpack for my lavender duffel bag, plane tickets for the Greyhound, and a constant companion for traveling solo. My fears of coming home to stagnation were most certainly cured by days filled with traveling, visiting loved ones, celebrating graduations, or the overwhelming task of unpacking. However, I soon began to notice a pattern in my swarm of activities: they were non-stop. Read more
One thing I have grown to love about Thailand is the poetic way their language sounds and the meanings behind their words. The language is tonal, meaning that one sound such as ma can have 5 different tones, low, mid, high, falling, and rising. These 5 tones dictate the meaning of the word. So a simple ma, depending on the tone, could mean dog, come, or horse (unfortunately, I don't know the other two meanings). Thai also has a beautiful way of phrasing. For example, the word for 'kind' is jai dee, which literally translates to 'good heart'. And when they talk about the mind, as in 'peace of mind' or 'good mind' they refer to the heart, tapping their fingers to the left side of their chest solidifying their words. Read more
I have noticed a distinct difference between the USA and Thailand on the notion of privacy and private thoughts. For example, when someone is sleeping here is Thailand, it is not unusual or rude to wake them. And no one seems to be bothered by it. Same with personal space - it does not really exist in the same way as in America. People here often touch when speaking (females to females and males to males only - not crossing gender lines). It is a kind and personal interaction. At first I was wary and confused, and even a little weirded out (when was the last time they washed their hands?!). But now I like it; I feel connected and cared for by the person I am talking with and I feel comfortable touching them in return. Despite all this same-gender touching, there is little to no touching of the opposite sex (this is different in more touristy areas). For example, no matter if you are newly dating or have been married for 50 years, you do not touch in public. I don’t even think I have seen hand holding in my town! While in America, people will kiss and hold each other as they walk, or to the public’s annoyance (or perhaps it’s jealousy?) couples will make-out in public. One thing I am still getting used to is the divulgence of personal information. Discussions with someone you barely know about their recent issue with diarrhea seems to be way too much information. But I am sure that soon I will be talking about my own daily issues and whatnot… Also, the concept of physical appearance is more casual. People have no qualms or hesitation to point out that pimple I’ve been hiding, that they themselves are fat, or that someone else is fat or has any other less than perfect quality. Maybe this honesty is good. No one expects to be perfect or holds anyone else to that standard. I am not pleased when people point out my faults even when I am aware of them… But I guess what’s the point of pretending it doesn’t exist if the whole world can see it?