Smiling is one of the most common gestures in the world… regardless of age, it is absolutely universal and surpassing all the cultures and eras. However, if you think that smiling is an obvious, normal and international demonstration of kindness and sympathy, think again! In Thailand, the issue is slightly more complex...
The primary social importance of smiling
In Thailand, the smile is a way of showing that you are socially accepted, that you are a good person and that you value the person you are conversing with. The one who does not smile is a wager or impolite and does not consider others. Therefore, you should not frown or lose your temper or get upset when you go there.
There is always a good occasion to smile!
The smile is a real art of non-verbal communication! There are as many types of smiles as there are meanings and messages, such as: embarrassment, respect, (paradoxically) disapproval, etc. That's why we just do not talk about the smile but the Thai smiles and especially the 13 Thai smiles:
- The smile of extreme joy (Yim thang nam taa)
- The smile of politeness (Yim thak thaai)
- The smile of admiration (Yim cheun chom)
- The smile in response to a bad joke (Fuen Yim)
- The malicious smile (Yim mee lessanai)
- The “Ah, I told you so!” smile (Yim yao)
- The smile of resignation (Yim yao yae)
- The sad smile (Yim sao)
- The smile of embarrasment (Yim haeng)
- The smile of disapproval (Yim thor thaan)
- The victory smile (Yim cheuat cheuan)
- The smile of determination (Yim sou sou)
- The forced smile (Yim mai hok)
Hence the complexity of the Thai smile: it can mean anything or everything! Similarly, a smiling person is not necessarily someone who appreciates you or of good intention (although this is usually the case). It is therefore a question of how to interpret or recognize them and finally understand their meaning and be able to react better... with a smile, of course! :D