In the past few weeks, I have been told by so many Thais and non-Thais that I don’t act very Thai. I don’t look, act, eat and think like Thais. They feel that I have been Americanized after only 7 years in the US.
As Thai as I can be, I start looking back at myself, wondering what I have done, making myself a not-so-very-Thai gal. How do you define someone as a Thai and someone not? I then start looking back at my heritage. My maternal and paternal sides are 100% Chinese descent, but we at least have been living in Thailand for over a century. Even though we celebrate Chinese’s New Year and all, but we also celebrate the Thai’s national ceremony. Our family speaks Thais, shares the same Thai values and pays Thai tax. However I have no control over how I look. After all, I really don’t consider myself a Thai-Chinese, but only Thai with smaller set of eyes.
A lot of people have this impression about Thais loving tongue-burning-hot-and-spicy food, but forgetting that there are always minorities of Thais who hate ‘heat.’ I am one of them. I dislike those please-kill-me-before-I-am-burned-by-chilies kind of foods. Whenever I gather with a group of Thai friends, I’ve always been teased for not being able to handle heat like a Thai. So growing up, I was often called ‘look-jek’ a.k.a Chinese kid. After all, I still consider myself a Thai who doesn’t eat spicy foods.
Many times I am told that I don’t act like a typical Thai girl (who is soft spoken, well behaved and reserved, I supposed.) Growing up, I have always been an outspoken and upfront kind of gal. I defend what I believe in, initiate a conversation with my crush(es), ask guys on a date, pay for my own meals, and rarely use a phrase ‘mai-pen-rai’ as ‘that’s okay.’ Still, I consider myself a Thai who believe in what I believe in, and love to share it with others.
I get mad when people are late. When we are supposed to meet at 10 am, arriving 30 minutes later is unacceptable. One of famous Thai excuses is ‘oh! the traffic is really bad.’ Forget it. I am mad, especially when you live in Thailand (Bangkok, especially) your whole life. Don’t give me this crap. I wasn’t born yesterday. One time I told my friend, ‘once you set your feet in MBK, why don’t you give me a call. I will meet you there.’ Still, I consider myself a Thai who prefers arriving at least 10 minutes before my meeting.
Leaving that last piece of Tod-Mun-Pra on the plate as an honored piece? Nevermind. I know everyone has eyed that last piece, but too shy to fork it back to their plate. That’s okay. I will take it. Well, I still consider myself a Thai who is still hungry.
Again, I hate the phrase ‘mai-pen-rai’ when everybody knows it’s ‘pen-rai.’ A lady cuts the line in front of me in a supermarket, this is pen-rai. I will let her know. When someone offers me a glass of water while visiting their home and/ or office, and yes, I am thirsty, I will take it. Nevermind mai-pen-rai. When someone says something bad to me, I will let them know I don’t appreciate it. Mai-pen-rai isn’t totally applied. I guess I still consider myself a Thai without using mai-pen-rai excessively.
I guess I’ve made my point. Thais are still Thais, regardless of where they are or whom they have become. Of course, this may only been applied to some cases.