Stuff Thai People Like: Nickname Nicknames

Every Thai person has a nickname. For some students it’s an English word, often referring to an inanimate object. For others it’s a Thai name, probably referencing something similar. And then there are the absolute classic Thai nicknames. Donut. Gun. Big C. Fourmost. Jedi. Shogun. Pee. Poo. Fluke. Meow. These are all amazing, and hearing new funny nicknames never seems to get old. But I’ve noticed a new phenomenon among my students recently.

The girls in my P4 MEP class have begun giving themselves nicknames for their nicknames. There are two girls named Cream in my class. Yes, that alone is funny. But to distinguish one from the other, they’ve announced they are now going by “Creamy” and either “Creamberry” or “Creamberly”, depending on the day. I always get a good chuckle when I call on Cream and the class replies, “Creamberly or Creamy?”
Another student is no longer content to be called BamBam. She is now Bambie.
Bell now goes by Bella.
Beauty is Bew.
Yok is Tanyok.
Guitar is Gaty.

Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. I love the goofiness of Thai culture. Why the need for a nickname nickname? I have no idea, but I’m definitely appreciating the daily humor my students provide, often without even knowing.

Got Milk?

Every Monday at Thida all the MEP (Mini English Program) teachers facilitate clubs. Each club has a theme – games, videos, writing, art, etc. After recess, the students line up and disperse into their designated clubs. This Monday, we were told by a Thai teacher, “Wait 10 minutes. The students go for milk.” Nobody was really sure what that meant, but we didn’t mind 10 free minutes in the office, so we headed back to the office while all the MEP students disappeared into New Thida for the forementioned milk. Snack and milk time means serious business.

Next thing we knew, all the students were dragging box after box of milk through New Thida, past the playground, across the courtyard, up several flights of stairs, and down the long hallway to their classrooms. Did I mention the kids drink a lot of milk here? Now, every box was full of over 30 personal size milk boxes, so these were heavy. Tiny students + big boxes of milk = lots of students huffing and puffing, sprawled out all over the school with large boxes of milk everywhere. Turns out, the milk delivery took so long that clubs were cancelled, and we got to spend the afternoon entertained by students lugging huge boxes of milk all over the school. And that’s one thing I love about teaching at Thida: There is rarely a dull moment. Enjoy the pictures!

Stuff Thai People Like: Gangnam Style

I thought Gangnam style was popular in the U.S., and then I came to Thailand. It is an obsession here. I pull up on my motorbike to Noonoy school and what song are they blaring in the morning assembly? Gangnam style. The kids are picking team names in class. What team name does someone pick every day? Gangnam style. You walk into a restaurant and what song do you hear within 10 miuntes of sitting down? You guessed it, Gangnam style. I walk through the courtyard at Thida and a kid runs up to me yelling, “Teacha, teacha! Gangnam style! Gangnam Style!” I’ve even heard that the one year olds at Super English can do the dance. Seriously. Gangnam. Style. All. The. Time.

If your lesson ever runs short and you’re at a loss for what to do, you could probably just start singing and dancing Gangnam Style and win some major cool points with your class.

I get it — it’s catchy. The dance is funny. I like it. Well, I liked it the 1st time. I maybe even liked it the 50th time. By the 100th time, it was getting a little old. By the 14,953th time, I just had to laugh at how crazily obsessed Thai people are with the song. Who knows when the craze will end, but until then, Gangnam Style definitely hits the top of the charts for “Stuff Thai People Like”.

"Dubble Bubble" – Thai Style

If you have ever seen a Thai make coffee or Thai tea, you know those drinks are about 1% coffee or tea and 99% sugar & sweetened condensed milk. Sweet stuff. Well earlier today, Eric & I stumbled upon a drink that might take the cake for being the sugariest, sweetest drink we have had in Surat.

It all started when we were craving some Massaman & roti. We headed over to the Massaman & Roti place off of Chon Kasem, and ordered some delicious grub. We also ordered some drinks – “chaa-yen” (iced Thai tea) and “nam keng” (ice) for water. The drinks were delivered, and we were presented with a Thai tea and another mysterious pink drink. This stuff seriously looked like pink cotton candy in liquid form. We politely smiled, said “kob-khun-ka” (thank you), and figured why not give it a try. I’m pretty sure this stuff was “Dubble Bubble” gum in a glass. Seriously, it tasted like Dubble Bubble gum, sugar, and of course the favorite ingredient of Thais, sweetened condensed milk. Sweetness o-ver-load. We weren’t sure if we accidentally ordered it or if they were just being nice and gave it to us, so we downed the whole concoction.

I can’t say I recommend it, but it was a funny experience. If you find yourself craving some Dubble Bubble gum, why not head over to the Massaman & roti place and partake in a sugary glass of the Dubble Bubble craziness yourself.

Stuff Thai People Like: Complimenting — by Shelby

Sure, the Thai people do some crazy things.  Note Laura’s previous blog entry about whitening where the sun don’t shine.  They cut you off in traffic, cut you off in line at seven eleven, sleep sitting up in the office, and eat durian despite the fact that its’ scent spreads like wildfire.

However, despite all that, they are the kindest culture I have yet encountered.

There is not a day that goes by that you are NOT complimented here.  On average, I’d say I hear ten positive things on the daily.  From you look lovely, to you are such a good teacher, they are shameless (in a good way) with building you up.

Now, I am not saying that it doesn’t go both ways—Thai people are honest.  I wore leggings and this beautiful green dress I love with some espadrilles the other day to work, and the first thing I heard was, “No, no, no, today you are not beautiful.”  Apparently, leggings are not SRP’s thing.  I won’t wear those again… Ever…

America is a world where every thing is a competition and everyone is competing against each other, honest, kind remarks are rare.  Thailand is so refreshing in how it differs.

It can be something as simple as your handwriting, but the Thai people can put you on top of the world.  They’ll still cut you in line, and then turn around and call you handsome or beautiful.  Soak it all in.

Whilst you’re here, you’ll cut people off in traffic, get better about ensuring no one cuts you in line, and probably, whether you like it or not, spend money on something that involves whitening.  Take some good with all that, and compliment the Thai people back– about their food, their kindness, the fact that they always come to your class, how beautiful they look, or whatever it might be.  It will make their day as much as it makes yours.

And maybe, we can learn something from their examples and carry it on to wherever we disperse.

Stuff Thai People Like: Even Deeper Whitening — by Laura

I just stumbled across this article in the Bangkok post about skin whitening.  Not just skin whitening, vaginal whitening.  Yes apparently this is a big thing here.  According to the article a French company will sell over 500 million baht in vaginal whitening cream this year.   Vaginal whitening, it’s really deep.

Here is the link to the Bangkok post article.

Stuff Thai People Like #7: Toilet Humor — by Brittany

Our recent visit to Suan Nai Dum convinced me that Thai culture is more full of toilet humor than I ever conceived. Otherwise, how would this statue – a giant, giant pile of poop – be possible?

Like Shelby wrote, Suan Nai Dum is a rather interesting rest stop in Chumpon, on Highway 41.  More than just a beautiful garden, it was also “proclaimed by the Ministry of Public Health to be a Thai public toilet learning centre, which is regularly visited by students and organizations,” according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

All of the toilets are fully-functioning and they’re creatively constructed into various venues, like the Sky Toilet (360 degree views!), Tarzan and Jane toilets, a Pig Butthole toilet (?!), and the toilet that was voted Toilet of the Year 2006 – certified by someone who has the awesome job of being a Toilet Ambassador.

sky toilet

Though the toilets were certainly amazing, I also found myself drawn to the informative and lighthearted signs (which were, of course, posted on toilet seat lids).  These offered some insight into Thai language, which “has countless of idioms and proverbs [sic] linked to the word ‘shit’ for teaching morals to children.”  These are some seriously golden nuggets of wisdom (khee – said in a falling tone – means excrement):

  • Fon tok khee moo lai (ฝนตกขี้หมูไหล): bad people meet together
  • Khi moo raa khee maa hang (ขี้หมูราขี้หมาแห้ง):  not useful, nonsense (don’t split hairs)
  • Hen khee dee gwaa sai (เห็นขี้ดีกว่าไส้): lit. to see shit as better than entrails/family (blood is thicker than water)
  • Gin bon ruan khee rot lang ka (กินบนเรือนขี้รดบนหลังคา): lit. eat in the house, shit on the roof (to bite the hand that feeds you) [source / source]
  • Gum khee dee gwaa gum tod (กําขี้ดีกวากําตด): lit. grabbing shit is better than grabbing farts (having something is better than having nothing) [source]
  • Maa khee mai mee krai yok hahng (หมาขี้ไมมีใครยกหาง): lit. nobody lifts the dog’s tail when it shits (self praise is not recommended). [source]
  • Hen chaang khee khee dtaam chaang (เห็นช้างขี้ ขี้ตาม): don’t try to shit as large as an elephant’s shit (curb your lifestyle to match your means) [source]

Those last three are my personal favorites.  Thai language also has some good euphemisms for using the bathroom, including “go to the paddy,” “go to the dock,” and “go to the jungle.”  This site also mentions, “If you are a woman and you bpai det dork mai (‘go to pick flowers’)you might actually be going to the loo, while the equivalent for men is bpai ying gratai (‘go to shoot rabbits’), expressions which no doubt have their origins in the fields.”

If you listen for it, you’ll hear the word “khee” used a lot.  Yes, it’s a waste product (as in feces), but it could also be snot, (khee muuk), cigarette ash (khee boo ree), or even eraser shavings (khee yaang lohp).  When “khee” is placed in front of adjectives, it’s an idiomatic prefix implying a negative personality trait – all of which is detailed on this page.  For example:

Some of my Mathayom girls actually come up to me quite often and say “bpuaat khee” (ปวดขี้) – which I’m pretty sure translates to “I’m dying to crap.”   Not entirely sure if this is polite or not, or if they just think I can’t understand them.

As you can see in the sign above, Suan Nai Dum also offers a taste of Buddhist philosophy.  A sign near the entrance to the garden explains:

The amazing distinctive “Thai Toilet” reflects Thais’ philosophy of life through their positive and creative thinking about toilets. They appreciate the significance of toilets as “the place for disposing both physical and mental sufferings.”

Another sign, describing the Underworld Toilet, notes:

This place is located beneath a volcano where it is believed to be the hottest abyss of hell. Remarkably, the atmosphere inside the toilet is pleasantly cool. This help to reinforce the message that “the surroundings cannot bring happiness, if your mind is unhappy”, or as a Buddha Proverb says, “Heaven exists in our soul, while Hell exists in our mind.”

Our whole visit to Suan Nai Dum was unexpectedly hilarious and memorable, and it reminded me how much I like Thai peoples’ easygoing and lighthearted way of looking at life.  We never would have encountered this magical place had we not been with Thai people, traveling like Thais do.

So next time someone tells you that you’re going to a garden with amazing toilets, don’t be skeptical! You could be going to Suan Nai Dum … or, if you’re in Korea, you might just be visiting Mr. Toilet’s toilet theme park.

Stuff Thai People Like #6: White Skin — by Blake

What do Thai people and Michael Jackson have in common?

They both wish the could have whiter skin!  (55555!)

Okay, so that was a ridiculously bad joke but it’s so true.  In America (or the western world in general) most of us want to darken our skin a bit or at least be tan.  Being pale is looked at as unattractive and sickly whereas having color pronounces your features and is desired.  The opposite is true in Thailand (and most of Asia).  Presumedly because in Thailand, if you have dark skin it implies that you are lower class and work outside.  If you have lighter skin it means that you’re  well-off and can stay inside and out of the sun all day.  Shopping for toiletries in Thailand can be difficult for westerners because of this.  In addition to the regular whitening creams, EVERYTHING has bleaching agents.  Face wash, soap, shaving cream, sun block, and even deodorant!  It’s not just a weird cultural difference, it’s a bit obsessive.  Well, the Chinese have taken it a step further.  Allow me to introduce the facekini…

Girl, you so Asian!”

Nope, those aren’t Mexican lucha libre wrestlers… they’re just Chinese beach goers.  This ridiculous addition to their already incredibly ridiculous swimming attire provides complete protection from the sun.  It covers the entire face except for small eye/nose/ear holes.

PLEAAASE read this article or this one if you want to see or know more of this humorous wonder.


Thailandia: Episode 1, Put an Angry Bird on it. — by Joe

This post was spawned mostly because I was so proud of my Thailandia idea and the put an Angry Bird on it skit idea.

In case this is confusing, and I imagine it will be to many of you. This is an homage to Portlandia, a fantastic sketch comedy show from IFC starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein. Find out more here. The skit I’m referencing is awesome and it’s from the first season. It was one of the first skits to go “viral.” It’s called Put a Bird on it.

in Thailand, and most certainly in Surat, THEY LOVE Angry Birds, the bird slingshotting game from the Finnish company Rovio.

They have Angry Birds school supplies including pencil cases, binders and bags. They have large Angry Birds plush toys as well as small ones. My classes have chosen the team names, Angry Birds, Angrier Birds, and Angry Birds in Space.  They have all kinds of Angry Birds clothing which people seem to wear un-ironically. I have no idea how many people actually play the game on their computer or phone but I do know that the paraphernalia is big business.

What really blows my mind is how Thailand has combined their love of snacking with their obsession with Angry Birds.

See below, Angry Birds meat sticks made of some mysterious substance and some Angry Birds Pig baked goods.

Stuff Thai People Like #5: Traffic — by Blake

I’m sure that anyone who has ever lived in (or even just visited) Surat Thani knows that there is a traffic problem, especially around rush hour. So what does the city council decide to do about it? Duhhh… make it worse. Someone on the city council staff had the bright idea to make the major roads going through town one-way, requiring people to make major unnecessary detours and roundabouts to travel only a few blocks away. These ridiculous changes in the traffic grid in combination with the way that people love to drive in Surat Thani made simple tasks, like getting to work, extremely difficult and time consuming. One of the Thai teachers I work with told me that it used to take her 15 minutes to get to work in the morning, but with the new traffic patterns it took her almost an hour!
WELL… I HAVE GOOD NEWS. Apparently, the city administration realized how difficult it was to implement the changes without even testing them first. Due to protests and the obvious mess that has been caused, as of 2pm on Tuesday, 12 June traffic has gone back to the way it was before. I’m excited to see the look on my Thai co-teacher’s face when she hears that she no longer has to make an hour-long commute to work!