Welcome “Nan” from Bangkok

Name: Rinrada Thananowan (Nan)

Department: German-Thai Dual Excellence Eduaction (GTDEE)

Internship Period: 14 May – 10 August 2018

Motto: No pains, no gains.

What are you currently studying?

My current studies focus on German Studies (Germanistik) and Economics, which are my major and minor. After my second year of bachelor at the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, I decided to productively spend my school holidays at the GTDEE department as an intern.

You have already been in Austria and Germany. Please share with us your experiences there and what you have learned from the two countries.

I had been an exchange student in Austria for almost a year and during which I visited Munich with a friend of mine. (I can say that I have another family in Graz, Austria!) My last time in Germany was a summer holiday in 2017 where I enrolled a two-month German summer course in Berlin. That was the first time that I was completely alone abroad. I had to organize everything myself, but I met many people with international backgrounds and made precious friendship with some of them. My experiences in both countries make me not only stronger, more independent but also tolerant to different cultures, which I think that this is a soft skill and one of the most needed mindsets in our world of melting pots nowadays.

If you have to introduce foreigners to Bangkok or Thailand, what would you tell them?

Thai people are very friendly. We normally treat people like a family. We address a fruit vendor at the market a “sister” or “brother”. We talk to a taxi driver like our “uncle” and we call a housekeeper “aunty”. We smile a lot and we often help each other, even strangers, because we have “Nam-jai” (น้ำใจ)—roughly translated as “selfless helpfulness or selfless compassion”. Moreover, Thai people highly respect the elders and especially His Majesty the King of Thailand. Thai people usually end the sentences with “kha” (ค่ะ –for ladies) or “krab” (ครับ – for men) to make conversations more polite, and we make less body contacts compared to western culture.

As a Bangkoker, born and raised, I would advise first thing about the food. You might be overwhelmed by thousands of choices when eating out, so let me recommend you some of them: the basics are Pad-Thai (ผัดไท), Guay-tiw (ก๋วยเตี๋ยว –noodles), Kra-praw-gai Khai-dao (กระเพราไก่ไข่ดาว –fried chicken with basil, rice and fried egg) and Khao-pad (ข้าวผัด –fried rice). Then you should try: Som-Tam-Thai (ส้มตำไทย –Thai papaya salad), Gaeng-kheaw-whan (แกงเขียวหวาน – green curry soup with chicken), Larb (ลาบ –spiced minced pork) and the popular Tom-yam-kung (ต้มยำกุ้ง –spicy soup and shrimps) when you are already accustomed to Thai level of spiciness. (WARNING: Don’t forget to end your order by saying “Maii-ped kha/krab” which means “not spicy, please”, if you don’t want it spicy.) More importantly, we eat rice with spoon and fork, not fork and knife or even chopsticks!

Food plays a significant role in Thai society. Lots of Thai proverbs contain aspects about food and, no doubt, rice is always our main topic. For example the proverb “Khao-lhoer, kloer-im” (ข้าวเหลือ เกลืออิ่ม, literally means we have lots of rice and salt to eat and there will still be leftover is the opposite of the proverb “Khao-yark, mhark-paeng” (ข้าวยากหมากแพง, literally means rice and betel nuts arescarce and expensive to afford). Thus, both proverbs state the importance of rice as the indicator of wealth. In the past, we even asked “Have you already eaten?” as our “Hello” before our “Sawasdee” (a current Thai way of greeting) was publicly introduced in 1946. Thai food is said to be the kitchen of the world. What is served might has a heavenly taste and also a friendly price, yet, let me remind you that everything comes with its cost. Take a closer look at Thai street food as an example: It is world famous, full of various tasty choices and mostly with reasonable prices. But they are sometimes not enough hygienic or organic. That’s what I think foreigners should know beforehand and always be wary of during their stay in Bangkok.

The last thing I would advise is also a world famous thing about Thailand, especially Bangkok: the traffic. Rush hours in Bangkok usually are from 6 to 9 a.m. and from 16 to 19 p.m. Please avoid travelling with cars during these hours. If you have to go somewhere, I highly recommend using the sky train BTS or the underground MRT.

What are other things that Germans should be aware of during their stay in Thailand?

Being punctual is one of the most famous German traits. Meanwhile in Thailand, some Thais might place less importance on being on time and consequently come 15 to 30 minutes (or more) after the appointed time. This could be the most frequent problem German people encounter. I would personally advice to keep emphasizing the punctuality to Thai friends before making an appointment with them.

We have some words similar to “Nam-jai”. “kreng-jai” (เกรงใจ) is a very hard word to explain and there are many relevant contexts. For example, we don’t want to take the last piece of chocolate because we are “kreng-jai” the others. I think German people usually talk to others directly. In contrast Thai people are “kreng-jai” the others so we often avoid speaking our mind or sometimes ask the third person to tell it for them, while that’s probably considered as rude in German culture.

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