In July this year troops from the 13th Infantry Regiment in Udon Thani will make up a large part of the 8oo strong Thai Task Force 980 which will be undertaking a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operation in Sudan. After the UN’s successful deployment of Thai soldiers in East Timor, the unit will be asked to arm themselves with Thailand’s best and most potent weapon. Thai smiles (yim).
UN officials were impressed by the Thai military personnel on duty in East Timor where their friendliness and smiles won them many friends amongst the Timorese people. The soldiers will be paid a minimum of US$1028 (34,000 baht) for their efforts. That should make their smiles even broader.
The Land of Smiles
Thailand is well-known as the Land of Smiles, and any first time visitor to the Kingdom cannot help but quickly see the reasons why. You are greeted with the Thai smile everywhere you go.
The western world does have its smiley people, but facial expressions are the reader of each others emotions and love, joy, hate, anger and sadness are all too evident to see in western society. The Thai smile masks many of those feelings.
Thai blog site Absolutely Bangkok’s excellent post The Thai Smile unravels what’s behind the happy expression Thais so often display.
‘That smile – called “yim” in Thai – is a most captivating tool disarming the most cold-hearted foreigner. Deep down though that famous smile is more of a self-defence than a deeply felt expression of the heart’ – Bangkok Dan
Bangkok Dan’s post goes on to list the many different Thai smiles and what lies behind them. Here’s a sample.
- yim tak tai: The polite smile, used for strangers
- yim mai ork: The forced smile
- yim yair-yair: The smile to apologize and take the heat out of an awkward, embarrassing situation
Here are a few smiles for you to try and work out what’s behind them.
Thai Smiles are so cute.
The Thai smile is a way of saving face, and to smooth over awkward situations. An apologetic smile can soothe over an embarrassing mishap such as spilling a glass of water over someone. In the opposite case, the same expression can ease the discomfort felt by someone after their act of clumsiness.
Thai’s are generally happy, jovial people who give out a feeling of both inner and outer calm. Their smile is evidence to all around that they are cool-headed and in control, even if that’s not true. Confrontation and crisis can be calmed and minimized with the right kind of smile. An argument can be won by merely smiling and acting rationally. A Thai smile is body language wrapped in a white coat of enamel.
The most used smile in Thailand is a welcome smile and followed by the traditional Thai wai. To the average tourist, the wai smile is a natural one but behind it can lie worry and frustration caused by living life on as little as US$150-200 a month.
‘Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important ‘. – Janet Lane.
Travelling around Thailand is made more pleasurable by the warm smiles that greet you. Smiles that not only make you feel welcome but safe as well. A warm smile can melt the thickest ice, and in Thailand’s markets, shops, restaurants, bars and hotels, the Thai smile is never far away.
The only problem you may face is knowing what type of smile is cast your way.
Photograph Thai Soldiers by wise kwai