traits in thailandLiving 

5 traits I picked up after moving to Thailand

As german I’m prone to being very much tied to the traits that my home country taught me. With my move to Thailand I did lose some of the typical German traits though (which is not a bad thing I believe) and also picked up a few new ones. Here’s a list of five of the most obvious traits I picked up since moving to the Land of Smiles.

Yim – Smile

A German moving to the LOS (Land of Smiles). That’s two opposites right there. We’re famous for always being serious, Thais are famous for always smiling. Does that work out? Turns out, it does. It took me a while to get used to everybody starting conversations with smiles first (sometimes that’s all they do, without actually saying anything) but eventually I got around it and I do think it’s nice to approach people with a smile rather than with a super serious face like we usually do back home. By now I smile more and try to smile at most things that happen here. Even if it’s at work, why not try to smile while getting stuff done or dealing with some work issues? If your face smiles, your mind will follow.


Jai Yen – Cool Heart – Calm, Cool & Patience

That now sounds weirder than it is. It doesn’t mean you’re cold hearted, but rather that you don’t get into heated arguments or lose your temper – especially in public. In Thailand the act of ‘saving face’ is pretty important and while that can lead to weird acts of people living here the act of keeping a cool heart and not losing it in public is actually something that’s not a bad idea. I always considered myself to be rather ‘cool’ in this regard; being from Germany I don’t have many feelings anyways, right? :P Nevertheless sometimes you just feel like aaaaaaaaarggghhhh. That’s when you have to stay cool, keep calm, and carry on. Your patience will be tested at times but living here helps to improve your patience and if you can keep a cool head you know you’re adapting well. Keeping a cool head will get you way further than losing your temper. 


Mai Pen Rai – No worries

Lots of my German friends don’t grasp the ‘mai pen rai’ concept at first, I do find it easy to understand as it’s somewhat close to the Australian ‘no worries’ – at least from my point of view. Mai pen rai is a phrase you hear all the time in regards to letting people that, well, it’s all no problem. “Dude I just dropped your phone” – “Mai pen rai!”. “Man, I’ll be late!” – “Mai pen rai”. “She just broke up with me” – “Mai pen rai, you’re better off alone!”.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that the issue that’s been talked about isn’t important, but it rather shows that you can’t change what happened and hence rather move on. Yesterday I lost my BTS Skytrain card but mai pen rai, can’t change it anyways. I’ll just get a new one.

Mai pen rai. Worry less, live more!


Sabai Sabai – Take it easy!

The second most used term, right after the above mentioned ‘mai pen rai’, in Thailand. Sabai stands for ‘relax’ so sabai sabai stands for relax relax ;-) This means ‘take it easy’, don’t be too serious, stay cool, go with the flow, etc.

Every time I go the Muay Thai gym for example my coach would tell me to be ‘sabai sabai’ which means I shouldn’t be too tense, not too serious and rather be flexible, light on my feet and don’t worry too much about the opponent. Another example would be if you ask your friend how things are and if he’s up for some hard work today and the answer would be ‘oh, today, sabai sabai!’. This would mean today he wants to take it easy, probably because it’s too hot (or he partied too much last night).

In Germany we’re mostly serious and very concerned about everything, especially when it comes to work. Learning to be a bit more sabai definitely helped me to loosen up a bit and not to be too uptight about everything. Sabai sabai might even increase your life span.


Sanook- Fun

Similar to all the traits mentioned before, we don’t really have that in Germany. Fun? Not sure if there’s a translation for that in the dictionary :P Seriously though in Thailand fun is way more important than back home. Lots of people spend lots of time at work (way more than those average 7 – 8 hours a day back home) and hence it’s important for them to always add some kind of fun to their daily routine. Therefore you will see TVs in basically every office you go to, lots of music, games, etc. being played wherever you go. Adding fun to work, studies, life in general is important and often the best way to motivate employees, colleagues or students.

Being more entertaining, less strict and having more fun. The exact opposite to a life in Germany. Another trait that, quite likely, improves the quality of life.


Honorable Mention: Kreng Jai

You can read the appropriate article here: Understanding Kreng Jai in Thailand. – I’m still not good at that and not sure if I should practice it more as I still think that being honest and straight forward is, mostly, still the better approach. I can be kreng jai at times though when I feel it really is appropriate.

Which traits did you pick up after moving here? Shout out in the comments!

Sascha Funk

Founder / Editor at
Sascha is the publisher of and switched from an online marketing agency life in Europe to a teaching and education life in Thailand. He also writes about Teaching & Technology.

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