I thought commenting on this part of Thai culture might
be appropriate considering the other topics on the blog
right now and the amount of email I’m getting in response
to the “Thai face” issue…
Thais’ smile for a LOT of reasons. It might be said that
they smile for ANY reason at all. I’ve seen it in a lot of
When a Thai smiles… When you’re arguing for instance.
It does NOT mean that he/she thinks you are correct
and is acquiescing to your point of view. It also doesn’t
mean that the Thai person is laughing at you. It can be
really strange to be arguing with someone and they just
What do we do when that happens? Sometimes I used
to think they were giving in – and accepting my point of
view as “right”. And sometimes, I thought they were
being condescending and laughing at me.
It’s really tough to say.
Thais’ will usually give in when faced with an argument.
Confrontation is not something they enjoy. They avoid it
at all costs and they may just try to ignore you if you
attempt to bring them into a discussion about differing
opinions on something.
In private they will talk about it with other Thais’ and
maybe never have another word with you about it again.
You, thinking the issue resolved, go on to believe that
you were right or that the Thai person is OK with what
But, truth is – the Thai was not OK with it.
A Thai smile doesn’t mean what you think it means
much of the time. The problem is that foreigners try
to catalog Thai smiles into the few possibilities that
exist in the western mind, and go about life…
The Thais’ have a host of reasons for smiling, not all
of them positive.