Most Thai natives speak English, which makes travel herevery easy. However, as with any second language, there are a plenty of commonly misused terms. For example, Thailanders will often say ‘sorry’ when ‘excuse me’ would be more appropriate (e.g. “Sorry, your table is ready.”) But most of the mistakes are simple ones, and it doesn’t take long to tune your ear to hear what they really mean to say.
I’ll just get you started with a few examples:
|What they say:||What they mean:|
|Hello.||Come shop in my store.|
|Where are you from?||Please buy a suit from me.|
|Where are you going?||You want tuk-tuk?|
|You English?||You rich?|
|You have girlfriend?||You want girlfriend?|
|Really? You don’t have girlfriend?||I am available, just ask.|
|How long are you staying?||You should move here, buy a house, and marry me.|
|Boom boom on the beach?||Come have sex with me somewhere really dark, just in case I’m a guy.|
From Minutemen to Marines,
from CIA black to Ranger green,
and so many men and women in between,
army tanks and navy ships,
in the skies above or ocean deep,
it is our peace that you keep,
and because you laid it on the line,
time after countless time,
I thank you for the freedom I’ve seen.
Taking a stroll through the streets of Siem Reap has all the relaxing charm that a swimsuit model enjoys while walking though aconstruction site. The principal item offered here is transportation, mostly tuk-tuks and motorbike-taxi. The streets are lined with hawkers, every one of whom will start calling to you from half a block away. Most will start walking toward you (stalking might be a better term for it). Ignoring them only makes it worse, and saying no is only slightly more helpful. In fact, the only polite part of exchange is that, should there be a small cluster of drivers, they won’t come at you all at once. But no matter how many—three, four, or seven—they will all ask, and keep asking until you are out of earshot.
Typical conversations go like this:
You want tuk-tuk, sir?
“Oh (feigned surprise), no thank you.”
Oh, yes, sir. I show you thirteen temples.
“No, thank you.”
Yes, cheap. No commission.
“No, no, no.”
Yes, yes, yes!
At this point, if there’s still time, the man will lower his voice:
You want smoke? You want woman? And, yes, as of last night I’ve now twice heard the nightmarishlyhorrible: My sister very pretty.
It would seem that everything is for sale in Siem Reap, be it worth buying or not.
Middle management types on vacation come to irk me in my favorite restaurant by hassling the staff with a laundry list of questions about quality and cleanliness, then nod proudly to each other at a job well done.
Salt of the earth Englishmen smoke themselves to death, dropping 200bht for a beer so they can rest their hand on the knee of a young girl.
Would be hippies arrive two generations too late, flop on the axe-pillow mats to sweat off a hangover, their freshly bought Thaiwear already reeking and their bamboo-needle tats slowly healing.
A small dog jogs by, swinging breasts so laden they would fit on a woman.
A Thai woman giggles at her boyfriend, her only communication as he explains back-home office politics over dinner.
Another walks intertwined with a tall German. They say nothing, the small intersection of their English sufficient only for restaurants and birth control.
A motorcycle whizzes by, driven by a kid in a Cub Scout uniform. He’s young enough to wear it.
A fluffy black dog, evolutionarily opposed to the oppressive heat, moves just three times a day, adjusting its position on a small patch sidewalk in front of my hotel.
Thai tailors use limited English to try to persuade me into their suits; tuk-tuk drivers just honk and howl.
Sharp dressed lads on the prowl, the sort who say things like liquor is quicker and If there’s grass on the field, play ball. They’ll pay cash for now, but they’re hunting up a more lucrative contract.