Thailand: The Land of Smiles

In Thailand, you should come for the beaches but stay for the people.

With a natural fervor for life, Thai’s are helpful, courteous, and amazingly resilient. Through natural and health disasters, unstable democracy, political coups, and financial crises, these people have remained steadfast while being quick to give the next tourist a welcome grin. But why this almost obsessive inclination to smiling? Why exactly are Thais known for making Thailand the land of smiles?

thai gestures the land of smiles smile

Travel magazines and tourism billboards are awash with the words “Thailand: The Land of Smiles.” Behind these words: a local seller in a floating market, smiling; a reveler in Thailand’s Full Moon festival, drunken with bliss; a sun-kissed surfer in Phuket, drenched but mirthful. What started out as a promotional initiative to reel in tourists has become a virtue engrained in every local’s psyche. Smiling is part of Thailand’s brand – an innate quality strategically capitalized on, because, why not? It’s the locals’ natural inclination for happiness that makes every visitor’s stay worthwhile.

It’s Hard Not to Smile in Thailand

Stunning white sand beaches, mouthwatering spice-laden food, architectural temples, rich culture, low-low prices, and a world-renowned nightlife that tourists never emerge from unchanged – there should be a #TryNotToSmileChallenge in Thailand because it’s too damn hard not to.

Sure, Thais are naturally fun-loving and gregarious, but Thailand is also called ‘the land of smiles’ because those who visit never run out of reasons to feel elated. For fun-lovers and hedonists who are hankering for their next thrill, Thailand is more than just a bucket-list destination – it is a place to return to again and again.

Let Tomorrow Worry About Itself

Around 94.6 percent of Thailand’s population are Buddhists, the most heavily Buddhist country in the world. A smattering of Buddhist temples and saffron-robed monks can be seen almost everywhere. With a school of thought that deals largely with letting go of fearful attachments, inviting positive consciousness, and being ‘mindful’ about one’s joy, it’s no wonder Thais are of the less problematic and more fun-loving sort with a natural proclivity to let go of one’s worries and let tomorrow worry about itself. This is a great quality to have when things start to fall apart. It’s not rare to see a Thai in the middle of a calamity or stricken with grief, still able to laugh or tell a joke.

Smiling to Save Face

Thais smile a lot, but not always for the reasons we think they do. There are around 13 reasons behind the Thai smile, and most of them aren’t only because they’re happy or elated.

In most situations, smiling is a way to save face or to avoid offending anyone. The Yim yaw is a teasing smile Thais make when wanting to express the words “I told you so” without sound too harsh. The Yim mai awk is a smile used to conceal emotions of hurt or sadness. If you’re planning a revenge on someone, the Yim mee lessanai is a smile made to mask bad intent. For moments when you want to express gratitude, do the Yim mai awk. Hate your friend’s choice of restaurant but can’t do anything about it? Do the Yim dor dhaan. The Yim sao is a smile of sadness – one used when a best friend leaves for another country, for example. If you come across Thai locals who smile a lot, even if they don’t understand what you’re saying, they’re doing the Yim taak thaai, a smile of convenience made for someone they don’t know a lot.


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