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A dose of Thai fun | 03 april 2017

All HMSM students spend a five-month operational internship abroad in their second year of their study. Developing a Global Mind-set is one of the spearheads of our programme. Therefore, the students blog about their intercultural experiences. Take a minute to read the blog of Laura Kroon about her experience in Thailand!

A dose of Thai fun

Every culture has a word for fun, but the Thai word, sanuk, is freighted with more meaning, more reverence, than most of them. Sanuk is not fun as mindless diversion or frivolity. It’s fun as a valuable activity. So read and learn.

Serious fun

One of my colleagues told me (in slightly imperfect English): “Yes, but you Europeans take your fun very seriously. We Thais do not. We don’t believe in this work-hard, play-hard mentality. Our fun is interweaved throughout the day.”

Although Thailand is known as “The Land of Smiles”, the Thai smile is considerably more complex, than most of us realize. Yes, Thais smile when expressing joy or gratitude, but they also smile to hide negative emotions. Thai people will even smile at a funeral.

Different cultures

The conversation with my colleague continued and I kept on learning. There is another word that is very close to sanuk: mai pen rai. It’s translated as “don’t bother”, “never mind” or “no problem”. It is not meant negatively, as in “never mind, I’ll do it myself”, but, rather, as a reminder of what truly matters, as in “never mind; this too shall pass”.

It’s a life philosophy that values harmony, avoids confrontation, and recognizes, in a very Buddhist way, that all of life is temporary. What seems like a life-or-death matter probably isn’t. Our Western culture is task-focused and direct. Thai culture is process-focused and indirect. Fun is not something done in order to achieve an outcome, such as relaxation or team building.

More ‘sanuk’

Of course isn’t every Thai person happy all the time and fun can’t serve as a substitute for hard work. Although it seems they are onto something. What we in Europe deem as serious activities could probably use a dose of Sanuk, because a furrowed brow usually leads to nothing but wrinkles.

Read more intercultural experiences at Curious People.

Thai fun Thai fun (178 kb)

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