The journey to peace begins with a smile
It has been several weeks since I’ve arrived in Thailand, and every day I wake up with a smile on my face, excited for a new adventure. Having the opportunity to spend three months in Thailand, dedicate myself to an intensive and comprehensive professional development program on peace and security is a dream coming true. Apart from the fact that the program itself is amazing, I have realized that I have never been so curious about another culture.
While observing the Thai culture and way of living, I have been fascinated by the generosity, calmness and positivity of Thai people. Therefore, I am sharing my three key observations so far.
The power of a smile – Thailand is called the “land of thousand smiles” and now I know why. Thai people smile a lot and their positive energy is immediately transferred to the others. It is almost impossible to see a Thai person losing their temper in public, or acting rude. Even though their smile can mean many things (it can be happiness, but also confusion, politeness, embarrassment…), one cannot help but smiling back. Moreover, Thai people like finding joy in what they are doing, and there is no point in doing something that does not bring satisfaction. That is the concept of “Sanuk”, which means enjoyment and fulfilment from something.
The importance of values and etiquette – Thai people adhere to their system of beliefs and values which is very much derived from Buddhism and practiced as a philosophy of living. Respect for the others (especially for family and other social structures) plays a vital part, and they will never offend you or make you uncomfortable in any situation. They highly value seniority, which does not mean only age and experience, but also knowledge, education and professional achievements. Personal integrity also means a lot, which is one of the qualities I really appreciate about them. For foreigners, it is very important to learn the etiquette (such as dressing respectfully, taking off the shoes where needed, etc.) in order not to offend the locals.
Care for the others – while the Western world is obsessed with individuality and self-care, Thai people put a lot of emphasis on their community and the wellbeing of the others. I enjoy wandering around the streets of Bangkok on my own, and I have realized that this is very uncommon (except for the tourists). I have never seen people eating alone at restaurants, they enjoy socializing over food and making sure that everyone around them is happy and satisfied. This does not mean that they do not practice self-care – on the contrary, they put a lot of emphasis on their own physical and mental health and well-being. But they still go one step further to help the others and care about the others.
These observations are based primarily on my personal experience with the amazing staff at the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, the Thai Peace Fellows, but also the citizens of Bangkok that I see on daily basis. I am looking forward to travelling to other parts of Thailand, meeting the locals and experiencing life in Thailand.
Magdalena Lembovska – Macedonia
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 28