Experiencing a Culture of Kindness in Thailand
During my time getting TEFL certified in Hua Hin, I was fortunate enough to experience a culture of kindness from the local Thai people on more than one occasion. Although I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting the other westerners in this program, I found myself often wandering off on my own. I have honestly enjoyed the challenge of communicating with the locals and exploring the lesser known areas of Hua Hin.
One of my most memorable days was spent on my own when I chose to break away and spend the day at a local Thai beach. I had read about Suan Son beach as being a little further south of Monkey Mountain and much less touristy than its neighboring beaches.
I took the songathew as far south as the route allowed and walked the road, getting lost on the way of course. I stopped at a roadside smoothie stand and struck up conversation with a young Thai girl named Siri. To my surprise, Siri spoke beautiful English and was extremely helpful in helping me find my way. She had attended university at a nearby city and was impressed to learn that I was in the process of becoming an English teacher.
We made friendly conversation while she made me a delicious smoothie before sending me on my way. I promised I would come back to see her with friends (which I did weeks later, and to my surprise she remembered my story and what I was doing. She even asked for an update on my placement school!)
I found the beach access and began walking past all of the beachfront massages, food and drink vendors, and Thai’s selling random trinkets to tourists. After walking for a while, the vendors began to die out and there was another mass of people across the beach. I realized soon that these were actually all Thais on their side of the beach. It was so similar yet so different than the other beaches I had seen in Hua Hin thus far. Everyone was moderately dressed, sitting in their chairs, playing guitar and enjoying conversation over food. There was only one vendor stand. I was the only foreigner.
I continued walking down the beach until I found a good bunch of trees to hang my hammock in. I people watched, napped a bit and made my way to find some food. One of the most impressionable moments came when a group of little girls began chasing me down the beach shouting, “Hello!” I turned to talk to them but they all looked at me with confusion.
They clearly could not understand my English but continued to smile, giggle, and wave at me. Finally, they scurried off to call over their other friend. A short and chubby little girl pushed her way through the crowd with a smile and proudly (but slowly) said to me, “He-llo. What- is-your- name?” My heart melted.
She and I had a small conversation as her English skills were limited, yet her face lit up because she could understand me. Her friends looked up to her with excitement each time I spoke, hoping she could translate. This was a special moment for me, as I realized the true significance of teaching a Thai child to speak English. This one little girl stood out amongst her friends because she had this skill. Her friends knew that she could do something they could not. We took some selfies together (which they all fully understood) and said our goodbyes.
These moments of kindness continued during my time in Thailand. Another night, a large group of us were leaving the bar district after a fun night out. A few of us did not yet feel like going home and decided to take a walk to the beach. On the way, we ran into three young Thai boys playing guitar by the water. We stopped to listen and although we realized they could not speak English almost right away, it was clear that they welcomed our company.
Gerdus gestured to borrow their guitar to which they excitedly agreed. He began to play and sing while the Thais smiled and cheered. We ended up hanging out with them for several hours. One even ran off and came back with beers to share. Despite the language barrier, we were able to communicate just enough. One of the guys could speak very little English but more so than the others. We looked up tabs to different English songs and played and sang together, whether or not we all knew the words. They also played a few Thai songs for us.
Later, we walked further down the beach and came across another group of Thai boys playing guitar. We all sat together and made music. Regardless of not sharing the same language, there were lots of laughs shared. It was a true and genuine moment that didn’t need words and understanding to enjoy. This night in itself just reiterated the kind and giving nature I have seen from the Thais. Not once did we feel unwelcome in their circles as we may have experienced in a similar western situation. They were cheerful and willing to try new songs in order for us to sing together. We bonded over their classic English favorites like Zombie and strangely enough- Britney Spears.
Although I was fortunate to experience several more kind gestures from the local Thais, these were only two small examples of ones that really impacted me. I am convinced that as long as I continue to keep an open mind and invite these experiences to come to me, I will have many more to share from my time here in Thailand.