5 Obvious Things Foreigners Don't Know About Thailand
Have you experienced this: You are just doing your everyday thing when your foreigner friend comes along and gasps at you, saying he's never seen anything like that? It happens a lot with the Thais. Their long and colourful history makes their culture unique, and some parts of that culture actually make foreigners raised their eyebrows and say, "REALLY?".
1. Pineapple rice is not popular among Thais
Thai people really love to combine fruits in their meals, creating unique-tasting cuisines with a burst of flavours. Some of the dishes with fruits which foreigners are familiar with are mango with sticky rice, papaya salad, and pineapple rice.
The pineapple rice is interesting in itself. This bright yellow fried rice will give you a different taste in every bite: sometimes you get a sweet-savory combination of pineapple and chicken, while at another bite you can taste the spicy flavour of the rice accompanied with the contrasting texture of nuts and raisins.
But what foreigners don't realise, this exotic fried rice is merely one among the variety of fried rices in Thailand. The country is so rich in their cuisines that pineapple rice is actually the least spicy food that suits foreigners' spiciness threshold and so more popular among outsiders than among the locals.
2. Thailand's original name is Siam
Siam is the official name of the country until 1939. Also spelled Siem, Syâm or Syâma, it has been identified with the Sanskrit Śyâma that means "dark" or "brown". On 23 June 1939, the country's name was changed to Thailand. It resumed the name Siam for a while from 1945 to 1949 before permanently use 'Thailand' as the official country's name until today.
Much like Saigon and Ho Chi Minh City, foreigners often forget that Siam is the former name of Thailand. Locals today still refer to their motherland with the old name, especially when they're talking to each other. While foreigners will stop to think for a second when they catch the word, where is Siam?
3. Bangkok means the City of Angels
Contrary to popular believe, the name Bangkok does not comprise of English words that would make its meaning a vulgar one. Bangkok actually translates to 'the city of angels/celestial beings'. In Thai language, as how the residents of Bangkok call the place, the words are Krung Thep.
The full name however, is much longer than that:
And the meaning is:
City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Visvakarman at Indra's behest.
4. Morning newspaper is published in the evening of the day before
Imagine you're sitting in your hotel room after dinner, trying to remember if you've already packed everything in your suitcase for tomorrow morning's flight. Then you pick up a newspaper provided in the hotel room and see that the date is actually the date of your flight!
Foreigners would have a mini heart attack, thinking they have missed their flight by a day. For the Thais, however, there is nothing weird with it. Newspaper is distributed in the evening of the day before. For instance, the newspaper for 22nd of June is already available in the evening of 21st June. This is probably because there of the big distribution area in Thailand, that the publisher gives themselves a big time lapse for distribution. Or maybe it's simply because the Thais work so fast!
5. Every Thai has a weird nickname
Every Thai has a weird nickname that has nothing to do with his/her real name. When they were young, Thai kids will be called with the word that associate with their hobby or liking, and this nickname will stick with them even until they grow up. For example, one of my friends liked to swim when she was young, and her parents called her Plā, which means a fish. Even until today, all grown-up, she is still called Plā among her friends.
If you are familiar with Thai language, you will find out that even Thai celebrities have weird nicknames. Some of them are called Wún-sên (Vermicelli), and Khà-nǒm jiin which is a Chinese snack. Probably vermicelli and khà-nǒm jiin were their favorite food (If this concept is applied to us, most of us will be called Bacon).
I haven't personally encountered many bizarre nicknames; the weirdest I've ever heard so far is No. I still don't understand what it means, but he sure sounds like grumpy cat every time he introduces himself.
Bonus: Siamese cat
Talking about grumpy cat who has a mix-blood of Siamese cat, Siamese cats are native to Thailand (duh). In Thai they are called wichen-maat, meaning 'moon diamond'. A 14th-century book of Thai poems describes 23 types of Siamese cats; sadly, only six breeds are left today. Giving a pair of Si Sawat cats (a type of Siamese cats) to a bride supposedly bring good luck to the marriage.
More by this Author
First time to Singapore but preferred a road less travelled? Or been going back and forth to Singapore and the usual starts to get boring? Here are 8 unusual places you can visit.
Twelve popular places you must visit when you're traveling in Singapore.
They're all yellow, doesn't mean they're all the same!