Volunteer Vocab

This is a little mixture of Thai, English, government acronyms, and random Erin words. Not much to this page yet, but I’ll be adding bit by bit. If there’s anything unclear, send a comment and I’ll explain my vocab.

Farang– You’ll see this popping up a lot while I’m in Thailand. The first non-Asians to come Thailand were the French. The French word for French is pronounced like fah-rong-say. The Thais said WTF and shortened it to farang and have since called all Westerners ‘farangs.’ I hear this word, every. single. day. I want to introduce a new word to Thais called…

Fonzies– Another Volunteer told me about this on when referring to farangs that are just off the boat and arriving in Thailand. These people have no clue about basic cultural matters, how to say hello, ask where the bathroom is, or begin to understand the mysteries behind the famous Thai smile.

Gin/Gin Cow– But you don’t say it like the alcohol. I can’t imagine a day going by without saying this word here. Gin is the actual verb for eating while cow is rice. Thais don’t consider it a real meal unless there’s rice involved. And you always have to eat in Thailand. In Thaiglish we might say, gin-ing it up, we gin-ed the shit out of that, or I really need to gin some cow.

Homedogs– Important people to me. They can be friends, community members, family, you get the picture. When ‘main’ is added it means just that, ‘chief in size or importance’ of those people. This also goes with the word, puans, the Thai word for friends.

Nam-Jai– Literally means, water or juice heart. This is critical in Thai culture. It loosely means that Thai people are ridiculously generous. It also means when you go somewhere on a trip, you buy a little present for your loved ones. Or you go to visit someone’s house, you bring some mangos with you to split with your friend. Or when you get on the wrong bus and end up 60 kilometers away from your home, three Thai people come to your rescue and drive you home (yes, this actually happened to me). Sometimes I feel like a lot of what happens in Thailand is an exchange of goods and/or presents to each other. It’s taken me awhile to get used to, but I feel like it’s an essential part to why I feel so welcome in Thailand and to spread a little of my heart juice across the world in return.

Jai Yen Yen– Literally translated as heart cool cool. In Erin-speak I like to think of it as something to the effect of ‘slow your roll,’ ‘cool your jets,’ or ‘take a fucking chill pill man.’ Thais use it when dealing with a difficult situation that they’re feeling stressed, anxious, or impatient about and it suits the Buddhist idea of remaining detached from things, ie not feeling hot hearted about. Volunteers use this phrase a lot when dealing with Thai craziness and we’re frustrated to wits end. My Thai homedogs and students crack up in hysterics every time I say this to them.

Mai Bpen Rai– What a wonderful phrase. Ain’t no passing craze. That’s another Disney movie, but the same philosophy applies. It might be the most versatile phrase in Thai. It serves as ‘you’re welcome’ when talking with friends, ‘no worries,’ when someone is apologizing for something and you show you’re not upset about it, and especially when a Thai person wants to do something over the top for you that you could easily do in ten seconds or are worried about you in some way shape or form, you tell them, mai bpen rai.

RF– My Manfriend.

Riap Roy– A direct translation is ‘appropriate and complete’ and was first introduced to us Volunteers by informing us that we need to dress as such. What does that mean? Tuck your ironed shirt into your ironed skirt (or pants) with shoes that have a back to them, all while your unmussed hair sits nicely on your head. This is hard when it’s the hot season. It also extends to behavior that is inappropriate or not cohesive with Thai culture. This could extend from getting a little too drunk at a public event (this is only for women really, men can get drunks as skunks and still be given the keys to drive an entire family home despite being the only one that had something to drink) or not respecting the hierarchy. This is a very important part of Thai culture and for Volunteers when working in the community.

Greng-Jai– Not going to lie, this is not one of my favorite parts about Thai culture. When someone greng-jais another person, it means they’re considering the other person’s wants and desires and putting them above their own. The example we were given in PST was something like this: Tom asks Sally for a ride home since Tom’s house is on the way to Sally’s. Sally has other plans that require her to go a different way. Sally greng-jais Tom and gives him a ride home and doesn’t mention her other plans. I like the idea of considering other people’s needs before your immediate ones, but in Thai culture, so many emotions get repressed because of greng-jai-ing and trying to keep social harmony that it boils some people up inside. Younger people are supposed to especially greng-jai their elders.

4 thoughts on “Volunteer Vocab

  1. Pingback: You Know You’re in Trouble When the Other Farangs are Staring at you too « Erin Flew the Coop

  2. Pingback: Thai Perceptions of Beauty « Erin Flew the Coop

  3. Pingback: Friday Five | Erin Flew the Coop

  4. Pingback: A Smile is NOT the Same in Every Language | Erin Flew the Coop

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s