Smiling in Thai

Friday, November 26, 2010
By Suki

There are some books that are so quietly charming, they take you by surprise. The Geography of Bliss, One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places on Earth by Eric Weiner, was one I happened to accidentally pick up while browsing through Barnes & Nobles recently. A correspondent for NPR, Eric’s self-deprecating humor combined with his keen eye as a journalist, result in an unexpectedly fresh look at a subject that has been written about for centuries.

Sri Lankans tend to smile quite a bit, a fact noted by many ‘foreigners’ that visit the island (we also tend to stare a lot, but that’s a different story). It appears though, that Sri Lankans have got nothing on the Thai’s who have specific names for different types of smiles!

“Just as the Inuit are said to have many words for snow, the Thais have many words for smile. There is yim cheun chom, the I-admire-you smile, and yim thak thaan, the I-disagree-with-you-but-go-ahead-propose-your-bad-idea smile. There is yim sao, the sad smile. And my favorite: yim mai awk, the I’m-trying-to-smile-but-can’t smile.”

For other such tid bits of information about happiness and smiling, written in a very non-hippy, non-new age-ish way, I’d recommend giving this book a place on your bedside table.

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