Thai Time: Mai Pen Rai Lifestyle

By: Mamta Chaudhari and DeAnna Castro

We all know that Americans are always running to their next appointments and never seem to have much time for leisure. Leisure time is almost non existent in the U.S., particularly during the week. Even eating is a chore that must be squeezed in on your drive to your next meeting. Everything in the U.S. is carefully scheduled so that time can be used most effectively and productively. Leisure time is reserved for your ten vacation days a year. However, half way around the globe things are very different.  Here in Thailand, leisure time is a necessity. If the Thai people acted the way we do in the U.S., they would have no energy to do anything.

What seems to be the main reason that Thai time is different is the heat. Trying to do anything at midday is almost impossible. It is simply too hot to be outside. When we did things around midday we were regarded as crazy Americans. The Thai people accommodated us in this, but only because weare American.

Thai like to take it slow and easy. There is no need for rush. The saying here is, “Mai Pen Rai,” which means, “Have no worries.” If someone is late, it’s no big deal. Whatever needs to be done will get done eventually. Setting exact times is rather ambitious here in Thailand. We noticed this most in Ban Nam Hom. When times were set to get things done (for example, begin painting at ten a.m.) we were told to expect a plus or minus three hour window, and for the most part this seemed to be the case.

Our projects were interesting in Ban Nam Hom. The rain got in our way a lot of the time. But the officials weren’t upset. They were fine with us waiting to paint and work until the next day. There was no panic like you might expect in the U.S.  No worrying that we may not get the job done.  The native Thais relaxed, sure that the job would eventually be completed.  Around midday, there were very few people to be seen around the school, as they were all resting. The real work happened early in the morning or later in the evening, out of the hot sun.

There have also been many occasions where we found ourselves rushing to get together and get somewhere only to sit and wait for a while.  For the entire trip, it seemed as though every instance we set a time to meet and get things done, we waited for at least fifteen minutes to make a move, often times much longer. On the day of the parade, we arrived at the government office where the royalty were to get ready and waited for several hours. The whole parade, it turned out, was waiting for us. But no one was angry; they just didn’t start until we got there. There was no need to rush things. There were plenty of things to do in the mean time, like socialize with fellow villagers, eat some freshly made food, and have a few drinks. The Thais have no problem lounging around and just enjoying themselves.  The concept of waiting is much different in Thailand than it is in the United States.  In the U.S. waiting means wasted time, and if you have wasted time you have wasted an opportunity to be productive.  In Thailand, waiting is a time to socialize and relax.  For as stressful as waiting can be to Americans, it is quite the opposite to Thai people.  Because Thais are so willing to just lay back, relax, and enjoy some quality time with nothing to do, Thai people seem to be much less stressed than Americans as a whole.

Obviously, the Mai Pen Rai lifestyle can be a bit frustrating to some Americans, especially for the “type A” kind of people. But when in Thailand, do as the Thais do! Hopefully we can bring back a little bit of the Thai lifestyle and learn to enjoy leisure time much more so that we can live healthier, happier, and stress-freelives.

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