Mai pen rai! This is the rallying cry in the majority of Thailand and how most of the people that you will meet in this beautiful country approach everyday life. It can be roughly translated as “never mind” and is the perfect example as to why this nation is known for its patience, light-heartedness and friendly locals. Central to the culture and local way of life in Thailand, it is important to understand this phrase and how it will affect your travel in Thailand.
Slow Down and Smile
The most noticeable outcome for this way of looking at life is that time in Thailand runs a little slower than everywhere else. This means that if you are enquiring when a bus will arrive, you will usually receive in return a little smile and a shrug. There is no malice built into this gesture but simply an expression of the idea that: “It will arrive, when it arrives.”
At first this might be slightly frustrating but as soon as you ease into this pace of life you will quickly realize how it is actually one of the most relaxing experiences you will ever have. As waiting minutes turns into an hour, you will be chatting with your fellow passengers and taking in parts of the country around you that would be completely missed if life went at a hundred miles an hour.
Due to this outlook on life, there are also many opportunities to meet local people and to immerse yourself into the culture. Thai people have a general sense of carefreeness that makes making connections easier than you could ever imagine. You will find that the majority of people that you meet, providing they are confident in their level of English, will be happy to answer any question and will usually politely bombard you with their own.
Life Isn’t Meant To Be Serious
While it isn’t necessarily true that everything in Thailand is not taken seriously, the two main exceptions is the devotion to the Royal family and to the Buddha, it can definitely be seen in most day-to-day activities.
This is, in fact, one of the major draws for those travelling to Thailand. Everyone from the waiter in the local restaurant to a tour guide or your taxi driver will be playful, interesting and ready to joke around.
The Deeper Meaning
While “mai pen rai” certainly does have a more basic meaning, which can be related to, “your welcome”, it is the implication that makes the culture so pleasant to experience. It is a general belief in Thailand that, due to the Buddhist teachings of karma, we are not in control of everything that happens to us. Instead of becoming stressed, concerned, anxious or trying to fix a situation, people generally attempt acceptance.
Not only will understanding the meaning of mai pen rai allow you to really experience the essence of the country but at the same time you will be able to reassure any people that you meet, who may have made a mistake, that everything is fine. We all have our health, we are happy and we are in beautiful Thailand: Mai pen rai!