The Language Differences Between Thais and Farangs

The Language Differences Between Thais and Farangs

I have probably mentioned before is some of my posts that one of the issues about intercultural relationships between Western men and Thai women is language. I know from experience it can actually cause many misunderstandings if we are not careful and that we always need to be aware of that when we are talking to each other, trying to explain things and even just in normal day to day communication.

But there is also a funny side to it and many times my husband and I have a really good laugh at ourselves when we can’t make each other understand or we get totally confused during a conversation. One of the funny things with Thais is that we also use a language called Tap sap which adds to the confusion and also to the humor.

In case you are not completely aware what Tap sap is, it is like an abbreviated version of English that Thai people use. For example we call motorbikes “motor cyc” or air conditioning we call just “Air”.

A funny example of how this can get confusing for Westerners was the other night when I was walking home with my husband back to our Condo in Bangkok.

We had just been to his favorite small bar to watch a soccer/football game on TV because this bar plays his favorite English premier league and being English (even though he lives in Australia) he loves to watch it still. We had some food and drinks and then asked for the bill…check bill..as we like to say in Tap Sap.

The bill came to 620 baht, which is another thing my husband loves about Thailand where he can eat dinner and drink some beers watching his soccer all for about $20. We paid with 1000 baht and as normal they brought the change back to us consisting of 3 x 100 baht, and 3 x 20 baht notes and 20 baht in coins…the coins are a slight trick to get you to leave them as a tip because really they could have just given us a 20 baht notes.

I was telling my husband about this little trick they use in restaurant’s and the way I explained was I said to him did you notice when we exchange that we had coins and not bank. He seemed a bit puzzled and just said I’m not really sure what you are talking about but I know we leave them 20 baht tip in coins. Once we got outside we started talking about it again walking home and again I explained to him about the exchange and that they only gave us 3 x 20 bank and 3 x 1oo bank. My husband then said, you mean they only gave us 3 x 20 baht notes. I said I don’t know what you mean by note but they only gave us 3 bank. He started to laugh as he realized that we were having one of those cross language moments. He explained that in the West paper currency is called a note but comes from the term “bank note” because basically it is just paper that is guaranteed by the bank to have some money value, he could then understand that our Tap Sap just used the word bank where in the West they use the word note. In Thai we also use the word exchange when talking about the money we get back where as Westerners just say “change” so now we could see the funny side of the conversation. He sort of knew the point of what I was making but couldn’t understand the words and when he tried to explain to me I couldn’t understand either. So we couldn’t stop laughing about this all the way back to our Apartment.

This is one of many moments we have had about our language differences and we always maintain that it is important to just relax, be patient and keep a sense of fun and humor when we get confused by each other. I believe this is very important in intercultural relationships because it can be easy to get a little impatient and frustrated when we can’t explain ourselves to our partner or we can’t understand what they are trying to explain to us. But this is one of the joys of cultural relationships.

I’m sure you might have some funny stories like this and I might add a few more of my own later too so feel free to share if you do. Hope you enjoyed the post.

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