Buddhist teachings are at the root of the typical Thai villager's sincere consideration for others, embodied in the virtue known as namchai, "water of the heart," a concept encompassing spontaneous warmth and compassion that allows families to make anonymous sacrifices for friends and to extend hospitality to strangers. For example, a stranger visiting a village will rarely be seen as an intruder and a subject for suspicion and distrust. Much more likely, the villagers will have the namchai to take him in, feed him, offer him a bed in one of their homes, and generally treat him as a friend.
Buddhism also lies behind such common expressions as mai pen rai (or "never mind, it doesn't matter") when something unfortunate happens, reflecting the feeling that one must gracefully submit to external forces beyond one's control, such as the effects of past karma.
Although highly individualistic and resisting regimentation, Thais nevertheless realize that inner freedom is best preserved in an emotionally and physically stable environment. Therefore, they believe that social harmony is best maintained by avoiding any unnecessary friction in their contacts with others. From this has grown the strong Thai feeling of krengchai, which means an extreme reluctance to impose on anyone or disturb his personal equilibrium by direct criticism, challenge, or confrontation. In general, people will do their utmost to avoid personal conflict. Outward expressions of anger are also regarded as dangerous to social harmony and as being obvious signs of ignorance, crudity, and immaturity. Indeed, during normal social intercourse, strong public.
Within such a behavioral framework, Thais share very definite views on what constitutes friendship and enjoyment. Sincere friendship among Thais is extremely intense; the language is rich in expressions which reflect the degree of involvement and willing self-sacrifice. Such relationships are found particularly among men. A "phuan tai" -literally, "death friend" is a companion for whom it would be an honor to die. Should a friend become involved in difficulties, his friend feels an obligation to help him, regardless of the danger to himself, because "tong chuai phuan" - "One must help one's friends." This requirement is a sensitive point of honor and explains many circumstance that often baffle outsiders. displays of dismay, despair, displeasure, disapproval, or enthusiasm are frowned upon. Accordingly, the person who is , or appears to be, serenely indifferent (choei choei) is respected for having what is considered an important virtue.
On the level of acquaintanceship, politeness predominates. When greeting people, Thais will usually show their concern for others' health by remarking how "thin" or "fat" he or she has become. The remark is intended as a gesture of friendship. Individual Life Cycle A Thai baby officially becomes "someone" after its name is chosen- frequently by the village abbot-and entered in the village head's records. Soon after birth the child will be given a nickname, nearly always of one syllable. Intimates will continue to call him or her by this nickname for the rest of his life and may in deed have to think for a while to remember the proper name.
Childhood is a carefree, cossetted time. By the age of four, children regularly meet to play beyond the family compound, with boys and girls generally segregating and roaming freely throughout the village. Boys play make believe games, fly kites, plow imaginary fields, and hunt insects and harmless reptiles. Girls nurse makeshift dolls, "sell" mudpies in make-believe markets, play games emulating their mothers, and look after younger brothers and sisters. Gradually the children are drawn into work patterns.
Around eight years of age, girls give increasing help with household chores and boys assume greater responsibilities such as feeding domestic animals and guarding the family buffalo as it grazes or wallows. Children attend the government village school to be taught from a standard nationwide curriculum. They acquire varying degrees of literacy and study Buddhist ethics and Thai history.All receive a comprehensive education and by coming into contact with neighboring villages' children and visiting the provincial capital on school trips they enjoy a broadening of social experience.
Having assumed ever-increasing workloads and responsibilities, youths of 15 and 16 are already regarded as fully mature adult laborers.
Between graduation from school and marriage at around 20, most village males go into the monastery, usually for the duration of one rainy season, in order to make merit for themselves and their parents; in some areas a man who has never been a monk is avoided by marriageable girls, who regard him as a khon dip, literally an "unripe person." The village girl's entrance into adolescence is a gentle one.
Courtship is confined initially to communal work groups during planting and harvesting and at monastery-centered festivals and activities. There may be extensive banter between boys and girl s but, individually, young people tend to be shy and "whirlwind courtships" are exceedingly rare. Emotional relationships mature slowly and customarily involve chaperoned meetings at the girl's house. Most young people select their own marriage partners. Rarely is parental disapproval voiced since marriages often take place between families within the same village, further strengthening and widening communal ties.
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