Where are you going?
Did you eat yet?
What did you have to eat?
What are you going to buy?
What are you going to order?
When are you going to drink this beer and with whom?
There is little privacy for a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand. I was warned, thankfully. Above are questions I hear on an almost daily basis (minus the one about beer). Thais are very curious about how I conduct my day and they don’t hide it.
Bpai nai (Where are you going?)
Complete strangers will ask this to me. It doesn’t matter. Whether I’m on my bike or on foot, everyone wants to know where I’m going. When I want to say, “None of your damn business,” I come up with more friendly reactions.
Nai gaw-dai! (Where ever)
Tii noon! (Over there)
When I tell them “where ever”, it almost always results in the questioner laughing while repeating my response.
Gin kao leeo ru yang (Did you eat rice yet?)
This question is usually asked while acting like they’re scooping rice into their mouth. My neighbor who lives across the street asks me this from 150 feet away every day.
I’m a full-grown adult. I know when I’m supposed to eat.
Whether I have eaten lately or not, I’ve learned to just say, leeo (I’ve eaten). This ends the questioning.
Gin a-rai (What did you eat?)
This commonly follows, “Did you eat yet?” I don’t have a lot of variety in what I eat on my own at home, much to the amusement of Thais. I have soft-boiled eggs, vegetables and fruit for breakfast (with rice, of course) and I usually fry up some pork in garlic for dinner.
But do they have to know what I ate? Can’t they just be happy knowing I’m not hungry? No.
What I’d like to say is, alcohol and cigarettes.
Suu a-rai (What are you going to buy?)
There is no casual browsing in Thai shops. The moment there’s a customer, the owner is standing next to him/her, helping with purchases. The moment I start looking through a store and someone’s with me, they ask what I’m going to buy.
Can I please just look around?
Perhaps I should reply with, women and whiskey.
Sang a-rai (What are you going to order?)
As soon as my co-workers and I get to our restaurant for lunch, they have to know what I plan to order and if they didn’t ask before I ordered, they ask after. It’s one of four things I order every day, so I don’t see the big mystery and could really care less what they order. I either don’t care or simply wait for their orders to arrive. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
Drinking boos in Thailand
This is a tricky one. There are some rules to drinking in Thailand – more for women. For one, I’m not supposed to be seen drinking alone. I can’t remember cooking in Eau Claire without a bottle of beer or glass of wine. It helps me look forward to cooking to know I can enjoy a Summit or some Chianti while I do it. This problem is easily avoidable; I simply have to close my windows if I want to enjoy a beer by myself. It’s buying that beer that’s difficult.
When I bought four beers in preparation for the arrival of friends Tracy and Christine, the clerk at the nearby store was more inquisitive than an insurance salesman. She wanted to know when I was going to drink it and with who. I told her I had two friends visiting the next day. That wasn’t what my smart-ass mind wanted to say.
As soon as I get home and by myself.
After this questioning, I’ve decided to buy all alcohol outside of my community and in the obscurity of Sangka. I’d like to see an experiment at the Gordy’s liquor store in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, where the clerk asks every customer where they plan to drink their purchases and with whom. There would probably be a lot of responses like what I said in my head.
The Thais’ curiosity is pretty harmless. It isn’t nosiness like it would be perceived in the states. They seem to be genuinely concerned for my welfare. Although, I’m pretty sure the gossip spread a few weeks ago when they saw JJ drinking beer with two white women on his front porch. I’ve been asked a few times if they were my girlfriends. I tell them no, they are just friends, but you can imagine what I’d like to say.