In Thailand it is important to Understand the Thai Culture, Mindset and Way of Life as well as the language. If you fail to grasp even the fundamental's of these aspects you'll be know little more than that of an uneducated beer-hound on what makes this country what it is. It is the important aspects of Thailand Lore that are often missed or ignored out of blatent ignorance passed on by others.
The first thing to know is Thailand has never been colonised by a western power.
Far from making this a land that is hostile or frosty with dealings with other nations it is quite the opposite, it's given the Thai's room for their own happiness and generousity to other's. This is partly to do with the benevolent side of Buddhism which promote's tolerance and also the fact that, more than some care to admit, this land is still unashamedly polytheistic to varying degree's.
This is picture taken of outside a Thai home in Ranong. Clearly you can see that this is Ganesh, Hindu god of prosperity, success and destroyer of obstacles. In the capital city, Bangkok there are temples and area's dedicated to him for worship and prayer. It is believed that at about the same time, or possibly just prior to Buddhism arriving in Thailand the local spiritual beliefs were adopting Hindu gods and goddesses. When the teachings and ways of Buddhism came along in about 300 BC it was embraced as wholeheartedly as the previous religions.
To this day the Thai belief in spirits and diety's is as strong as ever. On Thai TV there is always a ghost series or episode showing a supernatural element. More so than the west this belief is much more widespread, even in the larger city's. Many Thai women (and possibly some men too), of all age's have a degree of fear about sleeping alone due to the troublesome phii or spirits.
A Thai fishing boat captain I once knew was often working away from his home port of Chumpon, one night he had a bad dream or nightmare where he was conversing with the spirit of a dead man who had been excecuted. There was no work on his boat until the monks had been consulted and great fireworks and bangers had been set off both on the boat and off it. Indeed the first I knew of this was when the boat sounded like it was going to explode!
If you are talking with Thais, one way to get close to them, is to understand the ways of the Chinese Horoscope. Contrary to what you might think, this does not only apply to Asian people. If you are born on earth (which includes just about everyone!) then you'll have a Chinese Sign. Click on the link to learn more:
Karma plays a part in peoples lives, both in Thailand and outside of it. Many times OTRT has seen it come along and pay it's due in full, often with quite shocking results. Karma is often a difficult concept for westerners to grasp hold of but essentially it can mean that good deeds and bad deeds influence a future outcome. Some folk do exceedingly 'good' things in life, other's in-between while some are more heavily into the negative or 'bad' things in life.