Never Mind, it Doesn’t Matter – written by An American Expat in Chiang Mai
In Thailand, it is impolite to get angry and loud about a problem. This is simply not done in Thailand, and an expat living here must learn the “Mai Pen Rai attitude” or else he will have a lot of problems. Mai Pen Rai is ultimately a philosophy of life: Bend with the wind, like a bamboo tree. And above all, keep smiling.
(the way to say this phrase is My (mai) – Pen – Rye (rhymes with “eye”)
Technically, Mai Pen Rai translates as “It’s nothing.” Truer definitions could be:
“Don’t get mad, get glad.”
“Take it easy.”
“Oh well, I can’t do anything about it.”
Also, if you say thank you in Thai language to a Thai, they are likely to respond with a Mai Pen Rai.
In your travels in Thailand, you are likely to see some kind of vehicle accident on the road (bad driving habits are a pretty big problem in this little Kingdom). Unlike in the West, you will not hear anyone screaming or yelling with a cop trying to calm things down. Instead, you are likely to see them talking in a very calm voice, with smiles and maybe even laughing with one another. Mai Pen Rai. It is the Thai belief that instead of frowning and making a fuss over what happened, they accept the mishap and whatever that has befallen them. Even if what happened may create a heavy burden on them, it is their thinking that it is better to just say Mai Pen Rai.
Speaking of driving, some people say Thai drivers are the very worst in the World. They seem to make up their own traffic rules as the go. Driving in Bangkok is almost absolutely impossible for one trained to drive in the US or in Europe. Cars straddle two lanes, sometimes passing on the right or left when there is no lane there, and motorbikes will weave around cars loaded down with three riders (or more) with no helmets and the driver is talking on a cell phone. In Los Angeles, these actions could get you killed, but at the minimum you would have horns blaring and middle finger salutes along with a lot of choice words. But in Thailand, there is almost no horn honking, nobody gets excited, and drivers are very calm about their many near death experiences. Mai Pen Rai.
This is how Thais cope with the problems of life. If their bus breaks down and everybody has to get out and walk, Mai Pen Rai. It’s a big difference from what you would hear in a big American city if that happened. It is one of the Thai traits I truly admire, but it takes a bit getting used to for the newly arrived Western expat.
When your lunch noodles delivered by the Thai waitress is cold, it is better to first smile and then say Mai Pen Rai. Be very careful, because anger or making fuss about the situation is not accepted in Thailand. If you must have hot noodles, you have learn to say it in a way that is extremely nice, and with a big smile. That is how you get along in Thailand.
If you miss your flight, even if it is not your fault, Mai Pen Rai.
If you lose money in the stock market, Mai Pen Rai.
Thais see things that happen to us in a very positive manner. And if an expat can adopt this attitude as well, they are bound to live happier and longer.
If there is any phrase in the Thai language that best describes living in Thailand, it is Mai Pen Rai.
Mai Pen Rai.