In the first hours of arriving in Bangkok we got into a cab, we needed to get from the airport to our accommodation. At BKK, on the floor below the main terminals there is a pretty straight-forward system for getting a cab. Stand in line, and once you reach the front you are given a number which corresponds to a parking space. Spend a few moments waiting on the curb, and your cab arrives. Make sure his meter is running (if not, get out and wait for another) and then be on your way.
Our driver was a lively guy. He spoke a little bit of english, and at this point, I had “Hello” down, but not even “how are you” other than that. We worked through a conversation, something like “do you have family, are you from Bangkok, where are the best food stalls, etc” I was already on my pursuit of the elephants, so asked “How do you say elephant?” He didn’t know the english word, so I acted it out for him and he said CHANG! I repeated “Chang?” He said “I get you Chang at 7-11.” Then, he and T burst out laughing. I didn’t know why, until they explained to me Chang is the name of a beer here in Thailand. The driver teased and laughed and then started in on a song about elephants (in Thai of course). It was loud, he clapped and made elephant noises and I laughed until my cheeks hurt. I asked how to say “Good” and he went on “Sanuk, sanuk, sanuk.”
As touched on in Say Sawatdee Thai is not langue full of formality. To emphasize how much you mean “this is very, very good” you can say “Good! Good! Good!” While my conversational skills were [are] still lacking, once I got to our hotel I wanted to look up how to say what we had learned again. Sanuk. Sanuk like the shoes, yes, it turns out means so much more than “good.”
While It actually translates to fun, or pleasure, this is not exactly what it means either. Sanuk is a deeper concept and it permeates the way people in Thailand live. Sometimes, it comes across as fun first, which makes life in Thailand playful. Most of my exchanges with people here include laughter, I like that! More significant still is that in whatever you do, you look to find satisfaction in it. You find the fun, happy or positive in the task before you. Instead of working so hard that you grind yourself into an angry pulp, you take it a little easier. Stress less, worry less, yes, but also find fulfillment and satisfaction in the present whether it be work or play.
In the west we might use a phrase like: bloom where you’re planted or stay positive. These concepts are good, but as they’re usually said to people who are already frustrated with their life situation, they just don’t hold the same ring. Contentedness, while shown by some of the [older] generations in the west has been all but lost on the others. Satisfaction is so fleeting and so often replaced with materialism, which can never be truly satiated. We love the concept of fun but miss so many times the fulfillment that comes with finding satisfaction in the everyday.
Take a lesson from Thailand, try some Sanuk- you might find your smile a little easier and your day a little happier.