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Understanding “Mai Bpen Rai”

Posted by Claudio on August 28, 2010 in Living in Thailand |

One of the local expressions heard in Thailand daily — if not hourly — is “Mai Bpen Rai” (ไม่เป็นไร). It is not just an expression; it is part of the Thai lifestyle.

Literally, “Mai Bpen Rai” is translated as “no is nothing.” Its daily use is found whenever a speaker wants to say:

  • It’s okay.
  • No problem.
  • That’s alright.
  • Don’t worry.
  • It doesn’t matter.
  • Never mind.
  • You’re welcome.
  • Don’t mention it.
  • It’s no big deal.
  • Oh well, I can’t do anything about it.

Water FlowingIn short, “Mai Bpen Rai” is a philosophy of life: Go with the flow, like a drop of water in a river. And above all, keep smiling!

Thailand is largely a Buddhist country and people believe that the journey through life is a series of predetermined events. Buddhists believe that life does not begin with birth and end with death; the concept of Karma thus becomes an important part of one’s life. If something bad happens to somebody, it’s explained as the price one pays for something he or she may have done wrong in the past. This may explain why Thais use “Mai Bpen Rai” even in situations in which Westerners would become rather impatient and show strong emotions.

A better understanding of the phrase will make it a perfect relaxation tool. Consider the following situations:

  • Stuck in traffic and late for a meeting?  “Mai Bpen Rai”.  In Thailand everybody is on Thai time anyways…
  • Did your taxi miss the exit on the motorway? “Mai Bpen Rai”. Enjoy the sightseeing tour through an unfamiliar landscape.
  • Ordered a fried rice and got chicken curry instead? “Mai Bpen Rai”. Here’s a great opportunity to try some new food; perhaps you really like it.

Whatever happens to you, don’t get annoyed or even angry, but rather adopt the attitude of “Mai Bpen Rai”. Relax and go with the flow. Everything will be alright eventually.

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