Where Are You Going?

February 12, 2001

I remember back to the days when I was a typical pain-in-the-neck teenager. My parents would ask me, “Where are you going?” and I would answer as them as vaguely and mysteriously as possible. Even if I was only walking to the mailbox I would say, “I’m going out” or only the word “Out” just to annoy them. I am certain that this answer is still alive and well today among teenagers.

Well, as you get older people seem to care less and less about where you are going and you usually care less about making it a secret. That is until you reach Thailand. It seems no matter who you are or what your age is, in Thailand everyone wants to know where you are going. This is usually stated as, “Where you go?” in the prominent spoken English of Thailand. I am asked this question every day.

Trying to get out of my house can be tricky. If a person does not ask me where I am going, then my dog certainly will. For almost two years I have politely spelled out all of my destinations before120201k1.jpg leaving my house. “I am going for a walk in the park. I will take a motorcycle taxi and go grocery shopping. I am going to get a snack. I need milk. I am going to buy fruit. I am going out to dinner…” and so forth.

When I make it out on to the street, the drivers of various forms of transportation will spot me and ask me once again, “Where are you going?” If I just want to go for a walk, I explain. If I am looking for a taxi and not a motorcycle, I explain that, too. People sitting around playing checkers or hanging out have also been known to scream the famous question out as I pass by, usually in the form of “Hey you! Where you go?”

Between you and me, always being asked where I am going sometimes gets on my nerves. It’s not that I am up to anything subversive or usually even slightly interesting. I just don’t get why everyone needs to know where I am going all the time. I mean, come on, I am not a teenager anymore!

I have always looked at “Where are you120201k2.jpg going?” as a form of chitchat, a social custom and a way of being nice. The equivalent to this back in the United States could be, “Have a nice day!” which is exclaimed by every cashier on your way out of the store. There is also the infamous, “How are you?” to which the answer is always, “Fine.” Even when I am not having a nice day or when I am not fine at all, I just play along. The same goes for “Where are you going?”

It turns out that I have been making a complicated mental mess out of something that is actually quite simple. I have finally learned that all of my explanations have been absolutely and totally unnecessary. In the Thai language there is an answer equivalent to my teenage reply of “out.” What a relief!

When asked “Where are you going?”, there are two very short and acceptable answers as possibilities in the Thai language. The Thai word for work or business (thura) or the word for pleasure or fun (thiau) can be used. The scenario goes like this: Question:120201k3.jpg “Where are you going?” Answer #1) “For work.” Answer #2) “For fun.” Or if you want to get really into it, answer #3) “For work and fun.”

These answers are not seen as being rude, vague, or mysterious at all, which is absolutely great! The subject is dropped and off you go. (Unlike with my father who always said, “What do you mean by ‘OUT’!”)

Work is work but heading off for some fun in Thailand can last anywhere from four minutes to four months. Pleasure and fun (thiau) is not to be confused with vacation. It can happen anytime, anywhere, with no planning at all. It does not even matter if you reach your destination. You just need to have fun along the way.

Fun in Thailand can be anything from a walk in the park to a day of fishing. It can include piling your friends into a pickup truck and heading off into the wild blue yonder. Picnics, soccer games, a night at the movies, going to a concert, or heading off to a club are also included.

I must have sounded quite stupid back when I was walking around earnestly giving full explanations of my every move. Life has become much more simple for me and for all of those who suffered through my paragraphs. All they were waiting for was one simple word. When it comes right down to it, that is all life really is anyways, work and play.

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