Thailand, the Land of Smiles

Thailand is often referred to as “The Land of Smiles.” It got this nickname because in Thailand, a smile is much more than just a smile…it is a form of subtle interpersonal-messaging. There are at least 13 different smiles that a Thai person may use, each one having a very specific meaning.

  1. Yim thang nam taa: The “I’m so happy I’m crying” smile.
  2. Yim thak thaai: The “polite” smile for someone you barely know.
  3. Yim cheun chom: The “I admire you” or “I’m proud of you” smile.
  4. Fuen Yim: The stiff smile, also known as the “I should laugh at the joke even though it’s not funny” smile.
  5. Yim mee lessanai: The smile which masks something wicked, such as bad intent.
  6. Yim yaw: The teasing, or “I told you so” smile.
  7. Yim yae-yae: The “I know things look pretty bad but there’s no point in crying over spilt milk” smile.
  8. Yim sao: The sad smile.
  9. Yim haeng: The dry smile, also known as the “I know I owe you the money, but I don’t have it” smile.
  10. Yim thak thaan: The “I disagree with you” smile, also known as the “You can go ahead and propose it but your idea’s no good” smile.
  11. Yim cheuad-cheuan: The “I am the winner” smile; a smile given to a losing competitor.
  12. Yim soo: The “smiling in the face of an impossible struggle” smile.
  13. Yim mai awk: The “I’m trying to smile, but can’t” smile.


Visitors are very often surprised by the ability of Thai people to smile through virtually every situation, even when a smile seems like an unusual response. IMPACT Group Career Coach Marie Lucchini, who is based in Bangkok, can testify that, “even with many years of practice, it is almost impossible for a non-Thai person to read the Thai smiles you get.” Once you have more of an understanding of the meanings behind the smiles, you will be able to read social situations easier and have a better understanding of Thai culture.

*Reference Source: Working With the Thais: A Guide to Managing in Thailand, Henry Holmes and Suchada Tangtongtavy