‘Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture’ is the best book on popular Thai culture you can buy, and beautiful to look at
If you have spent any time in Thailand, you are probably one of the millions of people who are fascinated by Thai popular culture. A culture often so different from what we are used to in our less flamboyant countries, and one that can be difficult to understand.
Why do Thais use tiny, paper-thin pieces of pink tissue paper as ‘napkins’ in many restaurants around the country? Especially as you need 10 of them to wipe your mouth?
Where does the Thai hom kaem or ‘sniff kiss‘ come from — the practice of not quite kissing but instead sniffing the people you love the most?
Why do phallic symbols or palad khik appear all over Thailand — on key chains, displayed in restaurants, hanging from bells, on stalls by the side of the road, at one of Bangkok’s most popular shrines?
Why are so many drinks served in plastic bags in Thailand instead of in glasses or cups?
Why do motorcycle taxi drivers wear different colored vests, and what do the numbers on their backs mean?
If you would like to know more about all those unusual and sometimes crazy things you see in Thailand, then the book ‘Very Thai‘ is something you should pick up.
And if you love learning about a new culture in a way that never looks down on it, but instead explains everything in a respectful but still humorous way, and with some of the most beautifully colorful photographs, you will love ‘Very Thai‘.
‘Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture‘ by Philip Cornwel-Smith is a book I bought when it was first published back in 2005.
I then spent about a month obsessed with the information on every single page of it, then going out into Bangkok now knowing what all these odd little things I saw on a daily basis meant and so noticing them even more.
Even now, over a decade after I first bought it, I still read sections of it every few months as I love to remind myself why things are the way they are in Thailand, this land of seemingly contradictory things.
Nowadays ‘Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture‘ is in its second printing, and with a third one hitting bookstore shelves soon. An update that has apparently changed quite a lot of the book’s content.
The book is a wonderful gift to yourself, if you just want to understand what is going on around you as you go about your Thailand day, It is also the perfect gift to give someone who is as fascinated with Thai culture as you are.
You can currently order the second edition of ‘Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture‘ on many online bookshops. It is also available in German.
I’ll update this with links to the third edition as soon as it becomes available.