Over 67 million people are currently living in Thailand. Most of them belong to the four ethnic groups of Thai people, who came from south-eastern China about a thousand years ago. However, apart from demographic minorities such as the Khmer or Hmong, there is a sizable Sino-Thai community living in Thailand, especially in Bangkok.
Many Sino-Thai identify as multi-racial, with ancestors from both groups, having adopted Thai surnames as well. The ethnic Chinese in Thailand also tend to be bilingual or trilingual – speaking Mandarin Chinese, the Chinese dialect from their family’s former home region, and, of course, Thai.
Thai people are extremely friendly, hospitable and warm-hearted and welcoming of foreigners. The expression "Land of Smiles" is very accurate in describing the Thai view of life, as people deem a minute without a smile to be a lost minute. Thais are very proud of their country, very loyal to their King and for the most part, strong believers in the Buddhist value system; meaning that all humans are equal and propagating people to be friendly, to avoid conflict and live a good, honest and useful life, caring for others.
The Thai way of life is very easy going and could very well be described as "live and let live and is generally uncomplicated. Most people live in the present moment and do not spend too much time thinking about the future or the past.
The Thai language has largely been derived from many words of other languages, particularly Sanskrit and Pali from India which came to Thailand with Brahmanism and Buddhism. Words co-opted from the languages of neighbouring countries (China, Cambodia and Laos) are also commonly used. There are regional dialects with northern Thai (Lanna) being fairly different from central and southern Thai. It is a tonal language which can be quite difficult to learn, however grammar rules are far more simple than those in English.
As with all aspects of Thai culture, the language used is based on respect and dictated by who you are speaking to, how old they are and what position in society they hold.
Thai – or, to be more precise, the central Thai dialect – is the official language for all people in Thailand. It is a mandatory subject for all schoolchildren, too, including expat kids living in Thailand and attending an officially accredited school.
English is also an obligatory foreign language taught at all Thai schools, and many street signs are bilingual (Thai – English). However, as in so many countries, do not expect the average person on the street to communicate fluently with foreigners.
While living in Thailand, you will certainly meet plenty of businesspeople, academics, students, or front-desk staff in the tourist industry who can speak fluent English. Among the older population, the urban working classes, or the rural populace, though, it wouldn’t do to rely on English.