I hopped into a taxi at the BTS station at Thong Lo in Bangkok.
The driver’s name was Sid, a friendly chap in his early 60’s. Sid started the conversation by asking the usual question - “Where are you from?” For most Thai people, this is like saying hello!
I gave Sid my standard ‘where you from answer’ – “I am from many different places”, which of course threw him a bit off balance – as it does to most Thai people - as they don’t know what to make of it.
But being a nice guy, I decided to give Sid a break by adding that I’m originally from San Francisco. Breaking out into a beatific smile, Sid replied - “Oh you’re an American. America good!” Thai people like Americans in the post Bush era!
The conversation drifted into various aspects of American pop culture and history. The conversation went like this:
Sid - I like John F Kennedy.
Me - Oh yeah, Kennedy was a real playboy, had lots of girlfriends.
Sid - I like that
I mentioned that Teddy, the last Kennedy brother, passed on earlier in the year to which Sid replied, “I know”.
Sid - Do you like Edwin Pechuri?
(I really couldn’t figure out what Sid was saying, but it sounded like Edwin Pechuri)
Me – Edwin Pechuri? Who is he?
Sid asked me repeatedly, whether I liked Edwin Pechuri (or something like that), but for the life of me, I really didn’t understand him!
Me - What does this Edwin Pechuri do?
Sid – He’s famous singer.
I thought for a couple for a couple of moments, trying to figure out what Sid was saying and who was this Edwin Pechuri character that he kept referring to. All of a sudden I had a light bulb moment in my brain, and I asked him “ Oh, do you mean Elvis Presley (sounds like Edwin Pechuri)?” Sid smiled and said, “Yeah that’s who I am talking about.”
We both laughed as Sid finally reached my destination and let me out. As I enjoyed the ride and the conversation with Sid, I gave him a tip of 10 baht over the meter fare.
Morale of the story – For most Thai people, speaking English with correct pronunciation is very tricky. On the flip side, I can only imagine, how difficult it is for Thai people to understand me, when I try to speak Thai.
Same, same but different!