Mai kow jai

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Dear Hillary,

My girlfriend speaks quite good English, but I can find it difficult to understand what she is trying to say some days and we end up having an argument. The other day she seemed worried and when I asked her what was wrong, she wouldn’t tell me but said, “I want stay by myself” so I thought she wanted to leave. I asked her why, as everything seemed to be OK the day before, but she just started to get mad at me for continuing to ask her what was wrong. The next day, when she hadn’t left I worked out that what she wanted to say was she was trying to work out a personal problem, so she wanted to be “alone” for a while to work it out. If I had known that was what she wanted I wouldn’t have pressed the point. I try to understand, but it is a problem. Have you any advice for this communication problem?

Bewildered Bill

Dear Bewildered Bill,

Be bewildered no further, my Petal. I have the answer for you. In any relationship, clear and open communication is most important. When the two people come from different cultures and have different native languages, then it becomes even more likely that confusion will occur. Your girlfriend is trying her best to communicate with you in a foreign language, but I note you do not communicate with her in Thai, her language. If there are times of confusion, you should just say “Kaw toad, mai kow jai” (sorry, I don’t understand) and ask her to put it another way. And try not to find the literal meaning of every word – try and get the overall meaning or emotion. And get some Thai lessons yourself as well!

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