We have recently brought our new baby home from the hospital. The first thing my wife did was stock up on food and drink in large quantities. Things we do not normally have in our house – like biscuits, cakes and expensive fruit juices – mysteriously appeared in abundance, along with ‘real’ food like meat and vegetables and boxes of beer. There are course upsides to this. However, as it turns out it was not me consuming this cornucopia of premium products, it was the stream of guests.
Lots of Guests will Come to the House
When you bring your baby home in Thailand all your friends and family come to visit. Some present gifts but most just consume your food and drink and take turns in holding your baby until the poor thing cries in bewilderment at the long line of wannabe, but temporary, care givers.
One thing that did confuse me however – coming round for free food and booze does not – is that everyone who came around was less than complimentary about our new baby. In the Thai language the phrase na rak means cute or loveable. This would appear to me to be the appropriate thing to say about someone’s new baby, even if just for politeness sake. However, what they were saying was the complete opposite. Everyone who came round said the baby was na kliat or na chang, which means ugly in the Thai language. In fact the baby was na kilat mak mak which means very very ugly.
Is My Thai Baby Really That Ugly?
I have to say I was little offended by this. Did these people really think our baby was ugly? Had the mix of Thai and European genes produced a person which Thai people thought of as less than attractive?
Fortunately, not a bit of it. In Thailand people never say babies are cute or beautiful because the tradition is that if you say a baby is cute or beautiful then malevolent spirits, like the krasue (which is the disembodied head and intestines of a woman floating around causing harm to children), will come and take the baby away. Thai people believe that by saying a baby is ugly they can fool the spirits into leaving the baby alone. Thai spirits, apparently, do not like ugly babies.
In Thailand do not be offended is people tell you your baby is na kilat mak mak (very very ugly) because they are only looking out for the baby’s best interests.