mai ben rai...

thailand01Mai ben rai means 'OK', 'Don't worry', 'Never mind.' At least that's what the phrase books tell you.

Mai ben rai can be used in different situations.

If someone makes a mistake (khor toat; 'I'm sorry'), then mai ben rai means 'That's OK. I accept your apology'.

In response to 'thank you' (khorb koon); mai ben rai means 'you're most welcome - it was really nothing at all'.

Mai ben rai can also be a polite way of not getting involved in other people's problems, as in: 'Excuse me, my credit card got stuck in your ATM machine.' In which case ma ben rai means, 'too bad for you - I am sure it will work out. Good bye.'

Travellers' Tales

"A tuk tuk driver drove through a red light and buckled the wheel of my rented bicycle. The driver gets out and smiles, shrugs his shoulders, and says 'mai ben rai,' and then a long explanation in Thai, and then drives off. I was so mad because I thought his 'mai ben rai' meant 'too bad, don't worry; you sort it out.' But a local person who heard the conversation explained the driver said; 'Don't worry. Wait here. My brother is a mechanic and can fix this. I'll just go and fetch him."
David W, Toronto.

"I was in a restaurant and ordered red curry, and the waitress came back with pad thai noodles. I told the waitress it was the wrong dish, and she apologised profusely. 'Mai ben rai' I told her, and waited for the right dish to come. It didn't. After ten minutes I asked when the red curry was coming, but she thought I'd said, 'Don't worry - this is OK; I'll have this.' When I think about it that is what I said, but not what I meant."
Craig M, Melbourne

Three Things
Rickard, Swedish manager at the Asian office (Bangkok) of a large multinational company; what makes Thailand so different?

mai ben rai


phuut phee

Mai ben rai accounts for the easy-going relaxed attitude, and not allowing yourself to get stressed out. 'It's good for a calm and positive atmosphere at the office; not so good when you need to get things done in a hurry.'

Sunuk means having fun - a top priority with Thai people. Work has to be enjoyable, stimulating: 'Thai people are very favourable to Swedish style fika (coffee break), but whereas in Sweden everyone knows when it's time to get back to work, in Thailand, you have to tell people. Otherwise they would fika all day.'

Phuut phee means ghosts and evil spirits. 'I was not prepared for this, and it was never brought up in our cultural training sessions. If it is a bad spirit day no-one shows up for work. If a desk is put in the wrong place - and might upset an evil spirit - no-one will go near it. It is no point telling Thai people this is not rational. You just have to adapt.'

Ten Useful Thai Words & Phrases

1. Never mind (mai ben rai)
2. Hello (sa-wat dee)
3. Thank you (khorb koon)
4. Delicious (a-roi)
5. Where is ...? (... yoo tee nai)
6. How much? (gee baht)
7. Your best price? (lot noi dai mai)
8. I don't want (mai ow)
9. Sorry (khor toat)
10. One… ten (neung… sib)