Thailand, to this day, is primarily an agrarian society and, as you might expect, many of the common idioms relate to animals. Some are quite fun. For example:

“A frog in a coconut shell”

refers to someone who is aloof and ignorant, like a frog living in a coconut shell.

“A rabbit aiming for the moon”

Don’t aim for the impossible; keep your feet on the ground.

“Riding an elephant to catch a grasshopper”

To make heavy work of something. This idiom can also mean use the right tool for the job.

“To catch a fish in each hand”

Don’t multitask.

“To catch a tiger with bare hands”

Don’t start something unprepared.

“To buy a buffalo in a swamp”

To buy a pig in a poke.

“To flee from the tiger, to stumble upon the crocodile”

Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

“black sheep”

This almost certainly comes from English – there aren’t many sheep in Thailand, it’s too hot for them and their woolly jumpers.

“The chicken gets a gem”

A person who doesn’t know the value of what they have.

Some can be rather politically incorrect:

ไก่งามเพราะขน คนงามเพราะแต่ง
“Chickens are beautiful because of their feathers. Women are beautiful because of their clothes and make-up.”

“If you love your cow, tie it up; if you love your children, beat them.”

And some are scatological:

“Nobody lifts a dog’s tail when it’s pooing.”

Don’t praise yourself.

เห็นช้างขี้ ขี้ตามช้าง
“See an elephant poop and poop the same way”

Keeping up with the Joneses


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