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The Ideal Woman: Suay vs. Narak in Thai

Today, let’s talk about who is considered the most attractive Thai woman, without getting us into too much trouble! 😄

In Thailand, women can be referred as beautiful or cute (sometimes both). Cuteness isn’t an adjective confined only to younger ladies or girls — as it tends to be in Western countries.

So, what is the difference?

Well, let’s first start off with identifying the two words in play. The word for beautiful in the Thai language is “sŭay” (สวย), while the word for cute is “nâa-rák” (น่ารัก).

It’s important to point out that while the Thai word “nâa-rák” means cute, the literal meaning is “worthy of loving” — as the Thai word nâa means “worthy of,” and the word rák means “[to] love”.

So, what kind of Thai woman is thought to be the most desirable by Thai men? The beautiful woman or the cute woman?

Of course, one can’t make blanket statements about all Thai guys. But there is a common perception among many Thai men that the most attractive woman is both “sŭay” and “nâa-rák”.

What does that mean? Well, Thai men often will say that a Thai woman who is simply “sŭay” (i.e. beautiful body, hairstyle, face, etc.) becomes boring to look at and be around after a while. But that the “nâa-rák” woman never gets boring to look at and talk to.

The “nâa-rák” Thai woman has a cute personality. She is someone who exhibits many of the character traits that are highly valued in Thailand: that is, she is always happy, she smiles a lot, she exudes a youthful spirit (regardless of her age), and she is kind.

When the photo of a “nâa-rák” grandmother (called “Yai” in Thai) is posted on Facebook in Thailand, the joy among the commentators is palpable, especially the females, for to be old and still “nâa-rák” is an ideal that many seek to attain, because it reflects not only outward beauty, but spiritual strength.

It exemplifies the Buddhist ideal of walking through life without “carrying any baggage” (much less ever claiming victimhood) regardless of one’s misfortunes..

The “sŭay” and “nâa-rák” Thai woman is thus truly “worth loving,” because she is beautiful both inside and out.

David Alan