Do you believe in luck? Many people do. Many Thais certainly do. After all, it is one of the ways of saying good bye (choke dee). Which I have pointed out to my English classes and during my Thai studies, Westerners would never say unless we were getting ready to take a test or something. Good luck denotes you need it and if I’m getting ready to drive home, board a plane, take a bath, I don’t want to hear that I need luck.

Of course in Thailand, luck is always needed and appreciated.

Other ways to say good bye are: see you later (formal: pope gun mai – Learned that one from a guy on a train who was a cardiologist. He used pantomime, so I don’t think I could ever forget those words even if I tried and why would I? He talked all the way to BKK, had a gold earring dangling in one ear, brought on board his own beer and well, just was one of those fascinating expats who shared his life, his stories about his ex-Thai girlfriend and power of bringing someone back to life (or losing them) back in the US of A).

See you later (informal: juh gun – I heard my mom and friends say this a lot so that kind of stuck. And while we’re sharing and caring, the term farang was thrown about too and in a Thai gossipy way that would make your ears grow wide. Yeah, I wasn’t taught Thai but I was taught Thai, you know what I mean? It was also made very clear to me that Caucasian men were evil, never to be trusted but my mom brought them into the house, often enough, so…juh gun mai).

And then there is: drive carefully (rot/kii dii dii na ka – My friends and I said that a lot. But my proudest moment was when I told my friend Maile, “Drive safe and whatever you do, don’t look behind you.” She had just dropped me off at my house in Hawaii and it was dark, we had probably come back from a movie, so it was late and Hawaii culture is like Thai culture in that we believe in ghosts. She was terrified driving home, her imagination getting the best of her nerves, waiting for some killer to spring up from back seat. Good stuff).

During one of my English classes, there was a little section in the book on luck. So I decided to see what my students thought and learn a little culture culture. I told them to brainstorm all the different Thai lucky charms they could think of, and the white board was covered by the end of it. One of the things mentioned was teeth. And then I remembered my mom gave me and my brother gold chains with her tooth encased in a charm.

mom's-toothShe told me it was like carrying a little of her around, after her usual answer to all my What’s this for? questions re: Buddhism, and good luck. And so I’m a little Thai after all because I carry it with me.

“Why not?” is really the name of this Asian game. I practice feng shui too so maybe all of those monk blessings I received as a child and good lucks being said got under my skin and settled in for a nap because why else would I do all this stuff?

And if you think the tooth thing is weird, I’d like to point out the rabbit’s foot…

Most of my students had lucky charms or amulets or whatever around the house but didn’t seem to put much faith in it. Maybe this is the younger generation’s rebelliousness or disgruntlement, I don’t know. Or maybe they didn’t want to seem foolish in front of me or their peers but I don’t think so, I had already shared what I have and do.

Most likely it was something we simply never think of, like so much of what we practice and believe. I watched a friend untangle and rekindle his Baptist upbringing and it was a painful sight. He felt like he just bought into a pyramid money making scheme and was rebuilding his stock in cash currency. Belief systems are supposed to be unshakable, right?

So what is luck? Is luck timing or being situationally aware – or both? I have great luck with clothes. This sounds silly but honestly people give me clothes all the time. This kind of luck has been with me for as long as I have left the nest. And after you hear enough women whinge about how nothing looks good on them or how they can’t find anything, I think, nope, lucky in that department store.

Then there is what Hemingway said, you make your own luck. Or the equally interesting and elusive, turn your luck around. This makes me think about all the ladies who believe they have bad luck with men. I suppose I could feel this way. But I don’t. It’s damn depressing to talk to some of my friends about this because they no longer believe in the lasting ability of love.

This seems like a very good way to ensure that you will never have it. I guess it is a way to say, I challenge you to prove me wrong, Cupid! But who the hell wants to be right about this one? Look, somebody bought a love potion and it worked. Why else would they have sold so many? I say, have a swig and, choke dii na ka, and good luck.

Many businesses have these bugs for good luck or more bugs = more $$$
Many businesses have these bugs for good luck or more bugs = more $$$

9 replies on “โชคดี (good luck), What is luck?

  1. I used to carry around a rabbit foot when I was about 10 and then when I was 16 I had a foxes tail on a necklace. Seems weird and twisted now but back then I really had a lot of faith in them.I tend to the use 'Good luck' as a tongue in cheek way to say goodbye ,intentionally worrying them, playfully.Over here in the UK 'good luck' is usually followed by a snide remark 'Your gonna need it'.


  2. I do the same as you Colin, I always tell people good luck when they are leaving. Maybe all this 'Choke Di' has been messing with my English vocabulary as well. I also say 'Kab Rot Di Di' when someone is driving away.To the point. I've always felt that I have terrible luck. But looking at my life, I am living in Thailand for next to nothing. I get to do whatever I want most days. All of my friends back home are working every day and struggling to pay their rent/mortgage. I guess I am lucky, or smart, or maybe a combination of both. Or maybe it's all just dumb-luck.


  3. What is luck? I believe it's out of our control. But sometimes when good things happen to us we tend to believe in it, when all it is really, is our positive thinking + actions bringing good things our way.(is that an awkward sentence, or what? :-DI say good luck sometimes when I really mean for friends to take care…


  4. @Colin: Carrying any lucky charms these days? Cause when you move to Thailand, you're gonna need it :P@LM: Turn your luck around and stop thinking you have terrible luck!@Cat: I like your definition of luck! And yeah, I find myself saying Good Luck a heck of a lot more since living here…I suppose it is the equivalent of 'many blessings'…Cheers!


  5. I reckon the first thai words I learned were โชคดี. I spent two weeks here way back and my guide, a great guy, called Nutti always used the term all the time. At the time I had no concept of the Thai culture and luck.

    Thats very different now, in fact I just got in after spending a day with some Thai friends in their persuit of luck from various temples/shrines and monks we visited 😉 Great day out though althouh I still remain a little sceptical.


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