Every time I hang out with my friend N’Chang I end up learning tons and tons of cool stuff.
We have all heard interesting stories about twins. Feeling each other’s feelings while hundreds of miles away, being able to answer each other’s sentences, etc. There is definitely something very interesting about the lives of twins.
While spending some time with N’Chang recently, I learned that Thai culture has a very interesting perspective on twins and how they are perceived in the family and social pecking order.
First, let’s talk shop for a minute. The Thai word for “twin” is ฝาแฝด /fǎa fɛ̀ɛt/. (I believe you can also just say แฝด if you like, though not confirmed.) If you are talking about triplets or more (Octomom, look out!) you would remove ฝา and put the number in front of แฝด. So triplets would be สามแฝด /sǎam fɛ̀ɛt/, quadruplets are สี่แฝด /sìi fɛ̀ɛt/, etc.
What’s interesting about twins in Thai culture is that they consider the older twin to be the one that comes out of their mother’s womb last!
Not first like we in Western culture think, but last. As it was explained to me by N’Chang — as it was explained to him — the feeling is that the “older” brother holds the door (womb) open for the younger brother and lets him/her out into the world first. Therefore, the younger sibling as we see things becomes the พี่ /pîi/ (older sibling) and the older sibling becomes the น้อง /nɔ́ɔng/.
Where status and ones place in society means as much as it does in Thai and other Asian cultures, I found this concept to be extremely compelling and, although confusing at first, perfectly befitting Thai culture.