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Languages naturally develop shortcuts to speech. Any word thats spoken really often, involves too many syllables, and/or perhaps is difficult to say will likely be shortened in every day speech. And of course, slang used long enough becomes part of normal discourse.
In this case, language shortcuts in reference to nationalities. For example, in English, we often refer to the British as ‘Brits’ or the Vietnamese as ‘Viets’. There are much less polite (and possibly racist) terms to refer to Chinese (chinks), Ethiopians (skinnies), Vietnamese (Charlie), Japanese (Japs), etc.
Yes, Thai has rude racist terms to refer to other nationalities, too. But I’m not going to teach you that . . . at least not today.
So let’s start with Americans. More specifically, the United States’icans. Or whatever. Anyway, Thais refer to the North American continent as ‘America’ aa2meh1ri4gaa1 อาเมริกา. But that’s just too complicated with way too many syllables and tones, so they are much more likely to just say meh1ga1 เมกะ. In other words, Americans are called kon1 meh1gaa1 คนเมกา. I guess that makes me a Megaman!
Another exception is with Indonesians. While it’s perfectly ok to say kon1 in1do1nee1siia1 คนอิโดนีเซีย, that’s too many letters and syllables. Often times it’s abbreviated as คนอินโดฯ, and so this results in people simply saying kon1 in1do1 คนอินโด.
Now, things get a bit more complicated with the Vietnamese as they have three different ways to be referred to. One is racist and rarely used so I won’t teach that. The second, and easiest, way is kon1 weit3naam1 คนเวียดนาม. Although perfectly correct, it’s mostly reserved for only written Thai. The most used for spoken Thai is kon1 yuan1 คนญวน.
Africa is that type of continent where most people think of it as just one big country. It’s that hot dry blob of mass far over there with nothing but starving people and civil wars. The average person – of any western or Asian country – likely couldn’t name more than two or three countries within Africa. And likely couldn’t find any on a map. Thai’s are no exception. Now, it’s not to say the average person isn’t intelligent, it’s just Africa doesn’t play much of a part in the international world, ie out of site out of mind. So what do you do if you’re from Africa and a Thai asks you your nationality? For a short answer, suck up your national pride and just answer kon1 aae2fri4gaa1 คนแอฟริกา. If you have plenty of conversation time, feel free to be more specific and tell them about your country.
Or maybe say something complicated like, ‘I’m from Ghana, a country located in western Africa’. But that’s beyond beginner level, so I won’t teach that here today.
If you’re from South America, to the Thais your continent is just one more big blob of mass that doesn’t do anything. Just take my advice for Africa above and say you’re from aa2meh1ri4gaa1 dtai3 อาเมริกาใต้.
With the exception of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the Arab world is also fairly unknown to Thais. The [polite] way to say you’re from the Arabic region is kon1 aa1rab2 คนอาหรับ.
There are two more regions of the world that Thais generally aren’t even aware that exist. One is the entirety of Central America (with the exception of Mexico), and the other is the eastern European block.
One last note: I am of course stereotyping with my above statements. Any well educated person, Thai or any other nationality, will of course be much more geographically aware of the world. Those involved with the tourist industry will also know much more than the average Thai as well. Use your best judgment.