If you asked me what I thought I’d be doing in the Peace Corps a few months back I would never have thought I would be wearing meticulously ironed clothes, heels, spanks, and using a squat toilet. In Thailand appearance is huge. No matter your wealth, you are expected to appear riap roy, a term used to refer to anything that is appropriate, for specific occasions. This is especially important if you are a teacher. Everyday I make sure to get up a bit earlier to have time to iron my clothes to avoid getting “the look” from the teachers at my school. I’ve now added spanks to my daily wardrobe as some teachers ask, and occasionally pull at my skirt, to make sure I am completely riap roy!
Every day in Thailand has a specific color associated with it, which originates back from an astrological rule in Hindu mythology when each day was thought to be protected by a different god associated with a different color. Usually the teachers at my school wear a shirt in the color of each day. This excludes Wednesday, which is scout day, when everyone, students and teachers alike, wear a scout uniform. Friday everyone wears all white, a color to represent purity in the Buddhist faith, to respect the prayer ceremony the school has in the afternoon.
Whatever day you were born on determines what “your” color is. The King of Thailand was born on Monday, so yellow is the most important color in Thailand and is worn to represent loyalty to the King.
Having a color for each day makes it a bit easier to decide what to wear. Unfortunately, before I came to Thailand most of my wardrobe consisted of black clothing, which is not generally worn unless to a funeral.
Appearance is especially important for the students. They wear their daily uniforms, and are expected to take their shoes off before entering the school building. After the military coup occurred the students were required to have their hair a certain length, girls up to their ear and boys much shorter. I was told this was a previous law that had been reformed, but due to the military coup the reform was revoked and the previous law was applied once again. If the students have hair too long, are missing socks, or have dirt under their finger nails they take the risk of being reprimanded with a bamboo stick in front of their classmates.