When certain Thai phrases are translated into English they can lose something in translation and in their English form may appear abrupt or impolite. One example is the Thai phrase ‘pai nai’ which is a form of greeting used in everyday speech between Thai people. Saying ‘pai nai’ when you see someone you know on the street is just a social pleasantry along the lines of saying, ‘how are you?,’ ‘how’s it going?’ or ‘what are you up to?’. A direct translation of ‘pai nai’ is ‘where are you going?’ (pai=go nai=where) to which the typical response would be ‘pai thiao’ which is similar to saying ‘out and about’ or ‘going for a stroll’.
With this in mind, don’t be surprised if a Thai person at your hotel or guest house practicing their English asks you, ‘where you go?’ Because Thai grammar and sentence construction is so different to English, the question will normally be asked in the abbreviated form of ‘where you go’ instead of ‘where are you going’. You might be thinking, ‘none of your business’, but the person asking isn’t trying to be nosy (not usually anyway). They’re just trying to put into English the Thai greeting ‘pai nai’. The answer you give doesn’t really matter as such because the person asking is just engaging in a bit of polite small talk. Feel free to tell the person inquiring that you are off to get some food, go shopping or sightseeing. You could try saying ‘nowhere special’ which may get you a blank look, but if you can pronounce ‘pai thiao’ correctly you will be rewarded with smiles of appreciation especially if you remember to add khap or ka to make it even more polite.
There are other occasions where you are likely to hear ‘where you go?’ In fact, if you arrive by plane at Bangkok airport it may be one of the first things you hear when you enter the arrivals hall and are approached by the taxi touts. In other tourist areas of Thailand, you will probably experience that the tuk drivers or taxi drivers who don’t know too much English will often still know the three words, ‘where you go?’