Thailand Less Attractive
Regarding the comments of your friends in this column about Thailand becoming less and less attractive, I have the feeling that the problem comes from them and not from the country.
If you take decent guy with a good job and a family, staying too long is obviously not a good choice. Professionally the opportunities and the environment are those of a developing country: limited and certainly not fulfilling if you have ambition. Unless you have your own successful business (pretty tough), all expat jobs in Bangkok are designed for short-term rotations. When you arrive as an expat you are already the top or one of the top dogs in the Thai subsidiary / office. You cannot go much higher and soon you face the choice of doing the same job for years or moving to a place where you can have a better position in the company. Some will accept jobs below their qualifications just to be able to stay.
Let's face it: no one who wants to make a successful corporate career would stay in Thailand more than 5 years. People who think they can live forever with the same reasonable job and good salary slowly realize that it is not fulfilling and that to a certain extent they are wasting their time. Being an expat in a developing country gets old faster then you initially thought. With the sensation of being stuck, you become irritable and see only the negative sides of the country
If your job is not you main motivation, you will also realize that the best schools and arguably the best education for you children are not found in Thailand. It is still a developing country so the education is not up to western standards, nothing surprising.
So why stay longer than necessary? Enjoy the nice life and the semi-holiday mode as long as you take pleasure in it, and then move on. But don’t blame the country for your choice of coming to live here and staying too long!
Another category is the expat attracted by the girls and what he thinks is a giant Disneyland. More than often he is a loser in his country and expects things to be different in Thailand. Well being a whoremonger can be nice for a short period but it is certainly not a satisfactory lifestyle.
And Thailand is a country like others: with real peoples, good and bad, who have their own lives. It is not Disneyland and the purpose of Thais is not to smile to every foreigner and treat them as honorable guests of the theme park. They are normal peoples, not your obliged hosts and servants.
When you start making racist generalizations like “Thais are lazy, uneducated and arrogant” “and “their perpetual dishonesty” you know you have been here for too long and you cannot think straight anymore. If that’s what you really think, it has certainly not happened in the last 2 years and you were a fool to move-in in the first place
To tiredness and exasperation you can add arrogance and (maybe) unconscious colonialist behaviors to your stress factors. For some expats, Thais are not allowed to be rude, in a bad mood, or have had a long day because you are a farang and the mighty farang must be respected at every moment, so always smile and never raise your voice at the Master. Some Thais are assholes and that’s pretty normal in every country, what some farangs do not accept is that these assholes do not respect them as superior human beings.
When you are treated rudely by a Thai, do you wonder “does he also treats his family and friends like that, is he such an asshole?” or do you immediately think, “he is racist and arrogant, he is acting like that because I am a farang”? I guess you think the latter because, unconsciously, a Thai MUST respect you. I am not surprised some call them "peasants.”
Lastly you have to consider what foreigners have brought to Thailand in the last decade: hordes of drunken sex tourists and a humiliating financial crisis (with the IMF dictating its policies to a country so proud of having never been colonized). I would be angry for less.
Nowadays Thais are realizing that they can grow thanks to their own domestic consumption, with less foreign investments, and be more independent than before. Even if that’s partly an illusion maintained for political reasons, I find it positive. I am happy to see people becoming more self-confident and ready to take their destiny in their own hands. Sorry if that spoils the cozy lifestyle of some self-centered expats.
I don't worry, they will be back in no time: the reality of Farangland is far scarier.
This was originally sent to me as feedback to the opening piece of the column on 1/2/2004 but I liked it so much that I thought it would make a worthwhile submission.