Stickman Readers' Submissions March 23rd, 2004

Complaining Farangs

I'm sure Stickman's recent 3/21/04 weekly about the way farangs are often treated unfairly by Thais rings true to many readers. In fact, this unfair treatment extends to all Westerners, white or not, and even to all foreigners.

However, while I believe the right to criticize such unfair treatment is justified, I don't agree with some of the reasoning that was presented. The one thing that really struck me was the statement that the high status given to farang in the form of higher pay (i.e. in English teaching and expat positions) and surface-level respect is not relavent to the Thai arguements for why farangs should pay more or accept the difficulties they face in Thailand.

He Clinic Bangkok

The higher pay and higher status (at least on the surface) given to farangs and many other Westerners is quite relevant. The Thais are often prejudiced to foriegners, and this sense of Thai superiority or xenophobia is only agitated by higher pay and homage given to farangs over Thais, even if it is for egalitarian and performance reasons. It is especially agitated, as the Thais know Westerners are often paid more or preferred for many positions, simply because other Thais actually believe their own kind are not as good, more lazy, or less capable. Sometimes, locals of a developing country are less capable due to the education system, but sometimes they are just perceived as inferior due to the idea people from developed nations are usually more capable.

Beyond that, there is also the Asian ideal that those with more should assist those with less. In the case of farangs, the perception is that they usually have more money than locals.

There is also the Thai concept of face. Thais think those with money should flaunt it and show it to gain face. It may actually seem contradictory to see farangs oppose the idea of Westerners paying more, as it is someone refusing to show their wealth by paying more. Don't believe me? Just look at overseas Thais and Thais who come into money quickly. Notice how they are often overpriced if not double-priced by their own kind, and how they seem to so gladly accept this "unfair" treatment.

CBD bangkok

There is even an element of Western thinking that drives double pricing. Liberal political theories call it "redistribution of wealth", "progressive taxation", etc. The Thais are simply doing what American Democrats and socialists in Europe/the UK/Canada/Australia/NZ/etc. already do. Let's not forget how the farangs also practice overpricing on the rich in their tax policies. Is what the Thais do to farang in LOS so different?

Finally, there is the issue of a nation supporting their own citizens and looking out for them, and in recapturing the costs of foreigners. To the Thais, most farang are temporary visitors. If so, why shouldn't they recapture their costs? A visitor doesn't usually pay taxes, they usually expatriate their earnings if they do work in LOS, they usually don't become Thai nationals in the long run, etc. Look at the way Western nations make foreign students pay double if not more for university educations, how foreign students are tracked/regulated in the UK and US, etc. The Thais are often just doing to Westerners what Western nations do to other foreigners, including Thais.

Does this mean the treatment of farangs and other foreigners by Thailand's government is always fair. Absolutely not. Is it the norm globally elsewhere. More so than Westerners would like to believe.

Will this unfair treatment go away? Unlikely. Why should it? It's not like we (Westerners) always treat citizens of developing countries any better, and to be honest, it's not like we should relax the restrictions or overpricing on them. After all, they aren't Americans, British, Aussies, etc. and in the long run they are not usually going to stay. We don't know too much about them and they potentially pose threats to our respective Western national interests. We should try to restrict their movements and ensure we recapture the costs to our nations which they represent in staying in America/UK/etc. The Thais see it the same way, when dealing with expat farang in their land.

wonderland clinic

Perhaps we have forgotten our own sense of business and national self-interests, by getting ahead of ourselves in the ideals of fairness and an unselfish world. It's not like America or the UK are such unselfish, perfect places. We just have better, wealthier countries on the surface. Remember, this is a seflish world and people, ourselves included, are ultimately living for our own benefit. Odds are, most of us spend 15 or more waking hours working or relaxing for our own benefits and less than 30 minutes helping someone else, either financially or otherwise.

In the end, Thailand would be quite naive to NOT look out for itself, and as a recent contributor stated, the Thais are more geared towards survival and less geared towards the idealism found in developed Western nations. They won't make the same naive oversight Westerners caught up in liberal ideals of fairness might.

Stickman says:

There are a few things I disagree with here. But perhaps what annoys me more than anything is that unlike the West where such things as taxes are clear and everyone knows about it, in Thailand they are not.

nana plaza