Young Thais And Their Attitude Towards Farangs
In response to a recent letter concerning negative experiences with young Thais and their attitudes, whereas I would agree that attitudes amongst Thai young have shifted for the worst towards farangs, I believe that we are largely responsible for this change.
I spent Songkran in Cha Am, about 3 hours south of Bangkok. Cha Am, for those of you who are not familiar, is a local beach town, with 5 km of white beach, almost deserted during the week and only really busy on the weekend or holidays. Very few tourists, very few farangs. During Songkran, it was packed with Thais from the cities looking for a place to have fun. The majority of Songkran foot and vehicle traffic occurred on the road that runs along the beach. Thousands of Thais sat or stood along the road as people passed on foot, bicycle, motorbike, car, pick-up truck. I stood with my Thai girlfriend and her family to watch and participate. We were armed to the teeth – water guns of every kind – the kids and the adults, prepared to do water battle. I was fully prepared for the worst – I hate being squirted with cold water, and the idea of having my face plastered in white was equally unappealing.
However, I discovered that the young Thais could be just as friendly, unagressive, and warm as their elders. As I stood there for hours, every individual who squirted, soaked, or approached me to powder my face, did so with complete respect – even the toughest of the young Thai men would come up and only talc me if I smiled and thanked them. And they did so with the widest of smiles. Even groups armed with barrels of cold water would only throw water after making eye contact with me and acknowledging my consenting smile. During the entire week of madness, I only saw one incident when a group of young Thai men soaked a young lady on her boyfriend's motorbike without her agreement. Even then, they did give her a chance to get out of the way, but she chose to take a challenging stance and they weren't about to let her.
So how have we contributed to the negative attitude? How many of us have taken the time to learn the customs and some of the language, to not let things upset us, to not challenge the waiter who brings the wrong dish, to accept the baht bus driver who charges farangs an exorbitant additional 5 baht for a ride? Or to smile to everyone whose eye you catch, to say hello in Thai often, to help someone carrying a large load or offer your seat to an elderly Thai? Worse than that, how many guys still think of bargirls as whores who want to steal your money? Yes, never an argument that they provide sex in exchange for money – but how many of them do so to send money home for their families who have nothing. Does it not occur to these same guys that these bargirls have brothers and sisters and cousins who hear the stories about being poorly treated by farangs?
My point here is that I've been returning to LOS for years, first as someone who enjoyed the culture and nightlife, and now spend a good portion of every year in LOS with my Thai friends and family. I see too many farangs who just don't get it. It's bad enough that we treat each other this way, but the Thais are a different culture – disrespect is unacceptable in their culture – it makes them feel low, it builds resentment and hostility. We can make a difference, I think, if we treat them as we would like to be treated.
Of course we should respect their culture and that goes without saying. However, there are certain times when we have every right to voice our disapproval, such as when the waiter brings the wrong dish. Knowing when to speak up and when not to is not always easy.