When I just arrived, 22 odd years ago, to stay in Thailand, after various visits all was heaven to me. People nice, the country beautiful, the weather great and the women lovely etc. etc. Then I lived here for a while and the work I was doing (I only
had to really do something about 5 days a month) was boring me in the sense that it clogged up my brain to sit on the beach and see the same ol' girls with the same ol' farangs sit there every day until the dude was drunk (around 1 pm)
and later see her with the Thai boyfriend at the market, spending the farangs' money….
I moved to Bangkok for a while (Soi 65 to be exact) but the city was too much of a city to me…. As I wasn't bound I moved to Chiang Mai, after all, the second city of Thailand. Got a nice place in town and enjoyed the life. The best of both worlds: The nice and charming atmosphere and food from Asia, and all the "good stuff" from the West (such as Italian food and delicatessen).
And as yourself, Stickman, when I got myself a nice girl I moved slightly out of town and started "gathering stuff". Life was simple before that moment. During those years I tried to adjust in every way. But no matter what I did I would always be "the farang that lives on the corner". Hell, it even happened that inside the Moobaan (compound) where I'd been living for years the little shops tried to rip me off when I was buying food for my daughter. The fact that it was still happening, no matter what, was frustrating. You'd have to make a fuss about it whereas any other person living here would just go out and get the food he wanted at the right price. Mind you: These were the same people that would so lovely, wave at you and your daughter whenever you'd pass by… In a sense it was good and it made me realize what some other discriminated groups in the world must feel like, because I have never been a part of that (inflicting it) I also didn't know or encounter how that'd feel like. Thailand has invented discrimination!
Here I was, speaking Thai, reading and writing Thai, after years of practice and study (I was a Buddhist since I was 15) teaching Buddhism and giving lectures all over the place, acting and behaving according to Thai traditions and customs, and still not an accepted part of the society I lived in.
One day, as I was changing house to a quieter area with a much larger garden, I had to stay the night in a local hotel. I even knew the owners but they weren't there. I knew the price was 800 baht for locals and this is what I asked for, in Thai, fluently. I didn't get it and was told there was no two tier pricing and everyone was paying 1400 baht. Next to me was a Chinese guy at check in. He didn't speak Thai and hardly any English and he was without asking given the 800Baht price…. Of course it was a small riot and I didn't stay there, the owners later on apologizing to me, but hey that's a PRINCIPLE (a word that you will not find in a Thai dictionary, don't bother looking it up…)
This was a turning point. After odd 8 years or so of behaving like a Thai and feeling Thai I got fed up with the verbal abuse (you should know the things they say that they think you don't understand when you walk past with your wife, such as : "Nong, wai rue?" more or less referring to the compatibility of sizes). So I changed my behavior. If I wanted to live well in the country I love, in spite of everything else, I would have to be ME. So I did, I started to behave and act as a farang. Did exactly what I wanted to do. Hell, I even swim naked in my own pool or walk in underwear through the garden. Life is simple. And you know what they say? The farang on the corner….. Nothing has changed except my own attitude. I wanted to share this just to let some people that think they understand and are wrangling themselves in difficult positions to be accepted know, you better NOT adjust, it will not be appreciated for what it is.
If in Europe a Thai girl speaks the language fluently and adjusts to society, she is accepted as one of the locals. Here that is virtually impossible, unless you have got Asian looks. Funny that the people in Government making things difficult for the farangs living here are all of Chinese descent. Ever wondered about that one? So my advice: Do as you please, live happy, don't bother being accepted ('cause you won't be…only in the small group that really know you), do what you feel is right and enjoy this country for what it is. A great place to live BECAUSE most people are simple. Narrow minded, BECAUSE they are simple. Don't bother trying to change it, Thailand has been like this for centuries. It sort of refers to the letter of one of your readers where he says his wife thinks everything is the best in Thailand. One of the reasons they have these strong nationalistic feelings, AND think that it is perfectly OK to have them is because the US has taught them how to use everything for propaganda during the heydays of communism. Lest we forget: They were being surrounded by either communist or Muslim countries and wanted to instill a strong feeling of patriotism in the people to prevent the same happening here. So it all is quite understandable.
I am from a country where patriotism and nationalism are more or less dirty words as they are the two causes of many wars and problems in the world (the third is religion) so I am quite far removed from these feelings. On the other hand I DO love this country so much that it would be nice to see the people starting to think for themselves. Maybe that's in the distant future…. Whenever any farang says something negative about Thailand the remark (even from fellow farangs) is heard:” Why don't you go back to where you came from"?. Well it's quite simple: If you dislike certain things why not say so. If the good things still out-weigh the bad or frustrating ones, I am not going anywhere! And they do. I love Thai food, Culture and the land itself. Most people are just simple souls who never had a chance anyway, being controlled by a system of people who say they know what they're doing and what they're doing is best for everyone…. Live happy and do your own thing!
Food for thought. Yep, while one has to be sensitive to many of the cultural issues, one also needs to be aware of who they are too. If one changes too much, you run the risk of losing site of your principles and convictions and hell, the measure of a man is his willingness to stand up for what he believes in, is it not?