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Farang In Thailand And Some Basic Etiquette

In my experience travelling and visiting Thailand, once you get a taste of the night scene and bar scene, even the ob-scene, (!) it's all too easy to fall into the trap whereby all you ever see in your 2 weeks stay is the darkened underbelly of Bangkok, Phuket or Pattaya. Like so many tourists before you, and those indeed to follow, you lose sight of the real Thailand and fall victim to its more seductive carnal pleasures… All the scenic tours you had promised yourself and planned trips fall by the wayside and give way to a nightly shag fest amid the lurid neon signs of Patpong road and a string of girlfriends that reads like Thailand's answer to the Gettysburg address… Instead of seeing Thailand's beauty and enjoying a relaxing holiday, you stay up all night and sleep all day, eat crap food and end up tired all the time. You can't even remember let alone pronounce the girl's names you've slept with, and you're living on Singha, McDonald's hamburgers and fries…

Worse still, some farangs supplement their desires with Viagra and other stimulants, a real danger if you're middle aged and unused to this sort of physical or sexual 'pace' – many a farang has perished mid-shag or shorty thereafter from heart failure… "Killed in action" as it were…

You wake up midday, your mouth's a disaster area, you heave the girl [whatshername?] out of your bed and finally emerge from your hotel about 3:00 PM only to see the turgid cycle beginning again and the night markets being set up for the night time activities… This is your 'goliday'? If you're really desperate and depraved, you'll venture back into PP in daylight hours and go to the truly awful upstairs bars, where ugly child like girls will 'serve you' with pinched and pale expressions and where you'll get horribly ripped off.

A holiday can work out okay as long as you keep a 'balance' and your common sense / s with you, but all too many farang men lose a small part of themselves seeking out the illicit pleasures, and lose sight of the 'real' Thailand altogether. Their holiday's become a beer soaked haze of bargirl & girlie bars like above, their days are a succession of slept-through hangover's with only the odd sweaty shopping trip for toiletries to show for it, – and a handful of hurried, blurred photo's of the Royal Palace or the ugleeee TGF. Why do so many farang choose such 'ugly' chimp-ish girls when there are so many taller and gorgeous ones???

Will some one please tell me???? (I think I'm about to be yet further baffled…)

Some men who stay in Bangkok suffer an even 'worse' fate, and slowly become disenchanted and cruelly cynical to the pleasures it offers, but are so often there for those self same reasons, the wrong reasons, in the shadows as I've outlined above. Yes, even I've been tempted to get work and stay in the LOS, but there's a huge 'price' to pay, starting with your potential salary… Many farang work and live in Thailand for a mere pittance of money, a fraction of what they earned in Europe or the U.S.A. Only a small privileged portion have proper expat salary packages with all the fringe benefits, and are often referred to as 'real expats' by the Thais. Any decent self-respecting Thai professional, if asked to define expats, might determine a difference to you in his, or her opinion, and it may not be want you want or expected to hear. They might define a real expat as opposed to hangers-on expats, or as sometimes referred to as "Cheap Charlie" foreigners with no money or proper means of support. [Pron.Ch-ip Cha-lee]

I dunno about you but I can't afford the resultant salary-cut based on what I earn now… I can afford to go down a bit but not by about 70%! It's not worth it for that, and be on the breadline as it were, and no 'safety net'.

Sadly, a great portion of farang put too much emphasis on reaping and plundering the more forbidden fruits Thailand has to offer, thus accepting lowly paid jobs, often living in comparably squalid conditions to 'realise' their wet dream. It's often not a dream at all, and can invariably turn into a real nightmare as their night time desires inexorably take over and they turn to alcohol on the meagre money they have.

Perhaps the larger unseen population of the 100,000 farang supposedly living in Thailand are English teachers, this often 'misused' or even abused term whereby it's not English they're teaching at all, more than a form of body language! There are different types of English teachers, mostly [hopefully] TEFL qualified with other tertiary qualifications, and gone are the days when arriving new age travelers were offered English teaching jobs within 30 minutes of arriving at Bangkok's Don Muang airport!!!

No offence to legitimate English teachers out there, there's a good bunch teaching for genuine reasons and genuine people too who work damn hard.

However, you certainly won't get rich teaching English [as a foreign language] in Thailand, the pay is pretty basic and you can expect to earn between US $1,000 – $2,000 tops pcm, IF ALL your bookings remain in place, as often freelancers whom have students cancel out, lose money. No work, no money. These salaries are attained too through working almost daily, without cancellations and are often only short-term opportunities for youngsters.

An English teacher's lot isn't always a happy one, having to travel mainly on the public transport system using buses and the traffic-busting skytrain, walking [slogging] to their next teaching venue in Bangkok's oppressive heat… "Solly I sick todaaay, you no come okay?" Solly water buffalo die today and Gran mama sick, cancel today okay kaaaa?" an English teacher will hear this a lot, and lose money with each no-show or cancellation…

You haven't got to care a jot about the money, it's gotta be another motive but it's a job that will if done properly, take you right into the very heart of Thai society and teach you yourself a thing or two along the way about Thai culture.

I met a Canadian English teacher in Soi Nana one night, at an outside beer bar, but was appalled at his relating to his Thai girlfriend, probably a bargirl, and the ways he 'uses' his Thai language skills to talk to her. He proudly taught me how to say "Where are you going?" into the meanest interpretation in Thai so it sounded something more like "Where the F*** are you going?"… It was a Friday night too, the night for him to blow most of his weeks earnings on one night of unbridled passion, without the girlfriend he was referring to earlier, truly a wrong impression of "English Teacher / s" I thought and a bad example. I've seen many English teachers in Bangkok and also Pattaya, putting their Thai 'language skills' more to use in the bar beers and gogo bars, – Funny lookin' classrooms? I thought, but then maybe I'm naive? I don't know, but there's something really degenerating and 'tacky' about a farang blabbing away in Thai to some puerile BG, [showing off to other newbie tourists?] which seems to be the main purpose of his knowledge and staying…

For farang who overstay their welcome in Thailand, there's an even higher price to pay than lower earnings, they can lose their self respect and dignity, and become one of the army of farang the Government laments about, and that surely Thailand doesn't need…

Sadly, this is common whereby many foreigners live and work in Thailand for utterly the wrong reasons, whereby the 'sex' takes over completely and the job's [whatever that is] merely a means to support the sex and drinking binges. Men like this begin living a twilight existence hanging around cheap bars and clubs, sleeping in non-air conditioned insect infested pig sties by day, it's no life, it's merely existence… Ironically, it's a lonely existence, he might have a wife, or / and two or three girlfriends [TGF's] but maybe the loneliest man on the planet in terms of unfulfilled dreams and ambitions, he replaced the meaning of life with 'sex' and desire. Probably unable to maintain a relationship in Farangland, he came here expecting that to change with the sheer availability and abundance of women, but it doesn't work like that, no sir.

In the middle bracket we have farang who've got jobs with reasonable salaries, but still not very 'high earners', and they might be working for Thai companies, or Western companies with the perks. The money's better but it's still not like being on holiday, as living and working in Thailand is infinitely different than being on holiday there. Thai companies who employ foreigners tend to be quite ruthless, and lay-offs can come without warning should the farang wander from his goals or expectations, or he suddenly outlives his usefulness to the company. As a foreigner, he's often expected to be 'worth' 'twice as much' to his employer for his supposedly unique imported expertise, but can be quickly disposed of when his Thai counterparts take on or learn his skills.

As long as you can separate the two, [holiday & working] it might just work out, but I know my bar bill for a week's holiday is about the same as some farang's monthly salary in most cases!! You do the math?!

Obviously farang living in Bangkok for example know all and find the cheapest bars and means of living from hand-to-mouth as it often turns out, but it's 'no holiday' or picnic certainly not by my standards. He'll sometimes boast he goes with girls for as little as 300 Baht, but you see the girls, (?) – they ain't pretty!!…

farang like this turn pretty 'ferule' after a while, or 'go native' [go wild] as the term describes, and live with their TGF's on the side of a dingey klong somewhere or a slum, having depleted their money or lost whatever job entirely. – Some of them lose more than that, their identity, everything. Worse still, they possibly can't go home for several reasons and have possibly overstayed their visa or gotten falsified papers to the effect, with no further money to 'bribe' some official, prison might be beckoning… They might not have family left to help them out of their self made nightmare, and suicide often becomes an attractive option in this event.

I know of several farang who simply 'can't go back' – they've "burned their bridges" back with unpaid credit card debts, avoided alimony payments, ex-wives, children or defaulted loans etc, etc. they've sacrificed almost everything they ever had to remain in the LOS, everything…

Some bar beer owner's I know of seem more akin to 'sampling' their goods than selling them, (!) and spend their days in drunken hazes, their only customers known to them as other expats. They're more like small 'expat clubs' for known friends rather than getting genuine ad-hoc tourist customers, and survival depends more on cooperation between them as it does getting new customers or promoting their sales and services. If the farang bar beer / bar owner doesn't show up, the services quickly declines into chaos or lethargy, and the expat customers won't bother going without the 'boss' being there in the case of farang-owned bars. Oddly, neighboring Thai run bar beers run smoothly with their on-site mamasans, – more efficiently even, and the girls seem 'more ready to please' their visiting [new] customers. Frankly, I prefer these types of bars if I were to go to say, somewhere like Pattaya…

Often, some of the Thai girls in farang-run establishments are their girlfriends as well it's worth remembering!!

Owning and running bars in Thailand is a minefield of pitfalls and problems, not least with the local Police and seemingly annoying and arbitrary government legislations making it harder and harder. Extreme hard work in the afternoon's preparations and working and getting drunk with your fellow farang customers takes its toll. Extreme hard work is often replaced with acute boredom and the never ending financial demands of resultant Thai wives and / or girlfriends working and living in the LOS, which in turn, leads to alcoholism. If he's not careful and doesn't kick these issues into touch then things can go from bad to worse, he could lose everything… Losing or divorcing a wife in the West is precarious enough, but in Thailand she could be holding all your assets in her name as a condition of your business, and you may want to consider this before any 'infidelity'…

I'd wager there's many farang in this position today as I write this, maybe in Pattaya who have reached the edge of their existence and end of their tether…

The only way to be able to properly live and work in Thailand is to be recruited by a reputable well known Western company, most probably in your own country of origin, and be posted abroad. To Thailand preferably, on all the usual expat benefits and package. It's the only truly satisfactory way, and then be able to live an almost idyllic lifestyle with your family. The only disadvantage here is proper bone fide expat postings are often short lived with relatively high turn-over, – it's seldom for life.

You should avoid the get-rich-quick schemes where there's invariably an expat or worse, Thai 'schemer' trying to get other expats to work for him for virtually nothing, while promising huge returns 'later'. Obviously we're all aware of the pitfalls in investing in business opportunities in Thailand, most particularly with Thai partners or wives, – the rate of attrition here is appalling with a minuscule success rate. This of course is another story completely and will leave alone for now.

The more I visit Thailand and the more I hear and read from expats staying long-term there, the more I feel it is better to just visit from time to time rather than live there, it seems to literally 'suck the marrow' out of some of the long-termers there. I've come to the conclusion that I am maybe better off not working and living there, and that maybe I'm a happier, more healthy person for 'not' staying there. Thailand's more risky assets are perhaps best testing from time to time and then 'walking away', plus I would never be able to enjoy Thailand by living there the same. I don't want to become one of those bitterly disillusioned expats who line exclusively cynical expat bars then go to Soi Nana after closing time, and look down their noses at other tourist's as white trash. Perhaps some would be better looking at their own existences and might be a case of the pot calling the kettle black here!?

It's hard to determine exactly where the word "farang" [or "Fa-lang" if you're from up-country!] originated, but popular belief and cultural folk lore indicates that it originated in the French Indo China campaigns of the 50's in Vietnam and French military involvement. It's quite probably it 'evolved' around the time of the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, and 'mutated' into the term we hear today in later years.

"farang" literally meant "Frenchman" – i.e. round eye or foreigner, a westerner, and it is this latter day connotation that has been so snidely accepted into the Thai language. Whilst "farang" isn't now a derogatory term, it often depends in what connotation it is used, but it is a word you will hear daily in the well trodden tourist havens, particularly in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Pattaya. Thais use the word daily almost habitually now to describe foreigners as a whole. You can walk into a shop and be referred to as 'farang' by the shop assistants conversing with each other, it's not meant offensively, in fact they're so used to it they're unaware how often they use the term.

If you were to ask a Thai what "farang" meant, they might well begin to differentiate, and begin to divide foreigners into 'groups' and you would probably get some interesting and mixed opinions, not necessarily ones you want to hear.

Ask a Thai sex worker and you'd probably get a pretty jaundiced view unsurprisingly, or anyone working or associated with the night time sex industry for that matter, and a pretty poor picture would slowly emerge of foreigners [notably sex tourists] and their behavior and how they're viewed.

There's growing evidence that the 'honeymoon period' with the foreign 'farang' visitors may be drawing to a close, as more and more foreigners make Thailand their home. Crimes against foreigners seemingly aren't treated seriously by the Thai authorities anymore and maybe underscores an ever growing impatience or contempt for their foreign guests and long-term residents, the 'farang'. Arrogance among long-term expats on the breadline clearly doesn't help, who seem to be in eternal conflict with their hosts and treat Thailand and the people with utter disdain. It's hard to reason why this is exactly, after all it is they who've decided live and stay in Thailand but it is this minority group that most rankle the Thais with their relentless criticisms and diatribes.

The 'class' of farang differs widely too, and clearly, some foreigners are a disgrace to their mother countries and let alone behave even worse when in Thailand. It's little wonder the Thai bargirls often refer to the 'smell of a farang' as something to overcome… especially when breaking-in rookie bargirls from up-country Thailand. (!) The number of times a girl has snuggled up to me and Thai-kissed me with a 'sniff' and cooed how nice I smell… (!) Always makes me laugh that, – and then I wonder who or 'what' the hell they've been with before to prompt this reaction!!??

Many girls too comment on my dress sense, and I believe this at least to be genuine and not just "Baag-wan" [sweet talk] as dress is important to them, they just don't say if they think you're scruffy, they're too polite…

I've had girls do this, 'smell' me, (!) assess my clothes, ask my age and where I'm from, and then give an almost wide grin of 'acceptance' and then the 'dance' begins… She's then 'accepted you' in her terms, now it's your turn, – but it is she who often makes the first and most 'critical' choice for herself… Laugh if you will, you'll see what I mean if you're a newbie to Thailand, but remember don't take immediate offence, – pull back and be 'cool' about it and just smile… I always dress smart-casual when out and about, act politely, stay 'in-charge' and don't get drunk, – and reap the rewards, it really does pay dividends to be like that, and you even attract a 'better type' of girl, I'm sure. These girls DO have standards you might be surprised to learn, (!!!!) ask them and see? so please guy's leave the Oxfam T-Shorts and baggy sawn-off pants at home and make some effort, and don't forget to shower first…

Also remember on a first visit or meeting, not to touch a girl's head [or anyone's] for the first time, or point with your foot to something, let alone someone, it's considered extremely rude in this part of the world… A tuktuk driver won't say anything, but he'll be fuming at you resting your feet near his head when he's driving, revealing the souls of your dirty feet to him, a most common and 'thoughtless insult' by foreigners.

And NO outward displays of affection like kissing, not even accepted in a gogo bar… Girls seen snogging customers in the bar or just outside will be viewed with disdain by her colleagues or the mamasan and be considered low-low class. It might be okay in Europe's cities but not here, no way. Even holding hands was only more widely accepted in the last 2 decades or so, but is universally accepted now.

Thai's put a lot on 'dress' politeness and simple daily etiquette, which seems totally lost on scruffy and loutish foreigners that come by the plane load, and often stay, thinking they are something special. It must without doubt cause a sense of 'loathing' amid some Thai circles who must serve and pander to the needs of these foreign latter day 'conquerors' with money, but respect them? No, not at any price…

A fellow British friend of mine returned from a long stay in Pattaya a few years ago, he was working there for a brief period, and yes, did the bar scene thing with an expat friend who owned a bar there long-term, another Brit. He commented on how Thais treat foreigners with disdain there and that should you be involved in an accident and injured, it would be like "just another farang" casualty to them and mean virtually nothing… I didn't believe him and thought he was exaggerating at first, but now in more recent years begin to believe there's 'something' after all in what he said.

Stickman's thoughts:

Poignant last paragraph.