The Fat Farang
By NSUUSA – The Not So Ugly American
I know, I know we are guests in another country. We are supposed to be sensitive to the culture we find ourselves in. But you know what, when I was growing up my mama always made sure that I went out of my way to make guests feel welcome in our house. I was raised that as the host I was to go out of my way to make our guests feel at home and that the guests pretty much came first – take care of the guests and then take care of yourself.
I know, I know but weren’t guests in our home usually invited? Well, yes most of the time. But do you know what? Even when we had uninvited guests; even when we had guest that dropped in with no warning and overstayed their welcome – Mama still insisted that I treat them the same way I was to treat invited guests. They were still the guest, and I was still the host.
Now if one of our guests would have ever stolen food out of our cabinets or taken money out of mama's purse, I am sure we would have been allowed to treat them a bit different. But do you know what? I am still pretty sure that daddy would have treated them with a certain level of respect when asking them to leave and he would have made it clear to them why he was asking them to leave.
Ok, Ok I can hear you asking. What in the hell does this have to do with Thailand. Well how many times as a resident or visitor to Thailand have you heard – “remember you are a guest in their country; you should be respectful of their customs and traditions”. Now I am not in total disagreement with that statement. But my point of view is that respect is a two way street. And that as I pointed out above, as a guest shouldn’t we be given a certain amount of courtesy as well?
Also aren’t most of us invited guests? I mean doesn’t Thailand spend millions of baht every year promoting tourism? After the tsunami didn’t Thailand go out of their way to invite as many farang as possible to come and visit?
Doesn’t the government of Thailand expend a great deal of effort to get international companies to open offices and factories in Thailand? So basically haven’t those farangs who work for those international companies been invited to come to Thailand – by the government of Thailand no less?
I mean doesn’t a rather large part of the Thai economy depend upon the resident farang and the tourist farang? So wouldn’t you think that some effort would be placed on making these guests feel a little more welcome? Don’t you think that while it should certainly be expected of us to show respect for Thai culture, that it is equally as reasonable to expect a Thai to show a certain level of respect for our culture?
Fat Farang (FF) goes into a restaurant on Sukhumvit and orders his food. Older Thai Waitress (OTW) brings him his food and while sitting the dishes on the table, smiles andlooks directly at FF and says “You very fat”, and still smiling, finishes sitting the dishes and walks away.
OTW has worked at the same restaurant since she finished her basic schooling. She has never been able to save much money and never really been able to better her position in society. Day in and day out she sees one “rich” farang after another flow thru the restaurant spending more money on meals than she makes all week. Thru her work and continued contact with farangs she is well aware that calling a farang fat directly to their face is offensive in “Farangland”. When she calls FF fat she does mean to offend him.
When FF gets mad about the comment, OTW says she did not mean to upset him. OTW pulls out “Thai culture” as her golden shield. She says that if she was attempting to upset the FF she would not have been smiling when she said it to him. She says the FF must not know much about Thai culture as Thai people never say things to make people lose face. All the while knowing full well that she did mean to offend the FF.
After FF leaves OTW and the rest of the staff have a good laugh at FF and make many a joke about how fat he is and how stupid he is – typical fat farang.
OTW has worked at the same restaurant since she has been old enough to work – it is the family business. The restaurant has been in the family for several generations and money from the business has sent many of the family to university. The prime location on Sukhumvit has meant many farang customers with money to spend. Even though she has daily contact with farangs she really knows little about farang culture. After all she only takes their order and delivers the food to the table – how much could she really be expected to know about farangs and farang culture?
When FF gets mad about the comment, OTW say she did not mean to upset him. She explains that she was just making a comment and if she was attempting to upset the FF she would not have been smiling when she said it to him. She says that FF must not know much about Thai culture as Thai people never say things to make people lose face, especially not directly to their face. All the while being very confused as to why the FF is so upset and making a mental note to never tell another farang customer that they are fat. She never wants to go thru this again.
After FF leaves, OTW is still very confused. She does not understand why FF could possibly think she would attempt to cause him to lose face by making an offensive comment to him. I mean after all, she was smiling wasn’t she?
The real question to ponder is what Universe do you live in – 1, 2, maybe 3?
Respect is indeed a two way street.