Regards From The Balcony
Be warned, this is a very confusing essay. And disturbing as well. Better not read it if you are Thai national or a naive enthusiast of the land of smiles. Especially if you can not take a different opinion. This is the last warning. From now on you are
on your own.
A couple of days ago I got slapped by a Thai guy in the face. This is the incomprehensible story about how it happened. Please excuse that I will not be able to use the English or American standard of English for telling the tale, I am bound to only use Globish a simplified English, that most people around the globe understand, hopefully also the native English teachers who do their best to feed Thailand's inquiring youth.
I live in Bangkok, for two years now, since I was 32. My background, if it is for anybody's needs: I worked in the agricultural sector in the Middle East, in the tourist industry in Africa, as a trade merchant in Central America and before doing time in Bangkok I was working for an illustrious industrialist whose name has nothing to do with this publication. In Bangkok I "work" as a part time consultant for two international companies who belong to my former employer, and most of the time I manage to work online from my apartment, if necessary I would fly to Europe to attend meetings and events. So, to cut the crap: There is no logical reason for me to be here.
I once chose Bangkok as my base because I thought it is a funny and crazy place to live. The motive why I came here were not the prostitutes and I am not part of the strip club community. I have many other faults, but for some reason I just don't like to watch stocky creatures in oversized cowboy boots who look like evolution's missing link, barely able to hold on to their silver poles. Surely I am not a saint either, I love girls but not whores (or chimps it takes far too much training to teach them how to use the toilet). I think it was Confucius or some other Chinaman who said that all confusion in the world starts when we give things a misleading name. Bargirl simply sounds too deceiving for my ears. When I think of a bargirl I think of some girl working behind the counter selling beers, not her body.
The reason why I came to stay in Thailand was to get away from the real life for a while. I was burned out from my previous job and I needed to have a break from the information overkill of the west, to get away from the over-analyzing and humourlessness of my home country. Surely, I could have also gone to the Nubian desert, but in the Sudan (yes, I have been there) it's even harder to stay legally in the country than in Thailand. I lived several years in fundamental Moslem places to know, that you can get girls easily there too, even they whistle after you (covered in the veil which can also be very useful when they enter your house) or even give you their phone numbers in front of everybody (with their face covered of course). What I want to say: Girls or women (or boys if that is your taste) you can get everywhere in the world very easily if you are funny, smart, handsome or rich (last one is cheating a bit). Okay, if you want katoeys you need to come here, right. But I heard there are some in Venezuela too. Go learn Spanish then. Even you don't find your preferred species over there in the quantity as in Thailand, you have at least learned an international language. If you come here and you learn Thai, I am sure your CV will look so much better with that qualification.
Here in Thailand, it does not matter what you are, rude or smelly, you just have to be a foreigner. As said before on this website, all foreigners here in Thailand more or less fish from the same pool of (even non professional) girls, it does matter much if you are 75, 50 or 25. So you actually would better living somewhere else where your handsome, funny or smart assets pay off. Because if you are smart in Thailand, the girls will simply not be able to follow your conversation, even if you speak Thai to them. If you are funny, they won't understand your jokes, unless you use the cheapest and most basic slapstick. If you are handsome, it won't help you either, then their beauty ideal is the expressionless face of a 15 year old boy. Here you can have a fascinating face like Steve McQueen and the Thai girls will tell you that you only look old. How would you say that in English? I think: To throw pearls before swine. So don't come to Thailand for girls. Give it another 1,300 tries in your home country, go on dating websites, start talking to strangers on the street and in the supermarkets, be so persistent that the girls slap you, do any desperate (legal) thing – but do not come to Thailand to find a woman.
Only if you are rich and stupid, please come and I can show you the places to get them. I will rent a tuktuk for you and I can take you directly to their rooms, where they reside with a plastic chair, one rusty ventilator and if you're lucky sometimes even a bed instead of a mattress on the floor.
Ah, the real reason why I like to live in Thailand is this: I can choose what I wanna see or do. You don't understand? Well, I make it simple. Bangkok is a blank city, Thais are blank people. Lets say shallow, if you prefer. This country has no history, only myths and legends. The history they have is created by their National Identity Board. Nothing is serious here. Everything is a joke. When I went to Khao Lak right after the Tsunami to search for my missing (now dead) friends, everybody laughed at me. Tsunami, haha, Khao Lak, how funny hohoho. Your friends are dead haha. I am not sure, but I guess a Thai would not find it funny when I would laugh at him when they tell me that he just lost his mother or sister. They often do things to others, especially foreigners, which would totally freak them out if you did it to them. They have no understanding for Matthew 7:12: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. So here I always remember Frank Sinatra's song lines from On the road to Mandalay (Lyrics are stolen from the poem Mandalay by Rudyard Kipling)
Ship me somewhere east of Suez
Where the best is like the worst
And there ain't no Ten Commandments
And a man can raise a thirst
Here they have different moral standards. Immanuel Kant once wrote: Act that your principle of action might safely be made a law for the whole world. The Thais would not have a clue what you are talking about, because and yes now a very important conclusion:
Thais never had an enlightenment, like we European and Americans had in the 18th century. They still live in the dark ages. That is why their spirits haunt them. Voltaire and Rousseau never made it here. Only Somerset Maugham came and he only had tea at the Oriental. The torch of wisdom and free thinking has not yet been brought to Thailand. Have you ever heard that a Thai national won the Nobel prize? I checked on the Nobel website. I did not find one. Look it up again, maybe you will have better luck. But of course, hosting a Miss Universe competition is almost as prestigious. But wouldn't we all agree that the whole world is expecting Mr. T from Thailand to win the peace prize next year for resolving the violence in the south in a peaceful Buddhist way?
But that is what initially attracted me: The reasons why I came and liked Thailand (blank country, shallow people, no past, no future, living in the here and now and forget about the rest of the world) are the reasons why I dislike it now, at least sometimes. Does this make sense? Maybe some people came for the sex, but then later drowned in their excesses and they hated Thailand for that. But remember: Thailand has never changed. It always stayed the same. Go hate yourself for living here. But then, haven't you learned a lot about yourself?
Of course I got offered a prostitute first, when I arrived in the Phuket town hotel, two days after the Tsunami. Life must go on they say. Or better: The show must go on. Many people probably compare Thailand with Las Vegas or Disneyland. I have never been to Las Vegas or Disneyland but I have seen people who work at fun fairs in Europe. These people look exactly like some expats (what a terrible word) who live in the Sukhumvit area. In English you would probably call it jaded. It is quite a task to not become jaded in Bangkok. But then: You can choose everything and you will see immediate results. Make Thailand your construction kit. Maybe that is the fascination about this place. It is a theme park, a video game, Legoland. And unlike in Central Europe, anything can happen to you very quick. Good and bad. Maybe I like Bangkok because it is a centrifuge. I feel I am more creative, I feel I am more curious about the rest of the world, I am more philosophical than in any other place I have been before, maybe because the people around me are so skin deep. In short: Thailand will bring the best or the worst out in you. In most cases it will be the worst, but then again we have to think again what kind of foreigners this country attracts.
My opinion about girls in Thailand: Have a good time with them yes (please visit the Dusit zoo, not the nana zoo i.e. stay away from prostitutes), but don't get also involved in a serious relationship. It is like Mr. Stickman said: Thailand can be a nice place for a holiday, but to live in this country it takes a bit more nerves. At least I think he said something like that. Same with the girls. I mean if you can not manage to understand a girl of your own culture, how the heck will you want to be able to understand a Thai girl, in preferably half your age? Also, we have to state: Even the girl is educated in Thailand, i.e. Chula, whatever etc. does not mean that the girl has a comparable education with girl from a 1st world country (but also Cuba, Russia, etc. you know what I mean). The education system in the country is Thailand's biggest joke. They swing hilarious titles, but can't count to three (they would need a calculator and have problems to switch it on). I always crack down laughing when a girl tells me she is an administration officer. An officer? She is a simple secretary, for crying out loud. And she probably does not even know how to type. Okay, she has other qualities. White skin, flamboyant dress etc. When I went back to Europe I noticed the difference when I watched a TV station for children. In the West, children are motivated to ask questions. In Thailand they are told to shut up and accept, never question anything.
Therefore: You may have a girl which is clever for a Thai, but do you think she will be considered educated in other places? But then: Do the girls need to be intellectual heavyweights? Maybe a girlfriend should be your best friend. It would help that she understands you and you can communicate in Globish. Therefore she needs a bit of an education. It would be also nice, if she was financially independent. That can be a bit tricky. It only needs a black sheep in her family and she will turn to you to support her. Phone bills need to be paid and they have many phones in her family. I wonder sometimes why they hesitate to get a job and take destiny in their own hands. But then, I am rich and I don't know what I would do if I had no money. Maybe also prostitute myself or go around robbing banks. Who knows. Anyway, she will ask you for not much money, but enough to make you wonder if she is with you because of the money you gave her or because of your own self. That is why I advise: Don't get too serious involved with a Thai girl. If she comes from a decent family (which ironically most of them would claim and very few are and most of them who are – you will not meet anyway, even these days) and she is educated, at least, you can give it a try. But don't be shocked, when things turn out differently than expected. You may think you know the person, but beware, when she walks out your door, you don't know her anymore. She will become somebody else. Has she got any hobbies? Because most Thai girls have no hobbies at all. If they are normal nice girls, they watch TV and go shopping. If they are bored with both, they will feel alone and if you're not available and if they feel lonely they will re-animate their ex-boyfriends or if they adventurous they meet someone new.
I am always amazed to see that many girls here have no real friends. The have classmates or other girls they know from somewhere formal. But I doubt that you can compare it to our ideal of friendship. It is much more shallow. The friends they know are in most cases not friends they consciously chose to be with. I am not sure if I am right on this one. But let me explain what I mean. I can meet any person anywhere, and when I find him or her interesting, we can become best friends. I don't mind if he or she is rich or poor or whatever. Here it is not like that. They need to be properly introduced to each other and them being together needs to make sense for themselves. They can not tell their family: This is Amy and I met her at the video shop or the 7/11. Also I found when I introduce female friends (not giks) I know to each other it mostly ends up in disaster. They may pretend they like each other when they are together but as soon as you have them on their own, the backstabbing towards the other girl starts. One other thing: If the girl lies to her own parents that she is with a classmate while she is with you, you can take it for granted that she will lie to you also when she is with another guy. So don't hang your heart on something volatile and easy come easy go like a Thai girl. Maybe, if this is the kick you need to make your own life more exciting, you have my blessing (if my blessing would be worth something), but don't complain later.
But do I want to lecture about Thai girls? Not really. I wanted to tell you how I got smacked in the face by a Thai.
One company I work for wanted me to make a brochure for them. I wrote it together with my English teacher friend (it's in much better shape than this article which I wrote for your amusement absolutely alone). So I went to a print shop I have been to before, where I knew a guy who was very friendly and professional. I told him that he would need to desktop the file, but not print it, since the company I work for wanted to print it in their own print shop. He could not understand that and insisted on printing it. I told him, I would be very generous if he could do it and I was willing to pay him 500 baht per hour (my company gave me a budget of 60,000 baht for the design and of course my texting) for the design of the brochure, so come on, I did not need to mess around with cutting people's salary. It was Emerson who said:
All sensible people are selfish, and nature is tugging at every contract to make the terms of it fair. If you are proposing only your own, the other party must deal a little hardly by you. If you deal generously, the other, though selfish and unjust, will make an exception in your favour, and deal truly with you. When I asked an iron-master about the slag and cinder in railroad iron, — "O," he said, "there's always good iron to be had: if there's cinder in the iron, 'tis because there was cinder in the pay.
The guy in the print shop still refused to do it, but he introduced me to a Tomboy who was working there and was willing to design it for the total amount of 1000 baht , which I thought is too less and I added 500 baht more. I also said, that I wanted a nice job, ready to print. What I should have taken into account was that Emerson never made it into the Kingdom of Siam. Even tough the American Renaissance is close with Buddhism. But then: Is Thailand really a Buddhist country? Or maybe more a bright orange theme park inspired by Buddhism where the lights go out at 10 PM and all the performers go home to watch TV? This would be worth an article. Maybe someone else wants to write it. I only spent two months in a monastery in the north and I came out with the SWAT (So what?) syndrome. Maybe you should try harder, I said to myself P.S. That is the official magical advice formula for foreigners from your local hosts if you get frustrated in Thailand. Maybe I should try harder.
What I got from the Tomboy desktoper was not a total disaster, but simply useless, I could not print it out and my European company could not print it either. The design was nice, it had some mistakes (excusable), but it was not terrible. Because I lost faith in the technical abilities of the Tomboy who did it, I went back to the print shop and asked the guy I knew before, to convert the document into a printable file. Again, I said, I will give them money for it. I did not expect them to work for free, even though they had not met my expectations. He introduced me to another girl who was even more useless. She said to come back in one hour. After one hour, they had a print, but I could see from far, that they botched. Pages were overlapping etc. Useless again. The girl complained that the Tomboy used a difficult program, namely the Adobe Illustrator and said she wanted to convert the file into something else. I should come back tomorrow. I said, I could not do that. For people whose job is desktop publishing, I think they should know these programs. I can also do artwork myself in Microsoft Publisher. I turned to these people because I thought they were experts. But then, I was introduced to another girl. She was from the Isaan and ban nok mak mak (which is not a bad thing by itself). But she was very stubborn, ignorant to my helping comments and always called me Mister which I dislike totally. To be called Farang does not freak me out as much. Even I think educated Thais should call us Khon thang chad, because Farang has this negative meaning nowadays. But of course, this is wishful thinking. I never had that feeling when I was working in Kenya. People called me Msungu wherever I went, and I was happy to be called that. It never entered my mind to even find out where the word came from. I never heard people use it as a swear word against me. Here, you will hear often Farang kinok or old Farang, go home. Yes, this is the country of the Thais (which ironically means the Free), and every day you will be reminded in some little way, that you are just tolerated, but not accepted. Farang was initially a neutral word and it actually means westerner and the word has an Persian/Arab/Greek history (and I read that the Greeks/Persians/Arabs named it after die Franken (which translates also the Free and gave the original name for France), a German tribe which would make sense), but I think the word Farang is worn out very much in Thailand. But then, who wants to be political correct in Thailand, a country which kicks human rights with its feet? (Yes feet, the lowest part of the body, my proud Thai friends).
Back to my story: After playing around with it for another 30 minutes without any positive result, she told me to go home and come back in two hours. I said to her, well I needed the document and I wanted it to be ready. Then I carried on and said that she was now the 4th person to deal with my brochure. Suddenly the (nice) guy got up and smacked me in the face. I firstly thought that he was kidding. Then I looked at him again and I could see that he was shaking, also there was a paper knife in his hand. He uttered: I told you I can not do it. I told you I can not do it.
Well, I did not get angry. What for? I have better things to do in my life than to quarrel with a Thai guy. I just got up and said to him: Say sorry. That is it. I could see he was still shaking and he knew he had done something stupid. He said sorry of course. I guess he must have been high on amphetamine, because he was always very nervous on previous occasions. Maybe he was sober and wanted to impress the girls. Who knows how a Thai brain works. I don't and I am not really keen to figure it out. So I took my USB memory card and left the shop. Later that day I called the Tomboy (who I had given the money toin advance) and told her what happened and that I wanted my money back. Within one hour I got it all back and the case was closed for me. I had an apology and my money was not wasted. I even took something out of it: One more crazy story for the Stickman site. (Please Mr. Stickman, could you change the black background? It is a bit depressing na.)
Why did this guy hit me? As I said, one can only speculate. Loss of face, that they could not get it right (Thais behave like spoilt children and don't really like to be corrected, do they), drugs, bad mood, annoyed with foreigners, communication problems. Let's look into the last two reasons mentioned.
Annoyed with foreigners: Yes, Thais get annoyed easily with foreigners. Every conflict you have in this country will boil down to: You are the outsider and they are the Thais, the masters of their kingdom. You are guilty, because you disturb their elaborate Hobbit system, you don't conform. I sometimes have (very unfortunately) to deal in business matters with Thais and I often find that they are just interested in one deal, where they get a decent profit out of the foreigner and give him a sloppy service or mediocre merchandise. It is hard to find people here who are interested in a good, continuous business relationship. I met some people, yes, very nice Thai people to do business with, but unfortunately you have to be a bit more careful than at home. Because they think foreigners are easier prey than Thais (of course they cheat Thais too, what do you think) but the foreigners come and go and they see that the foreigners always come back, that is why many Thais think they can get away with cheating. We are the fools who accept it. And believe me, many western fools walk around in Thailand. It's as if they have no other place to go.
Communication problems: Yes, there are communication problems between Thais and Non-Thais i.e. the rest of the world. I tried to learn Thai, I had a teacher coming to my apartment for private lessons three times a week for two hours. I did something similar in Kenya and I could speak basic Swahili within three months. In Thailand I never came close. Why? My main reason to give up on it was, that when I learned Swahili in Kenya I could immediately go to the street and throw my new learned words at the people. And they responded, often corrected me, but I was very happy that they understood me and I was proud, that I could speak their language. In Thailand, well you learn a new word and you try it on somebody, you get a blank look on the person's face. The Thais will let you repeat it ten times until you get the right tone by accident and then maybe, just maybe, catch it. If the Thais are not more energetic about foreigners learning their language, I am not willing to learn Thai better. Who do I want to speak Thai to anyway? My doorman? I bring him Red Bull sometimes to stay awake. I think I help him better this way. This isolated country needs to open up, not you. Especially if it wants to be a major tourist destination. You will not do good if you keep spoiling the spoilt child, the oh what so special case Thailand. The Thais have to swallow the bitter pill, that every country is unique – and not just their beloved Thailand. The Thais have some inglorious history to digest, some homework to do. I always laugh out loud when a foreigner pays a dowry! Thais always want the best of both worlds: An open minded boyfriend from the west who treats them fair and basically lets them do what ever they want AND preserve the traditional Thai culture, if it is to their financial benefit. I would ask these girls: Why don't you find a Thai guy? To the western guy I would say, better put that money into your bank account, you might need it later when you have to pay her alimony. She will get used to the comfortable laws in your country very quickly. Trust me!
Learn Thai as a hobby, if you are English or American and you only speak one language and if you have nothing better to do with your time. For me (and many other European), I speak French, Spanish, German and Globish i.e. a quite primitive English as
you can read, I am not sure whether I would be totally obliged to learn Thai. Before I consider taking another Thai class I would ask the Thais to make a little more effort towards the foreigners who are luxuriously willing to learn their microcosmic
language. But of course, this will not happen. Thailand will stay Thailand forever. Stubborn like its national animal, the water buffalo.
A couple of days later, my company told me that they would not print the brochure themselves and asked me to print it in Thailand and send it over. I kindly refused.
This captures life in Thailand beautifully. I can see some people getting upset by this submission, but frankly, I loved it!