Readers' Submissions

I’m Sorry, Do I Owe You Something?

  • Written by WindUpNet
  • May 15th, 2007
  • 11 min read


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Just a few notes on Thailand…I am from the UK and the culture here although not perfect I find to be fair, racially tolerant as any culture could be and reasonably caring. The welfare state in itself has created a more caring vibe in this country and whether you're a 'leftie' or not I think that is the truth. We all benefit from this as a nation. For example if somebody falls off their bike in the middle of the street you can guarantee some people will stop to find out whether that person is ok, they will do this because they actually care, not to 'save face' or look good as nobody knows anybody else on a busy street. No they won't go home at night wondering whether that person got a band aid for his / her minor scratch but all the same it seems to be in our nature and not contrived. Also because of the heavier taxes weighed on the rich we don't have a huge gap in poverty, of course there is a huge gap between the richest and poorest person for all you pedants out there but it is more of slow gradient downwards if you like. Anybody can make money here, despite a poor background. Yes it is harder but it can be done, if you were to get a job in McDonalds and worked hard YOU WILL be a manager within a few years. Correct or not? I like this society and despite its problems I feel in the west we live in a good way, shame the weather's sh*t here.. This didn't happen by accident however, the formation of trade unions and passionate people wanting to make a difference to the rights of the poor here all contributed and also the actions of our men during the World Wars. Nobody handed it to us.

Now why is it whilst in Thailand I am made to feel I owe them something? What exactly do I owe a nation that is on the other side of the world? I don't speak the same language, I don't follow their religion or any for that matter and I don't even look the same! Why is it I am called a 'cheap Charlie' when the Western nations gave the Thai government MILLIONS of pounds / dollars after the tsunami, for example, and half of it 'went missing'. Why is it an Isaan girl has it inbred into her culture to marry a farang and that is her sole purpose in life? What kind of culture is this? The more informed of us know that these girls are poor but have you ever seen anyone starving in Thailand? I haven't, in fact they seem to be eating all the time! Last time a bar girl told me her family needed money I told her 'sell your phone'. That was worth 10,000 baht alone. I know I cannot understand what is like to be born into poverty and I do accept this and despite my words sounding harsh – maybe that is what's needed here.

Another thing – what kind of despicable culture would send their own daughters out into prostitution to buy consumer goods and motorbikes? For those who 'buy' the sob stories and falsehoods about missing buffalo etc have a look at the internet and you'll see reports of the reasons why these girls prostitute themselves. It is certainly not all about poverty! I don't have a daughter but if I did I would rather stick a gun in my throat than send her out to sell her body – unless of course I was starving and even then I am not sure. Their parents turn a blind eye and nobody speaks about it! If we don't talk about it we will pretend it doesn't happen? WHAT! This seems to be the recurring theme with Thai culture I have found time and time again. Asia really is money obsessed or so I have found, I think I could be lying half dead in the street and someone would want 20 baht to give me the kiss of life! Imagine that after some of the foods the Thais eat at times..) Anyway back to the prostitution – the icing so to speak is the good old save face culture! Your daughter is having sex with foreigners for money – where's the face saving there!? 'They have no choice' is the usual answer. Yes I agree to a certain extent as Thai people are like sheep, they follow one another in this crazy 'we don't question anything that's just the way it is attitude'. The Isaan girls I have met are literally all the same, it is like they are programmed at birth. WHY DOES NOBODY THINK FOR THEMSELVES? Being brought up to believe you OWE your parents a huge debt for being born? Especially if you are female! What is that all about? But that's what they are led to believe and therefore do, without question.

Here's an idea – Instead of 'WAI-ING' start 'WHY-ING' Thai people!! We don't owe you a living, stop looking at us like we do. I come to your land and respect it, don't cause problems, spend my money on your overpriced (for the economy) beer, get ripped off every other day and that seems to not be enough!! Sort your own economy out. Start asking why all the Chinese Thais have all the money and you don't? Stop staying silent, start questioning. Overthrow the government if need be!! <They tried that already and it didn't seem to many any differenceStick> Do what it takes! The rich poor divide is reputed to be the worst in SE Asia in Thailand. The main theme of the current culture seems to do nothing to aid in changing this.

I have no axe to grind, I just like the truth, that's all. I like the Thais, I really do, but I think the poorer ones just accept that they are poor and that's that. It is heartbreaking. The way they 'wai' the boss when he comes in the workplace makes me feel sick. Everyone is equal in my eyes, the bosses I met in bars were generally money hungry non smiling nasty Chinese Thais, they don't get my respect, only my beer money but I can't help that, that's a problem with my culture. I am all for respecting my elders and I think this is natural to a decent westerner – just shown in different ways.

The problem is that the people in power are the people with money, and people with money to do not want to lose any of it. They don't give a toss about a fairer deal for the less affluent, just themselves, therefore it creates a whole culture of 'not caring' which brings me back to the first paragraph. This, because of the way everybody looks up to money and power has to trickle down. The people in power have created this culture I believe, to take it one step further MEN have created it. The 'save face' farce seems to work very very nicely for the guys at the top….We do what we want, nobody gets angry and the poor stay dumbed down.. Seems to be a nice man made way of keeping the peace! (rather like a religion)

The 'save face' thing is actually a good idea on paper…but then so is communism. Let's look at it as I understand it – Nobody gets angry, everybody puts the best foot forward, everyone is smiling…sounds great! But we are human, isn't anger natural? We are animals at the end of this day, I am not suggesting getting angry all the time but hiding behind this culture and then ripping people off is quite frankly despicable!! Like all systems people abuse them and that for me is the worst abuse. You rip me off as you know I am not allowed to get angry so I cannot do anything about it??! EH! (I know if anyone who has got this far on my boring ramblings and has visited Thailand their heads will now be nodding uncontrollably in agreement..) I mean I am not one of these arrogant people who thinks western culture is the best, but on reflection after living in the Far East and thinking about it, it does seem to be much fairer and honest. On the surface the Far East always looked quite graceful but look more closely and you can see that snideness and dishonesty appears to be very much commonplace coupled with the secondary status of women..

I was thinking the other day the reasons I like Thailand and hypocritically all the things I have mentioned barring the 'non caring' one seem to be the reasons why it is good fun. I have never been a sex tourist, ever, but I do like to have a laugh in the bars! And this culture I have so far slated seems to allow freedom to do what I want without question..but hang on, when has anyone ever questioned you in the West? Really? They haven't and the people are more genuine as well. If I am in Prague and I ask someone how the long the bus will take and they tell me 4 hours, I know that it will take 4 hours. In Thailand people will tell you anything.

'They are so friendly' gets said about the Thais a lot.. I have met the same amount of friendly Thais as in any other country if not less. The taxi drivers mostly seem to be the best in Thailand but even then the friendly one seems to be the one who rips me off later in the journey… The girls are friendly as they want money and are obsessed with marrying a westerner… The next thing that will get said is – go to the country to meet the real Thais! They are friendly as they can't speak any English yet and also if you end up in Isaan by definition you will be with a girl in most cases therefore fulfilling the family dream!!

Ok I have gone too far with that last one due to the letters I have read on this site. I have to be honest about my experience there. I went to Isaan with the girl I was with and it was actually the complete reverse of most people's experiences with regards to getting ripped off by the family etc, it just didn't happen. Family were nice and showed a little interest in me now and again due to language barriers but certainly didn't seem to be looking at me as an ATM at all (the cynic in me says they are playing the long game) joke of course The girl for that matter was always honest with me and told me she wanted to have a English boyfriend-oh how special I felt. At least she was honest anyway, just tried to call her actually, her phone battery seems to have gone dead again, it's always doing that between 12 – 2 AM Bangkok time, strange that. After the ringer sometimes not working sometimes when I call you'd have thought she'd have bought a new one. Mind you after the 1,000,000 baht I sent her for the new tractor at the farm she probably didn't have much change..

I think we love Thailand because it is crazy and full of pretty girls, it's sunny and full of funny westerners who come to seek this. Take those elements away and no one would go anywhere near the place. They certainly wouldn't come to take advantage of the legendary save face culture! Just a thought..

To conclude, if we do owe you something, let it be the way we think in the west and question or the more honest people seem to be? There are many problems with western life by the way but this piece is not about that for anybody sat there thinking I am being unfair – I cannot really talk in depth on this site about them and believe me I have plenty of ammunition..! Back to the 'essay'…Conversation and debate is perfectly natural in my opinion and something to be embraced as is constructive criticism and admitting mistakes to progress as people. (Bangkok Barry's delightful piece 'Facing facts' deals with this very well)

I care about people and it is heartbreaking to see the bar girls who believe marrying a westerner is the only way out or someone working in a rice field all day for 70 baht, whilst in the same country there appears to be a huge upper class with so much money. This is not for me to change however, I am not Thai. I just wish there was more equality that's all.

There, said it. Your comments are welcome.

Stickman's thoughts:

So many of the problems go back to the education system which largely teaches kids to believe what they're told and doesn't promote critical thinking. I think many will agree with what you say.