“Experiences from ‘The Flow’ (7) – Living Well? Farangs and Finance: The Myth”
“To us Farangs (Thai: foreigners), living in Thailand can be financially challenging. But according to most of the locals, ALL FARANGS MUST BE RICH!”
“Prosperity: The eternal flow of all that’s good in life…”
By Carl “J.C.” Pantejo, Copyright January 2008
(Author “My Friend Yu – The Prosperity Mentor,” Copyright August 2007. Pantejo – Y.N. Vurce Publishing.)
*Below is the seventh episode in a series of real life events experienced by the author. The only deviations from the truth may be the names of people and places. These stories are also incorporated in “My Friend Yu – the Prosperity Mentor: Book II,” Pantejo – Y.N. Vurce Publishing. Release Date: 2008.
– The Myth of Farang Finances –
There is an unwritten rule about the cost of anything in Thailand: There is a Thai price and a Farang price. Since Thai people believe that “all Farangs are rich,” the Farang price of everything is much higher (sometimes triple!).
Of course, this is a myth.
But why do Thai people believe all Farangs are rich (including the “poor” Farang English teachers)? Many reasons. But all of them can be placed into three broad areas: Tourism, Currency, and Standard of Living.
– The Tourist Syndrome –
Like most of Asia, Thailand attracts tourists from around the world.
Prospective vacationers plan and save all year for their holidays in the tropics. The warm, sunny weather; lush, green landscapes; exotic cultures, and beautiful, friendly people are but a few of the many reasons why millions of tourists flock to Thailand.
While on vacation, most of the tourists, out of ignorance OR intention, willingly spend what the local Thai people consider “small fortunes.”
Wallets and pocketbooks are opened more freely when on holiday.
Consequently, especially in the big, major cities and tourist hotspots of Thailand, most Thai people believe that Farangs are rich because all they see are free-spending tourists.
What the Thai people don’t realize is that the majority of the “rich” Farangs work like dogs all year ‘round in order to spend a lot of money during their short visits in their country; having a great time playing out their individual, celebrity fantasies.
– “A Farang in Thai’s Clothing” (The Double-Edged Sword) –
Tourists and ex-pats alike enjoy the overshadowing strength of their home currency against the Thai baht. For example, one USD = 32 Thai Baht. This situation makes things seem ridiculously cheap.
Food, accommodations, and all vices known to man are easily obtained for obscenely low prices. And, of course, the longer a Farang stays in Thailand, the more he/she learns how to buy things that are closer to the local Thai price.
Case in point: I’ve been in Thailand for about two years now. I take advantage of my Asian appearance as much as possible by keeping my mouth shut and letting my Thai friends do all the haggling.
All vendors assume that I am a local Thai (until I begin speaking). I don’t say a word until the transactions are complete. This “mum’s the word,” habit of silence normally saves me between 30-50% at all the local markets, restaurants, pubs, hotels, tourists attractions etc.
It’s frustrating to my non-Asian, Farang friends (especially the ones who have been in Thailand longer than me AND speak fluent Thai) whenever we’re out together. Everyone, from the hotel receptionist to the taxi driver, speaks to me in Thai and assumes that I will translate what they say for them.
And of course, prices for me are automatically lower.
When we’re out bar hopping or singing karaoke, the women we meet see me as a rare catch, indeed; a “double bonus” – not only am I a “rich” Farang, my Thai appearance is easily presentable to friends and family; something supremely important in Thailand.
Don’t get me wrong.
Yes, there are many advantages to being a Farang AND looking Thai; but there are disadvantages too. It’s a double-edged sword cutting both ways. For example, I’m an English teacher. English teachers in Thailand are supposed to look like Farangs (i.e., white skin, tall, brown or blond hair, light colored eyes, etc.).
Many times during my stay in Thailand I’ve been turned down for a job because I “look too Thai.”
Once I applied for a teaching position at an International School where a lot of my Farang friends worked. They had bachelor degrees. I have a master’s degree and was enthusiastically welcomed by the Hiring Director.
But then a co-owner of the school saw me and instantly told the Hiring Director to offer me a position WITH HALF THE NORMAL FARANG SALARY! In other words, even though I had more education, qualifications, and experience than my co-Farang friends, the co-owner thought I “looked too Thai” to garner the normal Farang pay.
I don’t blame the co-owner. You see, the parents of English students pay a premium for English classes and want “Real Farangs” teaching the class!
If the parents don’t like any teacher, only one of two things can happen: 1) The teacher is excused (which is the norm) or 2) The parent takes the student elsewhere for English classes taught by “Real Farang” teachers (which doesn’t happen often).
– Culture Shock and Living Comfortably: Farang Style –
Let’s face it, visiting a place for a vacation versus living in that place are two very different things.
In spite of having an Asian heritage and passing for a local in any Asian country, I (like all ex-pats) still suffered a severe culture shock when I decided to live in Asia.
Anyone who has ever lived in Asia can empathize.
Things are rarely on time. Asians, with a seemingly perverse delight, are notorious for keeping Farangs waiting; or worse, not showing up at all. No advance notice of cancellation. No remorse if you should happen to bump into them afterwards. <This is partly a control thing, trying to maintain the 'upper hand' – Stick>
There is a saying amongst us Farangs in Thailand, “If you and an Asian agree in the morning to meet at 4:00 PM, the next question should be: What week?”
And what Westerners consider as “basic and normal” is considered “luxurious” by most Asians.
Clean, continuous water is not a guarantee. I’ve lived in many places in Asia where the water spouts go dry for hours everyday. The smart thing to do is to keep a large trash bin full of water at all times in the bathroom. That way, even if the running water runs out, one can flush the toilet (a Western, seated-style toilet or an Asian, squatting style porcelain “foot bowl”) and at least take a bath.
Uninterrupted, non-spiking electricity is rare. “Brown Outs” happen frequently. Every household is equipped with candles and flashlights for such occasions.
The locals just take it in stride and entertain themselves with the old art of conversation; or, if one is lucky, the even older (and more fun) art of sex. But most Farangs are “forced” to “relax” and go with the flow – even if hours of computer work have just vaporized into ether!
When brownouts occur, people scramble to turn all appliances off (in preparation for the power surges that occur when the power is finally restored). Televisions, computers, and stereos routinely become irreparably damaged from such surges.
These “little annoyances” tend to accumulate.
Finding real napkins vice toilet paper at restaurants becomes a treat. Some semblance of sanitary conditions in restaurants and other public places (meaning: food minus the flies or the smell of sewage – “Ahhh…the mist of piss and the aroma of dog excrement”) makes one feel like a VIP!
Good roads, roads that don’t threaten to fling you off your motorcycle with every pothole, makes the “driving war” a little more tolerable.
Honest (or at least semi-honest) businessmen and policemen would also be nice now and then – and the list goes on and on…
All the above reasons steer most Farangs towards obtaining a standard of living they consider “normal” by Western standards; but is nonetheless, a standard that appears quite lavish to the local Thai people.
Naturally gravitating to living areas that more closely match their usual standard of living; Farangs look for cleanliness, convenience, and comfort. This translates into apartments, condominiums, and townhouses that can cost triple the normal Thai person’s monthly salary.
Luckily, since qualified Farangs are in short supply, Farang salaries in Thailand tend to be just enough to support a somewhat “tolerable” standard of living for a Farang; a living standard that seems totally extravagant by Thai standards.
Not accustomed to (or unwilling to acclimate to) the heat, Farangs seek out places that have air-conditioning. Most locals cannot (or will not) “waste” their money on expensive aircon units and their accompanying high electricity bills; perfectly satisfied with one or two electric fans.
Farangs routinely enjoy eating at restaurants, especially restaurants that are clean and offer a variety of Thai and foreign cuisines. Local Thai’s either cook at home or eat at one of the many street food stands; thinking that eating at a restaurant is another extravagance reserved only for special occasions.
As soon as a Farang can afford it, he/she buys a car (or at least a motorcycle); whereas the bulk of Thai people use cheap, public transportation (bus, train, subway, or motorbike taxis). Traveling by taxi is considered expensive and used mostly by Farangs and richer Thais.
All of this (free-spending tourists, currency power, and luxurious living) reinforces the Thai myth that ALL FARANGS MUST BE RICH!
…Continued in “Experiences from ‘The Flow’ (7) – Living Well? Farangs and Finance: The Reality, Stupidity, and Hard Knocks.”
“Until next time, find ‘The Flow’ and jump in!”
Your Friend in this Intrepid Journey called Life,
Carl “J.C.” Pantejo
relationships, fidelity, infidelity, finances, white skin, ex-pats, Falang, Asian, inconveniences, wasteful.
Note: If you want to read more about overcoming heartbreak, unconditional love, exorcising past personal demons, and the Illusive Secret of Happiness, please read the following articles:
“Experiences from ‘The Flow’: From Heartbreak to Happiness”
“Experiences from ‘The Flow’ (2): Coincidence or Synchronicity: FROM RELAPSE TO MIRACLES…”
“Experiences from ‘The Flow’ (3): LOST AND FOUND – Kindred Spirits and Mistakes made in Haste.”
“Experiences from ‘The Flow’ (4): LOST AND FOUND – Meant to Be?”
“Experiences from ‘The Flow’ (5): “The Stray”
“Experiences from ‘The Flow’ (6): “New Beginnings, Old Endings”
“How Dare She! Out of Desperation I Learned How to Forgive”
“Remember Who You Are!”
“Need to Heal Your Broken Heart? Read on. Overcome Heartbreak and Learn the Illusive Secret of Happiness.”
(By Carl “J.C.” Pantejo and published internet-wide, keyword: [title of article] or “Carl Pantejo”)
About the Author:
He is a retired U.S. Military veteran. Believing that school was too boring, he dropped out of High School early; only to earn an A.A., B.S., and MBA in less than 4 years much later in life – while working full-time as a Navy/Marine Corps Medic. In spite of a fear of heights and deep water, he free-fall parachuted out of airplanes and performed diving ops in very deep, open ocean water. He went to Thailand 1 year ago for a week’s vacation, fell into a teaching job, and has never left!
Carl “J.C.” Pantejo
Founder, Y.N. Vurce Publishing
He is a retired U.S. Military veteran. Believing that school was too boring, he dropped out of High School early; only to earn an A.A., B.S., and MBA in less than 4 years much later in life – while working full-time as a Navy/Marine Corps Medic. In spite of a fear of heights and deep water, he free-fall parachuted out of airplanes and performed diving ops in very deep, open ocean water.
We're all rich. You have to laugh!