Readers' Submissions

Foreign Nationalities in LOS

  • Written by Mac BKK
  • January 12th, 2009
  • 23 min read


I wrote a submission quite a while back here on Stickman about different types of foreigners in LOS: I stated that if I received feedback that encouraged me to do so then I would put together a similar submission but based on foreign nationalities and not the different types of foreigners. I did receive a good deal of feedback and was encouraged to send in this other submission by several people. I am a man of my word so here it is, it only took a year. (No, I didn’t labour over this piece for a year but it took me a year to get to it.)

Anyway and without further ado here are the main nationalities of foreigners in Thailand and my thorough dissection of their respective characters.

Indians

First of all I’m not talking about native Americans here, but real Indians – from India. If you’ve ever been to Thailand you’ll know what I mean when I say there are a lot of Indians around.

From a tourist perspective the first thing you notice is that Indians run most tailor shops. And outside the tailor shops stands the Indian tailor touts who are likely to be the first Indians you encounter in Thailand. They are legion and they pester you every time you walk by and they never, ever, ever stop. This gives you an immediate dislike for Indians in Thailand.

Their favourite trick is to approach you with an invitation for a handshake and say something catchy like “hello my brother” and when, because of your western upbringing, you accept an invite for a handshake reflexively, you are trapped. He will now grip your hand firmly and put his other hand over it to keep you there and then start his sales pitch. You, who do not need a suit in the tropical heat, and who has enough suits at home already, and who wouldn’t wear his crappy suits if he paid you to, and really just wants to be on your way are not overly thrilled by this. You learn to never accept an offered handshake from an Indian tailor tout again no matter if this offends them and your dislike for them is forever cemented.

Now, of course you realise that not all Indians in Thailand are tailor touts and that the ones pestering you is out to get your business and not attempting to annoy you for the sake of annoying you. So what about all the other Indians?

I don’t really know but if we ask the Thais they have a very funny saying. I learned it from a LOS-resident friend of mine who speaks fluent Thai. I tried to memorize it in Thai because my friend told me that Thais find it absolutely hilarious if a farang can deliver this little gem at an appropriate moment. But I could never remember the Thai phrase, only the translation which goes like this: “If you see an Indian, and you also see a snake, start with whacking the Indian on the head!”

The meaning is clear: The snake is sneaky and dangerous but the Indian is even worse, deal with him even before you would deal with a snake. And I say that when in Rome…

Brits

I’m going to start of with a controversial statement:

The first time I went to Thailand and I asked a friend beforehand where the other tourists came from and he told me there were many Brits I went: “Oh no!”

Why did I say this then? Because I had been to Mallorca, had been to Ibiza, had been to many of the Mediterranean islands where hordes of football-jersey wearing, tattooed, all-day-drinking, loud mouthed hooligans congregate every summer to get burnt red in the sun, get drunk and fuck or at least fight (or is it fight or at least fuck?). They were Brits and not to my liking at all. Fortunately they seemed mostly focused on fighting among themselves and disguising one self in non-football-related clothing made it quite easy to remain unnoticed. But you’d still want to keep your distance so as not to get caught in the crossfire when the bottles started flying.

So it was certainly a surprise to arrive in LOS and find myself in the company of many British travellers I really enjoyed being around. I did a lot of travelling around on my first few trips to Thailand and met many people from many places. I learned that the Brits who travelled around Thailand were of a completely different kind than the ones I had seen, but never befriended, before. I’m not sure if it’s got something to do with the English class system but the country seems to produce both the very best and the very worst kinds of people.

In Thailand I mostly met the best kind, very likeable people – until I reached Pattaya where I noticed a clear presence of the worst kind as well, a presence that sadly seems to be increasing from year to year. That said, I have re-assessed my previous dislike for Brits completely and it’s certainly not Britain alone whose scum tend to reach the shores (or rather: the bars) of Pattaya.

If you ask 100 bar girls what the “number one country farang” is then I would bet the winner would be “England” with at least 50 claimed votes. Provided, of course, you do not first reveal your own nationality in which case that would be the winner (hey, why miss a chance to stroke the guys ego?!). I don’t think this is a reason for Brits to celebrate too much as it probably most has to do with the fact that it’s a country most of the girls know of and whose name they can pronounce. I mean, it’s not like many of them could point England out on a map or could tell you much of anything about it.

Australians

There is something charming with these folks from Down Under. It certainly is in part down to their spoken accent. Their accent gives them kind of a head start where you can’t help but finding them likeable until proven otherwise. It’s sort of works: If it sounds nice – it must be nice.

Now, once you’ve dug a little deeper you find that Aussies are much like the rest of us. They have their good folks and their bad ones. They have their jovial bar-hopping Pattaya “single white male”-stereotype and he’s just as lovely as the rest of us. And they’ve got their pierced eyebrows, short red hair, baggy camo-pants, feminazi backpacker bitch also and she’s just as god-awful as any such critter from elsewhere.

One area where Aussies really do excel is in drinking beer. And it’s not like they invented beer because they did not. And it’s not like they make the very best kinds of beer because they do not. It’s just that they seem to be the people who really do enjoy beer most of all peoples I’ve ever seen or heard about. It’s like they live in some sort of symbiosis with beer: beer needs us to be made and we need beer to be able to live and make more beer.

I assume they, being mostly of British decent, have the love for beer ingrained in their genome since hundreds of years. And once moved from the foggy British Isles and placed in a hot climate this trait evolved and became ever more dominant.

The way that this relates to Thailand is of course that Thailand has so many drinking holes that serve cold beer. Here the Aussie is in his element. He sits there, drinks his beer, and with a crooked smile on his face he offers a “G’day mate, fancy a bee[ee]r?” to anyone passing by. Which is precisely why we like him.

Americans

Americans: the friends people love to hate. They eat fatty junk food, they know nothing about the rest of the world, they are single minded, they make bad TV shows, they go to war all the time, they pollute our planet, their king is retarded, blah blah blah!

Sometimes I think bashing America and Americans is some kind of sport that other farangs, be they Europeans or Oceanians, bring to Thailand and especially to the bars. It seems to happen more often than what’s reasonable that when I meet a guy from another western nation he tries to find a common denominator in mutual dislike for America. As if the idea about bonding by whining is really all that attractive.

Sure there are things that can be debated regarding Americas impact on the rest of the world, but do we need to have this debate in a place of fun like a bar? Do we need to attribute the doings and makings of an entire nation, and a huge one at that, to every single one of its citizens? And do we need to bring only the bad stuff to the table as if the U.S.A hasn’t done most of us westerners a fuckload of good through the years? I think not.

As a matter of fact I can say that most of the Americans I have met in Thailand have been easy going, educated and worldly, and more importantly – nice people. And younger guys who are not yet worldly have been interested in becoming so, and still been easygoing, educated and nice. I’ve run across the occasional Yank-asshole of course but what country is without its morons?

The Thais seem to like Americans because they are generally friendly to strangers and of course they tip better than most, out of habit. Personally I don’t agree with this because I feel tipping should not be on automated basis and at 20% but limited to when good service is provided and at about 10%, but that’s me. Whether the Thais actually realise that the friendly well tipping farang is specifically an American I leave unsaid. More likely they think that some farangs tip really well and some are kee-neow Cheap Charlies, without reflecting on their nationalities.

Myself I find that I can easily make friends with Americans and there is never a shortage of topics of conversations without the need for a common enemy to badmouth. But perhaps this is because I don’t start off by accusing them of not being on the Kyoto protocol like they personally shredded the damn thing.

Germans

When someone describes an unsightly scene they’ve seen in Thailand where a fat, ugly old man walks hand in hand with a young girl, or boy, they start with: “And there I see this fat fucking German…”

There is a perception that Germans are kinkier than most others. That they get down to stuff others wouldn’t think of doing. This perception is very much out there, but is it true? I mean, we all know that that fat old man could have been from any country, our own included, so why do we assume he’s German?

I think you can learn a lot about a people from their pornography. Americans want to excel and compete with quality to create a sellable product and their porn is carefully choreographed with picture perfect porn-stars and just the right lighting and camera angles. Italians who suffer from the Madonna/Whore complex when it comes to women must make degrading porn where the female plays the ultimate whore because, of course, she can’t very well be the Madonna. Russians don’t even try to make the effort to portray the women as if they liked what they’re doing on screen which says a lot about the way human value is looked upon in the post communism eastern block. You get the idea, our porn reflects us and our societies.

So is German porn kinky? Damn straight it is. Kinky and weird: “letz see what happenz when we put ze fizt in ze anuz! But first we muzt put on lederhosen and ze rubber pig-mask.”

I’m not sure if this accurately reflects what Germans get into with Thai ladies of the night and I kind of hope it doesn’t. But there is a reason for the kinky rep those Germans have. Their own pornography reveals them.

I have also noticed that Germans for some reason keep more to themselves than other nationalities. I put this down to the language barrier. Native English speakers can interact automatically and those from smaller non-english speaking countries are pretty much forced to try their best to speak English or they will be alone. Germans however are a big enough group to support German speaking communities by themselves.

That said they can often speak some English and the younger ones seem to speak to pretty decent standards and also seem to interact more.

Scandinavians

Swedes, Norwegians, Finns and Danes quite likely feel they are very different from each other but here they will have to make do with being bundled together under the one category – Scandinavians. These are not separately among the biggest visitor groups in LOS but given their small populations they are most likely the people in the world with most LOS-visits per capita.

This is perfectly reasonable really. There are many reasons for coming to LOS on a holiday and two of the most mentioned is the warm weather and the affordability. So a Scandinavian who, if he lives far enough up north, actually can have zero hours of daylight per day in the mid-winter and lives in one of the most expensive and highest taxed regions in the world… draw your own conclusions. If you lived there, what would you do in the winter? That’s right, you’d go to Thailand. And that’s just what the Scandinavians do.

You’ll find a lot of backpacking Scandinavians and at the other end of the tourist spectrum you can find them among the naughty boy tourists as well, but their main way of visiting is as charter tourists and mainly in Phuket. Go there in January-February when the Scandinavians take a break from their winter hibernation for their all-inclusive 2-4 week holidays and you’ll see them lining the beaches tightly packed together. You can almost imagine it’s like lines and lines of batteries lying there, being re-charged with much needed sunlight.

Many naughty boys really don’t like charter tourists and consequently they don’t like Scandinavians and my guess is that the reason is that charter tourists very often are comprised of couples or families which inevitably means they bring the, among naughty boys, dreaded farang women to LOS. I can sympathise with this view because I am not at all that fond of an abundance of pale skinned women staring at me with hateful eyes should I happen to be in the company a local sweetie, which is known to have happened on occasion.

Other than that I have nothing against Scandinavians and since I like to drink and they like to drink I get along quite well with them.

Japanese

Japs. Nips. Nipponese. We all know them and most of us like them or are at least a bit curious about them. Myself I find them fascinating. They are just SO strange and in the last 50 years they’ve not been into genocides and they’re really small anyway so there’s nothing intimidating about them.

If we speak of the majority of Japs in Thailand it’s probably the charter tourist families. They go in large groups of several families who all stay at the same luxury resort and ride around in the most modern and comfortable buses available to look at stuff and more importantly to photograph stuff.

They’ve even got funny sub characters within their families and really stick to their roles. The man is dressed in pants and a short sleeved shirt and has a belt pouch and a big-ass camera around his neck. His wife is sticking to the geisha role, tip toeing behind her husband with an umbrella to shield her from the sun. Any kids and the boys look like corny Asian impersonations of black Americans while the girls just look bored. Bored like hell. Like they’re thinking: “What the hell am I doing in this shithole of a country looking at old crap and suffering in the heat when I could be back at the mall in Tokyo and go online to look for a cybersex BDSM-lover for my pink Tamagucchi?! Unbearable!”

I’m serious about this. Next time you see a bunch of Japs look for yourself. I guarantee you you’ll see it. These stereotypes are very real.

Then you’ve got single male Japs, or males travelling by themselves at least, and like any other red-blooded men Japs want to go look for whores when they get the chance. They’ve even got many clubs where they form the majority of customers. Most of these places I’ve never been to but I’ve heard they’re something like hostess bars where the guy pays first for the girls company and kind of has a “date” with her and then for sex. But this is really just hearsay.

However Japs are also fond of the GOGO bars that we farang like and when they frequent these establishments they again seem to stick together and “move in on” one place for themselves, like Baccara in Bangkok which is clearly Jap-dominated. The downside with this is that they tend to spoil the girls monetarily so that they either demand more from us farang as well or even go so far as to avoid farang customers all together. This of course is a dangerous development but one that I still feel is limited enough to be overlooked without harbouring resentment towards Khun Nip.

Chinese

I hereby acknowledge that these people exist, that there very many of them and that sometimes some of them travel to Thailand.

Arabs

I’m not sure if it’s just me but I find one thing about Arabs in Thailand very strange. If you feel a need to drape your own women, be it you wife/wives or daughters, up so that only their eye slits show, then how can you possibly be comfortable walking them around Nana in Bangkok or along Walking Street in Pattaya? It just looks very much out of place to be to see a line of walking bed-sheets strolling along soi 4 and realise it’s actually women who believe, or are told, that it’s a grave sin for a woman to show any part of them selves to a strange man.

I mean, take a look around you. Wouldn’t you be more comfortable somewhere else?

I’ve heard that Arabs come to Thailand in the winter months partly because it’s nice and cool. Cool? It may be the cool season but that doesn’t mean it’s anywhere near cool. This gives me an idea of how damn hot it must be where they come from.

Just like the Japanese have their favourite bars or bar areas so do Arabs. They lay claim to much of soi 1 and 3 on Shukumvit in Bangkok and seem to be moving in on soi 5 where the Arab and farang areas meet. In Pattaya they’ve got an area around soi 15-17 a bit “inland” from Walking Street. I walked there once when I was discovering Sin City by walking around and remember how I marvelled at the street vendors who instead of shouting “Hello Mr!” like they usually do to get your attention shouted “Salaam Aleikum!”.

Anyway, there is a separation and Arabs seem to stay to themselves and not strive to mingle with us farang so much. And since we are obviously very different I think this is in order, this suits me fine. Call me old fashioned but sometimes I question the modern hype praising integration at all times.

Anyway, now you know where to go if you want to hang out with Arabs while you’re in LOS, and where to steer clear off if you don’t. Like the Thai-ladies say: Up to you!

French

I am a fan of the French. I know that some people badmouth them, claiming they are snotty and sitting on high horses and all that but I do not agree at all with this. Well, if I look at French politicians bitching for more subsidies to lazy, overpaid farmers or French people going on strikes because they have to work 30 hours a week and/or beyond the age of 50 I agree that they act like spoilt children. But I’m talking here about the French travellers I have seen and met in South East Asia, and they have had great attitudes.

I guess the overall picture would be that they seem pretty much in control. They drink, but not excessively. They eat well but are rarely obese. They are for the most part well groomed and look to be in shape. They seem able to enjoy life without going to such extremes that it becomes a liability to them. Generally they make for good, intelligent conversation too, as far as I have experienced, and I mean in English as I hardly speak a word of French myself.

Had they gotten around to occupying Thailand at some point then today we could have enjoyed decent bread and great coffee in Thailand just like in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, instead of the regular piece of toast and the cup of awful instant-Néscafé. But then again, much of the great stuff about Thailand might have been different so it’s probably a good thing this never happened.

That reminds me that I heard of an old French saying from the colonial time that translates to: “The Vietnamese grow the rice, the Cambodians watch the rice grow and the Laotians listen to the rice grow.”

An assessment on how energetic their former subjects were when it came down to labour, one that I can pretty much agree with having visited the three countries. Vietnam is up and about before sunrise resembling an anthill someone stuck a stick into. The other two countries seem to never really wake up at all.

I wonder what the French had said about the Thais if they had ever occupied Thailand? Nah, that’s pretty obvious: “The Vietnamese grow the rice, the Cambodians watch the rice grow, the Laotians listen to the rice grow and the Thais eat the rice”. Anyway, back to the French.

The coolest thing about the French, the quality that I envy, is that they seem to somehow be able to make a relationship between a middle aged man and a young girl look good. I don’t know how but they pull off making it look like a worldly gentleman out on a romantic date with his young exotic mistress, rather than an old white guy with his Thai whore. Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but when I see a 50-ish man out with a 20-something girl and it doesn’t look bad – the bastard is French! That deserves some respect.

Russians

Why oh why would you take your family on holiday to Pattaya? I mean your wife and son or, even worse, daughter? Why?

Call me a puritan if you like but to stroll down Walking Street with my wife and children in tow would make me feel seriously awkward. Yet this is something that many Russian seem to be perfectly comfortable with.

Sometimes when I’m in Pattaya and want to lie on the beach I take a daytrip to Jomtien. It’s easy and cheap just to take a Bath-bus there and the beach is, while not at all idyllic, much better than the one in Pattaya itself. Here there are Russians. I mean here there are a great many Russians.

I had a great business idea last time I was in Jomtien, not to pursue myself but something for an enterprising Thai. There are so many Thais walking along the beach haggling with the tourists who sit there in the chairs under the umbrellas and they all sell the same crap! I’m sitting there watching them, mildly irritated at them and wondering about the narrow range of merchandise they peddle. This is when I, in a moment of clarity, fuelled by Heineken, saw the perfect business opportunity right there on the beach.

Just pack a Styrofoam box full of ice and disposable shot-glasses filled with ice cold Vodka. Then charge 100 Bath per shot and sell it to the Russians. Refill the box with new glasses of Vodka when needed. Repeat. I guarantee that on a beach packed with sweaty Russians you would make more money selling Vodka than freaking wooden frogs or nasty dried squid. You’d make a killing! Of course it would only work for a week or so, until all the other vendors had caught on and copied it and the boys in brown had found out and decided to “wet their beaks”, so to say.

The point is that for most target groups there exists a product they find necessary to go about their day and it pays to be there to supply it. And as sure as a Lolitas girl need her Listerine the Russians need their Vodka.

Feel free to implement this business plan. You need about a thousand Bath for a bottle of vodka, a Styrofoam cooler and a few sacks of ice to get going. You should recoup your initial investment in about 5 minutes on a hot day during high season. Light a stick of incense in my honour at the local temple if you’re successful.

Back to Russians. These strange folks take their family and go to Pattaya and they walk around with their wives and daughters who dress to make you wonder if they’re actually family or if the guy picked them up at the Galaxy cabaret for a long time session. Strange people, very strange indeed.

Whenever Russians are plentiful we start to talk about “invasion” and I guess there are sound historical reasons for that. But I really don’t think we’ll need to worry so much about their so called invasion for a while. As long as oil stays below $70 per barrel they’ll be in worse economic shape than the rest of us and will have to drink their vodka back in Putin-land.

Summation

Well people, that’s most of them. The big groups and the ones we are interested in. If I missed out on some then go with the nearest category. If a guy is Austrian figure he’s sort of a German. If he’s Icelandic figure he’s a sort of Scandinavian, but one with bad credit, if he’s a Korean see my description of the Chinese.

I hope this will help you in your travelling and when you meet new people. It’s always good to have some information up front. So that, for instance, you know to hit the Indian tailor tout on the head immediately even if there are snakes around.

//Mac

Stickman's thoughts:

Running late today so will comment later.