Readers' Submissions

You Are What You Eat

  • Written by IanH68
  • December 8th, 2009
  • 4 min read


Stick's concept of going full circle in Thailand and ending up in a Western style cultural bubble is one that affects me and intrigues me.

I am inclined to think that it is the rule rather than the exception, differences between various farang being reflected in the differences in the diameters of their circles.

A young person coming to Thailand for the first time is understandably swept up with the sheer glamorous difference of it all. Being young they are more enthusiastic and energetic about embracing Thai culture, and at the same time probably more susceptible to its surface charms. They rush off round the circumference of a big circle, little realising that all the time they are gradually coming back to the beginning.

Older people will be more set in their ways and more resilient to change. Hopefully they still have an open mind so do not reject everything out of hand, but they are still en route round a circle, albeit a much smaller one and their pace round it more measured.

Retirees are a special case of older people. They have as a rule proved themselves financially. Their "internal landscape" if you will is well developed and so they are not subject to the blandishments of Thai society. They judge each aspect on its merits. They are not subject to society's pressures as even older working farang inevitably will be. In other words they can afford to relax, even if it is in a bubble of their own choosing.

So we have the aspect of the westerner sampling Thai culture to a greater or lesser extent and finally reverting to type.

There are many reasons for this phenomenon and most of them can be summed up with reference to Stick's comment as to why he now chooses western food over Thai: "I just prefer what I grew up with".

This is a very honest statement which reflects my own attitude to Thai food. Over in the UK where I come from Thai restaurants are fairly common but unsurprisingly they tend to adapt their dishes to western palates. I have never seen anything wrong with this and I have no time for the food snobs who lament the lack of "authentic Thai food" outside of Thailand.

Maybe this adaptation spoiled me because when I moved over here as a retiree the single biggest disappointment was the food. I'm not just talking about the taste. Quite often the visual element was very unappealing. On top of that there was what appeared to me as sheer laziness in the reluctance to prepare prawns and fish properly before serving them on the plate.

Part of this disappointment was due I think to the gap between the image of Thailand and Thai food as projected abroad and the reality here on the ground. (We are talking here of the image before the current round of political unrest.)

The glamour of street food soon evaporated after my initial hasty visits to the nearest toilet. I've sampled high end cuisine in the big hotels and tourist spots a few times. There's nothing that sticks in the memory or comes remotely near to justifying the price, most of which appears to go on over the top decor.

Perhaps I am a Philistine. I ought to say that I am quite happy with Thai beef when I do eat beef, which is seldom. I know I would enjoy Australian, New Zealand or Japanese beef more but the increase in pleasure does not justify the increase in cost on my pension.

I don't need to eat street food so why should I at my age, unless I was trying to prove a point. I have found enough decent mid range restaurants to enable me to eat out more often than not. Some are owned by Thais, some by farang. I have a handful of favourite Thai dishes I am comfortable with, mostly because I know what's in them, but still on average I will choose a western dish over a Thai one.

As an ex UK farang, the fact that I often choose Indian food over Thai is another endorsement for the idea we prefer what we grew up with, since Indian restaurants are everywhere "back home".

What I don't miss is frozen food. This country still suits me because apart from the sunshine I can buy cheap fresh food of my own choosing and cook it how I like it. And if I do choose to live in a bubble at least the Thais are unlikely to hassle me over it.

Stickman's thoughts:

I wonder to myself how many long-term foreigners prefer Thai food? It seems to me to be not that many…