Readers' Submissions

Cynicism

  • Written by Steve
  • January 15th, 2011
  • 13 min read


As the title of this submission reads, I want to discuss the cynicism I see with many of the long term expats here in the LOS. At what point do us Farang become so cynical that it plays a major role in the next chapter of our lives including leaving the LOS? The root cause, I believe, comes from expectations no longer being met. Whatever the reason you came here for, over time it seems that the viewpoint becomes quite tainted. The following is a list of a some of the key issues I continue to read and hear from these expats:

1. Cost of living: This covers 3 main areas to include food, home and entertainment.

Food: If you like Thai food then it is still very cheap. Some people come here and switch, but after some time they miss their Farang food and it can be difficult, depending on the area you live, to get the food you miss. The cost of Farang food is so much more expensive than our homeland because of the import costs and we can not do much about that. It is the way it is. These days access to more western foods is available compared to 10+ years before, but it is not cheap. I believe many people coming here never thinking about the cost of the food they may like and only reference it to their homeland. Over time this can add a significant amount to your budget.

Home: If you live in Bangkok, costs for both home and condos have increased significantly from 10 years prior. Part of this is in part due to the global economy and the money available and after the global crisis, most Thais do not want to drop the value they think their home is worth and thus seems and incredible expense. Live in almost any other area of Thailand and costs are still quite cheap with respect to Bangkok as well as your homeland.

Entertainment: This is different for all, but a majority of complaints come from the cost of women compared to years ago. In my opinion it makes better business sense if a woman wanted, for example, 15,000 THB/month. For her it makes sense to have 5 customers at 3,000 THB compared to 15 customers at 1,000 THB. This is not including lady drinks or bar fines, etc. Maybe it makes some angry, but I try to look at their side of the issue and just makes more business sense. I will expound more about women later. Other entertainment venues have also gone up in price, but movies and shows still seem quite cheap from over the years. People are obviously entertained in different ways, but live in any other major city in the world and I think Bangkok is still quite cheap for entertainment.

To sum up the 3 areas above, if you live exclusively in Bangkok, then I think your view of cost of living has gone up dramatically and can add to the cynicism that Thailand is not a cheap place to live.

2. Amenities: Us westerners grow up with so many amenities, that moving to the LOS can seem like going back to the stone age. To avoid this feeling of going back in time, some want to live in the most modern places that Thailand has to offer, but this comes at a significant price. I am not saying that one should go live in a village, but to each their own. Even the Farangs that move up to Isaan, always build some large house compared to anything else in the village they live in. One thing I believe many people miss is the availability of hot water. A majority of all homes and condos always have the electric water heater and to have a real water heater installed is just not widely available and therefore you will almost never have a hot water tap. We have also become accustomed to the 1000+ TV channels available in our homeland and to get that here is quite an expense. Electronics have become more widely available and have dropped significantly in price from years ago, but can still be more expensive than our homeland. Not realizing you can not have the same amenities as are available in your homeland can add to your dislike of Thailand over time.

3. Women: There is so much to this issue that it is impossible to express all my thoughts, so I will just make a couple key points. Some complain about the quality of women in the entertainment venues. Is it the quality of women or are we now used to being in Thailand and our view has changed? I believe it to be the latter. Our first time in Thailand most can reflect upon how beautiful all the women were and how wonderful we saw things (our initial illusion of the LOS). We may have compared all these women to our homeland women and thought we found the jackpot. After being here for some time we now only look at Thais, but do not see the same beauty as we compare Thai to Thai and no longer compare Thai to Farang. Relationships with Thais is another key point as if you are unsuccessful, then obviously you will become more bitter. Some of us get lucky where as many have been unlucky. You can debate the reasons all day and regardless if they should have known better or not, the stigma of a failed relationship will always affect us.

4. Corruption: People love to point out how bad corruption is in Thailand. They do it so much that many start to believe that Thailand is all about corruption. Even though I do not hold the same belief and is often pointed out that I am wrong, many do believe this and it ultimately affects their desire to stay in the LOS. When I debate this topic with others I usually give examples like if I get pulled over 10 times for speeding and it costs me 200 THB each time then overall I paid 2,000 THB and it is nothing more than that. Take our homeland (I will use the US for example) and it means I will have lost my license, have paid an enormous amount of fines and will have been to driving school a few times. Not to mention the insurance costs, going into the NCIC database, maybe even a warrant for my arrest and in the end it will have cost me so much it is ridiculous. I am not a speeder, but it is an example that how bad is your quality of life if you happened to get pulled over a few times in Thailand? Most people want to argue the principle of it more than the reality of it.

5. Farang bias: I came to Thailand believing that I will always be a second class citizen and will ultimately never have the same rights as Thais. This is another issue for the equality people that bring their homeland viewpoint to the LOS. This does not mean I will suffer while being in Thailand, but it does mean that compared to a Thai citizen, I will more than likely have to spend more for some things and will not always be treated the same. I accept this and have no problem with it, but many do not and adds another level of frustration for their time in the LOS. Many of us came here to live a better quality of life, but in the end it seems most Farang want Thailand to be like their homeland with cheaper prices. It amazes me sometimes.

6. Negative reports: We all know that reading some glorious report of how wonderful Thailand is can be boring. We all seem to want to relish in someone else's misery and a majority of everything you read or hear is all the negatives of Thailand. Just like the media has a major influence over the public, so does hearing negative things everyday about Thailand. Most people in the world hated George Bush because of the media. Many did not know anything about him, but because the gospel of the media has to be true, they therefore hated him. The same is with hearing and reading constant negative reports, we become inclined to believe them. It has gotten so bad, that I see Farangs complaining about the cost of an item at the night markets even though Thai pay the same price, but they automatically assume they have been cheated. I have even heard some Farangs complaining about the cost of beer in a pub, thinking Thais pay a different price. It is the power of negative influence over us and is quite sad.

7. Family: Come to Thailand single and your view of life is a certain way. Get married and start having children here and everything changes. Most parents want the best for their children and will do whatever it takes to ensure they have the best of everything. For some living in the LOS, they do not believe their children can have a good future if they attend the Thai schools and will pay a large amount to have them attend some private school. They also worry about the children's future for careers and families and, I believe, this can factor in the idea of returning to their homeland. If you are not making much money and can not afford to leave the LOS or put your children through some private school, this can be a devastating blow to your manhood as being a good provider and ultimately takes it toll on you.

8. Thai language: When we first arrive and speak no Thai, many think its a beautiful language and that the Thai woman's accent speaking English is very appealing. As some learn Thai they apply their own mindset and find that many Thai people are talking about nothing important. This is subjective of course, but plays a role in your view point of the LOS. Many westerners love to debate topics or express very strong view points, but when they see many Thais in general are just gossiping, it can feel like a let down. This is their culture, but yet we want them to talk like they are from our homeland or talk about what we feel is more important.

I have said many time it seems the only happy Farang is the complaining Farang. I usually avoid many of the Farang circles because they just want to sit around and complain about Thailand no matter how long they have lived here. It seems they are truly miserable and their outlet is to put it all on Thailand. I have listened many times and in the end it just appears to be cynical in nature. Many came with all kinds of ideas of how life would be and when it did not turn out the way they wanted the cynical side comes out in full force.

Cost of living anywhere in the world goes up over time. The same as here in Thailand. This is reality. I do not know any country unless they went completely bankrupt where cost of living does not increase over time. When I was a kid and my dad would tell stories of the loaf of bread for a 5 cents or the cost of gasoline, etc. As we face the THB to foreign currency currently being strong, some use this as the final catalyst to make their move out of the LOS. If you look at the exchange rate over time though it has been a cycle. From 1981 to 1996 the average exchange for USD/THB was no higher than 25 THB/dollar. The highest was in 2001 with a yearly average of 44.51 THB/dollar. Now we are back to 31.7 for 2010. Yes we want the best exchange rates for our money, but the cycle has been there over the years. Add this with the cost of living and many who have been here for 10+ years feel it has only gotten worse. Will the future be better? I don't know. Some forecast it to be doom and gloom like always, but we do not know what the next 10 years will be like.

One recent submission (What is expected from us – We're not Thai) talked about Farang defending Thai. The author wanted to express his disdain that though he has lived here for 24 years and loves it supposedly, any of us who defend the Thai way are basically out to lunch. His opinion that the modern world is so great and that Thailand needs to get onboard to be a better country is a rather shallow opinion in my perspective. Many of us try to understand the culture, so we can figure out what is going on. This is how some of us want to experience Thailand. The author is hypocritical in his submission because in some parts he says do what you want and in others do it his way or you are basically wrong. He insults us who try to express why we like things the Thai way. I am not an all knowing expert in Thai culture or people, but find many things here appealing. I am sure 20 years ago he had a different perspective as compared to now and has only become the poster boy for cynicism. He misunderstands that we, who still enjoy Thailand, see and compare it to things we may not like from our homeland. He thinks we "gloss over" the underlying problems of Thailand, where many of us do not see it his way. This is another cynical Farang living in Thailand and though he may say he wants to hear peoples insights and opinions, when given he just denigrates them for not doing it his way or following his belief system.

Once a person crosses that hard core cynical belief system any and all objectivity is thrown out of the conversation. No matter what I could explain to this type of Farang, if it did not coincide with his way of thinking, I would be absolutely wrong. I just use him as an example of a cynical person.

Though many people came here for any number of reasons, I feel that it is the cynical viewpoint that ultimately decides your future happiness in the LOS. Though some people leave for real and legitimate reasons, many others fall prey to that cynical side and later may reflect that they did it for the wrong reasons. I have always believed that one should occasionally do a self reflection for life and see if it is heading in the direction they want. Many get complacent and do nothing about it, but sit around and complain. We all have our own recipe for happiness, our own dreams, our own desires and wants and becoming cynical only stands in the way of achieving those things. That's all for now.

Take care gang,
Steve


Stickman's thoughts:

I think a lot of people become disenchanted when they realise that much of what they initially thought or believed about the country turns out to be wrong. Then there is the fact that the craving for adventure they sought has been satisfied or perhaps other circumstances have changed.

I am sometimes called cynical. I would respond that I am objective and that of one takes the time to objectively look at things and remove Thailand from the equation – and ask the question "if this were USA, UK etc….", when you draw conclusions about certain things in Thailand they may not necessarily be positive. I think a lot of people who are called cynical are in fact objective, or perhaps they are at a different point in the cycle, as per BKKSW's excellent submission.