Self Exiled Farangs
What I want to write about is a topic which intrigued me for a long time and it is the matter of expats who decided to “choose” to settle down in the Kingdom, their reasons for doing so and how successful they are / were in fitting in to their new country.
I've always wondered what makes someone consciously choose to become a minority in a society.
When one looks at various countries and the make up of their populations it's pretty obvious that ethnic minorities usually have to overcome barriers not faced by the mainstream.
For instance it's a known fact that in the US, Blacks and Hispanics are disadvantaged and affirmative action legislation was introduced to try to balance the scales somewhat.
In a lot of industrial countries, especially in the “New World” where immigrants flooded to in the 20th century after the 2 world wars, assimilation and integration is an ongoing problem. When these migrants are not Caucasians the difficulties are much more pronounced.
A great number of European refugees after WW2 blended in well because their cultures, religions and importantly, their appearances were no different from their hosts.
In the past 30 years the new immigrants are of Asian and Middle Eastern ethnicities and their chances of “blending in” are that much harder for they're always going to look different.
Fortunately for all concerned in our democracies, anti-discrimination laws had been enacted to overcome some of these problems.
So now I come to an opposite movement of people, that of the farang Caucasian minority coming to live in Thailand.
Although there had been a number of noted success stories (Bill Heinecke comes to mind) of expats settling down here and becoming entrepreneurs extraordinaire, by and large most expats here are an ordinary bunch. From my perspective it's the lure of the low cost of living (I'm not including sexpats here, they're an irrational segment!) that seems to be the major draw which motivates a lot of them to give up their civil rights to live in Thailand as a minority group without much security of tenure.
Ever since 1978 when I first went to Thailand I've come across many farangs of various nationalities; I'm basing my comments on this and in this article I'm focusing on those farangs who are / were trying to make a living here during their “productive” years.
Retired people are a different category but even those who find it agreeable because of the low cost of living and the warm climate tend to split their time between Thailand and their country of origin.
My feelings about the farangs who are living in Thailand in their most productive years is that many of them failed to make the “grade” back home, had work and family issues or suffered from low self esteem in some way. As a result they sought a way to overcome their shortcomings and found that living in Thailand made them feel more worthy than back home.
Somehow they get a validation from some of the rural country folk who look upon farangs as that of a higher social being. A lot of these farangs end up living upcountry in a village where with a little money they can feel like a big fish in a small pond. Others live in Bangkok or provincial capitals where they may work and earn a fraction of what their contemporaries do back home but still can live in a standard which was not available to them at home.
Of course there is always a price to pay and a trade off.
These farangs can't pick and choose who they'll socialise with. Mostly it'll be by default of whatever farangs are available in their vicinity or become a hermit.
Their lifestyle does not suit that of a person whose needs are western culture, like opera, theatre, concerts, museums, art galleries, fine movies and such.
The other major drawback is lack of civil and legal rights in a society where you're only tolerated without equal rights with the locals.
There are certain values in life apart from the monetary ones that are intrinsic to our human needs which a lot of these farangs forego.
Environmental expectations we take for granted at home, like clean drinking water, pristine beaches, basic urban hygiene, just to mention a few, are things you better forget if you choose to live in Thailand.
Try and make a balance sheet of the pros and cons of all the things that makes up one's existence in Thailand. Do a cost/benefit analysis including all tangible and intangible ingredients. See what you come up with..
I lived there for 6 years but only after retirement. Before retirement I would not have contemplated working and living there unless I was an expat on a cushy assignment with a multinational company. Certainly not as an independent, self employed individual. There was just not enough incentive.
That's why capable, productive younger men in the prime of their lives see the light and leave, like former contributors Casa, Mr. Lucky and Slow Learner among many others.
There are some farangs who end up growing old in self-exile in Thailand, many of them without options but some of them without ambitions.
So there you are , they're my thoughts, what are yours?
Interesting thoughts indeed.
There are so many different scenarios that it is hard to cover them all without a mega-length submission. For example, someone with pain who required massage every day and had limited finances may be better off in Thailand where the cost of labour, and thus massage, is very cheap. Ditto someone for whom the warm weather was easier on their body. There are those into Buddhism for whom Thailand may be preferable to the West…basically there are a zillion scenarios.
But for sure, it would be nice to hear why some people chose to turn their back on the West, especially if they were young at the time.