Readers' Submissions

Each Person Is Different, Even In Thailand

  • Written by M
  • July 12th, 2011
  • 3 min read


Why Jayson did not fully understand the situation: each person is different, even in Thailand

I very much appreciated some points raised by Jayson regarding ‘Why farangs don’t get it’. There is probably quite a bit of truth in what he wrote, and he should be thanked for such a precise assessment. However, there are some points that I would like to raise, showing the limitations of what he has written; not so much for the sake of gratuitous polemics, but in order to better understand some social dynamics which are, after all, not unique to Thailand.

Let me start by saying that, having lived in Thailand for about 3 years, I have no experience that would correspond to the one described by J. I have had a Thai girlfriend, who in no way whatsoever could match the description of the uneducated and poor Isaan girl (in fact, she is Thai-Chinese and not at all dark). Unfortunately our relationship came to an end; after that, I have met other Thai girls, and once again none of them was from Isaan, none was particularly dark, or poor, or uneducated. Hence, my own experience contradicts what has been mentioned.

Let me say however that a hang-up about fair skin is nothing to brag about. It may be a relatively recent phenomenon – as it seems to be in India, where ancient texts praise beautiful dark women as much as the whiter ones. Hence, to suggest that someone who got a fair-skinned girl ‘got it’ is actually rather shallow, when we consider how this habit to look at fair-skin as most desirable may after all be a post-colonial phenomenon.

Furthermore, let me say a word or two about farangs’ reputation as ‘whore-chasers’. I believe this to be largely incorrect. The reason is quite simple: Thai men are the *first* customers for Thai prostitutes – that is well known and anyone who has Thai friends would be rather dishonest insisting on the opposite. What I sincerely believe that Thai people find foolish about farangs’ behavior is something more subtle.

If a middle-aged man in Europe were to bring a twenty-year-old prostitute to a social gathering it is *very much likely* that many of his friends might find it odd. What they will find odd is not the fact that he might have slept with a prostitute: many people do. It’s the idea of bringing someone who is obviously a prostitute and introducing her as a girlfriend that may look foolish. (And I am not saying that it is for any good reason, by the way).

Similarly, many Thai men (as far as I know) do sleep with prostitutes, but being rather status conscious (and often, married) they wouldn’t dream of going around flashing an obvious bar-girl as a trophy. It would be catastrophic in terms of their reputation. And it is also obvious that a Thai man (like anyone living in the same society where he is born and raised) will feel a much greater social pressure than an expat may. An expat has weaker links to his surroundings and hence, possibly, he may afford to care a bit less about one’s reputation.

Hence, the matter is not, I think, that farangs go with prostitutes more than Thai men do, but rather, that they don’t know the protocols and manners that may allow them to look cool and smart. Knowing all those formalities – by the way – perhaps is nothing to brag about, and doesn’t come from some sort of higher awareness of one’s surroundings. Sometimes, it simply comes from greater social pressure.

Lastly, the idea that any Thai girl will by default prefer a Thai man is a little bit simplistic (to say the least). In fact, there are *many* Thai girls that consider Thai men slightly less reliable – precisely because *they* (contrary to the farang) do know the formalities or protocols that will allow them many more (undetectable) options for extra-marital sexual activities. And some of these girls are not poor, dark-skinned, uneducated Isaan girls: they are young, well-off and dynamic girls who wish to meet someone not so bound by those very same social pressures that make (some) Thais sneer at a farang’s foolishness.

That said, I would like to add that I share some annoyance about many expats’ lack of self-awareness in terms of behavioral propriety in Thailand: but this includes much more than sexual relationships, and it would require a different discussion.


Stickman's thoughts:

It's good to see that after so many years Jayson's iconic article is still getting responses!