Readers' Submissions

Life As An Expat

  • Written by Anonymous
  • September 20th, 2011
  • 4 min read


I have been here for around 7 years in Bangkok. I can remember my early forays into the bar scene, and by the grace of God or dumb luck I never got into any serious problems. I think one of the first things I tell newcomers I meet is "smile, laugh, don't get angry". Basically play the clown and don't be too proud to apologize, indeed even when you are in the right.

One thing I have found myself doing the past few years, and you beat this drum constantly in your column, is being very selective with the friends I have, and to take that a step further, I am very selective with the people I merely talk to, especially in the bar scene.

It's guilt by association here, and if one farang is out of line any compatriots in his general area are gonna get the brunt of Thai street justice as well. If I feel there's something off about someone, I move to a different table or pay my checkbin ASAP and change bars. It's just not worth it. Cowardice? Hell no. Some people tie their own noose, then expect every other white face to bail them out when things go South (or do you Kiwis say when things go North? Not sure how us Yanks got that saying of 'things going South'! Perhaps it's the long tradition of outlaws heading South to Mexico when things got hot with the authorities. But I digress… 😉 ).

The people I tend to hang out with have these qualities (and I try to aspire to them as well):

(1) Employed, gainfully employed at that and in some reputable job. Or retired with sufficient means to enjoy life here. I never ask people for money, and absolutely don't loan people money. If you are living paycheck to paycheck here it's probably time to go home.

(2) The right temperament. This is probably the biggest qualification. Some people are just not "built" for this place. And I don't mean physically. People with short fuses, cheap habits (skipping out on bills) and lack of social graces do not last here. I have one friend, a Brit, who has been here 10+ years. He's self taught in the Thai language, speaks fluently. And he IS physically built for this place, an ex Marine still in great shape, but I have never seen this guy get angry. He's all smiles, wais everyone (OK I know your pet peeve on wai'ing bar personnel!), and he never lets things escalate. He even walks away from confrontations with other farang, which he clearly would come out of on top if it came to a fight. On the other other hand I have a few (ex) friends who at first seemed OK – stable jobs, good for a few laughs, generous with the drinks but they were either angry drunks or just plain cheap, arguing over every baht, or perceiving every Thai idiosyncrasy as a slight (and we call Thais thin skinned). You know their days are numbered, and you don't want to be in the wake when things get ugly.

(3) No sex talkers. You meet plenty of tourists here. True wide-eyed first time vacationers, military guys on leave and last but not least the habitual sex tourists. The first two groups are usually good for some lively conversation. The sex tourists I steer clear of. When a guy opens the conversation with "I shagged this girl over there and then I shagged that one over there …" forget it. I'm not being judgmental here, I did plenty of carousing in my early years here. But I kept it private. No one wants to hear these stories (well actually some people do, but there's plenty of blogs for this, or bar stools in Pattaya when this conversation is the norm). Guys like this are usually very reckless, juggling so many bar girls, university students and 7 Eleven cashiers, some bad karma is bound to pile up – usually in the form of a bottle wielding gogo dancer or jealous Thai boyfriend (or angry Father as you mentioned). No thanks.

OK I know I'm sounding preachy here – but I went through stages in my time here where I fell into some of these bad habits. But one thing I can distinctly remember is whenever I was a out of line, arguing over a check bin or spewing out some newly acquired Thai obscenity to sound clever how quickly new friends abandoned me. These were usually guys I encountered who met the qualities above, the problem is I didn't! Long term ex-pats have a keen sense of trouble, and will part company with you in a New York minute if they sense you are a problem. I learned from this thank God.

Anyway that's my two baht worth. Enjoy the beautiful rainy weather.

Stickman's thoughts:

I agree wholeheartedly with all that you say and feel there is some excellent advice here!

Like you I don't lend money to anyone for any reason and I mean ANY reason!

And the sex talkers, God, anyone who cannot stay off the topic of sex is not someone I want to be hanging out with. It is perhaps the #1 reason I have cut off a number of people in Bangkok over the years.