The Farangs of Thailand
We come here from all corners of the world, all in different shapes and sizes and for different reasons. Escape, food, holiday, sex, drugs and trance – whatever your flavour Thailand has something to savour.
During my time(s) here I have encountered the good, the bad and the oh so fugly! I guess it's human nature to put people in a box as it's easier to process so here are my thoughts and observations on the farangs who visit these fine shores.
1) The New Kid on the Block
Ah we have all been here. You arrive in Bangkok surrounded by smog and the intense heat batters you on your arrival and there is a part of you that thinks “what was I thinking”. You book into your hotel and find yourself harassed by tuktuk drivers, massage girls and suit salesman. The chaos is hard to process until you've had that first sip of Singha and a lovely lass comes over and has a chat with you. You find yourself having delicious food while having a drink on a plastic chair at 4 AM on a Tuesday and that's it – you are hooked! People here are friendly, things seem easier and you see more smiles than you have in an age – you have taken a bite of that forbidden fruit and you get back home and say to everyone that will listen – THAILAND IS THE BOMB!
2) The Know It All Tourist
The most annoying by a mile. You know the type, you see a Facebook friend post a status saying “Tickets to Thailand booked” and these twits troll like crazy. They know EVERYTHING and will literally plan out your entire itinerary and tell you the “best” places to drink and shop like “Bangla Road” or “MBK” or “Siam Paragon”. They also know the culture like no other – “don't forget to bargain” and “wai” everyone you meet because it's a sign of respect. I still don't know what it is about Thailand that after 2 weeks of visiting these clowns think they know absolutely everything about the country.
3) The Frequent Tourist
Not as bad as the know it all and if I'm honest we can divide this into two segments: the down to earth farang who just loves Thailand and the type that turns his nose up at regular tourists. I've encountered many of the down to earth type and they are gems, they make a point coming here each year with friends and family, spend decent money and have a healthy respect for the country. I do take issue with the latter however – you often hear them complaining about these ‘tourists” and even when negotiating with a taxi you will hear them say “I'm no tourist”! LIKE HELL YOU ARENT!
4) The Backpacker
Ah the backpacker – smelly, cheap and cliquey! But they generally don't do much harm to anyone but they sure know how to leave their mark on a place – dirt, trash and empty bottles littered about. Take a trip to Khao San and you can see very quickly the one's who have arrived compared to the one's that are leaving. Arrived: clean clothes, pale and eyes like saucers. Leaving: burnt, tattoo of a temple, dirty clothes and glazed eyes.
5) The Sex Tourist
As the title suggests this guy is here for one thing and one thing only – punani! I've got a fool proof way to spot the difference between a sex tourist and a sexpat (we'll be getting to them later). Young sex tourists are hard to spot, we generally think of them as young guys just out to have a good time whilst the older sex tourists get a bad rap – old perverts who exploit young girls etc.
6) The Muay Thai Guy
One group I admire greatly and the other I find almost as annoying as the know it all tourist. So let's start with admiration: there are those who come to Thailand to learn the ART of Muay Thai and end up competing nationally and internationally. There are also those who come over to learn a new skill and lose some weight, both these groups attend these camps for the right reasons and you will rarely see them about causing much trouble. The other side of the coin is the “wannabe” who perhaps watched an episode of Jack Osbourne's reality show and thought “hey if Jack can kick some ass then so can I”. This group arrives here with the sole intention of taking as much juice (steroids) as possible and learning to fight so they can kick the crap out of everyone back home. They end up getting tribal tattoos as well as temple tattoos and often go into bars wearing their Singha vests looking for trouble – if I had a dollar for each time I gave one of these a slap during my time as a bar owner I would be a very wealthy man right now. They seem to fail to understand in a real life fight there are no referees and their opponent won't fight with the tactics they've learnt, and I have seen MANY of this type see their backside on more than a few occasions.
7) TTR (Tourist Turned Resident)
Now we start getting into our more permanent farang. This group is far and away the source of most of the horror stories you end up hearing about. They buy into the Thai illusion “she likes me for me” and “she is different”. Invariably they fall in love with a girl (normally a bargirl) or just fall in love with the country and decide that they have nothing going for them in the West and they decide on buying a business (generally a bar) so that they can live this lifestyle on a daily basis. You find that this lot have a bit saved up and with their strong dollar/euro they find a bar that would cost them 5 times that amount in the West. So with no experience in the business and no experience doing business in Thailand they buy their business on a whim and put it into their girlfriends name. The TTR quickly discovers that every day is not a holiday, that being in a bar every night drinking is not the best thing for their health and that there is a MASSIVE difference between being a tourist and a resident. Under the table payments, security, using a “preferred” supplier and a lack of system and controls through their lack of knowledge along with a low season usually gives them their final kick up the backside. They also notice their girls love diminishing with every baht of debt accumulated and they end up selling their bar to another TTR – they leave Thailand invariably with a love/hate relationship for the country and warn anyone against doing business there. I find this type have only themselves to blame – in any country not knowing your industry and dating a prostitute would be taboo, what makes them think Thailand is any different?
8) The Teacher
Many permanent expats that I know started off as English teachers and the vast majority came over because they were at a crossroads in their lives and decided that teaching English in an exotic country for a few months would be just what the doctor ordered. I find the male teachers a heck of a lot of fun, always up for an adventure but the females do my head in. I am generalising here certainly but I find that most of the female teachers make little effort to integrate with Thai's, they hang around only fellow Western females and a few males and spend the vast majority of their time drinking in Khao San Road and gossiping about how the men only screw prostitutes and go after Thai girls because they are easy. I sense some hostility from this group toward foreign men as back home they are seen as a valuable commodity and in Thailand they are passed over for the more exotic Thai's – after all, would you eat McDonalds if you were in Paris? Many of the female teachers also think they are above their male counterparts as they are in Thailand for purer reasons – to help and educate the youth and all the rest of it; I find them way too judgemental for my liking but again I have met some fantastic female teachers who really are a lot of fun and make an effort to see and do as much as they can in the LOS. You also get your high end teachers, I never thought this group existed but I met a few guys making 150 000 baht a month teaching, a far greater salary than they would receive in the West for example – you learn something new every day I guess.
9) The Sexpat
The sexpat is essentially a long term sex tourist who's life revolves around the bar scene and the young ladies that work in them. You may have a hard time spotting a genuine sexpat in Bangkok but spend 10 minutes in Pattaya and you will see them in their droves – everywhere! They have come here with the sole intention of dying through being suffocated by a Thai teenagers rear end planted firmly on their face. Earlier I mentioned how to spot a sex tourist vs. a sexpat – well its very easy actually. Sexpats generally are only seen in public with fellow sexpats at their regular watering holes, a sexpat will generally have a handful of girls he see's regularly – Miss Monday, Miss Tuesday etc. For the sexpat convenience is everything and he has his phone numbers and the girls come along, service him and are on their way. Sometimes a bored sexpat will appear as a sex tourist by barfining a girl but here is how you spot the difference – the sexpat is under no illusions, he is far wiser than the sex tourist, you will hardly EVER see the sexpat holding hands while walking out of the bar with the girl – a sex tourist ALMOST ALWAYS will walk out of the bar hand in hand with the bargirl. Don't believe me? Find a quiet spot to have a drink in Nana Plaza and do some people watching that's outdoors – just take a look and within 30 minutes you will see exactly what I am talking about.
10) The Farathai
And here's our winner – the biggest douchebag of ALL Thailand's farang! The farang who thinks he is Thai! This is the guy who has lived here between 2 and 5 years and knows everything there is to know about Thailand and despises everything Western. He thinks that Thai's consider him as a fellow Thai and most of the time you will find him living in a 5000 baht apartment which houses only other Thais – that's what makes him oh so special in his mind, he is fully integrated, he is half-farang and half-Thai – he is the Farathai! Mention having a drink in an area where there are plenty of other foreigners and he will look at you with disgust! He will talk Thai at every opportunity to show you how integrated he is and half the time the Thai's will look back at him with confusion not understanding a word he says! But you try and speak a little Thai to a Thai person and watch how he gives you that smug look and says “Don't bother if you cant do it”. He will brag about how he eats for less than 50 baht a day and knows where to find the cheapest beer about, he will brag about dating Thai girls who can't speak English because its to his advantage since Thai has now become his native tongue. Mention a great place to eat or drink the Farathai knows one better, mention a great girl you met the Farathai will say that his instincts tell him she is a bargirl. Don't ever discuss a short-cut to get to an area of Bangkok, the Farathai will always know better – in fact rather just don't discuss anything to do with Thailand with the Farathai as he knows everything there is to know, he is more knowledgeable that even the expats who have been here for 20 years! The Farathai goes past Buddhist symbols and he “wai's”, he demands a cheaper rate from motorbike taxi's because he is no farang – he is special! The farathai worships no god because he thinks he is god himself. This group cannot be segmented, there is nothing positive to write about them – they are Thailand's biggest douchebags!
11) The 20/30 something executive
The guys that work in the offices blocks, either came here as a teacher and progressed to working in an office or perhaps even transferred here. This group is the one that I prefer the most, they generally have good girl Thai girlfriends who are of a similar age to them and are earning a decent salary with an excellent work/life balance, certainly one they could not have in the West. These are the guys that have a few beers after work and chat about events rather than get smashed every night gossiping about people. If there is one criticism I have for this group is they talk shop a bit too much for my liking and some have a habit of elevating their status, just because you wear a shirt and a tie doesn't make you any less of a telesalesman!
12) The Opportunist
The Good: the guys that come over and notice a gap in the market and pounce! They create opportunities for themselves and in the long term can progress to become a “Farang Made Good”. The Bad: the group that misrepresents themselves, they realise they are in a new country and have a clean slate so begin making claims on how they were an expert in their field back home. The Ugly: the career hustlers who come over and swindle people out of their money and leave as soon as they are discovered.
13) The Farang Made Good
I've met a number of Farangs that have made good. Some have been lucky but ALL have worked incredibly hard. Some are nice guys and some are bastards but you cannot help but admire them for being the 1% that have made a real success out of their time here. The Farang Made Good generally arrives as one of the above – I've met sexpats who so loved their lifestyle they opened a go-go bar and have made a success out of it, I've met teachers who have gone on to become senior managers in a totally unrelated industry and I've met first timers who struck gold by meeting the right person and building a lucrative business.
14) The Old Hand
Now I have met VERY few old hands but let me say that all that I have met have been extremely wise and its not just an age thing either. These are the guys that have been living in Thailand for the last 10+ years and have gone through one or more of the stages above. The old hand is not overly opinionated in public as he doesn't know who he could offend but when he does speak about Thailand people listen because this is a guy who knows his stuff. The old hand has picked up on Thailand's subtleties, he doesn't lose his cool and you never see him raise his voice – he walks away from confrontation before it even becomes confrontation. He may not be the richest or flashiest of the farang but he is wisest of us all, he has had to be to survive for this long in Thailand. He is a lifer, even though he may deny it to himself and everyone around him he will be here until the end.
15) The IRA
Not the army but rather the Indians, Russians and Arabs. Now let me just say that I have met and done business with all the above nationalities and my opinion is not based on them as a whole but rather of them in Thailand. Let's start with the Indians – it has been said that Thailand attracts the worst of the farang but in the case of Indians it surely must only be those lowest on the totem pole. I was recently looking at a bar to purchase in Phuket, next door was a blowjob bar where a group of 10 Indians walked in and wanted a group discount – they were prepared to pay 100 baht each for one girl to give them each head! Afterward I went to a gogo bar with a sexpat friend of mine and there were 5 Indians sitting at the table with one beer in front of them, maybe no unusual expect the waitress kept going over and they kept on saying they were fine all the while staring in the most perverted of ways at the gogo dancers. I chatted to one of the girls and she mentioned that Indians are notorious for this – they order one drink for the group and then sit and stare without even barfining anyone. I've heard but cannot confirm that in Pattaya they are banned from a number of bars. This behaviour is strange because I've met literally hundreds of Indians in my life and find them to be funny, down to earth and a good time to be around, but the one's I've encountered in Thailand have been absolute scum! You think its only in the red light districts? I was at Carl's Junior once where an Indian pushed in front of other customers and shouted at the waitress because his order was taking too long! Now for the Russians – I think they get a bad rap but I think its more to do with the TYPE of Russian Thailand attracts. The Russians you meet travelling in Europe and those on safari in Africa are well spoken and LOVE to spend money. When you attract the lower rungs of a society expect a language barrier and with a language barrier expect perceived rudeness and have beers at the 7/11 rather than a bar. But what the Russians do bring to the table is eye candy, WOW do they have some fine women from that region! The Indians are amongst the most beautiful women on earth but you don't seem to see them in Thailand, only their potbellied moustache wearing brethren. Finally the Arabs – what a hypocritical bunch (don't publish my name Stick, I don't want a jihadist on me) but sorry sometimes the truth hurts. Many a bargirl has said to me that the Arabs send their wives off to go shopping and then head off and do the deed with a working girl, sometimes more than once a day. Don't be surprised to see them sipping on cocktails and ordering bottled service in nightclubs even though their religion strictly forbids it. What they do bring to the table however is their Middle Eastern cuisine, truly a delight! I doubt we'd have such fine Middle Eastern faire available if it weren't for this group of tourists and if I'm honest I haven't had many bad vibes from the Arabs unlike the Indians.
16) The Others
The final group I call the “others” – basically Asians from richer countries such as Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, and China. I never thought I'd see the day where I would compliment a sex tourist but the Japanese certainly deserve it. Even if their perversions are above that of even the most depraved Western farang they are complete gentlemen and go about their business in a dignified way. You will rarely hear about a Japanese guy beating a Thai woman or getting drunk and out of hand at a bar. If I had the money I'd open a chain of Japanese only go-go bars – they bring you 5000 baht worth of business and zero baht of trouble! The Singaporeans I've met are heck of a nice people, out here more to go clubbing than for many of the perversions on offer and same as the Malaysians I have met. These are your more affluent South-East-Asians and they would frown upon being seen at anything less than an upmarket bar and certainly wouldn't be caught in Nana Plaza! The Chinese I have met have been within my age range and are a new generation of Chinese, their English is near perfect and they are among the friendliest group of people I have met in my life. Their knowledge of the outside world is amazing, when hearing I was from South Africa they started asking about Nelson Mandela's health and what I felt the Springboks chances were this year (I did mentioned we would thrash the All Blacks Stick).
17) The Nigerians
I have a special disdain for the Nigerians in Thailand and before you think I'm some typical South African racist let me explain – how would you feel if you were from America and Canadians were selling drugs and telling everyone they were American? Pretty pissed I guess? Well this is EXACTLY what the Nigerian scumbags that peddle in Sukhumvit do! I don't have an issue with you selling drugs, hell if there wasn't a market for it you wouldn't be here but don't tell every Tom, Dick and Harry that you are a South African! I caught one nicely in front of a group of my mates, we were having a drink and this guy came over to peddle cocaine. I politely declined and he asked my mate “Where you from?” and my mate replied “Australia” of course my Aussie buddy then ask him return where he is from and the reply comes “South Africa”. So I ask my new friend where in South Africa he was from, “Johannesburg” comes the reply. “Ah, so are you a Tswana, Xhosa or Zulu?” – he tells me that he is a Zulu and without missing a beat I start a conversation with him in Zulu. I ask him where he is from and what he is doing in Thailand, I tell him I am glad he is not from the West of our continent because they are criminals. He hadn't a clue! There was a blank stare on his face and I looked at him and winked “Lagos” and he just nodded his head and walked off. Why would you use South Africa? Well its because as soon as somebody hears you are Nigerian trust is automatically broken so why not use the most trustworthy and developed country on the continent as an example. The problem is that when my Zulu friend from Durban came for a visit people asked where he was from and he proudly said “South African” and one of the teachers in the group jokingly asked if he was selling cocaine, innocent joke of course and with the best of intentions from the teacher but my friend was confused until I told him what the Nigerians were doing and he was in a rage! And trust me on one thing, an angry Zulu is not the safest thing in the world – with their warrior stock and their pride lets just say if this happened in South Africa our Nigerian friends wouldn't be sleeping sound. Now I've done work in Nigeria when I was in contract work and let me tell you they are genuinely nice people but the pressure from their mothers to bring home the bacon forces them into a life of selling drugs, its not frowned upon if your son is a known dealer so long as he is keeping the family in the lifestyle they are accustomed to. But I cannot help but think about what they would be capable of if they had to use their sales skills (and we all know they have that) their organisational skills from their illicit activities and channel it all into something positive? I guess we'll never know, if drugs were legal and regulated in the same manner as alcohol you can believe we'd have a few Nigerians on the fortune 500 list.
Obviously these are just my own observations and they could always change over time, maybe even a few more groups will sprout up I don't know. I guess each group has their own way of seeing each other as well, perhaps a sexpat doesn't like the yuppie mentality of the office worker for example? As for me I guess I'm like the majority of people who have been here for under a year, an opportunist hoping to become a farang made good.
Clichéd perhaps, but amusing nonetheless. I wonder how many readers found an accurate description of themselves here?