It’s Not The Glass, It’s What’s In It
Traditionally the old argument has always been the "half-full" guys are the eternal optimists while the "half-empty" guys are the surly pessimists. Me, I am a realist. If there is 50% of a fluid remaining in that glass then I feel no great joy or remorse in that fact. Simply, it is what it is. So call me stoic. There is half a glass there. I guess an argument could be made that if there was say 40% or less then the optimist could say it was half full and conversely if there was 60% or more remaining then the pessimist would state the glass was half empty. Others would say I have missed the point entirely and it has nothing to do with drinking vessels and everything to do with how one should view life. To that I would say the realist is the one who has the best chance of survival and the greatest number of tools to overcome this ever changing place where we happen to exist.
Don't get me wrong, I think optimism can be a wonderful thing. Life, however, isn't all rainbows, lollipops and sunshine and personally I think some optimists may be ill-equipped to deal with some of the awful things and true tragedy that life throws at you. You simply cannot put a positive spin on everything and keep on smiling. You can only experience true bliss if you have dealt with great sadness. It is however far better than being the doom and gloom merchants that the expat crowd in Thailand seems to be down by the head with. Not everywhere in Thailand, of course, but it seems anywhere there is a bar and a more mature gentleman that has too much time to sit at said establishment. It is then you have the perfect environment to breed the greatest of pessimists. Although if you are interested in physics my favourite take on the half glass empty theory can be found here https://what-if.xkcd.com/6/
Before I get too far into this argument, I would like to tip my hat to Steve Rosse. He is an accomplished, witty writer and someone I get great joy from reading. This is a double edged sword though as I would hate to be on the receiving end of one of his none too subtle piss-takes. Now that Stick has given us a time frame it seems Steve's writing has become more prolific and moved away from his semi-autobiographical short stories and into full blown double barrelled assaults on some of Stick's posters. I must admit they mostly deserve it for writing over generalised bullshit about a country on which all their experiences have been based on their time in as Steve puts it "farang ghettos". While I am tipping hats and speaking of "farang ghettos", Farang Dave's recent rebuttal was also a cracker which opened up on another inaccurate, ridiculously generalised piece written by Hua Hin Harry. To be completely fair though, I don't agree with all of what Farang Dave had to say and Harry's whole premise was all about generalisation.
Which gets me to my sub. Before I start though, I would like to make this point. Bar areas, "massage parlours" (Yes! the ones in quotation marks), brothels and all associated red-light areas worldwide have always been run or had some association with a criminal element. They also happen to be frequented and serviced by those who are or associated with those who are known criminals. I have no problem with that whatsoever. However, if you choose to spend the majority of your life or worse still retire in such a place then don't come crying about how you come in to contact with shady characters or those who don't have your best interests at heart. Suck it up, princess, you made your bed you lie in it.
So lets talk about Thailand…. Actually, let's not. It was here that I was going to wax lyrical about how I have always had a great fondness and a lot of time for the "working girls" of Thailand. For the most part I have found that they are good girls in a bad situation who are trying to do their best to get ahead. Then I would have told you that some of the nicest and genuine people I have met here are working class guys. The taxi drivers, bus drivers and the motorcy taxi drivers and if you take the time to have a chat with them they always have some pretty funny stories to tell. Then I would have told you that living in Isaan reminds me in a lot of ways of growing up in Oz. My front door is always open (I don't have any locks on my doors or windows). That I know nearly everyone in my village. That I am on a first name basis and quite friendly with my postie, my mechanic, the 2 ladies down the corner shop, the girls that work the checkout at Lotus and even the guy who picks up the trolleys in the car park. In fact pretty much anyone you would care to name up here. If I have gone out of my way to say hello to and be friendly with them they remember me and are always friendly in return. No-one has tried to rob me, take advantage or any of the other Thailand horror stories that are supposed to be so prevalent. My old man told me to never look down on someone unless you are trying to help them get up. So if the people of Isaan are "simple" that is a compliment as far as I am concerned. Life is far more simple than most people try to make it. Yes, they talk a lot about what they are going to eat, the weather, the land, their crops and livestock. You know why? Because that is crucial to their life and livelihood, much like rural communities anywhere else in the world. If they are getting food on the table and their land and livestock are good then they are happy, very happy. Sabai Sabai.
There were four excellent subs written last week. Namely by Steve Rosse, Farang Dave, The Professor and BKKSW with a wealth of knowledge and good advice. Unfortunately, as Matthew Henry said, "None so deaf as those that will not hear. None so blind as those that will not see." The common thread is the advice and commentary they give is not exclusive to Thailand. It is just good advice. I don't know any of the above writers personally but I would assert that they would be comfortable, be happy and get by anywhere in the world. That is the secret. The guys that make a good go of it in Thailand and have rich, fulfilled, happy lives are guys that could make a good go of it anywhere. Whereas the guys that aren't successful and struggle here, I imagine, unfortunately would probably struggle anywhere, even the place they came from. People who make big broad general statements normally are looking for a scapegoat or someone to blame for their own shortcomings or inability to adapt. It is far easier to blame someone else for all your problems and point fingers than to actually get off your arse and have a go.
With all that in mind, here is my less than definitive take on how be successful / happy in Thailand (read as "The World"). Learn the local lingo to at least a conversational level. (Anyone that tells you that you don't need to learn the language of where you live or frequently reside is either ignorant or a fool. You are both for believing them.) If you don't wish to immerse yourself in the local culture, have the sense to learn and be respectful of all the local customs, belief systems and holidays. No need to partake but you do need to be mindful. Interact with your community (that's why you need to speak the language, mate). Don't set yourself up as some isolated colonial outpost who only associates with other colonials and deals with the locals only as required. Believe me, life suddenly becomes a lot easier. Develop and nurture as many professional, personal and service (directly plagiarised from BKKSW's sub, I always thought of them as people I knew but service fits better – thanks, BKKSW) relationships as you can. They are important. You would do it anywhere else and you never know when you might need them or who in turn they might be able to introduce you to. Be friendly, polite and respectful to everyone! Don't be a smartarse and don't be aggressive. If the feeling isn't mutual then discontinue that relationship. A smile goes a long way even if it doesn't necessarily express the emotion that you feel at that particular moment. It is easier to extricate yourself from trouble than to throw yourself head-long in to the breach. There are hundreds more but I don't have all day and I think you get my point. There is nothing ground breaking here – it's all common sense. Pretty much the same thing you would do anywhere else you wanted to make a home*.
You are responsible for your own happiness and it is easier to achieve if you immerse yourself in the moment and enjoy every second of it. Life is far too short to live in a prison of your own device. What a way to end a sub not about Thailand or the bar scene then by indirectly quoting "Hotel California" bit ironic that, eh? Cheers.
Have Fun out there,
* When I say a home I say it guardedly and with some regret. I live here quite happily but for me home will always be Australia. I agree with Stick's column 100% this week. For those of us who choose to live here this could be one of the hardest countries within to gain acceptance. As foreigners we will always be looked at as foreigners and I think this is to Thailand's great detriment in the long run. Being an Aussie and for Stick a Kiwi, it is easy in our respective countries for foreigners to buy land, gain citizenship and from there get all the benefits of same; health care, welfare, public housing, education, legal aid and to be assimilated into society as well as generally accepted and the list goes on. The best thing about Australia is that if you are willing to do your best you will be accepted by mostly everyone. All you need to do back home is "have a go". I am much of the same mind. The one thing I do find frustrating here is, no matter what I do or what I achieve in Thailand I will always be an outsider. Citizenship and permanent residency are near impossible to attain, and jumping through all the hoops to stay here is unnecessarily difficult. Even though I am married and have 2 children to a Thai national. Personally I can and have dealt with this for quite a while, but now, as a father of two I don't think I want my kids to. I would much rather they were raised in Australia as kids with dual citizenship and if Thailand was a place they wanted to come, so be it. Ironically my kids would be accepted and fit in so much more in Australia as leuk kreung than they would in the country of their birth. Which I find a real shame. There is a lot more I could say on this subject but it would be another sub in itself. Saying that and living here nearly as long as Stick, mostly I find it terribly disappointing. At one point, not so long ago, I thought I wanted to stay here forever. Now I find the thing that makes me want to leave the Kingdom the most are two half Thai children, mine. As much as it pains me to say it, my children will get a far greater education, attitude, outlook on life, opportunities and ability to not only think laterally but question authority, government and all the things that shouldn't be taken at face value, all for free, than they could ever hope to receive in Thailand. Those are the things that have coloured my outlook about the Kingdom and made me decide like Stick, that I won't be staying here much longer.