Three years ago I was sitting in a Soi Cowboy bar with one of my colleagues. We sat there, chatting over a beer, comparing the lifestyle that we both enjoyed in Thailand with that which we had left behind in our respective home countries. We both agreed that the Thai lifestyle was hard to beat, and that neither of us were in a hurry to return to our homelands. A couple of weeks ago, that same friend sent me an email with a photo attached. The photo was of him and his lovely fiance at the beach. From the photo, I could see a beautiful blue sky and throngs of farang basting themselves under the midday sun. But looking at the photo, it was quite clear that my friend was not at a Thai beach. Rather, he was at a beach back home in his native England. Where once he and I had raved about the wonderful Thai lifestyle, he now finds himself back in the UK, having voluntarily left because he found himself fed up with so many aspects of life here.
Another close friend of mine married his Thai princess back in his corner of Farangland earlier in the year. Although he was only in Farangland for a month, the time there made him realise that there were many things about life back home that he misses, so many in fact that he finds himself questioning what he is doing in Thailand. He enjoys the Thai lifestyle too, but so many aspects of what goes on here irritates him and drives up his blood pressure, and he seems to be forever wondering how much longer he'll be able to take it, how much longer he'll be able to stay here. If it wasn't for the fact that Farangland is so expensive, and he has a very good job here in the Kingdom, I dare say he would have upped and left by now.
We never quite know what the future holds, and with this in mind, one needs to be very careful when one moves to Thailand. How can you be so sure that what you imagine will be paradise, will turn out how you expect it? Will you get bored? Will you find another more exciting, more suitable place to live? Will you run out of money? Will you be able to find employment? Will you be able to cope with the heat? Will you be able to adapt to the culture? Will the Thai ways start to drive you nuts? And the one which I STILL maintain will become a big deal in the not too distant future, will they continue to grant you a new visa, year after year after year?
I get more than a few emails from people who want to escape Farangland. Escape is the right word because many of these people have debts, significant debts that will take a long time to get under control. So often to either the tax department or credit card company, these people have got themselves into a right mess and see Thailand as a way out. More than a few people also mention alimony payments, bad investments or other financial reasons why they want to escape Farangland. Thailand will only provide temporary shelter, for if they messed up in the West, it is likely that they will mess up in the East even faster. The inability to manage one's personal affairs does not suddenly rectify itself when you jump from one continent to another.
Both before one makes the move to Thailand, and after the move has been made, one should be aware of not burning one's bridges. Burning one's bridges, be it through imprudent financial management or shirking one's responsibility to themselves through mediocre employment, one can find themselves in a disastrous situation if they are not careful. And if the person in question is still of working age, they need to carefully consider their employability outside of Thailand, for continuity of employment in Thailand for a farang is in no way guaranteed.
Think back before you discovered Thailand. Had someone suggested to you that you would consider moving there, would you too have thought that they were mad? Moving to the Far East? Why would one want to do that?! With this in mind, one needs to be aware that we never know what the future holds. One might decide that Thailand is not the paradise that they thought it was, and decide to move on. But if you have burned your bridges back home, this becomes a whole lot more difficult, and if the situation is bad enough, you might find yourself virtually forced to move to an alternative location.
A good number of the foreigners who move to Thailand fall in love with the place. Sure, many have a love / hate relationship and continually moan and groan about certain aspects of life in the Kingdom, but in most cases, these people are in absolutely no hurry to leave and would fight any moves to make them leave. Still, if one decides to leave, or as is always possible, is forced to leave, then one does not want to find themselves in a position where it would be very difficult to assimilate back into life in Farangland.
It pays to think carefully about what you are doing in Thailand. If you are retired, then there is probably little to be concerned about. But if you are still working, and especially if you are still relatively young, you really do need to think long and hard about what you are doing.
Life in Thailand should wonderful, but do not overlook, nor shirk, your responsibility to yourself. There is no safety net in Thailand for the locals, let alone us foreigners. Failure to carefully consider and plan for your future may result in your Thailand experience being curtailed, and the biggest reality check of all, being forced to return to Farangland when you least want to.
Where is this Pic?
Last week's pic was ridiculously easy and was of course taken at Soi Cowboy at night. The fact that the picture was underexposed seemed to fool a few people but most people who answered it got it right. This week's pic is a bit tougher. Oh, and there will be some REALLY good prizes offered again soon. In 1-2 weeks, prizes should resume, and really, the prizes are VERY good.
Dawn, such a nice time of day…
An alternative lifestyle?
I note more and more big name entertainment and sports companies are setting up merchandise stores in Thailand. There is a huge Warner Bros store under construction at Siam Square on the main road, just opposite the main bus stop. And Manchester United have announced that they will be opening up stores locally too. Expect this to have quite an effect on the copied goods trade in the Kingdom. While I don't see a lot about Warner Bros merchandise (apart from the movies themselves of course) being copied, copied football jerseys are available everywhere. When the official licence holder finally opens up a store, expect a crack down on copied items.
Local internet users noticed the net slowed down considerably this week, way before any announcements were made that there was a problem with the link between Korea and Taiwan – of which it seems a lot of Thailand's internet traffic travels. It seemed to get fixed some time around 6:00 PM on Thursday.
I note one bar that was closed recently for showing…is showing again!
In Nana, it seems that it was clothes back on over the last few days. Now, what could that be all about? Contrast this with Soi Cowboy where it was business as usual.
Quote of the week comes from a Thai male friend, who said, "I have had enough of Thai women – the cunning of a fox yet the logic of a goldfish".
It is every teacher's worst nightmare – humiliating a student by mistake. But the mistake does not come from saying something wrong or making a cultural faux pas, but rather from doing something so horrible, so unexpected, that you feel almost as bad as the student does. And in a hot country like Thailand, there is every chance that it may happen to you… In Thai schools, inevitably the strongest students sit at the front, and the weaker students, so often the boys, sit at the back. Standing at the front of the class and in the middle of presenting a new piece of language, you notice a chunk, yes its always a chunk (!), of saliva go flying out of your mouth and it always, yes it ALWAYS, lands on the face of the nicest, most diligent female student in the class. And the poor girl, not wanting to upset the teacher, does nothing. But the moment the teacher glances away, that poor girl wipes the offensive matter of her face, and does her best not to screw up her face in a look of disgust at the barbarian before her, posing as a teacher. So, while some teachers take a mint or two before teaching, take my advice and have a drink of water. Saliva flies from a dry mouth, not a moist one.
The nature of the English language teaching industry is that jobs can be very hit and miss. One never really knows quite what they are getting themselves into, and this is especially the case if you apply for and get accepted for a position, while you are still back in Farangland. There are plenty of jobs available locally, but frankly, many of them should be avoided. Poor pay, lousy conditions and inadequate resources are just some of the problems that potential job hunters find. But perhaps there is an alternative…but it is outside of Thailand. A Bangkok based expat who found himself in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, in the last week, reported that he had people approaching him in the street, grabbing his arm, and literally pleading with him to be their English teacher. Teaching in Taiwan pays much more than Thailand… So, if you can’t find adequate employment teaching in Thailand, try Taiwan. A lot of guys in Taiwan, Korea and Japan email me and tell me how they earn good money up there – VERY good by Thai standards and come and spend about 3 months a year, relaxing in Thailand, living the good life. It is an alternative.
And speaking of English teaching, there seem to be more and more English teachers in this city who are pulling in a decent, liveable salary. By this, I mean 60 – 70K baht a month. (Many people may debate this as liveable, but that is altogether a different issue that I will not discuss here.) Many of these teachers are working a second job, and are making a good fist of it. More often than not, the secondary source of income comes from teaching at a different school or perhaps picking up decent paying private tuition here and there. But I seem to be meeting more and more teachers who have got their fingers in another pie. Be it exporting various items, translation, MLM, website design, proof-reading or perhaps something a little different, there do seem to be more than a few teachers doing ok for themselves. If you manage to get yourself a teaching job that provides you with the all important one year visa and a less than taxing schedule, you may well find that you have enough time on your hands to be able to do something on the side, make the sort of income that allows you to have fun AND still not feel like you are working all the hours that God sends.
I don't know quite what it is, but whenever I see farang on a public buys, especially a non air-con bus, I always think that they are English teachers… Often they're not, but I still think like this.
How bad is the pollution in Bangers? Well, I guess it depends on where in the city you are, and also whether you have any existing respiratory problems. As someone who suffers from mild asthma, I assumed that Bangkok's pollution would have played hell with my system, but funnily enough, the opposite is true. The minor and infrequent asthma problems I have are far less of a problem in Bangkok than they are back in my little corner of Farangland. I put it down to other factors, perhaps the warm weather placing less strain on one's body.
Chinatown. Can you find worse pollution
anywhere else in Bangkok?
A friend of mine has a ritual that he used to like to perform in the middle of a big soccer match. He likes watching international soccer matches featuring England at one of the British bars in Soi Yamoto in Pattaya. At half-time, he would run out of the bar across the road into one of the short time establishments where he would fetch a girl, go upstairs into the room, complete the business all before the second half started.
In the West, when you are the consumer and things go against you, you have all sorts of options of redress available to you. In Thailand, the same consumer protection guarantees simply don't exist. Whereas in the West a complaint that your food is under-cooked, or your new item of clothing is marked will likely be followed up with a replacement, or at least some sort of corrective action, in Thailand, it is not quite the same. In fact it seems that in the West, people simply refuse to pay if they feel that they have not received fair value for money – and apparently, they get away with this. Don't try this in Thailand! Failure to pay for a service because you were unsatisfied with it or it did not meet your expectations will only result in problems. Big problems! Remember, almost everything is so much cheaper in Thailand – but with the cheaper prices, you do not get the same consumer protection as the West.
I notice that the Siam Intercontinental is being torn down as developers get ready to prepare the area for the construction of another new shopping centre. Just what we need. The ads for the new shopping centre suggest that it will be yet another high end shopping centre, aimed squarely at the sector of the market dominated by Emporium, Gaysorn and Peninsula Plaza. Whatever happens, I'm sure it will be better than Gaysorn which seems to be getting the thumbs down from all and sundry. Does ANYONE like Gaysorn?
One of my colleagues was harassed by the bank this week. Not one of the Thai banks, but one of the few British banks represented in the Kingdom. His crime? Failing to pay his monthly loan payment loan in full. Yep, he was short the princely sum of 48 satang, which if you are not familiar with currency in the Kingdom, is less than half a baht, or about one US cent. While you would think that they would have picked up on this at the time the payment was made, they did not. Several phone calls to him (at 3 baht a call!) and he was told to report to the bank immediately, to face the music. It seems that being 48 satang short is a crime, and a fine of 500 baht was levied. My Thai is pretty good, but one word I do not know off the top of my head, is the Thai word for "sensible". Maybe it doesn’t exist? Such a concept in Thailand seems a little bit too much to ask…
I have finally relented and changed the publication date of the column to Monday. I would much rather fire it out on a Sunday and in fact I will strive to get it up and online by 6:00 PM on a Sunday, but realistically, that is not going to happen. Bottom line is that my weekends are important and the choice of either going out and having fun, or returning home to finish the column is a fairly easy decision to make. I intend to enjoy my life first and foremost, so the column comes second… But, I can almost guarantee that the new deadline will be met every week.
Your Bangkok commentator,