Mark Newman

A farang mute!

Why I have no intention of studying Thai

Thailand is a country rich in culture. It's also cheap and safe to travel through. The people are friendly, the food is good and if you want to stick around for a while, work is easy to come by.

If you're a gap student, or just unemployed and bored, there's a place for you here. If you are older and more worldly wise, there's also plenty of room left over for you guys, too.

Guys? I almost forgot... women! Women are especially welcome in The Land Of Smiles - especially ones that want to teach for a year or two... or more!

Even the French can find a place here in the sun.

So, start packing and leave behind that horrible snow and rain. Leave behind that crappy job. That debt. Those kids! Leave all your worries behind and come to Thailand.

And now you're here what are you going to do? That's right - hit the beach! And then what are you going to do? Well, hit the mountains, hit the local markets, hit the trains, hit everywhere you can see. It's nice to be able to travel around a safe country so cheaply and safely, isn't it?

What would make it even better? Hmm! Oh, I know... let's learn Thai so we can speak to the locals. It'll be fun. We can haggle in the markets, order room service, have fun in restaurants and bars and life will be a lot easier. It will be a bit of work, but it'll be fun to do and well worth it in the end.

Hello. My name is Mark. I'm a 'farang mute.'

Now you've decided to stay here and call Thailand home... for a while. One thing you quickly pick up when you're doing the rounds of a foreign country is that people are sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always diverse and never the same.

This is much more apparent when you actually live in a different country long term. Things don't always go the way you plan them and the way things are fixed are just wrong!

...which brings me to... well, me!

I'll warn you now - you aren't going to like me much. It's not too late to back out of this.

I don't like travelling around and meeting people. I dislike public beaches. I abhor hotels and I really hate any kind of sleeping arrangements that don't involve my bed in my house.

I don't like to walk around crowded markets and I never go to bars and discos. I don't drink so why would I? (Yeah, it's all about me.)

But worst of all, I hate chit-chat. I recoil with intense unease when I am talking to strangers. Idle conversation to me is like fingernails on a blackboard regardless of the language.

It's not that I don't like the people I talk to - I just don't enjoy the useless, vapid exchange of dialog.

I'm not talking about Thai strangers either. I'm even more uneasy talking to fellow farangs. I can't pull the usual fast one of being able to say 'Sorry, I don't understand you!'

"I want to be alone... with someone else who wants to be alone." Dimitri Zaik

One of the benefits of living in Thailand among Thai people and not knowing much Thai, is that you just get left alone.

But that's not the only benefit of being a 'farang mute.' I also have the pleasure of not understanding anything that people are saying. Most people have really nothing of value to say and just like making a noise.

Another very handy benefit of being a 'farang mute' is that I can't understand anything on TV or on the radio.

Just watching TV makes my eyes bleed. Understanding it as well would probably send me into some kind of mental fit.

The thing is, learning Thai is of no value to me. The effort and time it takes to do doesn't give me a return that pays off.

If I'm unwilling to communicate to anyone in English why would I make an effort to learn a very difficult language and do the same with Thais? To chat in bars? To order pizza? Make the check out girls feel more at ease?

The cure for hating stuff.

To many people, solitude is seen as a vice. Something that should be apologized for. Actually, being alone and in my quiet zone at the weekend especially, helps me to re-fuel for a noisy week of work. I find the five day process of being around a thousand noisy kids is a drain on my ever depleting resources of mental energy.

So, with all these things that I don't like piling up, I have done what any normal, rational and level headed man would do... I've arranged my life to specifically avoid all these things.

Everything has been tailored so my life can be minimally interfered with by the things that I don't like.

I don't like cities so I moved to the country. I don't like dogs and noisy neighbors so I built a house on private land. I don't like travelling on buses or in taxis so I bought a car.

If I had done all these things in my native England, it would have been seen as normal and sensible behavior. But I didn't. I decided to make my life comfortable in Thailand... a nation that happily embraces the hordes of sanctimonious, pretentious tramps masquerading as knowledgeable and/or interesting travelers.

Please turn down the volume...

Anyway, over the course of the last fifteen years, I just haven't bothered to learn the lingo. I did learn somethings that I needed to know. One of the phrases I quickly learned was "Please turn down the volume."

I used it in the taxis a lot when I lived in Bangkok. The problem with learning that, was taxi drivers thought I could speak Thai. So I then had to learn "Sorry, I don't understand." They didn't believe me and there was stony silence!

Remember what I said earlier about everybody being different? Well that doesn't only apply to foreigners. We are all different - even if we are raised in the same country with similar educations and opportunities in life. So, to all those of you who, like me, are private people, there's also room for YOU in Thailand... but be prepared for the critics.

When in Spain... run like hell!

There has been somewhat of a negative reaction to my impudent lifestyle in some quarters. My mum said I'm going to die a lonely man. Well, alone, maybe but not lonely. I suspect that my partner will outlive me. She has more than a thirty year advantage.

Last week (August 2015) there was a news story that Spain had had record visitors. The story was accompanied by some pictures of beaches absolutely infested from top to bottom with tourists. As I inwardly repulsed at those images it occurred to me that I'd rather have a rock to myself than share a beach with anyone!

One online blogger was 'outraged' that I didn't come to Thailand to mingle with the locals and immerse myself in my 'environment.' My family and a couple of people that know me shake their heads. They don't understand why anyone wouldn't be running around the country making pals, chatting to strangers in bars and running up and down mountains.

Another keen critic asserted that for me "When in Rome..." didn't apply. Maybe, he thinks that people who swim a lot will eventually become fish! I never did fully understand that criticism.

There's no use in trying to defend myself to anyone. I'm lazy - and learning Thai is a victim of that.

So, here I am... 'a farang mute' in a nation filled to the rafters with social animals racing about chatting to anyone that will listen and trying every food they've never heard of... or seen actually prepared in a kitchen.

We all have our different reasons for being here in Thailand. Yours may be to experience adventure and to embrace different cultures. Mine's just the opposite. I came to be left in peace. It's working out very well - thanks for asking.

So, you can say what you like about my reasons for living in Thailand - I can't understand a darn thing you are saying!

Mark Newman



Thank you for your thoughts. I would love to learn the language. I feel pressure to demonstrate some knowledge of Thai at work, but I am so busy learning or doing other things right now. Plus, people constantly want to speak to you in English because you are a foreigner living in an urban area. The momentum towards Thai fluency is not happening for me, unfortunately. Also, when you've given your all at work and throughout the week with social interaction, WHY do you need to explaining having - only one day of quiet to yourself ( one day of cleaning, errands and preparing for work again - leaves you with only one entire free day - essentially - to do nothing or whatever). Why, does society seem to make you feel bad for vegging out on some weekends before diving into the next????

By Deb, Thailand (23rd August 2015)

Hi Mark,

I was glad to read your post; I commend you for your honesty and yes not all of us are built the same way. I too like to be left alone, for me it turns out I cant even cohabitate with a girl for more than 2-3 days. Its amazing that you've stayed with your partner for an extended time.
There is nothing I enjoy more than walking to my aircon apartment and closing the door behind me, leaving all the zoo behind. Privacy in Thailand is a hard thing to come by specially if you live in high population area...BKK, Pattaya.
By the by, my mother also says I will stay alone for the rest of my life. I plan to keep it that way too.

By MorPhan, Las Vegas (20th August 2015)

I'm really of two minds on this one....

On one hand, the reader has found a niche and way of operating that affords him a day-to-day experience of social interactions that are ideal for him. He believes in the 'economy of words', and in either using them efficiently or not at all. He values his privacy.

However.....given that this poster, in the past, has had no shortage of criticisms of nearly every item of what anyone else has to contribute on this website, and will usually give long-winded pontifications on how he knows so much more about everything than the rest of us fools (except Thai language), I suspect that his desire to be 'left alone' is a bit ambiguous, to say the least.

The big question......does the desire for solitude come from a Thoreau-esque desire for self-enlightenment and reflection? Or does it come from a misanthropic ego that simply can't co-exist with other humans?

By Bart, Krabi (20th August 2015)

I was speaking personally, not generally, as I came here for my wife, who speaks English quite well. I wasn't very talkative in my own country. Everyone's their own little snowflake, so why should you force someone to be something they're not?

By the way, Aaron- jog on. You know, just because someone doesn't have the same outgoing personality as you, it doesn't mean they have a medical condition. Even if they do have one, maybe they have gotten used to it or comfortable with it, and so who are you to suggest anything? Your"funny" post is just an example of mocking the afflicted- hope you are proud...

By JBKK, BKK (20th August 2015)

You could have just quoted Sartre: "Hell is other people."

And being alone does not mean lonely, as you mentioned. I do not need to share the moment to fully enjoy it.

Learning the Thai language is a useless exercise. That said, I’ve picked up a bit over the years in spite of my best efforts not to, and when I put that limited knowledge together with the usual range of nonverbal clues it’s pretty easy to get a reasonably nuanced sense of what’s going on around me. It’s not a pretty picture.

By Van Harrison, US (19th August 2015)

The world is full of "interesting" people. Oh well, to each his own.

By Jack, North of where I used to be (19th August 2015)

Ummm - exactly the way I feel? This is just strange. You are in a foreign country - the people speak a foreign language (foreign to you). If you don't want to talk and meet people - they why not stay at home in your country and sit in your living room with delivery pizza boxes piling up on your floor.??? not want to spend time talking about irrelevant things - oh you mean like life and normal day to day things? Oh my god but oh ya this is not a different country with a different language - sorry I forgot my bad---you don't want to waste time and money but you spent thousands of dollars and days of your life just to come here --- something is really wrong with this situation and your train of thought.

By Aaron, Bangkok (19th August 2015)

I feel exactly the same been here for6-years and have no ambition to learn the language. Not because I dont like chit-chat but rather because I am not awfully fond of the Thais (i.e I have no desire to make friends with them / date them) all my friends are farang so why should I learn Thai?

By anonFarand, BKK (19th August 2015)

So, Mark. There are many wonderful Thai and Western doctors in the field of Psychology, Psychiatry, neuroscience, and other fields who are here in the land of smiles and who can help you. Bipolar and anti-social disorders, as well as various forms of depression and anxiety and narcissism can be controlled with the aid of medical professionals. Please seek help

By Aaron, Bangkok (19th August 2015)

I have disagreed with the poster before, but not in this case; some aspects of his personality are eerily similar to mine.

Some people don't like to chit chat about irrelevant things, and certainly don't want to spend a lot of time and maybe cash in order to do it in a foreign language, just to make people feel better or to "show respect", as many people suggest. There are only so many hours in a day, and I don't really need to speak Thai to anyone, so what is the point of using the limited time I have to study it? I could be doing something fun...

By JBKK, BKK (19th August 2015)

The man who doesn't like to communicate unnecessarily with anyone, because its a waste of time ... spent time writing a 1400 word essay explaining why.

By UrbanMan, Hodie i adsum - Cras amet qui scit? (18th August 2015)

Nice to hear your perspective in full, Mark. Interesting read.

By mike, bangkok (18th August 2015)

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