Richard Constable


When know-it-alls get it plain wrong

Mumpsimus, an old English word that has almost gone entirely out of fashion and therefore in its spoken use, and I have absolutely no idea why, as it is certainly an extremely useful noun indeed.

It means 'an incorrect view on something that a person refuses to let go of'. (Dictionary definition; a person who adheres to unreasonable customs and ideas).

For a while now, I have been wondering why such a high percentage of foreign expats living in Thailand, suffer from mumpsimus. I have long lost count of the number times I have been sitting in a teachers' office, or having a few drinks, when a foreign teaching colleague has stated something completely incorrectly as if it were written gospel, and something they had already had pointed out to them, was not the reality of the situation. Mumpsimus!

When you find yourself in a position where you know something for sure, and everyone else is under a different impression. your options aren't good. You have the choice of trying to convince others that they've got it wrong, and then probably come over as a controversial know-all, or letting it go in the form of self imposed mind-numbing irony.

For a good many years, I opted to be a controversial know-all, although in more recent years I've been numbing out.

So here goes, back to my old style. Here is an example, 'A foreigner can't win and claim the Thai National Lottery'. Not true! The rules clearly state that anyone of any nationality can, in fact, win and claim the given prize money.

Actually, a Cambodian immigrant had the great fortune to both win and claim the six million baht first prize earlier this year. Furthermore, his story was spread right across the kingdom's media.

Another example, 'South Africans are native English speakers'. This one has only been doing the rounds among foreigners for a few years. Nevertheless, it couldn't be more wrong as their native language is Afrikaans, and a great number of South Africans cannot even speak English.

This fallacy was presumably founded by someone at the Ministry of Education when they decided that South Africans were natives speakers, alongside British, American, Irish, Australian, Canadian, and New Zealanders. They aren't and never have they been.

Another is, 'Bar girls speak the best English' as opposed to the rest of the Thai population. This one is most frequently inaccurately spoken by newcomers; those ex-pats that have only been living here in 'The land of the Smiles' for couple of years or so. Generally speaking, those free spirits who are still enjoying life's adventures.

Interestingly, some bar girls often acquire an uncanny knack of getting the gist of 'where someone is coming from.' As in, if someone is talking to them about something serious, their persona takes on a serious tone; making statements like 'Really?' whilst looking surprised, or laughing at the right moment for a joke or better still, turning on the tears for a sad narrative. Such as when they can barely understand a word anyone is saying, let alone being able to contribute to the conversation themselves. So I have been told by those who know about these forms of acquaintances.

Another one that can sometimes get my goat is 'an EFL teacher's contract in Thailand isn't worth the paper it's written on' or words to that effect. Favorite misconceptions are often 'because a foreigner doesn't have any rights here' or 'there are always clauses written into it that make it worthless.

Fortunately, there are some fine Thai government offices at the Central Thai Labor Court in Hua Lamphong that are able to prove otherwise.

Keeping with education is 'the schools in my country are far better than the schools in Thailand'  This is a difficult one to prove either way. Are they really saying that every school in their country is good while every school in Thailand is shit? By law of averages, that would surely be a highly unlikely equation.

All Issarn wives of foreigners only married them for money to help their poor families' Hmmm, is that actually the case? There must be some sort of individuality, even if it is not massive. Namely, twenty-five million people and not one good woman has ever came from their number to make a genuine attachment to a foreign male. It cannot be possible.

Lastly, the most controversial of all - 'foreigners can't own land in Thailand' and that's why I'm going to keep it as brief as possible. My parents, who are both English, bought and sold land here no less than four times, over a period of nine and a half years, without so much as a hiccup.

Mumpsimus, is a wonderful old fashioned English word that has all but died a death and been laid to rest. May it rest in peace.


"Wow, Richard you seem to have sure gotten very offended when your simple and incomplete, or inaccurate, know-it-all answers have been challenged"

Oh, Jack, if only I could post that meme of Spider-Man pointing at an identical Spider-Man. "Pot, kettle, black" is what the older kids are saying, I believe. Have you ever thought about trying to be more civilised with other members? Your negative comments really do bring down the mood of these blogs.

Hey, Richard. Thanks for taking the time to write this blog. Thailand doesn't have rule of law. It has a system of ruling 'by law'. People can say, "That's the way it is", but that doesn't mean it's fair. It just means it's badly broken. And if a system is badly broken, it doesn't matter how careful you are, how much you follow the rules and cross your tees, etc, you can have it all taken away from you in the click of a finger.

Your reputation should quite rightly precede you. That's why any investments my wife and I make are in the most secure and repeatable institutions we can afford or find. Even then it's still a gamble. There's not much I'd invest in Thailand that I couldn't already afford to lose. That isn't personal - it's just business. And land here is one of those things I wouldn't touch with a 50 foot barge pole. But, hey - that's just my opinion.

By Simon, Thailand (26th June 2020)

Appreciate that very much Charles BK, as you couldn't have put it more succinctly, nor could you have been in a position to be better informed.

By Richard Constable, Bang Na (17th June 2020)

Wow, Richard you seem to have sure gotten very offended when your simple and incomplete, or inaccurate, know-it-all answers have been challenged.

We often make generalizations when making statements which in fact there are many exceptions depending on specifics.

Your problem is you assumed, or at least implied by your chose of wording, your generalizations were 100% accurate instead of realizing what you considered wrong might have been just a different interpretation of the words used.

What makes one a "native speaker" of English? The primary language spoken at home, the primary language spoken in society, or the official language?

In the USA, English is not the official language, the US does not have an official language, does that mean no Americans are native English speakers? Or does the fact English is the most widely spoken language mean all Americans are native speakers of English despite the large number of Americans being immigrants? Or could it be possible some/most Americans are native English speakers but some might not be?

I suspect this applies equally to South Africa.

I don't think there is much misunderstanding among long-term foreign residents in Thailand about the legal situation concerning land ownership although not everyone knows the specifics in detail.

With a few exceptions such as with condos, foreigners can not legally own a majority stake in land yet there are legal process which will allow a foreign to have rights which closely resemble ownership as long as there are not any legal challenges from the partners. I think this fact is well known by most, although it seems the arguments here are over semantics over the term ownership and the assessment of risk which comes from relying on legal documents to protect an interest of less than 50% actual ownership.

Relax Richard, it is not the end of the world to realize you are not actually as smart as your tried to make yourself seem and the rest of us are not quite as dim-witted as you implied.

By Jack, LOS (13th June 2020)

I never, never leave comments on anything I read so this is a first. The prompt is that what a load of masterbatory self indulgent shite about land ownership.
Economically, countries that restrict foreign ownership of land have to allow such ownership to stimulate growth. Financially, Thai's can live and do so on 5-10k per month. Without foreign ownership of land the economy would go down the toilet.
A company is a separate legal entity. It owns the land. Directors own the land. The best methodology is 49/51 split followed by a General Meeting on paper for the Thai shareholder/director to transfer shares to the non Thai so that the majority of shares are held by the non Thai for peace of mind.
So those of you who are nervously holding your privates stating that foreigners cannot own land, or horrible things will happen, are wrong and the secret is not to look at the legal but the socio-economic. By way of completion, land can be owned by minors under a trust.
And "how do you know all this, who are you?" Not to be ostentatious:
Company Director of 2 property companies (UK, Thailand)
Owner of 12 properties
Landlord of Thai tenants.... and they just love that!

By the way I am selling a lovely detached 4 bedroom villa, nice big garden, gated community, corner position, full freehold Chanote). 4 million baht which is the price I paid for it. 50/50 tax. It's been tenanted for a long while and tenant leaves soon and I prefer to sell. If you know of anyone LINE me: umbizumbi

By Charles, BK (13th June 2020)


I believe I made 7 valid points of 'mumpsimus' with little if any significance to anyone in particular.

And I have written over 20 blogs for ajarn, over the past 2 years when I didn't mention any of the above.

Exclusive? There are in actual fact thousands of expats here, that own houses or bungalows.

However, I would agree that anyone who owns their own home in any country is lucky!

By Richard Constable, Bang Na (11th June 2020)

Big word in title to get attention. Then bold claims.

You were dead serious about it, now you're trying to brush it off as a bit of light hearted amusement. What was the purpose originally? To let everyone know how lucky you were because your family owned something so exclusive? Impressive indeed.

By Pat_Bangkok, Bangkok (10th June 2020)

I wrote this blog mainly for my own amusement and to a lesser extent that some other people might read it and find some amusement in it. That is, I didn't write it to annoy others or to make myself look smart. What's more, I didn't write the title, nor do I like it. In the blog, I infer that I am the know-all for trying to correct people over these common misconceptions.

Hello again, Jessica,

Did you really think you had been polite in your first set of comments about my blog?

What were you actually saying there? That I was either delusional, senile or simply a liar, because I would surely know if my parents had bought some land or not.

Now, in your second set of comments I am not quite sure if you are agreeing with me or still disagreeing. Albeit, it seems at the very least you are attempting to split hairs. (And you ungraciously state that my blog is full of errors, but you do not point out anymore, only the one I made about Afrikaans being the first language of South Africa, (a big mistake) which I had already apologized for.) It is in fact one of the other ten official languages, whereas English is apparently the eleventh official language.

My first employer in Thailand, back in 2002 was a guy called John Clabbon and he told me that, if five Thai shareholders get together, it amounts to 51% and therefore they could take possession of a property bought under a Thai foreigner nominee company. It gives me no pleasure to say this, still that theory is a typical foreigner's perspective. This could never happen as the major shareholder has as I have already said, power of attorney.

My parent's owned their company, their company owned the freehold and they as individuals owed the lease. And that gave them 100% rights over their land and their property, and no Thai person ever disputed that fact.

Hi Jack,

I was wondering when you were going to pop-up, as you are often in my nightmares. And as you are here, I am sure you can remember that great old Paul Newman and George Kennedy movie, Cool Hand Luke. As well as, the scene where Newman having eaten 30 eggs for a bet, is immediately subjected to a taunt by another player, 'Nobody can eat thirty eggs!'

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

By Richard Constable, Bang Na (10th June 2020)


It does not seem your attempt to show you are smarter than almost everyone else worked out as planned.

By Jack, LOS (10th June 2020)

Mumpsimus! Thanks for that Jimbo.

And no, I didn't back track. I apologized for making the stupid mistake of saying that South Africans speak Afrikaans as a first language - which they don't anymore than they speak English as a first language.

Also, my parents have not broken any laws and their books are still submitted annually by a Thai

By Richard Constable, Bang Na (10th June 2020)

First off, I'm not your mate in any sense of the word!
Secondly it is interesting that you called me Mumpsimus in the same response where you made an apology to a false claim that you were asserting was absolutely true (the native English speakers of South Africa)!
So who is the very definition of mumpsimus?
Actually I'm not going to be as rude as to say that to you because we can always learn new things as you yourself did when you actually did some research on the subject your were spouting about. I also researched more deeply into the ownership of land in Thailand by foreigners. Seems as you alluded to that you are correct to some extent that non Thais can own land there in several ways (legally) BUT is it really ownership in the truest sense of the word?
1. A foreigner may own a land in a name of Thai company (at least 51% of shares are Thai and 49% are foreign). This can be done as a Thai Limited Company or a registered Thai Partnership.
2. A foreigner can buy limited amounts of land for the residential purposes of his/her employees with a minimum investment of at least 1 million baht in Thailand. (Lots of stipulations with this option)
3. As you stated: A foreigner with a Thai spouse could always buy land by putting 49% on her/his name, and another 49% on the Thai spouse's name - whilst keeping 2% eschew.
4. Through Lease of Property
Leasing is one option for a foreigner to acquire land. The foreigner in essence leases the land or house from whoever is named the owner of the land, namely the Thai national. *BUT leasing is not ownership*
5. Structured Ownership
A company or the Thai spouse of a foreigner may grant the foreigner, the right to personally own all constructions situated on the land. Thus a foreign individual can be registered as the owner of a house without owning the land. *THUS again not ownership*

So basicallly what is means is that a foreigner (unless using the land for Thai employees) can own 49% of land or can lease it. This isn't ownership. As anyone who runs a company will tell you from day one, if you own 49 percent of a company and others own 51%, you really own nothing and have no say if that 51% comes together. And while it may have worked out for your parents and some of your's a pretty risky business paying 100% of the price for 49% of the rights.

Also as a side note...not very generous of you to insult me directly as a reader of your article. As a result I won't be reading any more articles that you post, especially when they are full of errors.

By Jessica, Not in Thailand Anymore (10th June 2020)

Was gonna write a 3,000 word diatribe tearing this nonsense apart piece by piece. I just can't be bothered... you've already back tracked on the South African issue. What would be the point?!

After reading the few quotes below, I'm sure that you'll agree that your parents (as per the way you described the manner in which they purchased the land) and all your foreign friends (who I assume did something similar) have broken the law, and here you are announcing it to the world online - well done mate!

"For a company, especially one with foreign directors, to purchase a property, there a few criteria which must be observed:

it should be a legitimate business, and actually generate income;

it should file audited accounts, pay taxes and abide by Thai company law;

it must hold board meetings and have minutes of those meetings; and

it must have proper Thai shareholders.

The most important thing to understand is that the company is the legal owner of the house/villa – not the foreigner. They may be a director, and they may live in the villa, but they do not own it"

I especially liked the last paragraph. Who owns/owned your friend's and family's properties again? Full article below, I'm assuming it's up to date (ish) as it's not even a year old. A quick google to the Siam Legal website and you'll find similar info. Find a Thai (who's bipartisan) to fish about on local government websites and I'm sure you'll find what you're looking for there.

The fact of the matter is, as with most things in the country, it is a very grey area. And not one I would want to partake in.

By Jimbo, In bed (9th June 2020)

Very clear and useful answer. Thanks

By Jim, Khon Kaen (9th June 2020)


I do apologize to you as it appears I was surely flippant in saying that Afrikaans was the native language of South Africans, as I now find that it is only one of 11 official languages in your country.

And if this snippet of information below, that I have now read fully is correct, here are the statistics.

According to Statistics South Africa, only 8.4% African households speak English - that's just 4.7 million people in a country of 56 million. English is only the sixth-most common home language in the country, after Zulu (24.7%), Xhosa (15.6%), Afrikaans (12.1%), Sepedi (9.8%),
and Setswana (8.9).

Albeit, if you are as you say a native speaker of English and I do not doubt you - I still feel that stating that South Africans are native speakers of English, is mumpsimus, when only 8.4% of households speak English!


There is just no hope, for you mate. You are full of the very essence of mumpsimus.


My parents were advised by a local estate agent in Hua Hin back in 2005 to get a solicitor to set up a Thai foreigner nominee company (like probably thousands of expats, back then and since) so that they could buy a bungalow there.

It worked like this, forty-nine percent in my parents name, eleven percent and a further four ten percents - where divided between the 5 Thai staff at the agent's.

The Thai names, were and are, just that, names. My parents have always maintained power of attorney, whether they have been in or out of Thailand.

As regards, to leasehold property for a thirty year period. That is, the third time they bought here, was the one and only time they acquired a leasehold property. Though, ironically they ended up having the lease in their company's name - leased to themselves!

The reason was that the property was a resale (by a foreigner) so it meant that the Thai lady developer whose name the lease/land was in - had to pay land TAX. More to the point, she told my parents 'Get the lease put in your company's name, cause I am not paying land TAX again when you sell.' (A few years later, when my parents did sell it, they of course paid the land TAX.)

In a slight contrast, a foreigner with a Thai spouse could always buy land by putting 49% on her/his name, and another 49% on the Thai spouse's name - whilst keeping 2% eschew.

Nevertheless, as my parents haven't owned any property in Thailand since 2014, and they don't have any intentions of buying in the future. And as the Thai government honor these companies - they would be more than happy to sell it for what it cost them, 35.000 baht.

This is hardly the best kept secret, as I personally have known, British, Americans, Irish, Dutch, German, and various nationalities of Scandinavians who have owned land in Thailand. At the moment, there is a single English (Dutch) teacher at my school who owns his own house in Samut Prakan. What's more, back in 2011 the Thai minister responsible for such things, made a statement along the lines of, obviously we know that foreigners use nominee companies to buy property here and as long as they don't make any problems, they are welcome. This prompted the Bangkok Post to do a two page spread on quite a number of different ways expats could buy bungalows, houses and of course condos - here in Thailand.

By Richard Constable, Bang Na (9th June 2020)

The very incorrect and clearly unresearched comment about South Africans made it hard for me to consider any part of this article to be reliable. It would take a quick Google search to find out that South Africa has eleven official languages with both English and Afrikaans included on the list of languages. Yes, there are South Africans that can't speak English but the blanket statement that South Africans are not native English speakers is completely incorrect.

A large portion of the South African schooling system is in English so even those South Africans who may not be native speakers are likely to have been educated solely in English (excluding one or two language subjects) from kindergarten to university. Not to mention those who are simply native English speakers and speak English both at home and school.

I'd like to comment on other parts of the article but I'm not well-versed on those so I'll do my research.

By Lenny, Bangkok (9th June 2020)

How about an incorrect view of something they believe to be correct and think it's so true that even they believe it themselves.

@Jessica @Jim

Owned land, possibly by the often boasted way of knowing someone important, ''big mafia'' as a few people in Thailand call it.

That may well be the answer and further questioning will result in the typical ''can't tell you'' or ''that would be telling'' sort of reply that comes from farangs making such bold claims that have zero back up.

Not that I'm really bothered, mind you.

By Pat_Bangkok, Bangkok (9th June 2020)

I stopped reading this at the part where it said that South Africans being native speakers isn't true 🙄.
And you wrote, "Nevertheless, it couldn't be more wrong as their native language is Afrikaans, and a great number of South Africans cannot even speak English."

Please go and do your research on South Africa! Our native language isn't Afrikaans. Many of us are native English speakers, many are native Afrikaans speakers and many are native speakers of an African language. Plus, even if you speak Afrikaans or a native African language at home, if you've done every single bit of your education in English (from kindergarten all the way to university) and you've only ever worked in English-speaking jobs and if you had to do some sort of test, such as IELTS, you'd score as high as a native speaker, why wouldn't you be considered as a native speaker? Just because you don't come from the UK, US, Canada, Aus or NZ?

Just to add- I'm a South African. I spoke only English at home and did every bit of my education in English 🤷🏽‍♀️🤷🏽‍♀️ please tell me why I don't qualify as a native speaker.

By Lee, Lopburi (9th June 2020)

I think your claim that people can own land in Thailand is a definite Mumpsimus! Every website and every person I've encountered, ever has stated this to be the case (and of course lots of felonious websites out there but all of them?). Please show a reliable source for your information if you are claiming that everyone else is wrong about this. I have even known some foreigners who have bought land in their wife's name (because she was Thai and he couldn't buy land as a foreigner) and in the divorce...guess who got the land? Not the foreigner, that's for certain. As another comment stated, you can buy a condo if the majority is Thai owned but not land. Moreover this is a frequent stipulation of governments in many countries not simply Thailand. There are 78 countries in the world that do not allow foreigners to buy land and several others who are considering imposing it. I appreciate your myth busting attempts but with this are falling into the very trap that you claim to be condemning.

By Jessica, Not in Thailand Anymore (9th June 2020)

Hey Richard,
Nice piece only agree with most of it. One question though, did your parents really owned the land or owned the lease on the land. As far as I know you can own a condominium, a building but you can only lease land for a maximum period of 30 years. There are possibilities to sell the lease.

By Jim, Khon Kaen (8th June 2020)

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