I've been around the Thailand block for a few years now. I've mixed with the high society on occasion and fitted in snugly with my fellow 'low so' scumbags for the rest of the time. I've been lucky to meet a wide and eclectic range of people, some of whom have broadened my horizons and become good friends. Naturally, when chatting with fellow ex-pats I want to get their feel on life in Thailand and how we can bridge the psyche gap , or at least to establish if it even needs bridging. (Just what is so hilarious about buffalos anyway? Why don't Thais laugh at John Cleese?.) Sadly though, experience has taught me that the majority - but by no means all - of farangs descend into negative and whining fixations about Thailand. It almost seems to be a rite of passage for the older ex-pats, as though it's as unavoidable as the widening of the waistline and greying of the hair.
I'm sure both Thais and farangs have heard all the common lines. Thais are too old fashioned, they don't say what they really think, they overcharge farangs and so on. Some of the particularly undesirable foreign element have a whole host of more malicious and hypocritical attitudes to the locals, but those lines can be saved and dealt with another time. What I want to focus on now is a line that I hear so frequently - sometimes from older and wiser ex-pats than myself - and one with which I completely disagree. It's a yammer that arrives in many forms but usually manifests itself as: "They don't want us here" or "They just want rich tourists to visit and clear off" or "They can't accept they need us here". Just to type these words brings me conversation flashbacks, each and every one of them from a moaning farang, sat in Thailand.
So Thais don't want us here, eh? And how exactly are they displaying that? A pogrom? A neo-aparthied system? Perhaps at least a second class citizen status bestowed upon us white folk? No it's not me being over the top here, it's the whiners who spout such garbage about being unwanted. There is a great irony about the "We're not wanted" brigade. They frequently draw attention to the fact that a marriage visa in Thailand requires a minimum cash balance to be held in a Thai bank. Surprisingly however, the whiners usually don't even have that visa, they have a working visa which has no minimum cash requirements whatsoever! So if Thailand wants rich folk only, how are these people still here? Of course, there are many who actually work illegally on a tourist visa. Yes, you got it, the same men (for it nearly always is men) complaining about the lack of a red carpet are the same who, by rights, should be asked to leave.
The second lumbering irony is the pseudo-liberal attitude displayed by this crowd. As they gripe about Thai government denial of house purchases, citizenship and various other rights for foreigners in Thailand - as though the country had chosen them instead of the other way around - they will happily bellyache without a hint of irony about their own countries. It's a fact that many ex-pats from England or America bemoan their own nation allowing a huge number of immigrants who take up employment and housing in their new country. Such policies have arguably contributed to the ethic tensions and aggravation in these nations. The fact that Thailand is a partisan nation that puts its own citizens first is a point of contention for the whiners, who would often use exactly the same policies in their own home.
The final frequent complaint is one that I do have some sympathy with: the dual pricing system. It is a little hurtful that some attractions charge foreigners up to ten times the amount Thais must pay. It hurts because it conflicts with the western psyche that skin colour and race should never be a factor in price variations. Yet, it hardly strikes me as some great conspiracy to break us all then ship us home. The few attractions that employ this system, I respond to easily: I don't go there. Instead of getting ten times the cash from me, they get nil. For the places that charge me just a little more, that's fine. Once again, the same group who complain about paying a tad extra are the very same who decry the fact Thais can visit Buckingham Palace for the same price as Brits.
Don't get me wrong. I'm prone to the odd gripe myself. I do get exasperated when apparently easy tasks at work are made difficult by the traditional Thai "assume somebody else will tell them the meeting is cancelled" attitude. I do think that sometimes certain figures in government play up nationalistic sentiment to disguise their own deeds, and such sentiment can manifest itself in certain demographics as anti - farang feeing. But these are mere piccadilloes in the big picture. When I do gripe , I try and do it with tongue in cheek. (Well, except for politics of course! )
I have an enjoyable and rewarding job, a pleasant home , disposable income and a host of cheap holiday destinations on my doorstep. All this in a country that owes me nothing, isn't obliged to accept me or my opinions and was visited by me because of its reputation for beautiful beaches. No pleas to inspire Thailand with my awe inspiring white skin, (then) scruffy hair and untouchable western charisma were received. When I hear farangs crying into their beer that the country won't lay down a red carpet to welcome the unqualified, ignorant, often lazy and uncaring section of the foreign teachers community, I ask myself a simple question........why don't they just go home?