Your Wonderful Thailand

Asking expats why they chose Thailand, you’ll often get enthusiastic replies like “Oh, Thailand is such a wonderful place”; “everything is so cheap”; “people are friendly”; “I just love the Thai way of life”.

Once you take a closer look at these enthusiastic folks, however, many times you will find that the “thai” life they are so enthralled about, bears very little resemblance to how the majority of local Thais live. Which in itself is no problem, of course; heck, if I made 5-10 times the local wages, I would also sneak in some more “Farang magic” to spice up my all-Thai life over there. 😉

Stuck in the Farang bubble

What I don’t really get is when, instead of adding that Farang magic, people start substituting some aspects of Thai life with Farang equivalents. What do I mean by that? Consider this old farang guy over at ThailandQA, who summarily rejects all kinds of Thai food, proclaiming that only Farang food is worth eating. Some other expats are stuck in the Farang bubble, afraid to integrate, because that means leaving the old, safe environment behind.

Can you imagine living in Thailand for decades and not eating a single dish of Thai food? Or hiding out during Songkran with the rest of the candybutt Farang in the safety of air-con flats and malls, while the Thai population crowds the klongs and waterways, having “unsanitary” fun in the April heat? 😀

Wonderful Illusion

The “wonderful Thailand” such people talk about is in fact a tiny world of Westernized illusion squeezed into very narrow limits of persistent Farang habits that they are unable or unwilling to break out of. Their professed love for Thailand is only as deep as their wallet goes, because Farang lifestyle is expensive. Would they still be so enthusiastic about living in Thailand, if they were to switch lifestyles with an average Thai worker for a few months? Would they be able to find happiness here on a salary of 4000-6000Bt a month? Doubtful.

Integration = more happiness

No one can love it all. Surely everyone has their own limits to what Wonderful Thailand is about; what’s beyond likeable is personal. Basically, the more you integrate into Thai society, the wider this likeable range is, and the easier Thailand can make you happy.

For instance, I’m equally happy munching on sai ua kao nieow (northern sausage with sticky rice) sitting near the klong with a group of Thai friends who don’t speak English, as I am while chewing on a juicy steak at Sizzler with a Farang visitor.

The boundaries of your Wonderful Thailand
I know where the boundaries of my Wonderful Thailand lie. Politics, corruption, domestic abuse and sex-tourism are some of the few things beyond my boundaries of happy life in Thailand. What about yours? How wide is your range of things that make you happy in Thailand? How many of those could you retain, if you were to live the life of an average Thai worker?

8 responses to “Your Wonderful Thailand

  1. Word SJ!

    I’m just off the plane after five weeks in Thailand and some of the expats really had me confused. They didn’t really seem that interested in integrating and seemed to be missing out big time.

    I would say, though, that when I was having a really integrated time – eating only authentic southern Thai food three meals a day, hearing next to no English but lots of southern dialect, watching the village spirit doctor at work etc – it sometimes got quite exhausting. After that I relished a bit of time in the farang bubble, watching some English language TV and eating pizza! You just don’t want to spend your whole time there.

  2. Interesting Blog Siam Jai

    I think people use expressions like “wonderfull” Thailand almost as throwaway lines. Its a bit like looking for the “real” Thailand – that mythical place that is supposed to be representative of the whole country. I think that search is a bit futile, because to me Pattaya beach is just as “real” as say an isolated village in Isaan.

    Just two individual reflections of the same country and equally as real
    I would agree that the Farang view of Thailand is sometimes skewed by how much money is in their wallet – but there again I have seen and spoken to many wealthy Farang who have a well grounded and informative knowledge of contemporary Thai culture and issues. I have also in my travells come across ” tight budget” farang travellers who have no real empathy or knowledge of Thai life.

    Once again it comes down to individuals (I feel) and what their attitude is.


  3. Thank for the replies. 🙂 Here I was, prepared to having to explain my point to some confused readers, but I got pleasantly surprised – at least today. 😉

    it sometimes got quite exhausting. After that I relished a bit of time in the farang bubble, watching some English language TV and eating pizza!

    Great, that’s my point too, Bill. 🙂 It’s so nice to spice up your Thai life with occasional bits and pieces of Farang life. Cherry and I do that too, to maintain variety. For me, it’s a trip back memory lane; for her, it’s exploring a new world, getting to know my cultural and gastronomical background a little better.

    What I really don’t understand is the total rejection of an aspect of Thai life, like what the guy does who refuses to eat Thai food altogether. Or people whose living space is comprised of Farang culture only – meeting Thais at home only as servants and caretakers. It’s sad.

    Once again it comes down to individuals

    Yes, Bill. I hope you understood that I don’t blame wealth as the source of this problem. 🙂

    When some are either too afraid or close-minded to open up and immerse, then no matter if their wallet is full or nearly empty.

    Where it makes a difference is that relative wealth allows a convenient escape route: they can build a convenient Farang buffer zone around them with money.

    Without it, there aren’t many options; they could either suffer the necessary immersion that poverty brings about, or just give up and leave.

    On the other hand, an integrated foreigner will always find happiness in Thailand, regardless whether his pockets burst from banknotes, or hide only a few rusty satang.

  4. Becoming totally immersed in a culture that your are not a native of is about as illussional as a fetish.

    As the song said “don’t dream it, do it”!

    The western children of the 60’s felt stylish with the “torn”, but often new clothing.

    Just as stylish as some the foreign travellers look in their hilltribe garb…:-)

    The Thai group Carrabao song “Made In Thailand” was decades ago, but still relavent today. When my old, weathered Addidas shoes finally fell apart, I bought new shoes, similar in style for a few hundred baht!

    In the “old” days when apartied or segregation kept various ethinics apart, it was foolishly thought to keep “things in order”, but today, we flock to “Little Italy”, “Chinatown” or “The Barrio” mostly for fun, entertainment and food!

    Diversity is what makes a people learn and change for the better. Living without change, well, you learn how to control and “keep things in order”…

    Embrace change, atleast from… within

  5. Great observation.

    Those who continue to be the prisoner of their own habit and conditioned mind, never get a clue

    For me the reward of travel and living abroad is learning to speak the new language, living the way the local people live, tasting their foods, singing their song. It’s not the matter of like or dislike. It’s the matter of being able to live in a culture different than mine. And hopefully, I shall be able to understand why they live and act the way they do.

  6. Another thought:

    I recently met some Karen refugees from Burma who are very grateful to Thailand for having saved their lives and very keen to integrate. They especially want to be able to speak and read Thai well. They would be very envious of the opportunities expat farangs have to learn Thai language and would have difficulty understanding why so few take those opportunities.

  7. well, see, i’m technically a ‘farang’- new yorker- but i’ve come to thailand every year to stay with my grandmother in bangkok, and i’ve lived the life of a thai- just an upper class thai is all. i spend a lot of time in the air conditioned house and department stores, as well as the exclusive sports club near suan loom, but i’ve also had my time in markets and among commoners. you don’t have to live in ‘unsanitary’ and generally less comfortable conditions to really integrate into thai culture; there are different levels.

  8. I see this as no different that Thai people coming to America, eating Thai food every day, well almost every day, having all Thai friends, not having much (any) interest in anything that goes on here. Such as my wife.

    People move to Thailand for all sorts of reasons which I bet some common denominators would be that its cheap, its not cold, and they have access to companionship that they wouldn’t be getting at home. So I am not to surprized that there is a segment of folk living here that might not be enamored with many aspects of Thailand, but continue to live there and let others know, via web boards, of the faults of the county.