Us Farangs sometimes need to take a good look in the mirror

(The following blog/article was published in The Nation newspaper on December 22. Here below, however, is the originally un-edited submission)

(Farangs often complain about the lack of law enforcement here, but some would go stark raving mad if the cops enforced the law about illegal prostitution)

Just how many foreigners, Westerners in particular, were up-in-arms last weekend bemoaning their heads off at the rigid law enforcement concerning the restricted sales of alcohol? Sure, I can empathize with those wanna-be tanked-up tourists who had been patiently looking forward to their annual rendezvous in The Land of Smiles and Singha beer, but I certainly don’t side with any expatriate critic who on other occasions, complains incessantly about the general lack of law enforcement. You can call it vested interests.

Visit any bar or Farang Internet forum anytime of the year and you can be assured that you will soon be finding Westerners, who do nothing but waffle on about how much corruption there is and how lousy the Thai police are. Yet though, it is often these kind of people who can be found at resort towns on election days, sat in some unlit bar, sipping an alcoholic beverage served in a coffee cup. By Jove, they know that the bar they are attending is quite obviously breaking the law, but this time around they just couldn’t care less. That is however, until a couple of mean looking cops on their bikes park outside and demand the bar be shut that very instant. Out on the street beer-less, they can next be heard groaning out loud about the tough law enforcement and the injustice of it all. Isn’t it quite ironic!?

Thailand has a pretty bad name for corruption and a lot of foreigners here are quick to mention it, but then again, it is often they themselves who will bend the law at every other opportunity they feel it appropriate. Ok, I certainly may not agree with some of the visa issues in Thailand, but they are law right? So how come, foreigners and their developed Western concept of anti-corruption, can be witnessed calling up some back-alley law firm asking them for assistance on bypassing the legal documentation needed for “getting a good visa”.

Just admit it, supposedly incorruptible foreigners are often nothing of the sort and just love participating in wretchedly corrupt practice. Go upcountry or to the sea-side and enjoy the sight of all those intelligent Westerners doing it Thai-style, riding a motorbike with no helmet while in possession of some dodgy driver’s license they either bought off some geezer they met in a pub, or got off some corrupt lawyer who acquired it from a reputable governmental source of his. I have certainly lost count now, the amount of times I have heard foreigners advise each other on the correct action to take when being pulled over by a traffic cop. Typical expat advise goes like this “All right mate, what ya do like, is do as the locals do and sneakily hand the geezer a hundred baht note”. Or how about this, for another piece of expert expatriate advice when facing a similar situation, “Whatever ya do, don’t speak Thai, just babble on in English and there’s a sound chance he’ll just let ya go”.

(Imagine if a nice taxi driver back home in Farangland, stuck a similar welcome message to foreigners like this on the back of his cab. The locals would think he had gone nuts!)

Now, some Thais may think that Farang are a bit dumb when it comes to anything Thai-style, but I can promise you that there are times when they are as smart as the locals. Take Mr John Smith, your average expatriate, he isn’t too thick not too realize that having a few ‘big noodles’ (connections) can often be very advantageous indeed. How can I find out about this? You may ask. Well, again, pop down your local Farang booze house and you may hear John proudly explaining about all the ‘highly connected’ name-cards he has managed too acquire. “Really handy things these are. If I ever get stopped by some cop, I just get out my wallet, pull a card out and shove it in the bloke’s face. I mean like, you gotta show these police officers the kinda people ya associate with, know what I mean?”

You have to admit it, there are plenty of Westerners who come to Thailand believing they can get away with any kind of quite obnoxious behaviour. And, as a matter of fact, they probably can, as there is a general police attitude of ignoring a Farang’s ‘weird’ sense of decency. At many a tourist destination, the good-hearted lawmen simply turn a blind-eye to some of the worst unruly social disorder east of a London football match; caused more often than not, by a few too many jars of the old amber brew. I hasten to add, that if a Thai guy tried to follow in the steps of some of these hoodlums, he would be swiftly arrested and incarcerated for the night.

On the subject of incarceration, I seriously disagree with the type of living conditions inmates are subjected too, but foul-minded Westerner criminals ought to have realized what they were like before embarking on a series of crooked activities. After release, half of them decide to inform the world in the form of a book about the atrocious state of Thailand’s prisons. Personally though, in my opinion, most of these guys ought to have read up on the standards of imprisonment in Thailand beforehand. That said, they wouldn’t go on to bicker and complain so much.

What’s another huge complaint we hear from Farangs concerning Thai folk? Well, there is certainly the one to do with ‘trying’ to over-charge. I hate to tell you Farang people the truth, but most Thais will disagree with a lot of your views on this matter. They may say it’s the Farangs own fault for showing off his wealth in the first place; trying to make himself to be all important; with one of them attitudes along the lines of “I come from a developed country and you a third world one”. A good example of this is in tourist nightlife venues, some Farang goes in there, gets served and pampered by a female in a skimpy skirt and on leaving, hands her a five hundred-baht tip. This is striking contrast to the next place he goes, a flashy restaurant. Here, after getting served by a hard-working waiter who got his order just slightly wrong, he angrily tosses him a huge tip of 10 baht. I am certain you have seen it, the Farang can throw wads of cash in the direction of some local un-known woman he fancies, but when the accordion-playing blind musician walks past begging for a few coins, he simply looks away as if he didn’t exist.

Therefore, before us Westerners can bicker on about over-charging, we have to realize that sometimes it is actually caused by the actions of other white folk who have been here before us. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s right, but there are times when we ought to take a look in the mirror. Take the two-teired price system for instance. Geez, now how many complaints have we heard about that? Before suddenly lambasting the Thais though, do understand that they too are often the victim of such practice when they go to Farangland. And ironically, the most infamous place for the two-teired price system in many a developed country, is in an educational institution.
And back to the subject of visas again, don’t you go thinking too that Thais empathize too much with all our winging complaints about ‘their’ regulations. As for the Thais, when ‘they’ want to visit Farangland, they have to tolerate a ‘developed’ system which dictates a wait of a couple of months before they even get an interview. And when they do, it’s facilitated by a patronizing embassy official who makes a Thai immigration officer look as kind as The Dalai Lama.

And finally, I read online all the time about Westerners in Thailand complaining about discrimination against them. So, for all those Farang ‘folk’ who feel they are constantly victimized, may I ask you today, for just a few moments, to contemplate the kind of discrimination Thais face when they go to your wonderful country.

BTW: This article is dedicated to my wife who just previous to this article, asked that i complain about Farangs for a change!

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