Expat in Thailand

Updated 2009-08-20 13:00

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There is a big difference whether one lives in a Farang-enclave as Phuket or Pattaya, or whether one chooses to go with his wife or girlfriend to her village in Isaan, and then lives surrounded by her extended family among Thais.

Pensioners, who chose the first alternative, will enjoy all the amenities the country has to offer: nice warm weather, tropical beach life, or even the night-life, without the need to forgo things who they think to be necessary for to the quality of life for a Farang. Such as a large selection of European restaurants, and supermarkets, where everything can be bought that is required to live in the usual style. But he will seldom come into close contact with Thais, except with taxi drivers, street vendors, bargirls and officials from the inevitable immigration office. These Thais will also form his image of the country and its people.

Who chooses the second alternative, must adapt his requirements and his way of life largely to the Thai lifestyle, if he wants to have a quiet and satisfied life. Although he will - depending on his skills and financial resources - try to form his surroundings something to his Farang taste, he will soon realize, that the constant stemming against the Thai mentality concerning order, cleanliness, good planning of daily activities and thrift, is a fight he cannot win.

But instead of this, he now has things of which in his country he could only dream of, the pretty young wife, the warm weather, the cheap costs of living, and when he makes an effort to learn the language, also many friends in the Village.

But he will soon realize that the interest and the sometimes a bit overwhelming friendliness of the people in his village will diminish. He is then part of everyday life, and nobody will treat him better, as all other neighbors. What reputation he then enjoys in the village depends now entirely on how he presents himself to the people. Of course this has something to do with money; anybody who has money, receives in Thailand much more respect than a poor devil. It also has something to do with his willingness to adapt to the life in the village, and to show that he is ready to accept the people as they are.

Adapting to the village life does not mean to run around in a sarong all day, and to make a wai before each Buddha shrine. Who as a Farang wants to make himself look like a Thai, will make himself look ridiculous. Behaving like a correct Farang means neither clothing like a bum or as on beach holiday, to take part to the many village-festivities, and sometimes make a donation for a good cause. That means above all not to think that the Farang must bring civilization to Thailand, or because he went to school much longer, he knows everything better than the stupid Thais.

For the Farang living here over some time, the Thai society seems to be a large family, in which it is almost impossible to belong as a foreigner. He can be living for decades in a village among Thais, but even in the own family he remains the 'Farang". That is not - as some people think - a pejorative, or even a little bit insulting, but particularly common to people living in a closed community, to distinguish between its own people and a stranger.

Every society exists according to their conventions and customs, having been shaped over centuries. It is difficult, if not impossible to understand in its full complexity a cultural circle, where one has not grown up, because many of the customs can not be explained by the people themselves. Everything is so, because it has always been made like this. Whoever makes the decision to live among Thais, must accept their ways of thinking and their values. It will always be difficult to understand the heart and brain of Thais. But he who tramples around like a bull through a china shop, will never be able to understand approximately the nature of the people around him, and everybody will fall on his nose, who tries to transmit his own moral principles or values into a Thai-Village, believing that our Western standards of behavior should be valid everywhere in the world.

For Farang who want to live in Thailand it is not a question whether Thais are good or bad. As in any country in the world one can meet here good and evil, friendly and not friendly, helpful and selfish, generous and ravenous peoples. But it is rather important to have no illusions about the different mentality of the people with whom one lives here and to be clear in one's mind, whether one can live among them or not. If not, then the most sensible solution is to return to ones homeland if possible, although in many cases, due to financial and family reasons, it may be very difficult or even impossible. If yes, then it is pointless to continuously fight against this mentality, than it is more sensible, to adapt to the situation after the saying "If you can not beat them, meet them!'

This is not only true for dealing with the people in the village, but also for dealing with the government. In Thailand, everyone is classified in accordance with his place in the existing hierarchy, and will be treated appropriately. The Farang is a stranger, and therefore he stands outside the Thai hierarchy for the officials, from whom he requires any service. That may change, however, when he lives longer in a community and by his behavior and, of course, his money has acquired a certain status. I am e.g. being very courteously treated in my vicinity by police and the officials at the Amphoe (district). But when I have business with a public authority outside my district, such as immigration, where nobody knows me, I'm only one Farang without status, who will be treated accordingly.

Each Farang will also have made the experience that the policy of the Thai Government for the long-term stay of foreigners are very restrictive, even though tourism and the money brought into the country by the Farang, represents after the rice export the largest source of foreign exchange in Thailand. As Thais have never been colonized, they lack any resentment of former colonial peoples against their former colonial masters. But what they have instead is suspiciousness against the long noses, which allegedly come here and only want their best. By their pragmatic nature the Thais have cleverly preserved their freedom and autonomy, when all surrounding countries were annexed and exploited by major European powers. Even by making contracts with the colonial powers, the Thais were clever enough not to get subdued. The power of bayonets serving to dominate other people during the colonial era has today been replaced by the capital. In the world today there are not the politicians standing in the foreground who run the global world, but the capital behind them. It is therefore understandable that the fear of the Thais to be occupied by foreign armies has been replaced by the fear to be conquered by foreign capital.

The Thai politicians are today especially anxious to protect their country against too much foreign influence. This results in the difficulties to obtain a residence permit, work permit and the ownership restrictions, which annoy the long time residents.

It is the sovereign decision of every country how to treat foreigners. Who ever wants to live in a foreign country, should inform him previously about everything he needs to know. When he takes his residence in a foreign country, he automatically accepts the current conditions of stay there. And it is subsequently futile to complain afterwards about it. Who do not like the system in Thailand, he can rant about it as much as he wants, but the Thais will not change their laws for him. But let's remain realistic; there is no paradise on earth. The paradise on earth is obtained by what we create within our self, through appropriate thinking, feeling.

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