Is farang a racist term?

This has been discussed to death in different places; some people think farang is a racist term (has negative connotations), some don't. 

Since it came up in a Quora question I added my own take, including some more background related to the possibility people use it in different ways, and related to stereotyping in general.  I'll include the Quora link but the whole answer is cited here, per my typical approach a bit meandering and wordy:

https://www.quora.com/To-people-living- … n-Bickel-5


For me, not really. People’s opinions vary on whether there really is any positive or negative connotation involved with it. It seems to be a majority view that it just means “white foreigner,” that it doesn’t include judgement beyond that. Of course different people could use it in different ways, and could feel differently about different types of foreigners, which I’ll develop further.

My understanding about origin is that there are a few possible stories but that it probably ties back to calling people French. “French” in French is francais, which is quite close to farang. It makes sense that an earlier version of “white” would tie to people being French, given the early dominance of France in this region as a colonial power.

Some associated sayings that involve the term farang could lead people to think that it’s a negative term, and of course some people really are using it that way, if they dislike foreigners and see the concept as involving that part of their judgement. “Pleng farang” literally translates as “foreigner’s song,” and it refers to the odd melodic sound that is an attribute of foreign speech. That’s not necessarily a negative judgement, I don’t think, but it starts to mix in the idea that foreign language sounds like some kind of song versus conventional speech, which could easily be taken more negatively than the bare concept of farang.

I think it doesn’t work to completely separate the idea of “farang” being negative or tone-neutral from the question of how Thais in general see foreigners, especially Western or white foreigners. It’s my interpretation and opinion that the degree of stereotype involved would be seen as negative in the PC / politically correct climate back in the US right now. Let me explain.

If you make a claim that all Mexicans, black people, Middle-Easterners, Native Americans, Asians, etc. are all alike in a certain way in the US you have moved beyond making culture-based observations to over-generalizing by race. It’s stereotyping, which is regarded as negative and flawed (by most; not universally). This is what Thais are doing, in general, or at least it’s my understanding that they are.

To some extent it’s not the right question to consider if the general impression is mostly positive or not. The right question is whether or not that type of sweeping judgement is valid. Even if someone pushed that down a level, and was open to seeing all English people as the same in certain ways but different from all Americans, the same problem occurs. To go a little deeper, the generalities being generally accurate versus inaccurate is only part of the issue; it’s more about rejecting certain types of perspective generalizations as a standard practice.

Culture is a real thing. I’ve just claimed that most Thais see white Westerners and white culture as continuous and sharing common attributes (more or less); I’ve expressed that a broad generality in perspective holds across a lot of Thai culture. Of course that invokes some degree of error. Opinions on such things would vary, just as “farang” would be used in different ways, and Westerners might be seen negatively by some, or in certain value-neutral ways by others.

Farang is not a racist Thai word. ... Farang (Thai: ฝรั่ง [faràŋ], colloquially [falàŋ]) is a generic Thai word for someone of European ancestry, no matter where they may come from. The Royal Institute Dictionary 1999, the official dictionary of Thai words, defines the word as "a person of the white race".

Regardless of what the official dictionary of "Thai Words" defines ฝรั่ง to actually mean,...in the real world of Thainess, the word-label "farang" (originating in Cambodia) simply distinguishes the nationality differences between Thais,...and non-Thais.

And, since the general Thai population transverses the rainbow spectrum, then a person's skin color is not a considered factor,...in the designated "Farang" equation. :cheers:

Barry343 :

Farang is not a racist Thai word. ... Farang (Thai: ฝรั่ง [faràŋ], colloquially [falàŋ]) is a generic Thai word for someone of European ancestry, no matter where they may come from. The Royal Institute Dictionary 1999, the official dictionary of Thai words, defines the word as "a person of the white race".

That makes it racist but, as one poster so nicely put it, who cares?
Racism is a little silly but it's on'y really an issue to care about if it's intended to be harmful or insulting.

The OP has the wrong question, the correct one being...

Is the word used in a negative manner?

The question framing came from the original source of that question, from a Quora post by someone else.  Most Thais say farang isn't a racist term, that it's neutral, to them.  Of course if a Thai has a negative impression of foreigners then that could change.

The other point I was trying to make is that Thais tend to see foreigners as all one thing, in the same way Asians could possibly be stereotyped as all one culture and personal character type in the US, which would've been even more common 20 years ago. 

Political correctness imperatives can go to far in flattening out what people should be able to express instead of broadening depth of understanding of how different cultural issues play out, it seems to me.  Since the "farang" image here is generally positive at least I don't experience discrimination in the sense of being treated badly. 

If anything it goes the other way; some of the societal class level characteristics associated with higher classes seem to be swapped into that typecasting.  It seems to me that's why when foreigners exhibit lower class characteristics or fail to meet normal standards for behavior that seems so interesting or compelling (the farang kee-nok and farang ba characterizations, relating to backpackers or poorer foreigners, or to foreigners behaving inappropriately). 

Of course some Thais really do have enough exposure to foreigners to piece together how broad cultural differences and personal character differences map out, but most seem not to.  Then again it's my impression that to almost all of the Thais I work with I'm first and foremost a farang, fitting some general type, even after knowing me for years.

The Racist word is Kek which explain a different type of people coming from Arab, Turkish, Persian or Indian countries it is more defined by their colors also, since i am half Lebanese i have a kek face and i often hear my wife's friends asking her after seeing me you have kek khao husband khao means white and dam means black so it is also defined by color that is more racist. Indian people are called kek dam etc..

bkk tea blog :

The question framing came from the original source of that question, from a Quora post by someone else.  Most Thais say farang isn't a racist term, that it's neutral, to them.  Of course if a Thai has a negative impression of foreigners then that could change.

The other point I was trying to make is that Thais tend to see foreigners as all one thing, in the same way Asians could possibly be stereotyped as all one culture and personal character type in the US, which would've been even more common 20 years ago. 

Political correctness imperatives can go to far in flattening out what people should be able to express instead of broadening depth of understanding of how different cultural issues play out, it seems to me.  Since the "farang" image here is generally positive at least I don't experience discrimination in the sense of being treated badly. 

If anything it goes the other way; some of the societal class level characteristics associated with higher classes seem to be swapped into that typecasting.  It seems to me that's why when foreigners exhibit lower class characteristics or fail to meet normal standards for behavior that seems so interesting or compelling (the farang kee-nok and farang ba characterizations, relating to backpackers or poorer foreigners, or to foreigners behaving inappropriately). 

Of course some Thais really do have enough exposure to foreigners to piece together how broad cultural differences and personal character differences map out, but most seem not to.  Then again it's my impression that to almost all of the Thais I work with I'm first and foremost a farang, fitting some general type, even after knowing me for years.

The only thing we are racist about farang is You pay the beer:)

The first person ever to use the term was the great Richard Henry Pratt

Americans never listened did they? and you are still going on about race

President Donald Trump married to a Slovenian has a Jewish daughter and Son in Law has a block ex girlfriend helped black people like Omorosa and Mike Tyson when no one else would, has done more to help non whites find work than any President before him and the idiots at CNN like racist Don Lemon call him a racists.

I think your country has enough problems without worrying about Thailand

Chalanda :

I think your country has enough problems without worrying about Thailand

A grand round of applause is due for that ^ most appropriate comment. :top:

I don't really try to represent the US in expressing views online, I see myself more as an individual.  I live in Thailand, so it seems reasonable to me to discuss Thai culture, especially in an expat themed site like this one.

Trump is a racist.  He did give Omarosa a job, and married an Eastern European, although I'm not sure how that fits, since she's white.  He also said things like "Mexicans are rapists," and when a white supremacist killed someone at a rally he said there were mistakes on both sides.  It's not his worst trait; being a bad leader in terms of priorities and judgment is more relevant.

I'm not seeing that much of a connection between whether or not farang is a racist term and where Trump stands.  I guess if someone thinks that every  American saying anything online represents the US in general, and all subjects tie back to Trump, then the linkages don't need to be based on much.

You seem that you don't listen to others who have the correct knowledge on the word "Farang" The gracious Thai people call all visitors or retirees who are white farang no matter which country you hail from, a visitor with darker skin "black" is referred to as Africans no matter if they came from Australia, Britain, Europe or America.

I know how farang is used.  The question is if it implies any negative connotation. 

It won't work to say that it does or doesn't, that there is one clear answer, because people are free to use words in slightly different ways, just as people can stereotype others of different races or national origins as they prefer to, or not do that. 

People who claim the term is clearly negative (implying racism) or not negative at all aren't thinking it through enough.  And of course also basing opinions on two different impressions, probably related to different valid, accurately interpreted background.

It's good that your experiences are mostly or essentially entirely positive; mine have been as well, in living in Thailand for 11 years.  That doesn't simplify away how Thai people view differences in race and national origin.

Some people's worldviews are so simple that everything is black or white, cut and dried, true or false.  Given that step of boiling reality down to something it's really not I'd agree that farang isn't a racist term.

bkk tea blog :

I don't really try to represent the US in expressing views online, I see myself more as an individual.  I live in Thailand, so it seems reasonable to me to discuss Thai culture, especially in an expat themed site like this one.

Trump is a racist.  He did give Omarosa a job, and married an Eastern European, although I'm not sure how that fits, since she's white.  He also said things like "Mexicans are rapists," and when a white supremacist killed someone at a rally he said there were mistakes on both sides.  It's not his worst trait; being a bad leader in terms of priorities and judgment is more relevant.

I'm not seeing that much of a connection between whether or not farang is a racist term and where Trump stands.  I guess if someone thinks that every  American saying anything online represents the US in general, and all subjects tie back to Trump, then the linkages don't need to be based on much.

Trump never called all Mexican's rapist like you are insinuating......He was clearly calling rapists and drug dealers from Mexico rapist and drug dealers and God knows many many are walking in every day. Despite him correction what others were stating people like you, MSNBC and CNN continue to twist his words to suit your own argument.

Not cool!!!

It's easy enough to pull up a transcript of that speech and see exactly what he did say.  To me he very clearly stated that a high proportion of immigrants from Mexico are rapists, which is kind of an absurd thing to say:

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video … order.html

DONALD TRUMP: When do we beat Mexico at the border? They’re laughing at us, at our stupidity. And now they are beating us economically. They are not our friend, believe me. But they’re killing us economically.

The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems.

Thank you. It’s true, and these are the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They’re sending us not the right people.

It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably— probably— from the Middle East. But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening. And it’s got to stop and it’s got to stop fast.

Of course Trump supporters would probably agree with all that.  It's easier to blame other people for problems than to address real causes, and who knows how the proportion of immigrants related to job skills, education level, and criminal background maps out. 

It's easier to just blame them for stealing US jobs and categorize them in negative ways, based on nothing at all, than to think through that as cost of living increases in developed countries manufacturing naturally moves to other countries where production costs are lower.  Once things were made in places like the US, Japan, and Taiwan, and now more is produced in countries like Mexico and China instead, or to a limited extent in Thailand, but that will also continue to transition.  The US needs solutions that address actual reality, not these types of fictional stories lines.

IMO, the tone makes the music and it depends on how the word is being said. Still better than being a "Baksida", which is often used as well.

Hello everyone,

This topic is drifting away, too much politics on this thread for the time being. Please get back to the topic.

Thank you
Bhavna

Bhavna :

Hello everyone,

This topic is drifting away, too much politics on this thread for the time being. Please get back to the topic.

Thank you
Bhavna

I was just wondering what Trump has got to do with a word that's being used for foreigners?

      Thanks for pointing that out, I already thought I had posted on the wrong forum............. :/

farangh does not come from french, but rather foreigner thus english and the english had a higher presence in thailand than the french.
and it is racistic as thais are quite racists

kschindl :

farangh does not come from french, but rather foreigner thus english and the english had a higher presence in thailand than the french.
and it is racistic as thais are quite racists

The English were in Thailand?

In the Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia "Farang" refers to Europeans. This in turn comes from the Old French word franc, meaning "Frank", a West Germanic tribe that became a major political power in Western and Central Europe during the early Middle Ages, and from which France derives its name. Source Wikipedia)

    I'm one of these people who was born in Lower Franconia, in German called( Unter) Franken, an area that was sold to Bavaria a long time ago.

   Where do you get the idea from that the Engish had a higher presence in Thailand? Perhaps in India.
Where do you believe have the Laos people their French bread from?

read a  bit about thai history. the french were not in thailand. the thai king used the british to keep independent thailand is not laos or cambodia which were french. really americans don't know nothing about world history

kschindl :

read a  bit about thai history. the french were not in thailand. the thai king used the british to keep independent thailand is not laos or cambodia which were french. really americans don't know nothing about world history

Sorry, but wasn't it about the word Farang?

Not sure where you got your thoughts from, I have not found them racist.

Good post

I to 1000 % agree with you. I remember the first time crossing the border to Holland from Germany when I was 16. Being totally Anti -nazi and Ani -racist, some folks called me a Nazi when they saw my German license plates.

    I'm just wondering where Ku Klux Klan originated and where you can openly buy all sorts of Nazi clothes and equipment, including the right weapons.

  That's not an aggression against Americans, just an observation.  It's funny when an American is calling Thais racists......Farang is just a word for people who look different, I've never heard Thais call an Indian a farang.

Six Confederate veterans  Frank O. McCord, Richard R. Reed, John C. Lester, James R. Crowe, J. Calvin Jones, John B. Kennedy from Pulaski, Tennessee created the original Ku Klux Klan on December 24, 1865, during the Reconstruction of the South after the Civil War.
Farang is used to describe white Europeans, anyone they see as black is called Africans both Japanese and Chinese are called Chinese Indians are called Indians all Arabic race are called Muslim even if their not. NO RACISM is meant by the Thai people, only seen as racism by the uninformed or ill-informed.

farang has nothing to do with Franken, that is in germany, franken sounds anyway quite different from farang. linguistics seems not to be your strong point, nor is it for the one who wrote the crap in wikipedia regarding the thai word farangh. thailand was never a french colony, nor related to france. laos, cambodia etc drive on the right side, thailand on the left as it was influenced by the british. thais pronounce foreign a way it sound like farangh.

Yep, but the Thai do have some funny words for Indians and seem to dislike them a lot. I remember when a father of a student went inside the classroom of his daughter who studied in an EP programme of an Anuban.

   The Thai teacher almost freaked out and showed him the door, must have thought he wanted to sell some flying carpets, or similar.

The Thai teacher had no idea that the Indian man was one of the wealthiest guys in the whole province, with Laotians who were employed to do all housework, even the little kid had a personal servant. Of course, did she change her behaviour when she found that out. Money is power, almost everywhere on this planet, no matter what skin colour you've got.

 

   There is a Thai saying: "if you meet an Indian and a snake... kill the Indian first".

       No offence to Indians here, I was just repeating what I've heard before.

yep I did see that prejudice often, too. though i can see some reason behind this behavior based on my experience with indians in my profession.

For me, it doesn't really matter if Farang is used in a friendly way or in a mean way, the fact to put so many different people in one group where everybody is supposed to be the same: it is racist.

An American, a German and An Australian have different education, different culture and most probably a different way to look a what surround them.

The same goes if we start calling Thais, Japanese, Chinese, .... just Asian without any respect for their differences. Not sure they would like it.

After, Thailand is like any country: some people are great and the other.....

kschindl :

farang has nothing to do with Franken, that is in germany, franken sounds anyway quite different from farang. linguistics seems not to be your strong point, nor is it for the one who wrote the crap in wikipedia regarding the thai word farangh. thailand was never a french colony, nor related to france. laos, cambodia etc drive on the right side, thailand on the left as it was influenced by the british. thais pronounce foreign a way it sound like farangh.

Wow, you surprise me with your strong historical knowledge, based on what?

          The word "Farang" originated from the "Franks", which sounds pretty similar, considering Thai, a tonal language.

         But it's not in my interest to come up with some hearsay, there's a lot of information available online. Here's another example: https://www.quora.com/Are-the-French-a-Germanic-people

        To get back to the OP, in my opinion, it's only the tone that makes the music and if you're familiar with Thailand you might know that some Thais who dislike foreigners, in general, are also using the word "Baksida" that makes us to a piece of fruit.

Have you ever heard the joke "Farang GhinFarang?" ( Foreigner eats Guave)

    With all respect, let's just be on topic, I believe that all people have their own opinion about certain things in life and I never said that I know it for sure

   As in the OP already mentioned, the topic isn't a new one and it doesn't bother me when somebody calls me Farang. But when people know you, they shouldn't use the word Farang, call you by name, or use "Khun Dangchat", the word for foreigner in Thai.

   Let's just have a discussion without calling each other idiots, okay? Thank you very much for your kindness.

  Finally,  I've chosen "Isaanfarang" as my username because I don't see it as an assault.

le tom :

For me, it doesn't really matter if Farang is used in a friendly way or in a mean way, the fact to put so many different people in one group where everybody is supposed to be the same: it is racist.

An American, a German and An Australian have different education, different culture and most probably a different way to look a what surround them.

The same goes if we start calling Thais, Japanese, Chinese, .... just Asian without any respect for their differences. Not sure they would like it.

After, Thailand is like any country: some people are great and the other.....

The word Farang only refers to white people, you won't hear a Thai calling an African coloured person a Farang. It's basically the same what most civilised people do when they call people where they don't know where from Asia they come from Asians, don't you think?

  And I don't see anything wrong when somebody calls a person from Africa an African if they don't know from which country they originate, no matter if they're from Mozambique, or from Nigeria.
Is it wrong to call them Africans, or do you see any form of racism in it?

Without trying to hurt anybody's feelings on this forum, I was really shocked when I first heard a British kid in South London calling a Thai woman, married to an English bloke, a "Paki". That's racism of the finest art if you ask me. At one school I've worked at, we were called " Khun Kru Dangchat", but you can't expect that not so well educated people even know this word.

   My five baht to it. Have a nice week.

***

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"The word Farang only refers to white people, you won't hear a Thai calling an African coloured person a Farang. It's basically the same what most civilised people do when they call people where they don't know where from Asia they come from Asians, don't you think? "

You are right but it becomes racism when people just don't care where you come from or call you like that because we are all the same? does it make sens? If someone know your name but keep calling you farang, it is not being civilized, it is being racist.

  And I don't see anything wrong when somebody calls a person from Africa an African if they don't know from which country they originate, no matter if they're from Mozambique, or from Nigeria.
Is it wrong to call them Africans, or do you see any form of racism in it?


African, Asian, European,... all these words exist for a reason and they are not meant to be racist. The problem is when people abuse of it and decide to ignore who are. It can be laziness but it can be also  stupidity.

Due to the lack of education in Thailand regarding the rest of the world and the obvious desire to keep the population focused on what happen locally, most of the Thai people show little to no interest for foreign culture. The broad use of the word Farang is just and example of where this kind of politic is leading a country.

I consider it as wrong as the dual pricing for foreigner, some people think it is normal, some don't.

kschindl :

***

Your behaviour and the very unfriendly reply is really annoying.

Why can't you be a bit more polite without giving others some bad names?

Guys why you take it in a negative way? If you live in Thailand or come as a tourist or even married to a Thai person, would still a foreigner for them, you can never have thai nationality also it's their way of thinking you are stranger and will always be stranger to them but.. they repsect you and it will always be the land of smile. I love Thai ppl no matter what i look to them, my thai wife's family call me farang in front of other people for respect but my wife say i look like Kek khao, people coming from middle east, iran india (kek dam for indian) funny thing is my friend come today he was born in the same country but he looks farang not kek so your face plays a big part in naming you as a stranger and i never find it offensive, be open mind as from experience Thai people would help farang if needed.

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