Letters to the Editor
In Thailand, farang get an instant status upgrade
Western expats always complain bitterly about dual pricing, noise and air pollution, dangerous driving, unscrupulous cabbies, crooked police, no English commentary on the World Cup, feral dogs, etc, but they stick around. Why?
Generally, Thais respect Westerners. Thais are friendly, polite and helpful to them, so they feel important. But why do Thais look up to them?
When the Europeans arrived in Ayutthaya some 500 years ago, they brought with them fancy ships, cannons, telescopes, matches, compasses, pocket watches, personal firearms. The Siamese were entranced by those gadgets. The Europeans were welcomed by the King himself. They stood erect to the King and they talked to him face to face, something unimaginable to the Siamese. The only privilege the Siamese ever had was prostrating themselves before their king with their noses touching the ground. Thus, they felt Westerners and their King were of the same rank. The attitude has been passed along for generations. Later, in the 20th century, Hollywood, Elvis, the Beatles, Rolls-Royce, Mercedes Benz, Ferrari, the Apollo project and Coca-Cola added more prestige to Westerners.
But expats always rationalise their being here. They say they stay because they care. They say they bring money, jobs, technology, and we should be grateful. They won't admit they like Thailand because here they are somebody. In their countries they may be an average Joe, but here they are Mr Joe, the wonderful husband of a Thai woman, or Ajarn Joe the English teacher, or jovial uncle Joe who loves kids. And I haven't mentioned the low cost of living, cheap sex and drugs, and the Thai culture of "anything goes".