When someone moves to a foreign country there is always an adjustment period. The change from tourist to expatriate can be a slow process or in some rare cases it can happen rather quickly. Certain cultures are more difficult than others to fit into depending on various factors such as the native language spoken, the mentality of the people and how well they take to foreigners. Sometimes nationalism is one of these factors.
Nationalism or patriotism as its sometimes referred to, is also referred to by some as racism. This hasnt really become apparent to me until I recently had it thrown in my face in a supermarket. Now it is crystal clear. Thailand has changed in the last few years and its not for the better. For those foreigners who have been here for 5 years or more, there has been at least a slight change in the attitude directed towards them from the Thais on-the-street. Where the Thai government and people were once happy to have foreigners in their country, now the underlying theme is that this is our country and if you dont like it, too bad. The transformations are small however these changes, when compounded in day to day life have added up to the point of forcing many previously happy expats to find other places to hang their hat. I am one of those.
There is a very good chance I will be moving, at least for 6-9 months a year, back to the US. If not to the US I am finally going to make a move business-wise and try and expand into Europe or at the very least get some of my products made in China or Cambodia which would mean I will be staying in either of these places for the majority of my time. The grass may not be greener on the other side but it will be nice to get to a different shade of green. The Thai shade is really getting to me and while Im not always the most easy going of persons, I make sure that I always get some rest before making a major decision and take walks often to contemplate these decisions.
Below are a few examples of these changes / irritating factors.
---I go into a local grocery store down the street from my house which I have been to numerous times. I go to the check-out lane and upon receiving the total, hand the clerk my MasterCard. We dont accept MasterCard sir. I tell her that I have used my MasterCard a few times before and it had never been a problem. She calls over to her manager who then tells me sorry sir, we only accept Thai MasterCard, we dont accept MasterCard from other countries Now I could have easily walked over to the ATM outside and pulled some more cash out to pay them but I didnt because something about being told that we take Thai MasterCards but not Farang MasterCards struck me the wrong way. I left the groceries at the checkout and walked out.
---My son is in kinder garden and is now in KG1. He is taken in a private van each day to and from the school. We get a call from the school 2 days before they are supposed to pick him up for his first day. They want to make sure that he is still coming to school and will be using the van service. Yes my wife tells them. They respond that they will pick him up between 6:30 and 7:00 AM. At 7:15 on Monday my wife calls the driver (we have the number from last term) and asks what is going on and is he on his way. Yes he says, hell be there shortly. At 8 AM he still hasnt shown up and school is getting ready to begin. She calls the school again. Now it seems that there has been a problem. The school has changed drivers and he doesnt know where our house is. The manager for the school states The driver has already delivered all the children to school, would we mind driving him in today? Now my wife and I have a few places to go and work to do and it really is an inconvenience but we say ok. Now remember that the school has directions to our house and our house is very simple to get too. You take one turn from the main street and it is a straight shot to the end of the street where our house is. We take him in and get the usual apologies sorry, sorry. I am a bit perturbed but hold my tongue and ask that it doesnt happen again. My wife asks again, ok, what time will the driver be picking up our son? We are told, 7:30.
Guess what? On Tuesday the driver does show up, only at 6:15 AM, not 7:30. My kid is just waking up and there is no way we can get him ready. We ask if the van can come back at 7:30 like they said. No, can not, no time. we are told. So now I am getting pissed. I call the school who again apologizes. Two days in a row. We take the kid to school and I am thinking that I pay way too much money for a kid going to kinder garden to get jerked around like this.
My wife and I go to another school to see about enrolling him. There is a lot of competition between schools as it is big business here in Thailand and the last thing I need to worry about is whether or not the school is able to pick my kid up just to get to school! Anyhow, I start asking questions of the new schools administrator, in Thai. She totally ignores me and starts speaking with my wife. Now this really gets on my nerves because it happens often and I dont think the father should be ignored whether he is a Farang or not. I make it a point to ask the administrator if she would talk to me. She then focuses her attention on me. Great I think. I want to test her though as the school is one of the best bilingual schools in Thailand. I ask her do you speak English? No she flatly answers. I then ask her if anyone in the office speaks English. Now there are probably ten people in the office, all scurrying around as if they are extremely busy. She tells me that nobody in the office speaks English and that I would have to wait for the teacher who speaks English to come in if I wanted to speak to someone who speaks English. Now, I know I am in Thailand but the idea is to have my kid learn in Thai and also English. If nobody in the office can speak one fucking word of English, what does that say about the school? We end up keeping our son in his school as they do speak English, teach English Thai and Chinese and he has made lots of friends there and likes it there.
I should note that one defense mechanism of the Thais that I absolutely hate I is the Sorry, sorry. They can be inept as they come but in their heads if they continually apologize it is ok. Well in my mind, its not. This bugs me and always has. Just because you are sorry doesnt mean everything is ok. If someone is unable to properly perform their job, saying Im sorry doesnt cut it although in Thai society it is manners that count. I once read about a lady who couldnt do her job for shit but she was extremely polite and always smiled. Even though she was totally incompetent, she was well-liked, accepted and retained simply because she smiled, was polite and apologized for her mistakes. This is how it works in Thailand but I refuse to accept this form of defense.
---I go in the other day to The Mall Bangkapi to buy another DVD player. We have two but one of them doesnt work well and when watching videos there are lines running thru the screen which sometimes interferes with the flow of whatever is being watched. I havent bought a new player for a while because it is mainly my sons who watch some cartoon or educational program and they dont seem to mind the lines on the screen. Anyway, I go to the store and buy a Samsung. It is a basic model and for about $150 I get the DVD player as well as 6 free DVDs.
I take the player home and it works great and I figure I can now watch movies with the family instead of only watching them in my office where the other player is. I go to the computer store a short while after and come back about three hours after I had bought the DVD player. Guess what? It isnt working anymore. So I go back to the store from where I bought it and tell them what is going on. It seems the discs cant be read. They tell me that they checked it before I took it home (they did) and that there was no problem so they were sorry but they couldnt help me. I told them that they should check it now and that I had a one year warranty on the player and that I needed it replaced. One particular guy who was sitting on his ass is giving me dirty looks and the I hate stupid farang look as he is the one who is going to test the machine. He tests it and lo and behold, it doesnt work. The manager comes out and asks me sir, what did you do to this player? I tell him nothing and to just replace it. He also is giving me rather dirty looks and is in disbelief that it wouldnt be working after such a short period of time. I tell him that if he doesnt change it I will call my bank and have them cancel the transaction. That gets him in gear and about 30 minutes later, thankfully, I get a replacement. So far it still works.
---It never fails but virtually every single time I get into a taxi, the driver either screws up and goes the wrong direction entirely or simply refuses to go the route I want because there is too much traffic. Now I really try and be patient with taxi drivers for a number of reasons. One, they have my life in their hands and their job is simply to get me safely from point A to point B. Two, who needs the hassle? However when I am telling the driver in Thai, quite clearly, to go straight and he turns or to stay left and he moves over to the right, I start wondering if most drivers are brainless or they simply want to go however they want to go. One other factor is that a lot of the time they say yeayea, yea but arent listening. They hear Sukhumvit and thats it. So when you get to Sukhumvit road, they will often as you Sukhumvit what number? Believe me, when you take taxis as much as I do, this gets to be extremely frustrating. Not only do I waste money on a daily basis, more importantly, I am having my time wasted. I have said it before but MANY Thais dont have a brain in their head. As a Thai told me once a few years ago, Its difficult to take a farmer and make him a waiter. This goes for taxi driver as well.
---Another issue that many people do not know about is the children of foreigners and their future. Children who are born to one Thai parent and one foreign parent are having more and more problems once it comes time to graduate. It seems that while legally a person who is born in Thailand should be considered Thai, once it comes time to graduate, schools are not willing to give some students their degree under the guise that since they are not 100% Thai, they are not due their degrees. This is unfathomable but most definitely true. These are students who have excellent grades and there should be no reason that they be denied. The Thai education system seems to have some sort of questionnaire for the children in school born to foreigners which basically asks them if they are going to stay in Thailand and use their degrees for purposes beneficial to Thailand. In other words, since they have Thai blood they are expected to love their country, stay in the country and use their skills for the benefit of the country. In a truly free society you would think that people could come and go as they please without a degree being held over their head as blackmail but apparently Thailand is not truly free.
This has also been demonstrated in the recent problems with an editor of the Bangkok Post and Taksin Shinawatra as well as the deeply revered King of Thailand and Taksin Shinawatra. The editor of the Bangkok Post who supposedly said things he shouldnt was demoted without cause. There was little Taksin could do to the King however the riff between them was well documented and the King is not exactly fond of Taksin. Neither am I. Getting back to the students, as a father this is worrisome. My children are US citizens and also Thai citizens. The government of Thailand makes those dual citizens chose their citizenship at the age of 17. So at 17 a person needs to decide, will I be Thai or will I be American? This is a serious choice, much more serious than I want to think about at this time but eventually it is going to have to be dealt with.
---As some people may know, Thailand has made it increasingly difficult for expats to stay in the country. While many countries automatically grant residency to those who marry their citizens, Thailand does not. A foreigner needs to transfer approximately $10,000 U.S. to a Thai bank account to be able to start a three year process of gaining residency. The average Thai citizen makes about $3000 U.S. a year or 10,000 baht a month but the Thai government requires foreigners to pay tax on a minimum of 60,000 baht. So because we are not Thai, we need to pay tax on a salary that is six times what the average Thai pays? I dont get it.
Recently Taksin Shinawatra, the Thai Prime Minister has been trying to buy the Liverpool football team. Its funny but all over the news is how is he is going to buy the team and how the Thai public backs him on this venture. They cut to kids saying they would love him to buy the team as they love Liverpool. What the Thai media NEVER shows is the British protesting him buying the team or stating that they dont want him buying into the team. I personally hope he doesnt buy it in the end. The last thing I want to see here is Liverpool playing on Thai TV all of the time or getting SMS messages on my cell phone about the team. Toxin is the owner of AIS whose service I use for my cell phone and Im positive he would have messages set out to users phones much like they did for the APEC convention. BTW Go to the official Liverpool website and their isnt one word about the potential purchase.
When I fell over 40 feet during an apartment fire, there was nobody there for me but my wife. All the people who said they would take care of the hospital bills for me (the apartment) vanished and their tune changed. All of the sudden when they saw the bill it became impossible to speak with the manager of the apartment. When I tried to push a lawsuit thru, I was told by my own lawyer that my life was definitely going to be on the line if I sued for the amount he suggested I sue for. Being that this is Thailand and that I was a new father, I opted not to pay the $5000 court fee and dropped the case. Im still alive though.
When I put a fellow foreigner in the hospital because he had harrassed me three times and physically confronted me, I was told by the upstanding tourist police that if I didnt pay $1000 immediately I would be in jail for two years. Fortunately I was dumb enough or ballsy enough depending on how you look it, to refuse them. It was ok for the police to tell me to shut up farang, you pay now but when I told them fuck you, you shut up the whole place was in an uproar. Oh well, I paid $50 to the court and when the case finally reached the court a year later, I got the satisfaction of hearing the judge ask why in the world this case hadnt been settled long ago. She had directed the question to me and my wife so I asked the judge to ask the police who were sitting in the courtroom. When asked they didnt know what to say. That alone was worth the price of admission.
When I was bumped by a Thai who was walking with his wife, I asked my wife what that was about only to hear him say in Thai that I was a stupid farang, a fool. I asked what he said and he said it again. So when I told him to Yet Mae, he got irate. Imagine that. He tells me Im a stupid foreigner and says fuck you to me and this is ok (because this is his country) but when I tell him to fuck his mother he doesnt understand why??? Ill tell you why TOT This is Thailand!
---The whole farang thing while not meant to be derogatory definitely gets on my nerves. Why is it that expats are asked to pay more for many items, pay to live in the country and yet are treated in many instances like second class citizens? Because we are not Thai, thats why. When I walk with my wife and kids I often get people who smile and grab at the kids or tell us how lovely they are. We also get people, usually older people, who give us looks of disgust. Well, Ive had enough of this racist bullshit. Perhaps only now I am starting to get an idea of what it is like to be discriminated against.
The pollution in Bangkok has gotten almost unbearable, the traffic is miserable and since my wife and I are both on the road often, these two things are important factors when thinking of continuing our life here. My wife has become more and more Americanized and has grown more disenchanted with how Thais treat foreigners. She has seen firsthand how not only I have been treated but my friends as well and while neither of us like it much, the only real option we have is to move elsewhere. So it now remains to be seen which plan of action we take.
I came to Thailand to relax and get to know myself. I came to Thailand to train in Muay Thai. Initially I loved the people and the country. I loved the women and the ability to have sex with multiple partners on a daily basis, without headaches. I love the ability to get a foot massage or traditional Thai massage for a tenth of the price in the U.S. Ahhh, Thailand can be great. Now as I have gotten older and become unable to train in Muay Thai, life is no longer the same here. Im married now and less apt to fuck around. Gone are the hard workouts that made me feel like I could do anything phsyically, gone are the girls waiting for me in my apartment. Gone are the women cleaning my apartment naked. I am now a family man. Its taken me a few years to make this transition but Ive done pretty well or so at least my wife tells me. Sometimes I like it here and sometimes I dont. Inside my house, it is Farangland. Once I step outside though, its hard to forget that Im often viewed as a second class citizen and always will be. As long as Im living in Thailand this will always be something to deal with. I will never be able to change the Thais and while Ive met some genuinely wonderful people, Im tired now. Tired is the only way I know how to put it. Ive already started making some changes in my business to allow me more time out of the country and will be taking care of a few loose ends in June and July and then heading elsewhere. For now I am researching some other places like Brazil, China, Cambodia and various countries in Europe where I can set up shop a few months out of the year. Im also working on my wifes visa to the US so at least for a few months out of the year we can live in the US. Ive started buying equipment for the gym I want to set up but Im now wavering on whether I want it in Thailand or the US. Its going to take some time but the Thailand I fell in love with is long gone. Ill stay here for a few months each year and come back every couple of months for business but thats it. Ive been asked if I thought I would spend the rest of my life here in Thailand .my answer now is no.
here to see the photos
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