Tuesday, June 2, 2009

i HEART bkk - for (nearly) everything

Today, I was going to write an article about how I actually love Thai people, but then I noticed a vigorous debate over at gayboythailand.com about the benefits (or not) of living here.

The blog's owner, Silom Farang is pondering leaving Thailand, as he is in a "rot". He defines a rot as: "when Westerners in Thailand feel they are stuck, not progressing, or even going backwards in terms of career, private life or intellectual development."

That really got me (and some other commentators on his blog) thinking. When I read forums such as Thaivisa.com or Silom's blog, I often enounter the "bitter anti-Thai farang who just complains".

The first reaction is of course: why are you here? I suppose they might be in a "rot". But then, why are you STILL here?

Farang in a rot?

Lets be honest. Not many people move to Thailand to progress socially and intellectually and make a great choice of career. We are/were lured by other benefits.

For me personally, the benefits of living here are obvious, but the drawbacks are clear too. Lets discuss a bit...

First, the drawbacks:

1. A Westerner working here will earn considerably less than in farangland.

A baht is not a dollar...

2....and following up on that, career-wise, Thailand means basically nothing for Western businesses. "I worked in Thailand." No future employer will be impressed by this...

These two are the most important reasons why I am leaving Bangkok at the end of this year...I will most probably become bitchofsydney then:)

and now it gets difficult...maybe the dating scene, and lack of possible "husbands" (see ealier discussion), the lack of green areas in Bangkok, the traffic, the dirtiness of the streets, or perhaps the cultural differences which make it really hard to become part of Thai society.

Yes, these are disadvantages

What about the advantages?

1. Bangkok in its entirety! It offers absolutely everything...and I am still discovering. It's a thrilling place!

Tourists come here for a reason - we are blessed to live in BKK!

2. Mix of cultures. Yes, London has it, New York too, Sydney too, I know. But the particular mix in Thailand is unique - we are at the crossroads of Asia, where Hindu, Chinese, Malay and Khmer culture meet!!!

3. The people. I love Thai people. They are fun! Lately, I havent been in a good mood, but whenever I leave my building, someone will be there to put a smile on my face! This happens every single day.

The Thais are lovely! Especially the food stand ladies!

I can understand and agree with Silom's point about getting annoyed at the superficial chit-chat.

They are lazy, treat farang badly and only work for money, I read in forums. I say: Dont you enjoy being lazy with them? Isnt it amazing that you can walk around with a boy 40 years younger and hardly anyone cares? Isnt it amazing how far Thais go to help you sometimes, without even asking for money!

Sabaai sabaai, maybe not so bad after all?

I try to join the club and bitch and laugh with my Thai friends, while being more serious with my other friends and the bf. It works!

4.Thai society. I hate hi-so people, can not stand their arrogance and them thinking it's their god-given right to drive a Merc, be rude to everyone, look good and fly TG on their ultra-gold royal orchid platinum cards. BUT, for a large part, Thai society is relatively healthy.

Despite what is shown on TV about reds and yellows and the huge social imbalances, Thais are peaceful and relaxed people. Money does not drive their life and competition is a foreign word for Thais, who rather like to cooperate. This may not be beneficial for the economy but perhaps makes for a healthier society.

5. The lifestyle. In Thailand, we foreigners can live like kings, lets face it! Most of us live a much better lifestyle than we could ever imagine "at home".

View from my old condo, not bad!

And we can still have all the comforts of home! Germans can eat Wurst and read der Spiegel, the French can watch TV5 monde on TV, the Italians can eat their pizza, the Swiss can buy their Gruyere cheese and the Aussies their Tim Tam's. It's all here, and I havent talked about Chinese, Korean and Japanese goodies!

6. Travel! Bangkok must be one of the world's best starting points for trips! Flights to all sorts of countries are cheap! (I am visiting China for 100$US return)

Think about Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia (sorry Malaysia and Singapore are too boring *blink*), even Burma, India, the Philippines, it's all so close!!!

See where Thailand is? In the middle!

And you dont even have to leave Thailand. I love bus-trips out of BKK. In a few hours you can lie on a beach, hike in mountains, look at temples or just soak up the more relaxed athmosphere of the country-towns.

I am currently doing research on why Europeans come to Thailand to study at a university - we all know the reasons. Fun, travel, save money and f*ck girls or boys and a great lifestyle!

Unfortunately, I am at the beginning of my career, so Thailand is not the best choice. However, I know I will always love this country from the bottom of my heart!


malomker said...

Great post. As someone who is curious about all of Asia (and hasn't been to AUS yet, for that matter), the reasonable airfare and manageable visa situation is very attractive.

BB said...

thank you:) good to hear! I wish people would see Thailand not just in terms of "boys"...

gosh, my sleep was too short:(

alone in london said...

Hi BB its me again.

I think you’re entitled to have your own opinions just like SF or other people. But I’d like give you guys my perspective and tell you about some of the things I don’t like about Thailand.
The main thing is freedom or rather the lack of it, which some of admittedly some of my unease comes from my family but there also the laws and the society in general. I like body contacts; holding hands, hugging and kissing with people around me and that might be in public...and most Thais don’t like that, they certainly wouldn’t like If I kiss a guy in a public park like I did over here.

There are also the matter of political and religious freedom, I’m a bit political. I’m more or less a Social-democrat which can be considered a kind of socialist...and I’d like to tell you a story the Thai electoral commission don’t allow people to set up a socialist party because they think socialism=communism...that’s their reasoning. Another sensitive issue that you should be familiar with is...the monarchy, I’m not really anti-monarchist but let just say I’m not completely in love with them like most people. Also, I consider myself as an atheist or agnostic even though I was taught in school that everyone suppose have a religion even though they don’t stick to the rules or actually practice it. These things also contribute to my decision not to study in Thailand since these topics are quite relevant of what I want to study, plus I don’t like wearing uniforms.

I do have other things but I’d rather leave it for now, I do realise that these are my personal feelings and experiences others may not agree. And no, I don’t hate Thailand nor I’m in love with where I am but I just prefer it for now.

PS. I’d be really interested in your research regarding foreign students in Thailand. And about your work I guess you can try NGOs if you want to stay in Thailand.

bobsaigon said...

As you say, most of us have been lured to Thailand for "other benefits".

If we have become jaded in our intimate relationships and we find daily life in Thailand has become uncomfortable or intolerable, why, as you have said, are we STILL here?

It almost seems that the Complainers expect "someone" to pay attention and somehow change Thai life and Thai society to fit their desires. Mai wai, Kap. Mai wai. Mai khoi.

Sepiroth said...

I have a got a job in Bangkok and is moving there in June, I do sometimes wonder if it is a step forward or backward in my career...

By the way, I am from Australia. It is a nice country and you should like it, although its economy is a bit small.

BB said...

alone in london: I agree with nearly everything you say. how long have you lived abroad?

I think many of the things you said about Thai society are true, but if you dig deeper all the rifts appear. People do have opinions. I know they cant voice them, and that's a problem. But they have them!

I too am a political person, as I study something in this area too, but choose to shut up and leave politics to the Thais. I have my opinions too though, as you might guess. I am only here temporarily though so I shouldnt criticise too much.

Regarding socialist/social-democrat etc. You need to watch out applying traditional left-right European concepts to other countries. E.g. Is Thaksin right of left? BOTH. Heavy involvement of the state (left) but strong in law and order (right)...

Regarding kissing and touching. I see no problem in that. Many teenagers and young people do it! I always give my bf a kiss when we meet and I have NEVER seen anyone looking at us!

I know that some things are going wrong here but we do have a different perspective of course! I am the foreigner, here for some time enjoying his life. For you, it's the other way around...sorry I failed to emphasise that...

BB said...

bobsaigon: yes of course, the other benefits. the big majority residing in BKK reading this blog probably.

That's ok with me (sort of...) but please do not complain about a) things you have no right to complain against and b) things that, if you have a different approach to life, you will not encounter. (e.g. respect the locals!)

finally, I think most people who are here for the boys and complain, or are "in a rot", totally forget the other benefits...

BB said...

sepiroth. that depends on your job. if you do research on Thailand, this is the place to come:) If you work in development and anti-corruption, this is the place to come.

If you are an English teacher who likes Thai boys, dont come for your career.

p.s. I know Australia quite well too:) My great-grandma is buried in Perth:P

alone in london said...

I've been abroad for not a very long time I'm afraid, about a year.
But if everything go as plan I will be here for years to come.

The body contact thing I guess it also depends on the place and time [like in most countries]. Although, the kissing I meant real passionate kissing lol :D

The social-democrat thing I was talking about myself not Thailand, My way of thinking is quite in line with the European model. But I do understand what you mean.

There's one thing I'd like to talk about is that I think most Thais are quite discriminatory [in a rather passive way] which might be to strong but I'm not sure I can think of other words. plus I'm not saying that all Thais are nor that foreigners aren't, but it's something that comes to my mind as a quite pronounce trait for many Thais in all part of the society and I can use the example of you and you're boyfriend kissing, they could disapprove of your action but they will try to ignore it and the fact that you're obviously a foreigner they'll probably dismiss you as morally corrupt westerner. And I think this is not only apply to foreigner but rather all things that Thais think it doesn't concern them[or their circle], like homosexuality, my family don't particularly hate gays[though I doubt they approve of it], it's unlikely that they will comfortably accept the fact that I am.

Hopefully I won't come as too harsh =.=* but well aren't we all critical of where we reside or came from...well unless you're a hypocrite or ultra-nationalist. And there are things that I don't like about where I am as well but that's another story. I do believe as well that the foreigners that reside in Thailand have the right to complain, especially if they have lived there for a long time and to intend to spend the rest life their life there.

And On the positive side I really miss the food...not the weather though, another major Thai trait that I can't seems get rid of...not liking the sun and heat.

Cheers :)

BB said...

Darling, it sounds like you are in the right place:) Tastes do differ. I left my home-countries for a reason too!!!

Discriminatory, yes. But Europeans are too! Maybe not in the centre of london, where you seem to be. But I took my two Thai (girl) friends into my parents holiday home on the countryside somewhere in Europe. They looked at us as if we were aliens!

I know Thais see us farangs as one and the same race and people. BUT, I engage with them, speak their language and take them seriously and NO ONE has been mean to me - ever!

They are lovely. Today my BTS card fell out of my pocket on the street, and old man ran after me and gave it back to me. It would have never happened in Europe.

Thais and gays. Not sure about that one. I think Thai-Chinese (I am sure you are one of them) have more problems, since their dads want the sons to become manager, married and have kids. the poorer people are more pragmatic.

I had a massage lady telling me proudly how her 10 year-old son is going to become a kathoey. She found it cute!!!

Where I come from, marrying with a foreigner, let alone a different race would be well-known in the whole village and people would eye me - my mum would fear this as we would be the talk of the village:)

So...dont take London as Europe, and your family as Thailand, things are more fragmented than that:)

p.s. in some parts of Europe, gays can get attacked or murdered (Turkey) and no one cares.

thanks for the discussion by the way:)
and dont worry, I love thailand but there are days when I hate it:)

Faraway Friend said...

Bitch please, do not tell me you are old enough to "walk around with a boy 40 years younger." !!

Do not totally forget the other benefits...Mangosteens!

BB said...

not so faraway friend: If my boy would be 40 years younger than me, he is a minus-teenager...dont worry, I am in my twens:)

f**k the mangosteens....I have them in my fridge...still a kg. and not even included in the blog...what a miss!

alone in london said...

BB I quite certain that I did say it's "MY" personal feelings and perspective...obviously it's very subjective and I tried not to compare it with other places because I thought you're focusing on Thailand here. urrm I don't think London represent Europe not even England or the UK...nor as I think Europe is a heaven. I'm well aware of the far-right movements here and in Europe. I also have been stared at very strangely in Germany, many random people made stereotypical Asian comments toward me. But in "MY" view you can find more British or European for that matter that are more accepting toward foreigners and foreign ideas than Thais or Asians. And plus there are anti-discrimination laws here and the police[which can be annoying sometimes]...let's say work more.
And I don't know what America[which I believe you're from] is like but supposedly stuck-up Brits aren't really that bad, many of them are rather nice and lots of them will ran after you if you drop something..I left my wallet with hundreds of pound on the street and I got it back pick up by a nice old couple, when they gave it to the officer, he called me right away.

I'm not sure if you mention all the tourist scams in your other posts I'd like to mention this because they don't really care if you're a tourist or not, you just have to look foreign, foreign student at my friend's uni wear uniform to uni[that they don't have to wear, you probably know which uni...one that you guys have traditional football match with..hmm..I think I know which uni you go to lol] because they don't want people to think they tourist. I've been in taxi with my [Caucasian]foreign acquaintances, the taxi still insist on not using meter even though one of them spoke Thai to him and well obviously me too.. took him awhile to gave up...among other things I had quite few on my own as well[The way I dress and look, many of them thought I'm a tourist]. And yes I have had some of it in Europe but "I believe" it's less so.[You will probably bring out the economic reason here which I do sympathise but I don't particularly like cheating, Don't mind reasonable strike though like I said I'm a social-democrat ]

About being in Thailand's rural areas I guess from what I experienced [I have relatives in rural area and been on school's community service trip with my foreign classmates] things are probably better than in Europe. But again the perception is somewhat different isn't it, in Thailand foreigners are suppose to bring positive changes and money but in Europe they are undesirable change. I haven't got much experience with rural Europe though...urmm btw you remember the post before "Non Thai pickpocket gangs" which would be unacceptable in Britain, but in Thailand its mai pen rai.

Ps. I did say that I think Thai style discrimination is more "passive".

I tried to use my words carefully, I'm no expert and doesn't claim my opinions to be the absolute truth. It's definitely biased. It's been a nice discussion indeed. :D

Anonymous said...

Here's a history lesson - Thais were never conquered by a western power, were never a colony of any other western nation. Unlike Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, India, the Philippines, Indonesia. A remarkable achievement that should tell you something about the people. - Ian

BB said...

alone...yes it's your experience and my experience. obvsiouly we have different experiences and perceptions...

after all you are thai and I am not...

I really have NEVER had a non-meter taxi experience before...in over a year here, I had some taxi drivers that actually gave me money back because they went the wrong way. And one time there was a hot guy who actually didnt know the way to Morchit 2 (the bus station) even though he was from Isan....he was drunk. he shooed us out and didnt want us to pay.

safety is not a concern for me, but I would not want anything to happen, as I suspect the authorities would not help. rule of law is hardly existing here, that's a concern I do have...but not in every-day life:)

Now I go to bed....you're also more than welcome to write me an email if you want to continue the discussion...

one last thing...please dont say I am american:)

BB said...

Ian. Yes, true, BUT always heavily, heavily influenced by Europe. The whole bureaucratic system, uniforms, fork and spoon, buildings, boulevards, food etc...ask Thais about Chulalongkorn...

I saw in the Royal Thai Embassy in Rome how the staff waied and bowed everytime they entered the building and passed a portrait of King Chulalongkorn...he brought "civilised" (read: European) living to them.

Thailand dodged the political events by not really taking a side - a bit like the Swiss...busy making deals with everyone while keeping "out" of the whole chaos. Not too bad if you ask me...

Prkmk said...

Hey BB,

I don't think it's totally true that farang working in Thailand is a career downward. I worked in several international FMCG companies in bangkok where there were plenty of Farangs working here as expats. Most of them got promoted right after they finished their terms here in Thailand. Thailand is considered one of the most challenging market among SE Asia countries. Of course, it's because of our unique culture that you've experienced :)
So, I think working in Thailand is not that bad and can be a plus if you can do it well. It depends on what kind of job you'll be having :) NGO would be a great idea as well.
And please don't leave Thailand too soon. I enjoy reading your BB blog.

Anonymous said...

If we shall have a history lesson...then we might as well have a complete one...
Thais were never conquered by a western power mainly because they decided to give up their state monopoly trade rights and share it what the Brits, French and Dutch. That was something countries such as China and Japan considered unacceptable, which drove them to war.

Part of that trade was done under the name of the Royal Warehouse Department, but many other deals were secretly done under the government officials private companies for their own benefit, which was a source of conflicts between Britain and Siam at those times. Government officials taking advantage of their positions in order to achieve personal gain?? I think not much has changed from those days...

What is so remarkable about this achievement...I fail to understand, yet most thai people will talk about this as an act of heroicity and bravado that shaped the heart and mind of the thai nation...

Accounts turn even less heroic if you consider that the Siamese offered giving Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat to the British Crown should the granting of trading rights had not been enough to keep them content.

BB said...

prkmkkrkmrkmk: yes, not entirely true. If you do something concerning thailand or development or similar (as I might do), then Thailand is a good place.

Thailand a challenging market for what? care to elaborate?

And whether you like it or not, I will leave within 2009 sometime:)

anonymous: If you are such a good historian, you should give us your name!:)

Regarding any national heroism in the world, it's mostly just fake. Have you heard of nation-building? That's something to keep in mind:)

Not just Thailand. May I make a comparison with Switzerland again? As far as I know, they pride themselves on their culture of neutrality. Were they neutral during WWII and heroically stood up to the Germans? Is that why Hitler never invaded? I doubt it...yet it's still a myth that is well alive, just like the Thai one.

If you go to Ayutthaya and to Lopburi you can see the Ambassador's homes (Greek and French I think), right NEXT to the King's!! that is remarkable!! It shows how open the Siamese were and how much they cooperated.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, but I never claimed to be a good historian, I am just a keen aficionado...anyway I will drop you an email.

BB said...

no need to be an academic to be good at something. this also goes the other way around :P