Thai Life


Every Farang Is Rich!

Misconceptions still a-plenty in LOS

Lets face it, if you are a foreigner in Thailand, whether a tourist, an expat or just a traveler passing through, one thing that is certain is that the local populace will typically believe you to be rich man.
Every tourist destination in the world has the bars and venues to cater to the tourist revenue, but when in a poor third-world country even relatively affluent Thailand has the disappointing aspect of stereotyping all foreigners as being rich.

Now this may be relatively true. The typical foreigner from a European or American country will usually have more funds and assets than a local Thai person would have. This is shown in many facets of the Thai psyche.
When a typical samsonite brigade tourist visits Thailand his last thoughts are about the price of things here.
When most expats (including myself) who live in Thailand go about our business we do tend to be more careful how and where we spend out money.
This first and most obvious one is the dual pricing aspect of a large degree of the tourist venue in Thailand. The parks, the waterfalls, the zoos and shows often have this; A foreigner will have to pay one price (a higher one) and the locals another ( a lesser one). There are ways and means around this. One is to produce the expats 'weapon of choice'; a Thai drivers license which shows that they at the very least a semi resident of the country and not 'just another tourist'. Another is to argue, cajole and reason to the demander of the said fee for it to be lowered, the mastery of the Thai language helps on this one. Most times the begrudging farang often just puts his hand in his pocket and shows the money.
The second is a lot subtler and involves the everyday pricing of goods in tourist areas, again this can be a nit picking issue and is usually haggled around.
The third and most malignant form of the rich farang misconception is when the Thais themselves expect the farang to pay for everything. This can be from supposed friends right through to complete strangers you see in the street!
Many moons ago I was on my travels down to Ranong while sojourning in Koh Tao. The reason was the usual one, a visa run. I'm sure many of the old hands in Thailand will know the deal; no matter what visa you have, every so often a trip over the border is due.
Now the journey from Koh Tao to the provincial shipping city of Chumpon is bad enough, especially in bad weather. After this a taxi to the bus depot followed by a bus trip to Ranong must be taken. Once there its another taxi to the quay side, and then a boat trip across the estuary into Victoria Point, Burma. After you've done the necessary visa stamping and passport showing it's exactly the same in reverse order all the way back to Koh Tao.
Anyway, while walking to the quay side from the taxi drop-off I became aware of a Thai man following me. It didn't seem unsettling until I saw the nasty look in his eye and him shouting in course english "You! Give me some money!"
He didn't look like a beggar or particularly needy type either just a bum who wanted money off anyone who was foreign and looked like they had cash!
Well he didn't get a single satang off me as I told him to bugger off and just kept on walking. After a while and as I got closer to the quay side (where a lot more people hang around) he gave up and disappeared. At the time I just put it to the back of my mind as a desperate man but as my time in Asia grows i am more aware of the 'Rich Foreigner Assumption.'
Just last night I was hanging out at a friendly and humble restaurant in good ole' Chiang Mai. Met some really nice people who were interesting and informative, had a few drinks and watched some TV with them. "Ahh, this is the real friendly side of Thailand.' I mused.
I was just about to order another drink when up shows three thai low-lifes. It sounds presumptuous and arrogant but I have an occasional knack for seeing the good and the bad folks, even if they aren't westerners. One of them (the leader) extended his hand but that didn't fool me, neither did his fake smile. They all sat down and they ordered a bottle of Lao Khao (cheap alcohol which is pure paint stripper). After muttering to each other about me in Thai this fat excuse for a Thai started tapping me on the arm (I was just playing Mr innocent tourist just watching Thai TV) and saying 'Money! Money!' gesturing for towards the Thai Whiskey bottles on the shelf. Still playing it passive I'd finally had enough and just told them I had no money for them, but this fat swine of a thai wouldn't quit asking me to buy him whiskey!
Now while I'll be the first to admit I'm a bit frugal or kee-neow,, I'm no push-over for handing out money to the first alcoholic I meet. Like many expats in Thailand, I've worked for my money fair and square and I'll be damned if some moron wants me to just roll over and play the farang ATM machine!

I could of played the poor farang but the fact that my brand new sports bike was parked nearby told a different story. So I necked my Leo beer, paid the bill and left. As was leaving he even had the cheek to ask if I was coming back tomorrow!
One of the reasons I often hang out the thai restaurants and bars is too get away from the beer bar chicks who can get damned annoying after a while with lady-drinks requests.
So, alas even in the quietest areas of Thailand there will still be those who perceive us to be millionaires. It's something that goes with the territory I've come to live in, but every so often it takes something like this to make you think "We really aren't that much to some Thais other than a walking ATM"
But as long as we can keep in mind that things are what they are and steer clear of the losers out here Thailand has a lot to offer the 'rich' farang...

Johnny B in ThailandThis section is hosted by our resident columnist Johnny B. who has been living in Thailand for seven years now and currently is based out of Bangkok.

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Chang Mai Province Phitsanulok Bangkok Koh Tao Koh Pang Yan Koh Samui