Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Being talk of the town

Anyone who has spent time living in Thailand will testify that Thai people are inquisitive by nature. When it comes to foreigners, they just love to stare. Be that when out shopping, when in a restaurant or even passing by driving a motorcycle.

The further one ventures from Bangkok, the stronger the urge of curiosity is in Thais. Of course, a large city like Bangkok has many foreigners living and working or travelling through it so the novelty value of each farang lessens.

Where I reside, we are about an hour or so by bus from The Big Smoke that is BKK. Here, foreigners are less likely to be found. This make us an interesting spot for the locals, particularly when we are with a baby that is half-English, half-Thai (luk kreung). Suddenly, this foreigner is particularly interesting.

Some of the most typical comments include:

  •           What is he doing here outside of Bangkok?
  •           If that’s his baby, that must be his wife/girlfriend...
  •           I wonder how they met? (my story isn’t quite that of the ‘usual’ Anglo-Thai relationship)

Most of the time I find Thais to be very friendly, many will come over and ask about the baby, me, and other things – I guess for them it puts my appearance into some context, not just a strange pale faced, foreigner walking about town. I love stopping to speak to friendly locals but am beginning to find the constant stares, whispers and giggles of those too shy to over and speak to us a little tiresome. Being the kind of guy I am, once in a while I will wave over or go over and say hello, just to see the reactions. Most of the time I am greeted with a wave or ‘sawadee’ back, but some will be embarrassed and look for cover.

I’m by no means the only farang in town, but I am certainly the only farang living on our road. Most are families with more than one generation, I suspect most houses have been owned by their occupants for many, many years. For these families, I am, and have been, a novelty since I arrived in October last year.

There are some locals who I’ve got to know, like and become friendly with but any given day, should I venture to the front of the house, near the road, I’ll see cars slowly down to look at the farang, motorbike drivers turning almost  180 degrees to grab a peak of me. It still makes me chuckle – seriously, I am really worth a look?!

One of the consequences of my new found fame is that we, The Missus, The Little One and I, have been the subject of much gossip in town.

As I mentioned earlier, Thai people I bump into in town will often come and ask us questions in order to understand how, why and what I am doing here. We’ve found that neighbours who do not know anything about me, and perhaps have a chip on their shoulder, will start gossip within the local neighbourhood. So, what have they said of the town’s adopted farang...

On my arrival: “They (me and The Missus) were forced to move to Thailand as his parents did not approve of him having a child with a Thai girl”

Following the visit of a (female) family friend: “His girlfriend from England came out to Thailand to track him down and find out what is going on” [the irony being that the visitor was my brother’s ex-girlfriend]

After we bought a cot for the son: “They spend too much money on the baby’s bed and now can’t afford to buy him good quality milk.” [as mentioned previously]

One neighbour after seeing some nice quality baby clothes (from England) hanging on the line: “They spent too much money on clothes and now can’t afford to buy their baby good quality milk” [no response necessary!]

This all makes us laugh – the idea that people can come up with these, frankly nonsensical tales of the tallest variety just to fill idle gossip time. Ninety nine per cent of the community know these rumours are utter rubbish and we find them out because, at some point in the chain, a family friend will find and react, like us, with laughter before communicating the tale back to a member of the family.

Personally, I’m looking forward to what the story-tellers-in-chief can come up with when my brother stops buy (tomorrow) for 10 days as part of his travels in Asia and my parents arrive for a fortnight’s holiday at the end of the month. Let’s hope they get creative!

This is quite a rambling rant, which comes after I just heard the comedy tale of my 'ex' from England hunting me down in Thailand, but the moral of the story is that foreigners living in Thailand, particularly with a Thai partner, will have difficulty leading a quiet life. That comes with good parts and negatives.

I’d love to hear other people’s stories about being ‘the only farang in the village’, their adventures according to the gossipers and any other tales that relate to this topic.

Look forward to your comments!


Anonymous said...

Um....I may have started a few rumours last time I was there. It was a long bus journey back.


Mike said...

Jon, don't you just love it?

I am the only farang in a small village. I am sure the locals gossip about me but as my Thai is so appalling I wouldn't get it anyway and if MTF does she doesn't tell me.

In the main they seem happy to put up with me and from my point of view me with them.

Frequently they send me little gifts albeit a couple of mango's or some bananas but its the Thai way and I love it.

I often listen to my partner and neighbour gossiping it makes me laugh (the bits I understand anyway).

Would I swap for BKK or one of the big cities? Not a chance.

Martyn said...

On my visits to Thailand I spend a fair amount of time in a rural area of Udon Thani and the whispers and stares continue despite my many appearances around local towns over several years. The village I stay in during part of my holidays has now become accustomed to me and I feel I am relatively accepted by the locals. Outside of village life the stares continue but my initial resentment of this subsided a long time ago. Personally I feel most of the looks are aimed at the Thai partner because of jealousy and the labelling of "hooker" onto any Thai female with a farang. Mai phen rai krap.

X said...

Wouldn't really know what the situation is like being that "talk" is not a strong point in Finland. The only suspicion I've received (apart from being instructed "nigger go home" by some drunk on my first week) was caused by going over to the Baltics and not just having a day in Tallinn to stock up on cheap sauce - this apparently must mean that I'm a sex tourist. Bizarre.

Jan said...

i always feel like at the airport security check when i walk back from the market with my food. the closes you can get to an x-ray without electricity. lol.
anyway, where do you live near bangkok?

Jay said...

I would love an intelligent response on my comment. I've dated a Thai girl. I got to know the local community and was real nice to everyone. Buying food to share. Being open and honest with them. And then they started to gossip about us. Bad stuff like we shouldn't be together, making up stories that I'm gay, saying I have a bad personality. I have trouble just chuckling at all this negativity coming from people I was so giving and considerate of. My girlfriend had to endure a lot of stress just to be with me. I loved Thai culture before but now I'm beginning to find it appalling.
I've spoken to Thai people who can speak English and they say they isolate themselves to stay out of the gossip and harmful drama.
One Thai person told me Thais are very sensitive and so this is the reason they make so much drama. I don't quite understand this explanation.
I watched a lot of Thai TV and realized that the drama and the violence is very similar to what I experience in my life. I thought maybe they copy and learn from bad TV.
But then I have to ask, what came first, the copy-cat-TV violence in gossip or the gossiping people making the TV Shows based how themselves?

I've seen forums, blogs and thread go off topic, and never answer questions but end in useless babel. I hope you are all critical thinkers that may have some insight to shine on this negative part of my life.
I want to understand Thais, not lose respect for them.

Jon said...

Hi Jay,

Without knowing all the information of your situation it is difficult to give you the clarity you seek.

From my personal experience, Thais people do gossip a hell of a lot. Sometimes I think it is just for the sake of it. So my advice is, as long as you and your gf are fine, don't sweat it.

You can spend all day thinking about it but the best thing to do is ignore it.

As for Thai TV, it is absolutely awful yet I've never met a Thai female who isn't addicted - work that one out?!

Anonymous said...

How are you doing my friend?My name is Tony. Do not feel bad about the goss, I am here in Yame City, Fukuoka, Japan. This city is known for 1 thing countrywide; Tea. It has the best green tea in all of Japan, I would dare say the best in the world. Then another thing it is known for locally; I am the first black man to ever set foot in this city. Of course the City President who is a close buddy of mine came out of character to tell me. Not only that, but to go shopping; there is me, my beautiful small stature wife, and our baby boy. Now, people see us walking into a grocery store or a shopping mall; I guess they must think I do not speak Japanese (dumb thought for people who see me living here, and as more than 86% of the foreign pop of Japan speaks Japanese) I hear things like, "Wow, she managed to fit that into her body, my God."or "You know her parents cried in sadness at their wedding." I just ignore stupid comments like that. On the other hand because of our popularity it is driving other local women who have not had success in finding Japanese mates to test the foreign side of things. My wife is the leader of their group. I have a feeling that soon, we will not be the only talk of the town. Being a foreigner anywhere in Asia with and Asian wife and child will make people think of anything to say. I got your back out here in Fukuoka, Japan. We are a brotherhood, Foreign Husband, Asian Wife. Holla.