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!