Why Thai People Think Farangs Are Weird

Last updated: September 4th, 2014 | in Living

The reason we all love Thailand is because everything is just so different here compared to our home country. The weather, the nature and most important the culture, the lifestyle and the people. We just love Thai people for their open-minded, friendly, helpful, happy and optimistic attitude. Yet there are some huge cultural differences between Thai and Western society, we don’t complain about them too much as the positive things in Thai culture by far outweigh the negative things and make us enjoy living in Thailand like in no other country in the world.

However, you also have to look on the other side. The view towards us, Farangs, from the Thai people. There are far more foreigners visiting or living in Thailand than Thai people abroad and getting to know different cultures and lifestyles and while that doesn’t describe a problem yet it’s more the reason for some kind of confusion Thai people have about foreigners. The question then is:

Why do Thai people think Farangs are weird?

Most obviously we seem to be totally different for Thai people just alone by the way we look like (skin, hair, eyes, stature) and the fact that we (on average) have more money than them. But that could be said about people in any developing country. It’s something different in Thailand.

If you have ever been to Thailand even just for a short two week holiday you highly probably have come into situations talking to a Thai person who at some point laughs and goes to his / her friends, tells them what you just said and they are all starting to laugh. These are just some small everyday cultural clashes and that’s nothing compared to the bigger things, the main reasons why Thai people think Farangs are weird and the most important ones are the following:

Farangs don’t learn the Thai Language

It’s really a phenomenon. Usually if foreigners decide to permanently move to another country learning the local language is the single most important thing for them in order to understand the country’s culture and get accepted in the social life. However in Thailand I would estimate that more than 80% of foreigners who are permanently living there are not fluent in the Thai language.

I asked foreigners several times if they can speak Thai and usually when their answer is no they justify it with being too old to start learning or no matter how old they are it would just be too difficult. And then I’m just thinking if they spend half as much time in the bars and instead sitting on some awesome beach with their book and studying Thai for just half an hour a day they would be surprised how much Thai they are able to speak within just a few weeks.

Sure the five tones are a bit hard at the beginning but that’s just a matter of time till you got it down (6 months in my case) and there isn’t much about the grammar at all. But with this attitude of not taking any effort it is no surprise that Thai people think Farangs are weird if they live in their country for months and years without taking any effort to learn their language.

Sex Tourism

I don’t know how many guys come to Thailand every year just for picking up some cheap hookers but we all know it’s a lot. While there’s nothing wrong about being attracted and hanging out with as many hot Thai chicks possible (it’s not different with me) there is certainly a problem if Thai people see most male foreigners just landing at Suvarnabumi airport and heading straight to the red light districts of hubs like Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket.

The result is that Thai people perceive male Farangs (and that’s the large majority of foreigners visiting and living in Thailand) as merely interested in sexual experiences with their girls rather than really exploring this amazing country. They see far more foreigners hanging out on Walking Street and Cabaret Shows in Pattaya than at WWII sites around Kanchanaburi or the temples of Siams first capital, Sukhothai.

Why Thai People Think Farangs Are Weird

Showing Affection in Public

Another reason Thai people think Farangs are weird is because they show affection with their beloved ones in public. Showing affection doesn’t mean just hugging or holding hands it’s especially the kissing that is a tabu in Thai society and should only be practiced privately at home. While you do see some young Thai couples holding hands in public nowadays that’s still the exception and kissing and touching lovers in public will always be a no-go that only weird Farangs with bad manners do.

Face Issues

Even though it doesn’t happen too much as foreigners coming to Thailand are usually aware of it, keeping face in Thailand is more important than anything else in public life. Means if you have an issue with someone you should not scream at him on the street and start arguing, insulting and making him “loosing face” in public. Still often when foreigners become too serious and annoyed of something they start arguing with their Thai friend in public instead of smiling, calming down, accepting how it is (“and saying sabai sabai and two weeks later stabing a knife into his back”, a friend of mine once described it) this is another reason why Thai people think we are weird.

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Then there are all these other small cultural differences between Thai and western society (dressing inappropriately, pointing with the finger, touching someones’ head, walking over a lying person etc.) that add up to the image Thais see of a sex tourist who is showing affection in public, makes someone losing face in a dispute and not even taking any effort to learn the local language and still, for the most part they give it a smile and  just accept that we are different so that we can have a great time in Thailand. Isn’t it amazing?

What do you think, is this stereotype of foreigner perceived by the Thai as I described it true?

About Redcat

Redcat

Redcat lives his dream by living and traveling in Thailand. On Thailand Redcat he shares his experiences and advice to all aspects of (night)life in Thailand. Redcat is also fluent in Thai both spoken and written and is author of the books Thai Beginner’s Course and Thai Love Course.

20 Responses

  • Adam West says:

    Well, I was never a sex tourist…. The destroyer i was on docked at Sattahip in 97 and I met my wife who I married 8 months later. So, I don’t go to Pattaya and hang out in bars. We usually go straight to Chiangrai and stay with my sister in law where we have property and a car etc and all the people in her town know me and treat me as a good friend (we get drunk at parties and the like and I am made to feel welcome).
    I have never come across the saving face issue and yes I do know some Thai language but not enough and should learn more but all the Thais here at home speak English so it’s hard to get interested in learning it.
    Money, is not that important in the North as opposed to the Eastern region (Issan) where keeping up with the Joneses and outdoing the neighbours is what they do.
    Most Thais know that Europeans are different but not wierd and accept that we do things different and don;t get offended, at least that is my experience.

    • Allen says:

      I lived in Thailand for a few months way back in 1996 cause my dad owned a buissness out there for a while. Even though in some ways I loved the cultural and exoticness out there, the one thing that was noticeable was how much the Thai people stared at me. Like really stared. Even in Pattaya where there were a lot of caucasians around. I realize now that its their culture, but it made me uncomfortable sometimes back then. I was only 20 at the time

  • Stratier says:

    Just for the fun of it, google what travel sites say about do’s and dont’s in your home country. Most will surprise you. The not getting angry part is good advice, in Thailand or not…

  • Wiechien says:

    As a teenager, I was fortunate to live in Thailand from 1967 to 1969. Few Thais spoke English at that time and I was not part of the insulated US armed forces community. I learned quite a bit of Thai language and cultural customs. To this day, when I visit Thailand I am accepted as friend of many Thai folks because I speak a good amount of Thai and I receive and pay respect appropriately. I have had relationships with Thai women based on fondness and mutual attraction rather than Farang deep pockets, though such relations have been necessarily discreet so as to not raise questions in those women’s communities. Let us not judge a culture based on our observations and experiences as an outsider. Remember, in our own cultures there are respectful and respectable individuals and then there are others that lead lives of questionable character. So it is in Thailand, and it takes quite a bit of cultural knowledge and immersion to figure out just what type of character an individual Thai with whom interact may be. Always err on the side of respect with a smile. What goes around, comes around!

  • Bryan says:

    They think western girls are beautiful and out of there league. They do find them hot and sexy. (It’s exotic for them ;) ) No “good” thai girl will show herself in a bathing suit and stuff like that. (they don’t wanna be brown, farmers have a colour) Anyway, i do have a friend who has a thai dad and a English mother. So it happens.. just less common.

    • boombo says:

      I am Thai. it is not about out of their league. I met many Western and my dick doesn’t respond anything. Just only very very few of them However if i meet Asian woman or Thai. My dick works again..

    • 10110 says:

      …They think western girls are beautiful and out of there league. They do find them hot and sexy… >>> Not me. I prefer Asian. And not just me. All of my friends do. In fact I have never see anybody said they are fond of Western girls in romantic/sexual ways at all.

      May I ask where did you get the idea?

    • darren says:

      you dont see many white girls in europe with asian guys! not many white girls or brown girls or ebony girls are interested in oriental guys

  • Jess says:

    What do thai guys think about westren girls? I’ve never heard anything about what they think of farang girls, only what thai women think about western men.

  • Well, I’ve had Thais pointing at me and sniggering and jabbering about me in Thai, and all I was doing was looking at souvenirs for sale. I was dressed appropriately, wasn’t touching anyone or showing the soles of my feet, etc, etc, so who was being weird? A most unpleasant experience, and one which I do not ever wish to have again.

    • 10110 says:

      A Thai stumbled upon this page.

      Really sorry to hear that you feel unpleasant. But I’m 95 percent sure they mean nothing. May be they rarely see a foreigner. May be they think you are cute. etc. Hundred reasons.

      My advice is, next time, if you or anybody face the same situation, turn to them, smile, and just say hello or hi. This is a really simplest way to lower down the psychological wall between people. Then, if you want, you can ask them why they point at you. Just kindly ask. Don’t get angry. And I’m kind of sure they would tell you. Thai, esp. some who might not know much English (doesn’t matter if his/her English proficiency is good or bad) tends to be shy at first, and that make them afraid to speak with foreigners, but once you show them your respect and politeness, they would be more open to you as well.

      PS. Just yesterday I read a thread in a biggest Thai webboard. The topic is about helping tourists. One thing that Thai don’t understand is that why you seems to be surprise or dislike when we do something we think it’s a good deed (for example giving our seat to kid/senior citizen in a bus or train or helping people carry their bags) Also I have read a blog of a volunteer girl in TH said she was called “Pumpui” (mean chubby in a cute and lovely way) which is really rude in Western, but it’s really common for friends here to say. Lucky she understand that.

      It’s not their fault since they don’t know that it’s rude in Western. Also it’s not those tourists fault since they don’t know about our culture. It’s just the differences.

      • Mark says:

        When a person stands up and let’s and old person sit down, the western people feel embarrassed about their own ignorance, because they did not do it. A very long time ago, in Western countries, people did the same, but not so much now, so they feel embarrassed because they did not think about being considerate themselves.

  • Peter says:

    I read about not touching someones head. I made a thai friend while I was there who had a 8 year old daughter. For some reason the kid loved me and wouldnt let me get more than 2ft away from her. Anyhow I affectionately patted her on the head before I caught myself. I apologized to the mother and she couldn’t understand why I was apologizing.

    • madmax says:

      yes thai dont give a shit about touching the top of kids heads.. this is a Cambodian custom..
      my wife does it to every kid she sees

      • Mark says:

        Most of it is a load of nonsense. Just last week I saw a Thai guy get the top of his head rubbed by his girlfriend, and he smiled. Thai girls are always touching my “Wallan” head, without reservation. The other thing people on the Internet allways talk about is Thai people never losing their temper in an argument and just smiling. What a load of rubbish. Every other day I see a Thai person start to shout angry abuse at a foreigner over some trivial issue, usually a huge over reaction. The same thing has happened to me quite a few times. Can you show me the car insurance I will have when I hire the car from you? I have! Can I see please? GO! GO! GET OUT!, shouting it down the street at me, like I am some kind of dog.

  • Jules says:

    Why should it be “bad mannors” to show you love in public, as long as its tasteful. I think its cute. Who is is tell me I shouldn’t do it? After all this is 2013 and ladyboys do it in public and nobody is down on them for it. Plus I see thais do really strange things like urinate with the door open and pick their nose in public.

    • Redcat says:

      Yeah right and you see more and more foreigners holding hands with and kissing their girlfriends in public. I don’t think Thais hate Farangs for doing it, usually they just accept it when they see it, give it a smile and if the Thai girl enjoys it everything is fine.

  • Ryan says:

    Interesting article, the sort of questions we all ask at some point on our journey in Thailand. Personally, I always tackled Thai with enthusiasm from the start and now speak fluently enough that most Thai people tell me I “put Thai chat mak” though Thais do have a natural tendency to flatter. Still, I lost interest in learning Thai after about 3 years when I realised that even if I was completely fluent, able to give a speech in Thai, the first thing a Thai would think about me is “farang put Thai mai ben.” It gets annoying when you understand perfectly well but you’re always treat like you don’t! But I’m happy I learned Thai, it’s really like my second language now. Hell, I even think in Thai these days!

    As for the money thing, it’s really only the poor Thais that think that.. as most rich Thais are smart enough to see we’re just teachers, well, at least a lot of us are, and teachers aren’t particularly rich… Perhaps they see us as more elevated because we came from affluent countries, not necessarily richer… We look rich just by the virtue of being a westerner…. in their eyes.

    All said, it’s probably easier to be a strange tourist than a strange expat, LOL

    • Redcat says:

      You hit the nail on the head there, Ryan. Thai people never expect Farang to speak Thai. The reason is that most of the Farangs in Thailand don’t speak Thai. If they figure out I can speak Thai everytime they start with compliments like you describe it and I immediately have a different relationship with them. And then even when they know I can speak Thai, again they get surprised when they get to know that I can also read and write Thai. That’s just how it is and I try to get used to it.

      About the teacher thing, usually only in the bars usually girls ask me if I’m a teacher. Maybe they think that because I can speak Thai so I’m good with languages? Not sure. Elsewhere I meet a lot of Thai people that also know how many foreign companies there are in Bangkok and that I may also have a different profession :)


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