Do Thais Hate Farangs?

Last updated: December 11th, 2018 | in Living

A few days ago I had my lunch break at Santa Fe Steakhouse on the 6th floor of Central Rama 9 in Bangkok. There aren’t too many foreigners in this area just two MRT stations from Asoke. When I walked in the restaurant two staff were briefly taking note of me, then looking in a different direction. It was already 1:30 pm so only two of the about 15 tables were taken. No one was really busy.

I chose a table to sit down and chose something to eat from the menu. When I looked up to get the order I saw how two of the waiters, both in their early twenties, looked at each other and the guy nodding his head as if to say “you go and get the order”. The girl shook her head and pointed with her finger at him. The guy eventually came to my table without saying anything more than repeating my order.

It’s not that I’m asking for special treatment or attention as a Farang but simply being respected just like any other Thai customer. The way it should have gone in the restaurant is that one staff greets me with a “Sawadee Ka” and wai at the door, another one takes me to a table and gives me the menu and then no one should be afraid of taking my order. Why do they work in a restaurant if they can’t give the same kind of respect and appropriate service to all of their gusts no matter whether Kon Thai or Kon Farang?

This is not just a one time experience, it happens regularly whenever I go eating out in an area that hasn’t a lot of foreigners. Anywhere in the world but especially in Thailand if you are taking a service like going to a restaurant people are supposed make you feel welcome and enjoy your time. However as a Farang, I often have the feeling that they are trying to deal with me as quickly as possible, receiving the cash and then dealing with the next customer who is hopefully Thai. Even other Asian nationalities like Japanese, Chinese or Korean seem to receive more respect from Thais than Farangs.

This brings up the question: Do Thai People Hate Farangs?

It might be a bit exaggerated to ask this kind of question by just recalling my bad experiences in restaurants but there are so many other situations. Like this morning it happened again when I was waiting for the motorbike taxi to take me to the MRT station from my apartment and then I saw this driver that is serving our apartment and is not supposed to take any other passengers still stopping for some middle aged business lady on the street and when he saw I was looking at him he gave me a smile and said the next driver was just around the corner. This would never happen with Thai people.

Thai hate Farang

Or take the situations when Thais are simply ignoring us. That’s really weird because usually they like to literally stare at us and then once you turn your head in their direction they pretend to be busy, trying to avoid any eye contact. Then often when you make an approach and try to ask them something they start laughing, stepping back and often ask their friend for help to sort out the situation.

And one more. While walking around town and you see Hi-So girls (or girls that pretend to be ones) they often make a face like they feel extremely annoyed or even insulted by you daring to look at them. Again very strange because normally they will spot and observe you first with their eagle eyes but once you come closer they try to make you feel minor no matter if you wear a Chang beer shirt or a tailor made suit.

So again, do Thai people really hate Farangs? I really thought about this a lot when I encountered these situations for the first time (and then repeatedly) but the longer I have lived here the more I realized that Thai people are just afraid, well even scared of anything they don’t know or are not familiar with and by now I’m sure that’s the main reason why they sometimes try to avoid dealing with us or look at us as if we were ghosts (which the majority of Thai people are extremely scared of).

Good example: Yesterday I had breakfast at the Tops Food Court and most of the tables were empty. A group of three Thai girls in their mid-twenties were about to sit down on the table just opposite mine when one of them said “nâa-glua” and they instead went to another table. Nâa-glua (น่ากลัว) means frightening or fearful and of course the girl didn’t assume that I can understand her Thai. My appearance with coffee and croissant, dressed in office clothes and shaved that morning was everything but not frightening.

I watched the girls on their table and when she looked at me I gave her a smile which she returned and I’m sure if I went to them to say hi I would have managed to get her Facebook contact in less than five minutes. There is always “ice” between Thai people and Farangs but usually it’s very thin and just takes a little effort to break.

A major reason why Thai people are shy and often even scared when they see a Farang besides that we look so different is because the English skills of most people are simply terrible and they fear they will not be able to have a decent conversation. I even believe it goes as far as they are scared losing their face because they think the Farang will get upset or make fun of them if they are not able to communicate in fair English.

There are quite a few other reasons why Thai people think Farangs are weird and are therefore often scared of them. I wrote a separate article about this and you can read it here.

Do you agree that Thai people are rather scared of than really hate Farangs? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

9 Responses

  • Zenred Salon says:

    I thing i would say i disagree, we work in the service sector and with foreign customers everyday. however all of our Thai staff understand English and know how to deal with foreigners no matter what language, country, accent etc. the reason however we can do this is 99% of our clients are foreign and we specialize in that.
    Unfortunately, what i think you actually experienced in the steak house was THAINESS. Basically they did not understand sufficient english and felt they were not going to understand your order, neither of them wanted to take your order and they made a fiasco on who should go. Ofcourse there is still no excuse for this behaviour but the fact is, it happens everywhere, all the time and for the same reasons, Thainess. being shy and wanting to avoid confrontation or problems or an effort on their behalf to do something strenuous. Yup it sucks!

  • Third person says:

    I’m not caucasian or thai, but it might have to do with the fact that most white males I see in Bangkok are sex-tourists or mainly here to fuck\date local women. I’m surprised they’re tolerated to the degree they are. I know they wouldn’t be where I come from.

  • Oliver says:

    Thanks for your article, I’ve often wondered if we were hated as well.
    Yes, scared to speak english, don’t want to lose face, afraid of anything they don’t know, you’re right !
    And think of those skinny bar girls who follow a big and tall Farang to his hotel room, wouldn’t you be scared if you were them ?
    They don’t hate us. It’s up to us to make them feel comfortable with us.

  • เเมทท says:

    Bad service in Thailand is reserved for all, Don’t worry you can expect crap service at most places because you are getting in the way of Face book , Bubble Tea and mindless chit chat . OK

  • XaseXance says:

    First, thank you for having this site.
    For the subject matter, just a wonder…..I believe most of the comments here are from white farangs. Well, imagine the special treatment dedicated to black farangs……..

  • Treasure Hunter says:

    Thanks for this article. It really gave me a new way of thinking about this “bad service” issue. I’m quite new to Thailand having only spent there 2 months, mostly in touristy places. But I’m currently in Vientiane for the first time and I think what you said about Thais being shy applies here too. They are similar cultures after all.

    Maybe Lao are even more shy, because I was frankly puzzled by the bad service I received here on a constant basis. At first it seemed like everyone was completely disinterested in me, even though I don’t look like a dirty hippie or anything like that.

    Nobody was smiling at me or greeting me when I went to check in a guesthouse, or sit down in some restaurant. Often the staff didn’t even look towards me unless I spoke to them first.

    On my first night I went to one of the more popular bars and ordered a Beerlao (in English). The bartender looked at me briefly, said something to his collegue and continued tinkering with the computer. The collegue, that was supposed to serve my beer, ignored me. He continued drying the glasses with a towel, even looked at me in the eye a couple of times but didn’t say anything. I was just standing there the whole time waiting.

    I eventually did get my beer and sat down. Then I saw two Korean guys walk in. They were greeted with a wai and lead to the table by female staff who were standing by the entrance… and who ignored me when I walked in. Korean guys were wearing shorts and t-shirts. I was wearing black jeans and a button up shirt.

    It was very confusing experience for me first, but now I think I get the picture. I look kinda well-built too and I have a rather serious look on my face most of the time (people in both Philippines and Thailand have asked me if I’m a soldier).

    Eventually I made a note to myself to approach every Lao with a wide smile and I started getting much better service after that (but still not as good as in Western countries, or in the Philippines even)

  • Philip says:

    Agree 95% with one reservation – for me, and I’ve had this confirmed by a Thai friend, Thai’s are scared of speaking English in case they make a mistake. This is something I’ve heard many times. Rather than try and possibly get it wrong, many simply refuse to speak English. I believe its that old Thai ‘Face’ thing. But, speak a little Thai with them and in my experience, the barriers start to come down. An example……………………….

    Driving to Ayutthaya a couple of months ago, I stopped off at a PTT service station as most of them have my favourite coffee shop – Amazon. As I was visiting a friend I was not on a route used by Temple viewers and the like. Now, on the more popular tourist routes most of the staff are used to dealing with foreigners – nothing new to them but I find that in some of the more obscure locations, the staff can appear very shy. I am by no means fluent in Thai but I’m told that what I do speak, I speak well.

    As soon as I walked in I knew I’d have great difficulty if I spoke English – the usual “you serve him, no you serve him” game was already starting. So, on this occasion I ordered my coffee in Thai which got everyone’s attention and I was immediately asked if I wanted it to go or drink in. ‘Tee nee’ I said which was greeted by giggles. I was then bombarded with questions which were clearly designed to test my ability – I’ve never heard them ask a Thai if they want chocolate on their cappuccino or not! I think I answered all of their questions with a fair degree of accuracy.

    Whilst all this was going on, one very pretty young girl said little but maintained eye contact with me almost all of the time since I began speaking Thai. As she gave me my change she actually held my hand and asked if I would be coming back tomorrow. So as not to feed the anti-age difference gang, I will just say that this girl was in her very early twenties and I’m considerably older.

    So, just one example of many but I’m firmly of the opinion that its about a fear of speaking English

    I’m not so sure that the above applies to so called Hi So Thai’s but they seem to look down on everyone.

    You can’t really blame Thai people for viewing, with disgust, the sight of a 60 something Farang, dressed in his best nylon Manchester United shirt, scruffy shorts, sandals and knee high socks, toddling off down the soi with his 21 year old bar girlfriend on his arm – complete with mini skirt and high heels.

    But analyse that a little, what is it they are disgusted about? A lot of people have no idea that the farang ‘nightlife’ industry in Thailand is minute compared with that aimed at Thai men. I’ve been visiting for 13 years and still keep coming across Thai ‘nightlife’ in different forms. So although they may say they hate prostitution, dare I say, I don’t believe them – its almost endemic in their culture. Could it be the age difference then? I doubt its that so much – large age differences are common in Thai society. Now, before someone says that’s not true, I can absolutely assure you it is. A married couple may usually be of similar ages but Thai men often quite openly play away from home and not always via a mia noi. My ex wife’s father was 53 and had a ‘girlfriend’ of about 25. So, I doubt its the shock of seeing an old man with a young girl.

    In Thailand, how you dress for the location you’re in is all important. So, Mr Manchester United shirt and Miss High Heels may not get a second look in Sukhumvit or Patpong but at Gaysorn or MBK????? I believe its a lot to do with the right attire for the right location – not that I think nylon football shirts have any place, other than the football pitch!!!

    First time tourists returning to the UK after a visit to Thailand almost always comment on the Thai smile and tell me how polite Thai people are. Well I don’t think the Thai smile is quite as sincere as people think and polite???? Well, try getting OFF the Skytrain at rush hour and tell me again that Thai people are polite. Try driving or crossing the road in Thailand and tell me Thai drivers are polite. I’ll finish by saying that none of the above comments are a slur on Thai people, I have the greatest of respect for them. I’m merely trying to illustrate that they are different, they think different and act different. Western values are not necessarliy Thai values and that may come across in their behaviour.

    • Redcat says:

      I think you made a very good point Philip. It surely explains why Thai people act so shy towards Farangs as they are scared to create misunderstandings and therewith may result in conflicts and confrontation (= someone loses their face).
      This behavior has a name: “Greng Jai” (เกรงใจ).
      You see this behavior not just when Thais are dealing with Farangs, but also when they are dealing with other Thais. For example, if a Thai employee leaves his job he might not tell his boss and just leave – because he acts “greng jai”, considerate towards his boss, because he might be angry with his decision to quit and therefore avoiding the potential confrontation by just leaving quietly.

    • madmax says:

      ?? by 3rd world stadards thai drivers are considerate to pedestrians.. .. skytrain is fine much nicer than youll see in sydney.. or tokyo or moscow..

      thais know how to correctly wait in line..

      thai people are however many times false and not being polite at all if you as a thai to translate if you dont understand they will many time inform you of negative attitude of poeple..