The Irony of Traditions


Farang, farang kru, point and laugh followed by farang: words and actions I hear on a more than daily basis.  ‘Farang’ directly translates as ‘foreigner’ for those of you that have never been to Thailand – for those that have visited, I am sure this is a word that you would understand and have heard.

As I understand, Thai’s mean no malice by the word, but the actions that sometimes accompany it may be different.  Some English teachers I have met really take offence to the word and get annoyed when hearing it.  I, on the other hand, am aware that it is a cultural thing and that this can sometimes cause offence.  I am yet to truly understand the fascination with white skin and foreigners because Filipinos (although still classified as farang) do not seem to receive the same stunning treatment that we do.

Although I’m unsure how true this really is, I was told that in the remote parts of Thailand an old folk tale is told which involves farang coming in the middle of the night and eating small children that misbehave.  This does explain why some children in the villages run away, screaming ‘Farang!’ when we approach, but I can’t believe that this is true.  I asked myself why a story like this would be told – but remembered that in my childhood my mum used to tell me that she had run away with a black man as an explanation to where she had been.  So I understand cultural differences within story telling, especially wives tales told in order to make kids behave.

Could you imagine walking around England – the country that is now so politically correct, some counties are not allowed to display Christmas decorations for fear of upsetting someone and favouring Christianity – and shouting ‘foreigner’ to everyone that walks past with a different colour skin to yourself?  No.  You would be branded a racist and publicly humiliated probably on national TV.

So, in todays open and honest society where many western men order Thai wives from the internet, come over here and live with them, why is the word farang still so used and not banned like so many words in England?  [At this point I would like to make clear that I am not a racist and have no problem with anyone from other countries taking residency in the UK, before I get publicly humiliated on TV or something daft like that.]  I just want to make a point that in today’s world of open-mindedness and endless travel opportunities, it seems strange a county as diverse, different and involved in so many conflicts over its history has managed to keep its roots so very Thai – even down to the mannerisms of the locals; yet in contrast, England is not allowed to keep any of its traditions for fear of offending other religions, countries or individuals.  So although it annoys some, frustrates others and some times comes across as down right rude, I am glad that farang is unashamedly used towards us: it shows Thailand is still the same as it was before the wars that caused an influx of westerners all those years ago, and even now mostly remains unchanged even with tourism.  I wish that the same could be said for England.

Miss D


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