White people in Chiang Mai: It’s an expat jungle out there…

Expats feel the vampire Kiss of Death, if a business gets into Lonely Planet‘s Thailand, any uniqueness, quality or good deal they might have discovered will become tainted or tarnished. A friend of mine wanted to take me to this really great traditional Thai restaurant but her only stipulation? Don’t mention it in your blog, Lani. I don’t want it overrun with farangs.

I was flattered she thought I had that many readers.

After being out of town for a few days, I noticed some changes in my neighborhood. There were a lot more white people in the markets, down the streets, where I go shopping. Now I do live close to the famous Lanna Muay Thai Gym so I expect some whiteness (even though it’s far from touristic areas) but I have to admit I like my Asian looks during times like this. I like blending in.

I think many Caucasian expats resent other white people moving in, or assume they are annoying tourists. Often I hear in the expat community how they saw a tourist do this or that, and isn’t it atrocious? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not above being shocked by the way some vacationers dress and almost getting in a wreck staring at a woman’s boobs peeking not so subtlety above her tank top.

It’s just funny how we take interest in what is different. I used to count how many Asian Americans were at school, in a room or a restaurant or coffee shop back in the United States. Now I notice white people. It’s like, Oh Christ, the Whites are moving in to the neighborhood! Prices will be going up!

Am I any different? Nah. I just look different, that’s all. Now isn’t that interesting?

In college, I used to get annoyed when I saw white hippies running around barefoot in their ethnic clothes from Nepal or Thailand. I thought they were trying to borrow a culture because they lacked their own. I suppose if I wanted to I could feel some sort of ownership or validity being here because I’m half Thai, but who the hell am I kidding? Thailand’s great, and that’s why I’m here.

When I first got here, I noticed I was being judgmental towards “working girls”, hey, it’s easy to look down on them. But then I realized, how lucky I am, and got over it. It would be equally easy to look down on fresh expats rolling in what I feel is my turf. (555, I said fresh expats) But the idea that this is my chair because I sat in it first seems an exercise in insecurity and ridiculousness.

So if you find yourself going through the, “Wow, I’m in Thailand! Everyone is my friend and I can’t wait to meet everyone” – to – “Hey, I live in Thailand and who the hell are you?” I’d like to direct your attention to the high school years: Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior. Is it important for you Jrs and Srs to terrorize the Freshmen? Do you still feel the need to be cool? Are you laughing at the newbies mistakes?

Yeahhh. We’ve come so far. Welcome to the neighborhood.

tourists-at-tha-phae
(2013) The changing face of Tha Phae Gate, now an area for creatives to sell their pieces, and hang out.

10 thoughts on “White people in Chiang Mai: It’s an expat jungle out there…

  1. I sometimes envy the “Newbies” and their mistakes. I used to love the lost feeling, screwing up, taking that wrong turn. Last big travelling mistake I made was in Chiang Mai. Being “all knowing” I just went up for a holiday with my wife on the spur of the moment. We nearly froze to death on the motorbike when it got dark!

    Like

  2. Wow. I haven't had any desire to go to Phuket but knowing someone with a pie shop makes it more appealing!!! I guess I'll use the excuse of traveling for food any time! 555Yeah, sometimes mistakes make the journey, eh? I think if I can remember that sense of wonder and awe when I look around town and Thailand, then maybe I can have the best of both worlds 😉

    Like

  3. Oh there is no question that there are white expats who resent the influx of other white expats to Thailand. I think some of the time it has to do with purely nationalist sentiments (i.e. notice how the Brits and Germans still hate each other, and pretty much most farang despise Americans). Other times it has to do with perceived “character issues” (i.e. the sexpats and the NGO crowd despise each other). But cutting across all these types of inter-communal tensions, I think generally a lot of farangs resent other farangs coming to Tland simply because of a “I was here first, so don't come here and spoil my life among the natives” pastoral colonial fantasy. Of course, I make these generalizations with a lot of snark. But there is some truth to these observations. =)

    Like

  4. Once again a nice observation Lani.Residing in S-E Asia, mostly in Thailand, for over almost 2 years now, my companion and I usually felt comfortable with expats we met right from the beginning. (If we can, we try to avoid the bad ones)I guess that since we usually stay somewhere for a minimum of one month, but don't plan to settle down anywhere (yet) does not make us fit in the box as tourist nor me as expat.I come from a small country (Holland), which is a pro to avoid biased views.My partner is a ladyboy (who looks like a fashion model, really :)The above doesn't match the stereo type farang/Thai-wife and even die-hard clever expats hardly have any grip on us, except to conclude that we are a bit crazy but nice people :))According to my idea, being mutually unbiased, leads to the best talks.Hoewever, often kind expats turn out to be more interested in my partner than in me 🙂 / :(For my behavioural study on expats in Thailand see:The averse effects on expats after long exposure to the Siam sun

    Like

  5. Yes, I would imagine you receive quite the interesting stares and comments about you and your partner. It's so easy for us to be judgmental and to forget what's important. Or forget to put ourselves in the “other person's shoes”…I forget too. And that's why I decided to write this. A reminder and a reflection of my own ego-centric behavior 😛

    Like

  6. As a not too long white guy in CM, yeah, there's lots of whiteys down around the moat area but i ended up living out past the superhighway for a variety of weird reasons and I'm the neighborhood's pet “falang.” But I didn't come to Thailand to meet members of the local female population. In fact, I just can't relate. Maybe I'm just too old but most Thai women look like kids to me and I'm more about peer-based socializing. I see these crapped out old white dudes with their child-like Thai companion and well, let's say one's credibility comes in for some serious scrutiny. So what's a white guy to do in CM? I mention dating white women to other white guys and they look at me like I'm nuts, all but screaming, 'That's who we came here to get AWAY from! Don't encourage them!” And they stumble off, b*lls long broken, horrible memories of the old country UK/OZ/US/CAN when they had a pushy white woman as a boss and she fired them.The problem is the conversation, I guess – I mean, okay, a Thai woman might seem very nice etc but I'm seriously into conversation, vernacular, use of language and let's face it, there's nothing on earth like English – it absorbs, re-references, dices, slices and integrates any word, phrase, term, whatever from ANY language without rancor or threat, accessorizing itself with idioms and itinerant info, just keeps the lingo moving forward. So I guess I mean English speaking white women. Maybe those parameters are too narrow – let's see… how would you list it in a personal ad: Seek white woman – one only. Must be brilliant and brilliantly funny, banters easily in a bunch of different conversational modes, shifting easily between 3 and 4 dimensions.

    Like

  7. So what's a white guy who lives in CM and doesn't date Thai women to do? Nothing against Thai women but in the vast majority of cases there is a financial disparity that cannot be ignored. The power lays in the hands of the Farang with even modest means – and by most Thai standards, he's rich and the Thai woman will be poor. That's the Thai woman's entry point and unless it is really true love, their relationship will be largely transactional. Her main concern will not be the white guy's happiness but his means – and who can blame her. He's disposable, her family is not.So an actual relationship between a farang man and a Thai woman is already underlined by power and need, not the best things to build a long and stable connection on.So getting involved with most Thai women – aside from all else, is verry politically/financially loaded. Personally, I wouldn't want to be the mark/motherlode/savior/sap/etc for an entire clan. Besides, I'm not rich so I wouldn't be of much use to them anyway.So the question remains- how does one meet a mature, intelligent, worldly farang woman in CM? You do see them around but many seem resigned and kind of pissed. Well, I guess I would be too if I was sort of institutionally ignored by men in general. Which would be bad enough but some white guys are out-and-out hostile toward resident white women with successful careers and financial independence. As I heard one of these CM farang women say: “All I'm asking for is once a week for some talk and fun. I'm too busy the rest of the time. Is that asking too much?” Doesn't seem like much, does it? But the older farang dudes who I run into at their various hangouts look at me like I'm nuts and yell in my face: “Why the &#*# would you come to THAILAND to do a white b*#ch?! We come here to get AWAY from them, you fool!”Or as one incredulous fellow still couldn't believe: “Back home I actually got FIRED by some big mouthed white #*#*!” He's still traumatized. And the coupe de gras, “My white cow expected me to give her all this fancy TALK! What do I look like, effin' Brad Pitt!?” No, not exactly,not with the flat feet and beer gut and balding phonytail.To be honest, the outright vitriol and bitterness caught me by surprise. These are traumatized individuals and they've been traumatized by dynamic, hard work white women who barely noticed them in the first place. Ah, well, at least the old white dude relationship refugees can cry on the shoulder of Thai bar girls, who are fully equipped to deal with those shattered egos – for a price of course…

    Like

  8. It's nice to hear a different perspective. There are always those who are the exception to the rule.That said, a friend and I were discussing why white women are attracted to hill tribe guys. I know of several relationships like this.A possible post for the future to research…Good luck Anon with the women, no matter what their color 😀

    Like

  9. Regarding the anonymous post, you'd be pressed to find a relationship in this world that isn't based on power and need…living in Asia and other places has taught me that some things are just more obvious….some less so…like “I need someone to chat with and bang”…a need that needs to be fulfilled on er terms…not a farmer….but someone with needs nonetheless.

    Like

  10. […] I don’t know why, but there is this traveller’s/expat pecking order that I’ve come across since living abroad and it’s embarrassing. I guess it’s kind of like the guys at the gym bragging about being able to bench press more weight than someone else or girls gossiping about those “ugly” women over there. It’s sooo high school. […]

    Like

Comments create conversations. Let's talk.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s