Crossroads in Thailand and the Big Question
(Subtitle: “Can you really respect yourself in Thailand now?”)
By Carl “J.C.” Pantejo, Copyright May 2008
(Author “My Friend Yu – The Prosperity Mentor,” Copyright August 2007. Pantejo – Y.N. Vurce Publishing.)
During an afternoon with a fellow Farang (Thai: Foreigner) we talked about how our lives were going in the Land of Smiles. As usual, we talked about our girlfriends and the challenges of trying to understand them.
Somehow we got on the subject of “Love;” specifically, the absence of Love (in the Western sense) in Thailand. The discussion got me thinking. A lot. About a lot of “stuff.”
Many personal questions started to run around in my head. And the subject of our talk lingered in my mind long after I left his apartment…
– Still a Farang –
Although looking like a typical Thai man, I am a foreigner. American. I am not anywhere near fluent in Thai, but most of the time I can get by. Funny thing. Fluency tends to increase with alcohol, with me at least. I wonder if the lowering of inhibitions has the same linguistic effect on other Farangs?
Anyway, like several definitions and meanings between English and Thai, I’m sure that Western concepts of love will never fully translate into Thai.
And “vice”- versa.
To find Eros, Thanatos, and Agape (roughly translated: sexual love, friendship love, and unconditional love) in one person has been an exercise in futility for me here in the Thailand; like the search for the Holy Grail!
I’ve tried Thai women from different social strata, differing levels of education, and different ages. Results of my quest? No dice. No joy. Zip. Nada. Nothing.
In fact, the only time I thought I had a glimmer of hope was when a Thai woman began treating me as I treated her – with mutual respect.
Later, I found out that she had rummaged through my mail and discovered that I was/am a retired U.S. serviceman with a pension, not just another low class (on the Farang social scale) English teacher.
At least she never accused me of being kii nok (Thai: Bird sh*t, a grungy looking foreigner) or kii neeow (cheap, stingy; literally translated: “sticky sh*t, you can’t squeeze anything from it!).
Upon discovering her discovery and thinking about her seemingly miraculous attitudinal change, I told myself to “Run away, run away fast!”
Oh yes, initially, there can be a period of smooth sailing for a few months, pure dove-cooing bliss; but in the end the outcome is the same: In spite of my devotion, support, and sacrifices, I am never anywhere near the top of the list of importance in any Thai woman’s life.
Pecking order? Face? Pecking Order? Face?
And being relegated to the bench as a second-string observer in the game of life is just not the way I want to spend my days.
Sorry. No quid pro quo means it’s time for me to go.
Western style generosity has only been met with shark-like exploitation.
It’s as if random acts of kindness are often seen as weakness, especially when a man gives, gives, and gives; while the woman keeps taking.
And if a Thai woman wants me to “show my love” via my wallet, she needs to look elsewhere.
– Blinded by love and obviously doomed ventures –
I shake my head when I witness so many Farangs invest their hard-earned money and precious years of their lives into blatantly lopsided arrangements. Pay for a house or land BUT never really own it? Start the business race from way behind all the locals gathered at the starting line? Support extended family to extravagance? Pay for the “privilege” of residing in the Kingdom WHILE contributing to the local economy AND paying Thai Government taxes?
Boy that really makes me feel loved and accepted here.
The closest I’ve come to “love” in the Western sense was with an Isaan woman who is a great friend and lover. She’s not a gold-digger. She is trustworthy (a BIG DEAL for me), a hard worker, and selflessly caring.
I should be satisfied.
But I know from my experiences with her that she will leave me at the drop of a hat if any family “pressures” her to acquiesce.
That fact really bothers me.
You see, to me, the only way someone can be “pressured” into something is when personal freedom, and oftentimes integrity, is sacrificed in the name of what? Face? I’m sorry. I don’t buy into such shallowness.
Why? Because I can.
Blindly accepting such customs and gratefully accepting “crumbs from the table” would make me feel like I was not respecting my true nature as an independent, thinking, and fair human being.
Again, foreign concepts.
Personally, it has to be win/win or no deal. I am neither a despot, nor a doormat. Ideally, I want to be a partner; sharing life’s adventures, challenges, and heartwarming moments.
I don’t think this is unrealistically romantic, nor irrational. Well, maybe in Thailand it is…
But again, I guess those are concepts (i.e., personal freedom, integrity, mutually beneficial setups, “playing nice” and “fighting fair,” agreeing to disagree, etc.) that will never fully translate/transliterate, nor be fully comprehended by Thais.
– Feeling “loved”? –
By no means are these foreign, conflicting attitudes confined to interpersonal relationships. They fully manifest in business and the workplace too. Pay in advance? Expect frustration and disappointment. Contracts? We don’t need no stinking contracts!
I “love” many things about Thailand (e.g., my girlfriend, new motorcycle, sunny days, Thai meals; time to read, write, reflect, and exercise, etc.). But I tolerate many things too. The list is too long and sounds like a broken record to all who’ve spent much time in Thailand. I fully accept the fact that I am and will always be a Farang.
Outsider in perpetuity. And it forces one to really look at one’s life and the role one desires to assume in it.
I’m sure that this will be one of the major factors why I will finally leave the Land of Smiles.
(It was different in other Asian countries. Japan, in particular. I lived there for over six years and was often embarrassed because I could not match the generosity extended to me by the locals – probably because the Yen was so strong against my military paycheck greenbacks.)
True sharing between Thais and Farangs? I’m not sure it’s possible.
Equitable arrangements? Fair play? PLEEEAAASE!
I guess the only way to make a Thai understand our weird Farang ways is to bring them out of their element (meaning: The hermetically sealed “bubble” known as Thai Culture); and let them experience things in a different setting. That is a huge step emotionally, financially, and psychologically.
It is a step I am not willing to make right now.
Seven weeks ago I was offered another year extension of a teaching contract at a prestigious government High School, four adult English classes at some language institutes, and quite a few private, one student, classes. Although the pay in all the above instances was well above the norm, I declined.
They [the Farang and Thai employers] asked why? I presented my case sans emotion and exaggeration.
They gave me “a deer in the headlights” look and again asked, “Why, Khun J.C.? The students, staff, and parents ‘love’ you.”
Hello? Anybody in there?
A few years ago I thought I had a good plan. I could enjoy retirement while I am still healthy, or at least take pleasure in semi-retirement while pursuing my dream of being a civilian teacher overseas.
I think Thailand has cured me of that affliction.
– Paths in Life –
But seriously, I think I might have retired much too early at age 39. If so inclined, I could easily do another full career. Fortunately, because I am healthy and my skills are not outdated, my choices of occupations are not at all limited. And at this point, the thought of another excitement filled, good paying career with second retirement in about 12 to 15 years seems rather attractive. Who knows, maybe the passing of the years might find me more receptive, tolerant, and satisfied?
One thing’s for sure. I can not feel “loved” among those who can not or will not find a common ground in the meaning of the word “Love.”
In my Thai apartment I pointed a finger at the man in the mirror and said, “After over two years ‘in country,’ can I really respect you now?”
Gravely thinking about relocating,
Carl “J.C.” Pantejo
Love, Crossroads, respect, Farang, Western, Thai, face, generosity, exploitation, losing ventures, relationships, life.
Other articles by the author:
“Imagine That…(1) – The Asian Angel of Mercy and Assassins.”
“Alternative Notions of Life, a Different Path, articles (1) – (7).” (This is an ongoing series of articles that focus on self-improvement, success, and happiness).
“Experiences from ‘The Flow’ series, articles (1) – (23).” (This is another ongoing series of articles about love, romance, Asian/Western relationships, relationship analysis, and more.)
“How Dare She! Out of Desperation I Learned How to Forgive”
“Remember Who You Are!”
“Need to Heal Your Broken Heart? Read on. Overcome Heartbreak and Learn the Illusive Secret of Happiness.”
“Simple (and Priceless) Life Lessons from the Most Influential Prosperity Mentor in My Life – My Father”
And much more!
(By Carl “J.C.” Pantejo and published internet-wide, keyword: or “Carl Pantejo”)
He is a retired U.S. Military veteran. Believing that school was too boring, he dropped out of High School early; only to earn an A.A., B.S., and MBA in less than 4 years much later in life – while working full-time as a Navy/Marine Corps Medic. In spite of a fear of heights and deep water, he free-fall parachuted out of airplanes and performed diving ops in very deep, open ocean water. He went to Thailand 2 years ago for a week’s vacation, fell into a teaching job, and has never left!
Carl “J.C.” Pantejo
Founder, Y.N. Vurce Publishing
Return to Isaan Part 1
kc7fys — February 16, 2008 —
In 2001, I took my Thai-born adopted sister to Isaan, Thailand to meet her birth family. This is the raw footage from that time. I’m just starting to upload it, so it will need to be subtitled and edited further in the future. For now, enjoy each 10-minute segment of this adventure from Iowa, USA–to Ubon Rachathani, Thailand.
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