Westerners in Thailand: What Went Wrong?

Some of you may be familiar with the Stickman website.

Warning: Link above contains an unholy quantity of Thai dating ads.

Stickman offers a no-holds-barred take on Bangkok life through the eyes of a middle-aged Kiwi.

One of the best parts of the site is an interesting guide to living in Bangkok, in which there is one passage that I find particularly agreeable.

Chiefly, it’s a hard look at the questionable calibre of Westerners living in this fine city:


“You see, there are some people who had no life at home, before they came to Thailand, for whatever reason. Maybe they were unpopular, or never got ahead in life, were career criminals, or whatever. Despite problems at home, their lives in the Land of Smiles are the complete opposite. In Thailand, the locals smile at them and treat them nicely. In return, these questionable farangs will defend the Thais to the hilt, even if it involves something very clearly questionable or downright wrong. This drives me crazy and is one of the reasons I seldom read the local internet discussion forums these days.

“There are some Westerners who find Thailand to be their personal paradise and are prepared to overlook anything, even things that border on a minor atrocity – and they will vociferously criticise anyone who questions their idea of paradise. This is one of the huge unspoken shortcomings of life in this part of the world – the calibre of the Westerners here.”

Harsh? Maybe.



Of course, it would be unfair to tar all Westerners with the same brush, but it’s undeniable that there is a certain subsection of the Bangkok expat population where quality of character is seriously lacking.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at some of the shady expat characters you can expect to meet during your time in Bangkok.

Note: For case studies, please refer to the Comments section.

The Angry and Divorced Forty-Something Seeking a ‘Proper Woman’

This city is full of once-burnt divorced men who were either so shattered by their previous marriages — or so disenchanted by the era of leftist feminism — that they felt compelled to move thousands of miles east to find a ‘proper woman’.

And by proper woman, I mean one straight out of the 1940s.

“Just let me be a man, while you do my washing, take control of the kitchen and don’t ask too many questions.”

Not much to ask.

These men tend to shack up with the financially destitute, or the professionally prostitute — whatever improves their chances of exerting total dominance over them in the long run.

With these couples, it seems true love simply equals “You’ll never leave me while I send your parents and buffalos 20% of my retirement fund.”

Such is the plight of the average bar girl, they are often correct.

The Westerner Who Simply Cannot Stomach Criticism of Thailand

I call this guy the White Knight.

He is infatuated with Thailand.

If something bad happens, it’s your fault.

“Oh, a motorcycle hacked you down in broad daylight and decapitated your pet spaniel? That’s just the way the pavement works over here, buddy. You need to appreciate cultural differences. It’s people like you that ruin this country for the rest of us.”

White Knight has learned the Thai language so impeccably well that you can read the disdain on his face when he’s forced to speak in crude plain English to his fellow farang.

He is the Moses of the Walen School.

There’s nothing he would love more than a job at Immigration castrating the non-fluent masses as they pass in to his adopted shire.

His stated motives for total cultural immersion are, quite sympathetically, to “integrate fully with the people of Thailand“.

But more often than not, he just wants to get laid.

Which is why if he updates his Facebook, it has to be in Thai script.

Firstly, to secure those 450 likes and comments from college students (half of which he has already shagged in his own mind), and secondly, to send out a message to his expat friends that he’s a prime candidate for the Best At Living In Thailand, 2015 award.

A title handed out almost exclusively to helmets.

The Rude P****s

This may be the Land of Smiles, but it can also be the Land of Intolerable Dinosaurs.

There’s a certain type of Westerner who reaches the gate at Suvarnabhumi, puts on his wife-beater, and slips in to an immediate mid-life crisis.

Thailand has a reputation as something of a boys’ playground; the untamed Vegas of the east. Except it’s much cheaper and, generally, much friendlier.

You’d think this would earn some goodwill from expats and tourists but sadly, it often encourages the opposite.

Good ol’ Western Privilege kicks in.

There are some who think that a ฿20 tip buys five star service — or the right to admonish performance at will.

Signs of Western Privilege:

  • Instinctively talks down to native Thais
  • Gets increasingly agitated at the first sound of broken English
  • Solicits sex from any woman who happens to be within 1 mile of Nana BTS
  • Gawps at students – and occasionally photographs them – on the BTS as if he’s entered a third world candy store

The Retired Keyboard Warrior Brigade

I don’t know what Thailand was like 20 years ago — unlike some of Bangkok’s expats, who clearly wish they could catch a BTS train right back there.

Some use those nostalgic memories to forge a manifesto of what Thailand should be like today.

Regardless of small facts like, you know, globalisation.

Thailand has moved on; but many of its expats are stuck in a Land of Smiles that no longer exists.

These troopers find it inconceivable that condos have replaced their fondly remembered brothels, that millions more people visit Thailand every year, and especially — that anybody under the age of 30 would dare to follow in their footsteps and build a life over here.

The rising cost of living in Thailand, accentuated by decades of Westerners living beyond their means, is seen as something to take out on the younger generation of expats.

There is no finer example of this contempt than the ThaiVisa forum; a place where tribal snobbery knows no bounds.

Where those who have married into Thai families, or landed a retirement visa, will lampoon and mock the Tourist Visa Peasants simply trying to find a solution that works for them within the bounds of complex immigration law.

So, what’s the solution?

Ideas on a postcard, please.

My vote goes to mass deportation…


Featured image is by .Live.Your.Life. and used under a Creative Commons licence