Are Farang invisible to Thai?

Are Farang invisible to Thai?

Postby Jason McDonald on Sun Jun 21, 2009 9:03 pm

I ask this to find out if farang are really invisible to Thai. This has happened to me many times and I was wondering if it happens to other Westerners who live in Thai areas of Bangkok (or maybe elsewhere).

When I am out with my Thai wife, especially shopping, I find that, Thai people refuse to look at me and talk only to my wife. For example, I have just returned from the Mall where I bought 4 pens from the stationary section of the department store. I was the one who handed the pens to the lady at the cash register and asked her how much. But she totally ignored me and started talking to my wife. She didn't even look at me. It was as though I was invisible. At least she gave me the change. A while ago we were going to go to MK in the Mall as we approach (I was in front of my wife) the lady looked straight at my wife and gave her a smile and Wai etc and totally ignored me, didn't even look at me or acknowledge that I was there. I just kept on walking,as I was in front position, and left my wife talking to the lady. I have explained to my wife how rude this is to a westerner and she now leaves me alone when I approach the girls at the cash register at all opportunities.

Does this happen to other people here? It doesn't happen in tourist spots like sukhumvit, khao san road etc. It only happens in Thai areas?
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Re: Are Farang invisible to Thai?

Postby sulasno on Sun Jun 21, 2009 10:41 pm

I could venture a guess

the lady serving you does not speak English and hence avoid you
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Re: Are Farang invisible to Thai?

Postby Ian on Mon Jun 22, 2009 12:30 am

sulasno wrote:I could venture a guess

the lady serving you does not speak English and hence avoid you


Exactly so, if you see her regularly and she gets to know you much will change.
I have had the opposite also happen, I went to a health food shop with my Thai gf and had 6 shop assistants all trying to serve me, my gf and other shoppers were ignored.
The same when I go to the bank, everyones says hello and the Bank manager rushes forward to deal with me.
At a local large store I go to they always fetch me a chair to sit on while the gf wanders around the aisles and shelves.
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Re: Are Farang invisible to Thai?

Postby postreader on Mon Jun 22, 2009 3:26 am

I would like to response (explain) to Jason McDonald

At the end of your post you said it only happens in Thai area. That is the key of all misunderstanding.

They didn't look at you not because you are invisible to them or they don't like you or disrespect you. You have a Thai wife and I am surprise that your wife didn't explain to you one aspect of Thai culture which is 180 degrees apart from western culture.

In Thai culture, when people talk or greet each other they don't look at each other in the eyes or directly. This especially true for people who are younger or who they think they have lesses status in society (age, wealth, education, etc).

I live in LA for over 30 years, for the first few years I would not look at my co-workers eyes when I spoke to them. This cuased misunderstanding that I tried to hide something. I simply try to avoid the feeling of confrontation (that is what most Thai feel when you look at them directly in the eyes during conversation). After several years here in US I learn to look in people eyes during conversation and don't smile becuase they think I am making fun of them. It is just a matter of culture differences. In Thai culture people like to smile during conversation to make it feel friendly or less tense.

When I and my wife go back to shopping in Thailand the casheir girls or ladies tend to talk to my wife more tha me. No hard feeling for me that how they are. They may feel more comfotable talking to the same gender.

Thai's in tourist areas know more western culture and they have to be more open to be competitive and stay in business. They also have to be more aggressive than Thai's in non-tourist spots. From my years in US, I notice that westerners l(Farangs) ike outgoing and more aggresive behavior.

I hope the example I cited above make you understand the situation better. I can say from my own experience that 99.9 % of Thai like Farangs to the point that I always says to my Thai wife and Thai friends that Thai people worship Farangs. So relax you are living in the country that treat farangs better than theirn own people.
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Re: Are Farang invisible to Thai?

Postby rogera on Mon Jun 22, 2009 7:16 am

Postreader, if I May, I would like to add one possibility to the problems of falangs and their invisibility. I have lived here in Petchibun for many years and never had the invisibility gambit used on me. Why? Maybe because I stand over 6 feet tall and tip the scales at over 100 kilos. Size is impressive (And a little intimidating) to Thai citizens. Also, if I had a baht for every time I heard "Oh, you can speak Thai?", I could live in a very large house and drive a new car every year. I don't think the average Thai person wants to ignore a falang, I think they don't want to possibly embarrass him by addressing him and not being understood.

I hope this will ease some of the pains of dealing with the inhabitants of this wonderful country.
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Re: Are Farang invisible to Thai?

Postby BangkokRay on Mon Jun 22, 2009 2:40 pm

At a local large store I go to they always fetch me a chair to sit on while the gf wanders around the aisles and shelves.


Geez Ian, why do you suppose they do that?
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Re: Are Farang invisible to Thai?

Postby Just-1-Voice2 on Mon Jun 22, 2009 7:58 pm

I've had it go both ways. There have been times when I've ordered something, or wanted to purchase something, and spoke in Thai, sometimes asking how much, only to be ignored and have the clerk look at my wife. No big deal. But most of the time they are delighted to find out that I speak Thai, even if it's only "nit-noi". Here's a perfect example.

I went to a shop that specializes in motorbike accessories as I wanted a new, darker shield on one of my helmets. I picked out the one I wanted and asked: "Nee tawrai?" (How much is this?). The girl casually replied "Roi ped khow" (180 baht). I smiled and shook my head and replied: "Mai! Pang pbie! Roy ha-sip baht." (No. Too much. 150 baht). The girl was so amazed she cracked up laughing and said something to the Thai man standing beside me that I didn't quite catch. I looked at him and he was also grinning and told me that she would give it to me for that price because I had not only objected to the "first price", but had come back with an acceptable price, and done so in perfect Thai. About a week later my wife was with me when we stopped there again, and everyone knew who I was and greeted me, wanting to know my name. It was great.

I also agree that a lot of Thai will seem to "ignore" the farang and speak to the wife on the grounds that they don't speak English and don't want to "lose face", but if they find out you can speak Thai, it never happens again.

Bottom line is, we're not "invisible" to them, and they aren't being rude. It's a cultural thing, so learn to accept it. Better yet, learn to speak Thai and when you approach, greet them first.
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Re: Are Farang invisible to Thai?

Postby Ian on Mon Jun 22, 2009 8:14 pm

BangkokRay wrote:At a local large store I go to they always fetch me a chair to sit on while the gf wanders around the aisles and shelves.


Geez Ian, why do you suppose they do that?


Simple really, they sell plastic chairs so first time there I took one to sit on. So now they fetch me a staff "not for sale" chair. i guess they figured no Thai would buy a chair with a resident farang in it, particulary when it is an old and ugly farang :lol:
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Re: Are Farang invisible to Thai?

Postby BangkokRay on Mon Jun 22, 2009 11:16 pm

Ian,
been there done that-and I'm not quite as old as you. While you're sitting there, they have to check on your health and well-being as well, by looking at you and smiling quite often. Quite amusing isn't it. One of the few joys of growing older in Thailand.
I have often wondered if they are thinking something along the lines of: I could take better care of this old guy better than that woman that is out there shopping could. Keeps this old ego thinking.
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Re: Are Farang invisible to Thai?

Postby Ian on Tue Jun 23, 2009 1:41 am

BangkokRay wrote:Ian,
been there done that-and I'm not quite as old as you. While you're sitting there, they have to check on your health and well-being as well, by looking at you and smiling quite often. Quite amusing isn't it. One of the few joys of growing older in Thailand.
I have often wondered if they are thinking something along the lines of: I could take better care of this old guy better than that woman that is out there shopping could. Keeps this old ego thinking.


They don't just wonder, those with a bit of English sometimes say so, but it's good keeps the gf on her toes, stops her getting complacent :D
Actually the first year I moved in to the village a couple of middle aged dears asked me if I fancied their daughters as giks. Funy thing was I spoke no Thai, they spoke no English, so they had to use my gf to translate, no one seemed to find this strange.
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