Is Farang an f word?

Is Farang an f word?

Postby Eggmeng on Tue Jul 28, 2009 9:11 pm

I'm a Westerner of European descent. In the 16 years I've lived in Thailand I have never gotten used to this word. My step daughter will soon be three years old, and the thought that she will come to accept it as standard usage as she grows up, nauseates me. I am particularly interested in the views of Thais on this subject and hope to get some help here, especially since not one of the many letters I have submitted to BP Postbag over the years on this subject, has ever been printed.

Before I begin my argument, I'd like to point out that there is a polite word in the Thai language which refers to all (non Thai) "foreigners." One transliteration is: khon tang chat. And lest there be any misunderstanding amongst some expat members, a "farang" is a Caucasian. An Indian is not. Nor is a Japanese, a person of Malay descent or any other Asian. Don't take my word for it. Ask a Thai friend.

The f word remains in very wide use. We hear it everywhere and see it in print constantly, even in the mainstream English press. Some of the BP's journalists - including at least one Westerner - continue to use it in their columns. Many Thais (my partner included) and expats in Thailand will insist it is a harmless way of referring to whites, who should not take offense. I would like to put the shoe on the other foot to illustrate why I beg to differ.

What is an English equivalent of this word in Anglophone countries? Well, considering it refers to those with common physical characteristics, i.e. white skin, a long nose and blue or green eyes, (in other words Caucasian and especially European features); "darkie" comes to mind. This word however, generally refers to people of the negroid race, and long ago fell into disuse because understandably, people of African origin in the West objected to being lumped together by shared physical features. Also the word was too often used in a deragatory context, similar to the way some Thais might say "farang kee nee ow" (stingy white person.)

So, I submit that a more apt equivalent for Asians living in predominantly Caucasian countries would be "Chinaman."

When my father was a child in the USA some 70 years ago, this is how he heard his father and his neighbors refer to all Asian immigrants. They were all "Chinamen." and perhaps to some extent, there was at the time, some truth to this, historically. Imagine however, how an assimilated Thai, Japanese, Malaysian, Indonesian, Korean or any Asian would react in the US or the UK or Australia now, to walking into a shop and hearing the young clerk call out;"Hey dad! There's a Chinaman out front!" This and various other objectionable uses of the f word are endured by Westerners every day in the LOS. I loath and despise this word and know that many others feel the same way.

However I also know that Thailand is a developing country, and relatively speaking, is not very multi cultural. I should be patient someone may tell me. However is it too much to expect the English language press, the expatriate community, and the educated Thai classes to have an understanding of why most of the uses of this word are objectionable, so that when I explain to my partner why I don't want my daughter learning it, I can point to the fact that I am not alone?
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Re: Is Farang an f word?

Postby Junglejim on Tue Jul 28, 2009 9:25 pm

Of course it's a raciest term. It's like "Gwala" in Hong Kong. You should find that Thai friends you're close to won't use it in your presence. That's what I've found. If your partner is still using there's something probably wrong or you should teach her to say foreigner. Just about manners for many people rather than a serious dislike of white people. They also say white buffalo (farang Kwai) a lot. I suspect there's many phrases. "Luk farang" means cheat the foreigner, and the there's also one that refers to farang being like bird droppings and of course the phrases that refer to us as stingy and you've mentioned one of them.

The phrase helps to separate us in some people's eyes which can also have it's advantages. Like if we didn't want to follow all the social rules, like cow-towing to some old woman with a fancy hair-do, etc. Well we can just be farang then. We can also escape some of the office politics which believe me is really petty and quite bitchy regardless of sex. We are just farang so be friends with anyone in the office.

Every person is different. If you meet someone and fall for one who thinks farang is just farang..then you're in for trouble. Dump them immediately.
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Re: Is Farang an f word?

Postby stilljustbrowsing on Tue Jul 28, 2009 9:29 pm

You cannot stop your daughter from 'learning' the word, the same as my parents could not stop me from learning swear words.
Educating your daughter on when or when not to use the word is key to your quest. (the same way as I was taught when not to swear)
Don't let simple minds make you angry, instead, try to educate them. :cheers:
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Re: Is Farang an f word?

Postby Eggmeng on Wed Jul 29, 2009 10:50 am

To put this in perspective, the mother of my step daughter has a high school education. She runs a business that brings her into contact with Westerners every day, with whom she is exceedingly polite and gracious. I've never heard her use terms like "farang kee nee ow" or "farang kee nok", but her and our nanny, like the overwhelming majority of Thais I've met, use the word freely to refer to caucasians when they could just as easily say khon tang chat. When I try to explain why the latter is preferable in almost all cases, I get a blank stare at best, and in the case of my partner, a total refusal to discuss it. But that's another story :roll:

Of course I will teach my little girl not to use this word and why she shouldn't, and perhaps one day she and not I will be the one who will finally get my point across to her mother.

What I find more objectionable however, is how freely the national English publications and so many of their correspondents use the word in print, thus giving credence to the idea that it's perfectly acceptable. Can you imagine a letter to the editor of the New York Times in which a Thai correspondent refers to himself and other Asians in the US as ""we Chinamen?" (And by the way, as Farang is apparantly a derivative of the Thai word for Frenchman, and therefore lumps all Caucasians together based on the early arrival of Frenchmen in Siam, I believe "Chinamen" is a perfect English equivalent of the f word.)

Again, I would be very interested in the view of Thais here, on this.

Yes, use of the word can have advantages much the way some blacks in America reserve the right to occasionally call a friend "n*gger" to get their point across, but usually strongly object when whites use it. I don't think you can have it both ways, and I believe most African Americans would at this point agree.
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Re: Is Farang an f word?

Postby sulasno on Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:56 am

Does Alien sounds better than Farang? :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: Is Farang an f word?

Postby Eggmeng on Wed Jul 29, 2009 1:41 pm

Well it never hurts to spell it out. Jokes notwithstanding, there's always bound to be someone who just doesn't get it.

Example 1: Playing in the swimming pool with your baby and a ball which goes astray. The Thai kid who picks it up is told by his friend:

Bad manners: "That belongs to the farang"
Good manners: ''That belongs to the guy over there.''

Example 2: Walk into a mom and pop shop upcountry: The clerk yells out:

Bad manners: ''Hey pop! There's a farang out front!''
Good manner: ''Hey pop! We got a customer!''

Example 3: A lot of Westerners are buying into a condo complex. Some Thai residents are chatting.

Bad manners: ''A lot of farangs are buying''
Good manners: ''A lot of foreigners are buying''
Good manners (if those buying happen to be white people): ''A lot of Europeans are buying.'' It's understood that most Americans and Australians here are of European descent.

Example 4: Amused middle aged Hi-So lady in department store upon hearing Westerner speak in Thai with his child, says to her friend:

Bad manners: "Oh that farang speaks Thai well."
Good manners: "That foreigner (khon tang chat) speaks Thai well"
Better manners: She says whatever she wants, but has the brains to keep her voice so low that I can't hear it. Because personally, I don''t appreciate being reminded everywhere I go that I'm an "other."

Example 5: A Westerner writes into the Bangkok Post to complain about double pricing or any of the other innumerable grievances they love to voice:

Bad manners (and ignorant) :"Why do Thais think that we farangs...."
Good manners: "Why do the Thais think that we [caucasians, whites, Westerners, Europeans]...blah blah blah." (Take your pick of any of the words in brackets.)

Example 6: A Bangkok Post columnist writes

Surprisingly ignorant and unhelpful: "...thirty years ago the only farangs we saw in our soi..."
Professional: "Thirty years ago the only Westerners we saw in our soi..."

Hey here's a good one members! What do I have to write "n*gger"* with an asterisk to see this deragatory word in print in this forum, but farang is just fine written as is?
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Re: Is Farang an f word?

Postby Isaannative on Wed Jul 29, 2009 3:10 pm

sulasno wrote:Does Alien sounds better than Farang? :lol: :lol: :lol:



Not to the Thai. As Alien is English language and Farang is considered Thai. We still prefered Thai.
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Re: Is Farang an f word?

Postby Jason McDonald on Wed Jul 29, 2009 3:58 pm

Hi,

I believe that Farang is some Thai derivative of Frenchperson. Thais do indeed use the word very freely and without any overt or intentional racist overtones in the same way that westerners is used to describe people with fair skin people from europe, america, australia etc. So when you hear farang think that they mean westerner.

However, where I tend to get a bit offended (and have had many arguments with the Family over it) is when I correct them and say I'm from Australia they still keep calling me farang. This is, to my way of thinking rude. If I called them asian or chinese and they told me they were Thai I would then refer to them as Thai not Chinese. So now when I'm up in the villiage and they say look the farang's here eating with us (when they know fully well I'm not French and don't speak the language that well) I just reply Chi kon farang gin khao kub kon cheen (french person eating with chinese people). Stiring them up. They just laugh and find it very funny but still keep calling me farang. So now it doesn't bother me they will never change and to be honest they don't really mean any offense by it . The same as I don;t nean any offense when I say N**ger in the woodpile. Although in Australia I stop mself saying it becase Australia is very PC and xenophobic-phobic. If there is such a word. Call an Australian official racist and they turn to jelly. The asians use the race card all the time against Australian officials when they are bargaining and doing business; and it usually get the asians what they want.

But interesting, and on a similar line, Thais call Thailand Meuang Thai, China is called Meuang Cheen and Japan Meuang Yepon.

But England, US, Australia don't have Meuang in front of the name because they are not old enough and rich enough in history (ie. read...are not good enough to have the name).

I told my teacher that England has a long history why not Meuang? I also asked what about Egypt? She just shrugged her shoulders. There ya go I said Thailand's a racist country. It's enshrined in your language and nothing you can do about it except change the language like we do in English. Mailman to mail person, chairman to chairperson etc.

At the end of the day I just have a laugh about it and stir the Thais up about it. But they have a different sense of humour to me :-) I also stir them up about their giks and being kee niow.

I used to get upset by the f word but not anymore. Even use it my self now as the only farang in the village.
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Re: Is Farang an f word?

Postby Mr.John on Wed Jul 29, 2009 4:34 pm

I'm half-Thai-half-British and I always get referred to as Farang because of my looks (white skin, brown hair, brown eyes). But I never get offended by the word, mainly because it's so widely used and they do not mean any harm. I even use it myself. It's better than alien anyway.
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Re: Is Farang an f word?

Postby sulasno on Wed Jul 29, 2009 4:51 pm

1/2 Thai + 1/2 British is not Farang :lol: :lol: :lol:

it's something else Image
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