Is Farang an f word?

Re: Is Farang an f word?

Postby OldThaiHand on Fri Jul 31, 2009 5:45 pm

It's Xenophobia, not Racism
Thais are racist against each other and xenophobic against everyone else. Firstly, "Thainess" is an artificial construct drilled into the Thais from an early age in systematic effort by the ruling elite to fabricate a national identity among a people, who in reality are very ethnically localized (there are at least 40 diverse ethnic groups). Thais are quite fond of ridiculing each other based on origin and economic status. For example, the Isaan word "Bugsider", which laregly means naive, or innocent has been co-opted by Thais and perverted to mean, "simpleton" or "village \\\ /////" in referring to Isaan people. The cartoon character, Noo Hin, the simple-minded Isaan maid from Buriram who dreams of coming to Bangkok to make it rich is a good example of the negative perception of Isaan people by Central Thais. The national preoccupation with white skin results in upcountry people with dark skin aspiring to be the same as the ruling Thai-Chinese. Thais are routinely deluded into thinking of themselves as a homogeneous culture, unique in SE Asia and superior to their immediate neighbours, not least because as they always will tell you, they were never colonized. The truth is of course considerably more complicated. The Thais in fact are a polyglot of cultural identities and influences from the region. For example, Thai dance and art among many other cultural markers actually come from the Khmer. Their religion, Theravada Buddhism comes from India and is a blend of Buddhism and Hinduism. Their langauge originated also in India (sanskrit and pali). Even that most quitessential Thai vehicle, the tuk tuk originated in Japan. The Thais were never colonized merely because neither the French or British wanted to be on each others doorstep. Therefore after conceding large areas of the north to the French and the south to the British, Thailand kept its sovereignty as a buffer zone for the traditional European rivals. If either the British or French had wanted to, they could have rolled over the Thais in a matter of weeks.

The origin of the word Farang is actually not totally clear. Most historians discount the "French" reference as not likely, as it's too recent. The origins are much earlier than that and most likely relate both to the Arabic "Adfranji" and "Firinjia" and the Parsi (Persian) "Farangii", all from the Middle Ages and before. The word is "Barang" in Khmer and "Parangiar" in Tamil. In other words, variations of this word have been around a lot longer than the time the French arrived in Siam.

This doesn't preclude it being used at times by Thais in a somewhat veiled tone of hostility or contempt. But, the word itself is innocuous. Therefore, I think this article has a misplaced focus. It might be better to examine why the Thais have a unjustified attitude of superiority over everyone else, and why they continue to desparately emulate much that is Western, while at the same time dispising those of us of Western origin. One of the many conundrums is that they worship luk-kreung Thai stars while disparaging mixed marriages that produce these stars (Tata Young, Cindy Burbridge, Willy Macintosh, Ray MacDonald, Thongchai McIntyrePaulaTaylor, Sonia Couling, Ann Thongprasom etc. etc.).

Thais are largely an inward-looking people, who, despite globalization and the need for an international point of view are prefectly happy in their little world and don't like anything that shakes that world up, especially people who aren't Thai and worse, not Asian.

As a university professor at a top university in Bangkok, I routinely encounter xenophobia and resentment from Thais, especially those of the HiSo variety. These people in particular are more stridently trying to maintain the artificial status-quo they've created in the face of "harmful" external cultural and social pollutants (largely from the West, as they see it). I could actually write a dissertation on the subject. But, space doesn't allow for it here.
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Re: Is Farang an f word?

Postby Jason McDonald on Fri Jul 31, 2009 6:03 pm

Very well put OTH and sums up much more eloquently what I have tried to say over a number of posts in different topics.

Very well said.

Jason
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Re: Is Farang an f word?

Postby stilljustbrowsing on Fri Jul 31, 2009 6:13 pm

I just thought I would throw this in......

Farang (Thai: ฝรั่ง) is the generic Thai word for a foreigner of European ancestry. While generally farang is a neutral word, it can be used in a mocking manner, or even as an insult depending on the context. For instance, the expression farang ta nam khao ( listen (help·info); ฝรั่งตาน้ำข้าว - which literally means "farang with a rice-milk-colored iris") would be considered an insult. It is common in Thai to just say "farang" to point out the presence of one, without making a whole sentence. People of African descent have been occasionally referred to as farang dam (black farang) in Thai: ฝรั่งดำ especially American servicemen during the Vietnam War.

[edit] Farang and food
Farang is also the Thai word for the guava fruit, which of course can lead to "farang eating farang" (ฝรั่งกินฝรั่ง) jokes from Thai people when foreigners are seen eating a guava in Thailand. This is because the guava was brought to then Siam by Portuguese traders over 400 years ago. The tree was thus called the farang fruit. Farang kee nok (Thai: ฝรั่งขี้นก) is a particular variety of guava, feijoa. Stingy or unruly foreigners may called Farang kee nok. This is usually taken to mean "bird-shi.t farang", as kee means waste and nok means (wild) bird; but, while keenok may mean guano, it is also a species of fish, Diagramma pictum, a species of grunts Haemulidae.[1]

Varieties of food/produce which were introduced by Europeans are often called 'farang' varieties. Hence, potatoes are man farang (in Thai: มันฝรั่ง), whereas man (มัน) alone can be any variety tuber; parsley is called phak chii farang (ผักชีฝรั่ง, literally farang cilantro); and chewing gum is maak farang (หมากฝรั่ง). Maak (หมาก) is Thai for betel, which many rural Thais chew for the euphoria it gives. When chewing gum was introduced, it was labeled maak farang, from association with a "chew".

In the Isan Lao dialect, the guava is called bak seeda (TH: บักสีดา "guava"), which is sometimes jocularly refers also to a farang.
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Re: Is Farang an f word?

Postby Henry on Fri Jul 31, 2009 7:15 pm

I don't know how things are coming along with the defamation - a concoction of arrogance and dissatisfaction in this forum. I can agree with all, as you can't clap with one hand and make the sound! But race does not constitute all good or all bad. Because it just doesn't make any sense. I know it as I live in Paris with much 'breathing difficulties' when surrounded by more French than foreigners within a few square metres. And U won't know what 'RUDENESS' means until U live in this extremely expensive most beautiful city in the world where some of my snobbish-with-me-in-Bangkok-French-friends-who-think-I'm-fortunate-2-B-able-2-speak-their-language-so-fluently visit my beautiful 320 year-old flat in the most chic and trendy area and 'got blown away'.

Please let me make a point first of all. A 'luk kreung' of Anglo/Thai extraction in my case is '200%' of both, for I have two mother tongues: English/Thai (plus extremely fluent in French, to the point the French think I'm French). And I am literally a 'chameleon', being very white with Farangs and fairly brown with Thais - traveling through Europe and Asia, socializing amongst the indigenous peoples where I am very well 'ACCEPTED'. To quote someone in this forum as saying a 'luk kreung' is neither a white person or a Thai person is as racist as any. But the crux of the discussion is ultimately one of, 'linguistic and cultural'!

Think again sirs, just how important the absorption of cultures and languages are..., to the point of creating optical illusions. Don't be like the French, just dive in, and U'll come out shining with multi-cultural sheen!! Or else live in the cocoon of the outsiders 4 the rest of your life! It's neither good nor bad. It's just the way it is! But U gain a knowledge through 'enormous' efforts - which means to build a 'partition' recognizable by either side . Next language and culture please!?

I know it, because I've done it 4 the most part of my life. It's just the way it is, but U have to work double/triple harder to gain 'tools of the cultural trades' while those U associate with on each side of the cultures maintain your relevance. Or else, never leave home! It's a real plus, but you'll suffer when U make a big deal of it! And sometimes, I wished I never left my cultural cocoon. Because 'curiosity' has killed some of the optimisms in me.

And BTW, the other word 4 Farang in Burmese is, 'Bosoke', literally meaning white trash (the benign equivalence of 'farang khee-nok') - applying to those left-over mixed races cleverly engineered by the British Empire who invented 'concentration camps' among other things! It's circumstantially the way it is!!! Who wins rights, and who loses wrongs!!
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Re: Is Farang an f word?

Postby Hanuman on Fri Jul 31, 2009 7:46 pm

OldThaiHand wrote: (1) It's Xenophobia, not Racism


(2) This doesn't preclude it being used at times by Thais in a somewhat veiled tone of hostility or contempt. But, the word itself is innocuous. Therefore, I think this article has a misplaced focus. It might be better to examine why the Thais have a unjustified attitude of superiority over everyone else, and why they continue to desparately emulate much that is Western, <while at the same time dispising those of us of Western origin.>


(1) That Thai in general have some xenophobic traits, stands apart drom the use of the word farang I'd say.
(2) I agree totally that this article has a misplaced focus, as the word itself is innocuous. That the farang word is used at times by Thai in a somewhat veiled tone of contempt : this can be said about so many words in a vocabulary, just as a word can be used with a veiled tone of admiration also by some people.

the part of <while at the same time dispising those of us of Western origin.> : i'd disagree about that. At the very least you'd have to break down "all Thais" into several subgroups and contextual factors to give this blanket statement some meaning.
But it seems that you that also by saying : "I routinely encounter xenophobia and resentment from Thais, especially those of the HiSo variety. "

And between despise, xenophobia, resentment, etc... there is a range of emotions some of which I find to be far too strong to fit in the description.
Or to say it differently : I prefer living between Thais who allegedly despise Westerners over living between farangs who make a big fuzz about PC'ness and whine about racism all the time.

Jason McDonald wrote:โอไค ฅนไทย เหยียดผิว ไมได้


quod erat demonstrandum...
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Re: Is Farang an f word?

Postby KHONDAHM on Fri Jul 31, 2009 7:56 pm

I am a Black American who speaks semi-fluent Thai and I am laughing at you.

"What is an English equivalent of this word in Anglophone countries?"

It means "white guy", "white folk", etc. It is profane only if used in a derogatory context. You make it seem like they are saying "cracker" or something like that. That is simply not true and you need a head check if it hurts your little feelings. In general use, it is just a generic way of referring to white people. The Spanish equivalent might be "g_ringo". Japanese might be "g_ai-jin".

I am laughing at you because you make such a big deal about it as if it is the end of the world. It's a misunderstanding on YOUR part. Believe me...I could tell you some worse things you can be called in almost any language...and not because I know many languages. :)

I am also laughing at those who have their britches all in a bunch about "farang" (or more correctly "falang") or are offended at the idea of a word lumping all Caucasians (or "Westerners") together. Hey! I am also a "Westerner", but no matter where I go anywhere in the world, I am always a "black guy" despite the fact that my skin is actually reddish-brown. Even in Thai, despite being your fellow Westerner, I am "khon dahm" (black person).

So, and I say this with a friendly smile :cheers: :

S_HUTTHEFUP and stop whining! You are in Thailand and that is the way it is.
Last edited by KHONDAHM on Fri Jul 31, 2009 8:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Is Farang an f word?

Postby BigJay on Fri Jul 31, 2009 11:01 pm

I suppose I can live with being called a "farang "here in the Big Mango. However, maybe we "farang" should bring back the term "gook" from the Vietnam War. We "Farang" said it a lot back then, and it was highly excepted here in Thailand and other places because no one was going to challenge massive numbers of trigger happy, wanting to pick a fight "farang" soldiers , who were just off of the lines. "Farang" meet "Gook", "Gook" meet "Farang"... and they all lived happily ever after.
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Re: Is Farang an f word?

Postby Eggmeng on Fri Jul 31, 2009 11:15 pm

Let's say farang is offensive. The question is how to educate Thais to this faux pas?


Good question. But I would be content to find a way to explain my point of view to just one child - my little girl - in a way she'll understand.

Once on Phuket I asked a cashier for a receipt for a map I had bought. She turned to her colleague and said in Thai; "Farang baa! What does he need a receipt for?" I replied in Thai; "I'm not crazy. I need it to get reimbursed by my employers." You could have heard a pin drop. She was mortified and so were the other cashiers. I got over it quickly, but never forgot that what I said had had an effect. She knew she had been offensive.

OK, defenders of the f word, how about a compromise? When my little girl is old enough to understand, here's what I'll tell her:

"Sweetie, when you speak Thai, if it's more convenient to say farang when you're referring to Caucasians, please at least say "Khon farang'", just as you would say'; ""Khon Chin", Khon Nippon"; or for that matter "Khon Asia." Because somehow just spitting out the word "farang" makes us sound like fruit, and not people.

I'll also tell my little girl it would be considerate not to unnecessarily draw attention to people's appearance, as it's something one can't always change. For example when we're buying ice cream, it might be more polite to say; "That guy was in line before us'', and not "That man with the mole on his face was here first.'"

"But dad!", she might say, "There's nothing wrong with having a mole on your face, is there?

"No sweetie, but we don't really need to remind that man that we noticed that he looks different from other people, do we?

I can only hope she understands my point of view, and if she doesn't, I''ll have to live with that.
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Re: Is Farang an f word?

Postby Eggmeng on Fri Jul 31, 2009 11:35 pm

As a university professor at a top university in Bangkok, I routinely encounter xenophobia and resentment from Thais, especially those of the HiSo variety. These people in particular are more stridently trying to maintain the artificial status-quo they've created in the face of "harmful" external cultural and social pollutants (largely from the West, as they see it). I could actually write a dissertation on the subject. But, space doesn't allow for it here.OldThaiHand


Very much enjoyed your entire post. I hope you do write the dissertation, and let us know where we can read it.
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Re: Is Farang an f word?

Postby BigJay on Fri Jul 31, 2009 11:36 pm

Honestly I wish Thai's would stop calling white people such as myself "Farang". I find it demeaning and racist. I'd prefer you call me by my true name........................ Mr. ATM
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