A few weeks back a poster commented that Rooster must have some pretty powerful friends to criticize the people and cultural aspects of Thailand and get away with it. I resisted the temptation to reply at the time but after some pondering I’ll address the issue.
Though, some readers might detect the need for surgical removal of tongue from cheek…..
If the truth be known I have very few true friends either Thai or foreign. I certainly can’t call on anyone in power and I have never carried a card of an influential person around as some people do.
That’s not to say I don’t know many people. Constructive criticism – even outright moaning – has its place and I loathe comments that a “guest” can’t be critical and should always keep their mouth shut.
As a resident of Thailand, and getting on in years after a long stay, I may enjoy some preferential status as to what I can criticize. But not much. I accept that to most people I meet I am just another foreigner – maybe just a notch up from a tourist – albeit one who has a fair grasp on the culture and language.
But while ability in Thai may help to soften the rough edges of criticism some topics remain off limits. Some of course are illegal but for obvious reasons I am leaving that out of this week’s Sunday sermon.
But first of all, a disclaimer. I don’t moan a lot in real life. On many trips to Australia I was never called a whinging Pom. A “ba*tard” yes, but I believe that means “bosom buddy” down under. I passed the Antipodean litmus test.
The topics one may be critical of in Thailand often depend on who we’re engaging in conversation. I find I can be critical of the kingdom’s politicians and police with everyone (except politicians and police) without incurring too many sly looks, the kind that speak unspoken volumes of “uppity farang”.
When it comes to the weather it is almost expected that foreigners should find it too hot and the mosquitos unbearable. Thus complaining about the climate can help to ingratiate rather than offend. And when one has been here a while it’s possible to be “truly Thai” by wearing a bobble hat when the mercury plummets to 22 degrees spouting complaints of “naaw jing jing”.
“Jing jing” is much better than attempting swearing by saying something like “naaw jiphai” as “bloody freezing” is usually off limits for the average foreigner. Whereas a visitor to England could easily moan about the “bloody rain” and be respected, in Thailand the use of even mild swear words is worth avoiding.
(NB: Woe betide you use swear words on unacceptable subjects. This may see your “Get out of Jail free” card, issued to foreigners who bother to learn Thai, rescinded on the spot!)
I find I can swear like a trooper so long as it is known that I am being facetious or attempting to be funny though that will still be among people I know well. I actually swear an awful lot in English including in front of my children who are told to do as I say not as I do.
I got rather worried about my grown son who didn’t swear until he had had a spell in the army then said something fruity when missing a fairway. He stared at me fearing an earful. “Thank God”, I said. “I thought there was something wrong with you”.
Complaining about the neighbors, juristic person and shopkeepers is easy and expected. Though this falls into the category of gossip at which 99% of Thais excel. I usually resort to complaining about how much they complain; that doesn’t go down too well but results in me being ostracized – win-win.
Whinging about people in cars is only something I do aggressively among family members. When on my motorcycle – fearing vulnerability – I resort to a surreptitious “V-shaped” two-finger rub of the nose when passing the scoundrel who nearly killed me. I rarely travel in Thais’ cars but the last time I did it was a lady who had six Benz and was almost as good a driver as my English sisters. Go figure!
I would never verbalize any traffic complaint out on the street. I can read Thai and I have seen too many signs above doors that say “khet plort aawut” – weapons free zone. Some friends have had guns pulled on them or coshes to the head for misplaced words.
Most Thais are fluent in English when the “F” word is used and so eagle eyed that they can spot a one finger salute at 500 meters.
I’m also careful at joining in when Thais are complaining among themselves. It could be a trap! Quite often I take an absurd and opposite standpoint for my own amusement. The worst that can happen when, say, standing up for a useless tradesman or an errant maid, is that your interlocutor thinks you have gone troppo, and at best you might be considered polite and kind hearted.
I always complain when I am shafted by business people, banks or conglomerates. But this is rather different. It’s more about standing up for oneself. I invariably get my way because I behave unlike a Thai. I don’t shout and holler but I am not fobbed off and I believe that creating a controlled scene in public often works wonders. I couldn’t give a monkey’s about my face and this is a distinct advantage! (Thais who have seen my rants have taken me aside to agree, whilst admitting they wouldn’t have the nerve!)
I have found some things I can be very critical about in public but less so with my wife. One is the subject of Thai soaps. Generally, we have agreed to differ. The truce means that she can enjoy her overpaid heroines falling over when running and I can enjoy my overpaid heroes falling over when running during the Premier League.
Another is the glorious subject of food. In public the Thais – enormously proud of their cuisine – expect foreigners to like some things and reject others. Though professing an undying love for Thai food gets Brownie Points aplenty, it’s ok to be critical and in areas like spiciness definitely expected. But Brits brought up on Vindaloo and Americans used to Jalapeno can call the Thais out as wusses without fear of sanction.
Overt displays of finding food stinky or unpalatable are best avoided. Especially if the foods are iconic. However, at home with Mrs Rooster I invariably cough, gag, wince and splutter affectedly whenever she spreads out her latest Isaan feast on the table. I mean if you can’t annoy your nearest and dearest what’s the point of marriage?
She in turn feigns swooning and near-death at the sight of blue cheese. Her retaliation being fair enought. When my seven-year-old tucks into the stinky cheese and slathers Vegemite on her bread and crackers we high-five behind mum’s back conspiratorially. A multicultural, multilingual household does not need to forever be in agreement, in fact conflict is rather uplifting.
However, war almost broke out six months ago when I got fed up with the pantry reeking from the home-made plaa raa (fermented fish) she brought back from gran in Loei. She still hasn’t found where I hid it (in a chute for the water pipes far down the corridor). When she does, I expect she will still eat it and thank me because it has matured nicely.
There are four of us at home and we often eat four different things. The children are thankfully undecided what parents’ cuisine is best. A roast dinner, lasagna and Massaman curry always brings us together, however.
And recently we have been baking bread. (Not a machine, that’s cheating and no fun). Getting everyone together and kneading the dough every Sunday. The resultant loaves have improved as we get the collective knack and using some of the dough for pizza bases means more get-together dinners. Culinary if not cultural peace!
Complaining about noise is something that I will do at the drop of a hat. I once reduced a movie-star neighbor to tears and got her to find a new home for her yapping mongrel and a factory near my condo reacted quickly after a loose fitting on the roof annoyed the entire neighborhood. On that occasion I burst through security and sat down at the manager’s desk and said in my best Thai. “Do I look happy!?”.
Sorted by teatime. I made a point of going back to thank him. Always remember your Ps and Qs, especially when complaining in Thailand!
Decidedly unhappy this week were the residents of a tower block in Muang Thong Thani who were complaining about the noise from a mortar and pestle. One netizen posted “Do they eat som tam all day and all night? (Er,yes, if Mrs Rooster is anything to go by).
The management put up a sign saying the miscreant will be hunted down and deprived of their mortar if they didn’t mend their ways by using a cloth to deaden the sound.
Complaints from a Dutch contact of mine led to a Pattaya zoo being raided this week and the owner being threatened with operating sans license and having exotic species (animals, not tourists, incidentally).
My contact later found that two of his staff, previously told that they could renew their visas in Thailand, would have to travel abroad at considerable expense in time and money. Though these events are not connected it is a timely reminder that complaining in Thailand can land the more high-profile foreigner in strife. Ask Richard Barrow or Andrew Biggs about that.
They are still here of course, unlike others who took on labor misdemeanors of big business and even high institutions. The former can only be done at your peril, the latter at dire threat to your personal liberty.
In Pattaya rogues caught on video fleecing Thai tourists for parking near Walking Street caused an outbreak of iratenetizenitis. Mayor Sontaya sent in Deputy Dawg who conveniently blamed the homeless.
Plod’s name was omitted as they were busy practicing cops and robbers at a local bank. Even after informing the public and bank staff what they were doing and waiting for the alarm call with everyone in place, it still took them twenty minutes to get the “thieves” in irons.
A picture of the forlorn miscreants in front of the vinyl sign and the beaming constabulary and unsure bank staff was a highlight of the week.
We shouldn’t complain about the police too much as they give us so many laughs.
The politicians continued to do likewise. The Special Tourist Visa was approved on Tuesday that will help the well-heeled stay for up to 270 days while they supposedly spend billions.
A popular critique of this much ridiculed scheme came from yours truly on Wednesday. My editor had spotted the absurd disparity between the numbers of foreign tourists expected compared to their arrival in October 2019 and I was left to articulate what many online had been saying.
To wit, what about others like retirees, those with loved ones, the nomads and the regular tourists – don’t they matter? Is their spending insignificant and are their rights different?
There has been so much nonsense in the Thai press recently, nonsense that has not been properly questioned by reporters. The forum faithful can expect more comments from Thaivisa in the future. We owe it to our readers, as I have said in recent columns, to get behind the news and explain what is really going on.
Still, many on the ground in places like Samui, Phuket and QUOTES remarked fairly that at least making a start in encouraging foreign tourists was better than nothing. A small hotelier in Phuket said the money would filter down especially if it came from house and condo owners allowed back.
Sontaya noted that he had no idea where the tourists would come from. He wants to know if they will be the sort to stay for the best part of nine months in Pattaya. The Samui Bubble was still mentioned though the best story from that island came from a five star hotel executive who reckoned 100,000 baht rooms (previously occupied by foreigners) were now going for 5,000 to Thais on staycations.
This begs the question about the extent to which foreigners have been fleeced in the past.
The hotels on Samui are working with Bangkok Airways, who else, who have apparently come up with a buy one ticket get four flights’ scheme. Finally, a version of value for money.
I’m afraid if Rooster and family are anything to go by, they can forget domestic tourism. The furthest we have been this year is Pathum Thani! Though with Scrabble starting again I will be going to Korat mid-October.
PM Prayut was asked to remove policemen under suspicion in the Red Bull Boss case “temporarily”. This word upsets the forum curmudgeons who think that the police, once accused, are guilty. Some on the forum need to appreciate that everyone is entitled to a fair hearing and be presumed innocent, even plod. To demand otherwise is counterproductive and makes the posters appear idiotic, just like those they are accusing.
However, when those who connived with Boss and his family are found, and if they are still alive and in jobs, they should face what is coming to them. Prayut needs to act as this case has proved too hot to handle.
Certain police have likely behaved disgracefully for monetary gain when one of their own has been killed. It’s a blight on the name of Thailand irrespective of whether Boss is ever brought to justice.
In international news climate damage expert Donald Trump told those battling deadly fires that it was in fact getting cooler and blamed poor forest management. Meanwhile David Attenborough presented a radical documentary called “Extinction: The Facts”.
The POTUS also said that a vaccine will be available immediately. Thank goodness I was beginning to worry for a moment there. Incidentally, if you haven’t seen “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix I would recommend it. It has led to some big social media changes in the Rooster household and also some soul searching for this columnist. A subject for another day.
The UK announced a lockdown for much of Geordie Land (the north east) as the WHO warned of a “very severe” surge in the virus in Europe. Winter is looking perilous.
In sports news, Dominic Thiem of Austria and Naomi Osaka of Japan won at the US Open tennis, while the golfers prepared to tee it up at Winged Foot, a course Tiger called one of the toughest in the world. In Europe Welshman Gareth Bale looked set to return to play football in London. The Aussies beat world champions England in the limited overs cricket series.
In Formula 1 the remarkable Lewis Hamilton won his 90th race at the Tuscan Grand Prix, a race that provided the first podium finish for Thai/British driver Alex Albon who was third. Just a shame it was for Red Bull.
Back in Thailand, the best video of the week featured an appalling piece of Thai driving. A black car barged in front at a turning then as the occupants with dash cam behind grumbled about manners the driver turned into the wrong traffic lane coming face to face with a huge tour bus and massive truck.
A classic case of “Som Nam Na” (serves you right) if ever there was one.
Also filmed behaving naughtily was a Thai male MP who was snapped by a photog looking at porn on his smartphone during a house fiscal debate. Daily News went to town on him but hardly surprisingly in defamation mad Thailand, they omitted a name.
Imagine what The Sun in England would have done with that story!
A French man named only as E.G. was charged with raping a British woman at a hotel in Phuket. They had met on Tinder.
Meanwhile, too late for this column, students were planning protests in Sanam Luang against the government Saturday. Large numbers of officers were being mobilized. Bloodshed was not predicted, one can only hope that pans out.
Prayut went on the TV pool Thursday to warn protesters they could spread the virus and be responsible for the further misery of millions – well he would, wouldn’t he!
Finally, new RTP chief Gen Suwat Chaengyodsuk visited immigration to tell them how to keep those pesky foreign lawbreakers at bay. He takes over officially next month.
Naew Na informed us that Suwat goes by the moniker of Big Pat. He replaces Big Peh (Chakthip Chaijinda) and should feel just fine alongside IB chief Sompong who is Big Oud.
If you think this is just a Big Joke, you’re wrong.
That was the last chief of immigration.