By Tom Long
Why is it that every time I hear shouting or a row in the
streets of Chiang Mai, or in a shop, restaurant or (more likely) in a local
bar, that the perpetrators of such disturbances to the peace are much more
likely to be foreigners – farang – than to be local Thais?
In this Land of Smiles, how nice it would be if a greater proportion of
foreign visitors or residents from overseas were to emulate the best of the
local populace and never raise their voices in public. Thais generally
conduct themselves, even when agitated by some problem, in a seemly way.
Sadly, not all of we foreigners can match their graciousness in times of
stress; but we could certainly try harder to do so!
Then there is that matter of appearance, in which the Thais generally put to
shame some foreigners. I am not here thinking of how good-looking the Thai
people are, though they are certainly that. Rather, I’m thinking of the
common fact that even poor Thai people make an effort with their appearance,
to look clean and to wear clean clothes.
There is a repulsive but common Western style of wearing long pants/trousers
with the hems at the bottom dragging along the ground. These hems quickly
become soiled and torn, and that revolting sight, of unwashed and frayed
jean-bottoms, is a ghastly sight to be seen far more regularly on farang
than on local Thais. In fact, come to think of it, I have never seen a Thai
dressed like that.
An associated wardrobe malfunction, but again one that many foreigners
display, is the loose trousers hanging down well below the waistline,
displaying (if you are lucky) only their underclothes or (if unlucky) their
bottom cleavage! Indeed, the falling-down jeans syndrome likely contributes
to the filthy hem syndrome already mentioned. I can hardly imagine a Thai
who would inflict such unseemly visions on other people, by daring to go out
in public dressed like that. What must they think of the foreigners, by no
means all of them young – or thin – whose low-slung pants reveal more of
their nether regions than should ever be seen in public?
Nobody expects tourists to traipse around this often-hot town in a
three-piece business suit. But clothes which are clean should be a minimum
requirement for the self-respect of the visitors, and to show respect to our
Thai hosts. Regrettably, some visitors’ self-image is so low that they don’t
care what they look like. That approach of some farang is all the more
objectionable, when compared to the efforts the local people make to look
their best, even if employed in menial tasks.
A final niggle is the brusque behavior of too-many farang, when in crowded
places such as the CM shopping streets. If anyone barges into you – and
especially if they collide into you without apology – it is sure to be a
farang, rather than a local citizen. In this, as in all matters of seemly
conduct, our Thai hosts provide a fine example of gracious conduct – an
example that more farang should follow!