An American in Phuket

Well, not just Americans and not just Phuket – any ‘farang’ in Thailand has to decide whether to bother learning Thai or just get by with English-speaking Thai people instead.

Here’s an extract from an article in the Phuket Post, to learn Thai or not to learn, that is the question:

We all know what life is like for a farang… Pretty damn good if we are to be truly honest. Sure, there is the odd bit of stereotyping and discrimination involved in being white in Phuket, I mean we’re all not here as sex tourists or here to exploit a cheaper workforce in order to profit ourselves are we? Some of us are here because we enjoy the lifestyle, the beaches and the food. Some of us take steps to become integrated into Thai society. Don’t we? Don’t you?

Even if you don’t then you’re still unlikely to experience many problems. You can re-create your little Western existence in Thailand without having to even acknowledge you are in a foreign country or even a foreigner.

Farangs in Phuket can go and watch a movie in English, read a menu in English, give directions to a taxi driver in English, chat up a girl in English and then go home and eat English food (although not sure why anyone would). Farang culture permeates the seams of Phuket. So, you’re not a foreigner really are you? You’re a farang!

… Moazamm admits that when he first arrived in Thailand it was difficult, partly owing to the language barrier. He therefore quickly made it his priority to learn it. “When Thai people see me, they treat me differently, [but] when I speak Thai that changes and they become less cautious and more friendly.”

For Moazzam, learning the native language was an absolute necessity in order to not only prosper in the business world, but also in his private life. Moazamm is married to a Thai woman with whom he has had children with. This perhaps explains why he believes, “I don’t really feel like a foreigner, well I feel about 30% foreign, as this is my home now. I am immersed in Thai culture.”

… But one thing that Aorn, Moazzam and our tailor have in common is that they all believe that if ‘new arrivals’ learn the language, then their experience will be much less segregated and more accessible.

[original article no longer exists]