‘We are guests and observers’


Time to share a rant about certain expats, who all are called ‘farang’ here in Thailand, who can’t seem to understand their standing in another person’s country – they have none!

These are the people who complain about everything local officials or businesses do. Their distain for their foreign hosts usually extends right on through to the national government, as well.

They may be irritated that local officials take too long (in their minds) in fixing a street pothole, or averting water or power shortages. The locals trash their own communities is a frequent lament, and corruptiion knows no bounds.

It even can get to the real nitty-gritty – such as questioning why the local mall can’t hire street crossing guards, or complaining about the jumbled, overhead wiring connecting their city of choice. And, of course, in developing countries there’s always the complaint about water and electric shutoffs, and questions of why the local government can’t get its handle around infrastrcutrue issues.

The latest kerfunkle among this “miserable expat” group in my current home of Hua Hin, Thailand, is about the local immigration office, or I should say the soon-to-be new local immigration office.

Hua Hin is a quiet, but big, beach town about 200 kilometers south of Bangkok. The King’s summer palace is here and the town hosts hundreds of thousands of tourists each year, mostly Thais.

Hua Hin also has a sizeable “permanent” expat community of 6,000-8,000 mostly Europeans, with some Australians, Americans, Indians and Russians mixed in. The city population really swells in the “high season” from November-March, when a large influx of snowbirds from Europe descend on the town. Many own modern second homes in Hua Hin, which I guess gives them some sort of feeling of ownership of the country for some reason.

The current immigration office is not ideally located, and I’m sure when it was first opened there were a lot of complaints about the location. Change makes people nervous, but they generally get over it. The current office has not been in its present location very long, actually, so there was also a great deal of online angst about “why do they need to do this again?”

Of course, the delaying of the opening by a few months just fueled the online miserable expats.

Admittedly, the loction of the new office does not seem logical, at least to farang who have no knowledge about the planning for such construction. They complain even though they have not seen demographic growth projections – maybe the government judged that the area of the new office was going to be a high growth area for new farang, and that it would thus be a central location. They complain without knowing real estate and political realities that have to be negotiated.

Or maybe the hosts are just sticking it to the visitors, making it harder to stay.
Either way, all the bellyaching in the world will not change what is being done. The Thais have a plan, we don’t know the plan, and, quite frankly, it’s none of our business.

Which gets me to my headline – We are guests and observers.

If there is one truth I’ve learned in the last seven years it is that you have to roll with the punches, adjust to the reality around you. Bitching won’t make the problems go away.

Life as a vagabond, or as a long-term expat, means accepting the life and culture around you, embrace it actually, and figure out how to overcome those things that invariably are going to impede you in a developing, foreign land.

I find it difficult to understand how a farang in Thailand or a bule in Indonesia or a gringo in Costa Rica could be miserable, at least if they have adequate income. (If not, they shouldn’t be there anyway!) But there are plenty of miserable farang in Hua Hin. Some have been here many years, have seen the progress the country has made over the years. And yet, they still bitch.

For me, I watch and listen. If a change is made that affects my life, I adjust. If that adjustment means leaving Thailand, then so be it. Why would I stay if I’m miserable?

Hua Hin farang will adjust to the location of the new immigration office – but they will most assuredly continue to complain about things they have no control over.

About 2bagsandapack

Lifetime journalist, author, magazine editor and publisher, now semi-retired and traveling the world. My plan, after living in Costa Rica for 14 months, was to visit a new country in southern Europe every three months to experience the culture and the challenge of adapting to a new environment, while on a fixed income. That plan was sidetracked when I was offered a job in Indonesia, providing an opportunity to explore Asia. Indonesia lasted for a 4 wonderful years but I have now moved on to Hua Hin, Thailand.
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