The "farang-local" Difference in Perspective ...

Yesterday I took a break from the computer and opted instead to get out and about in the real world.  Refreshed from my day out on the bike, I began penning this piece, per BP’s request.  Half way through, I received a comment from another reader, dBD, a new convert to this space.  Those of you who know me better, will know that I do not use names or post things of an unnecessarily personal nature.  Hopefully, dBD will not be offended that I withheld his very personal comment and plea for help, and will consider this post as a reply.

I try my best not to tinker with whatever shade of glasses one might be wearing at the moment, be they rose colored or otherwise.  Some phases of cultural adjustment are best lingered over and indulged in, just as others are best moved through more quickly.  So without addressing the specifics of anyones personal situations, I will attempt to give you the Village Farang take on this whole farang-local perspective thing.

While it is our humanity that unites us, it is often our culture that divides us.  Some cling more steadfastly than others, to what they have been told is self evident, and may respond indignantly when confronted by those who do not share their belief system.  Some are burdened with a life focused on the material and their attempt to keep their heads above water from day to day.  Some have moved higher up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and are focused on things as yet irrelevant to others.  Whether living in Thailand or just visiting, one is sure to encounter situations where you will be asking yourself, why they don’t get it.  Your interests and theirs may be miles apart no matter how hard you try to enlighten or impress upon them the superiority of your beliefs and intellect.  Be warned, this applies to both sides of the equation and they may be thinking the very same things about you.

Of course there are Thais who are well educated, well traveled, eat western food and are interested in many of the same things you are.  I dare say that the majority of farangs don’t run in these circles and find themselves mired in a different strata of Thai society.  As western as some Thais may appear, what lingers beneath the surface may not be what you expect.  With other Thais, the difference in perspective is more simply a difference in education, experience, money and a fear of venturing beyond ones station in life and the world in which one feels comfortable.

It is not that they have no interest in all things farang, rather they have no interest in anything, beyond their very small world and immediate needs.  For example our local villagers who have lived or worked in Bangkok or even overseas, typically have not ventured beyond their worker’s enclave and place of employment.  They feel uncomfortable with those who do not eat, speak and live the way they do, be they farangs or other Thais.  They do not strive to be more than they are, just to possess more than they do.  Does that really sound so unfamiliar?

Perhaps the question is not why they don’t get it or why their perceptions are so different but why one would expect or want things not to be so.  Is it perhaps that it makes us feel uncomfortable or question our own closely held beliefs?  The trick is to learn to live with the differences.  Allow others to be different without making judgement.  Allow them to live their own lives and make their own mistakes.  As you look around the world at the myriad of languages, cultures, beliefs, religions, values and interests, one flaw stands out as a part of our human nature.  In our steadfast belief that we are on the true path, we imply that all the other paths are lesser and somehow false or misguided.  Ask yourself how we can all be so right and so wrong all at the same time, at least in the eyes of others.

I understand there are those who feel it is their mission in life to take possession of and responsibility for the lives of others.  I suppose they serve a purpose but one suspects that they sometimes do more harm than good.  Sure if you feel compelled to intervene in the lives of others, do or say what you will, but understand you are doing it because of your own needs, not necessarily theirs.  No one likes to be told that their beliefs or values are wrong and that goes for countries as well as individuals.  Don’t be surprised if your well meaning gestures go unappreciated or are misunderstood.

As you can see, mine is a hands off approach.  At best I may stimulate some, to ask questions they might not otherwise have asked, or give them the courage to do something of their own choosing, which they were previously afraid to do.  Live life by example and don’t preach.  Help others to follow their own path, not yours.  Embrace difference and change even when it challenges what you have always believed to be self evident and true.  Find humor where you can, in the foibles of humanity.  Most importantly laugh at yourself from time to time, especially when you are taking yourself a bit too seriously.  Life is like the weather, not always sunny and clear, and those dark and rainy days, in the end, bring forth new growth.

Thus ends another of VF’s pontifications.