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Discuss culture, living, traveling, relocating, dating or anything related to the Asian countries - China, The Philippines, Thailand, etc.
Thailand seems to be one of those Asian countries Westerners are infatuated with, though in a a slightly different way than Japan or Korea. Yes, it may seem like a paradise when you view it at a superficial level, but the deeper you immerse yourself the more downsides you will find. Of course every country has its share of problems, but Thailand seems to have its own set that can be difficult for many Westerners to stomach, and perhaps even harder for someone of purely NE Asian descent like me. I think Thailand, when it comes to actual long-term living, can be quite hit-or-miss. Many of the cultural aspects described in this post, and from what I've read elsewhere, seem quite ridiculous to me. The exact words of a former Thailand expat: 'If face is a concept in China, the Thais take it to a whole new level.' And I think this may be quite true. Chinese, at least mainland Chinese, tend to be a lot more direct and expressive, preferring to call each other out and come to a quick resolution. Sure, a number of people may view it as rudeness, but in the long run, it makes for a healthier society. Thais, on the other hand, try to maintain their composure and superficial courtesy at almost all times, even if the emotional currents running underneath are extremely negative. It's superficial niceties that bother me a lot more than altercations every once in a while.
Thailand's really in a strange position. Extremely ethnocentric, yet very foreign-worshiping. The same can be said of other Asian countries like Japan. I think this has a bit to do with its history of not being colonized yet actively enjoying the 'benefits' from ties with the British and the French. I feel that Southeast Asia in general tends to be more receptive to Western influence than a country like China that's simply too big and was very much a world power in its own right for thousands of years. I don't intend to hurt any feelings, but the only country in Southeast Asia that has consistently put up staunch and effective resistance against colonial powers in recent history has been Viet Nam. And yes, 'colonial powers' includes the US of A. I respect the no-nonsense / no-bullshit mentality of their people a lot more than the play-along / keep our heads down mentality of countries like Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore (which technically wasn't even a country before 1965).
I also don't like how Thais tend to be so rigid in certain ways, yet so liberal in others (and in ways I'm not a fan of). They have such a lax attitude towards martial fidelity, and from what I understand, quite a twisted understanding of love and romance that especially applies to many of the women. Thailand has the second or third highest infidelity rates in the world (for both genders) according to a survey, and though I tend to be a bit skeptical of statistical studies, it wouldn't come as a shock to me if it were true. One Chinese blogger from Baidu, who was an expat in Thailand with extensive experience living in the country, remarked on the differences between the relatively carefree, often even mercenary attitudes common in Thai relationships, compared to old-fashioned values of love and romance in China (which, by the way, are under severe threat).
Now, I feel that the rigidity of Thai society mainly lies in the Thai view of family. I frankly admit that I may have an overly cynical view of family relationships (biological family) in certain ways due to my own upbringing that was marked by abuse and neglect, plus that fact that as a Christian, my family values may be at odds with the traditional Thai view. I've read countless stories of foreigners married to Thai women and reflecting on the fact that their deepest loyalties are not directed towards their husbands, but towards their parents / siblings / cousins / friends / children etc. This is a non-Biblical view. The Bible says in Genesis, near the very beginning, that a man / woman leaves his / her's family of origin and clings to his / her's spouse. Such is the Godly foundation of a family. It's a no-brainer that shaky marriages tend to have damaging, and often devastating effects on children's upbringing and development. A marriage with a solid foundation must be one where both husband and wife view each other as their #1 priority, with a joint interest and dedication in guiding and supporting the children.
I feel that Thailand, in many ways, is more of a true 'collectivist' culture than China. According to Geert Hofstede mainland China scores a mere 20/100 for collectivism. Way too low of a score in my opinion. I think a more realistic score would be in the mid to high 40s. Thailand, which he also places at 20, is a bit more deserving of such a score. I'm very much against excess 'individualism', and especially the Anglosphere / Western European understanding of the term, but the other extreme, excess collectivism, can be just as harmful. Chinese, on the surface, preach collectivist values, but I can tell you that deep down, I've noticed that mainland Chinese of both younger and older generations tend to be individualistic. I don't like the selfishness and competition that results from this, but when handled right it gives a sense of freedom of self and freedom from guilt / fear-induced obligations towards others merely because of 'family' ties. I haven't met many mainland Chinese who feel an unconditional / no-complaint obligation towards their family of origin, but apparently this seems to be quite common in Thailand. I'm sorry, but why in the world must I assist in the support of 10, 15, 20? I married YOU for goodness sake! I think mainland China is one of the least, if not the least socially restrictive country in East Asia.
Thailand, according to official statistics, is almost 90% Buddhist. However, as with any poll on religious belief, it is hard to give a good idea of the whole picture. To what extent do people believe? Is it just because of culture / tradition, or a genuine desire to practice the faith? What denomination / school do they identify with? Taking all the not-so-desirable aspects of Thai culture and mentality into account, I think a good way to describe Thailand's religiosity would be paying lip service to Siddartha. Many Thais, like many professing Buddhists in other Asian countries, incorporate non-Buddhist beliefs such as folk deities, ghosts, and spirits. Praying to statues, burning incense, and 'paying' for blessings by putting cash in money boxes (common in Chinese / Taiwanese / HK temples) are all superficial rituals that go against the essence of Buddhism, which is a way of life, a way of the mind, heart, and soul. Buddhism is also misunderstood by many in Thailand and other Asian countries as a THEISTIC belief system, when in fact it is spiritual but HUMANISTIC. Only YOU can LEAD YOURSELF to the path of enlightenment. I've seen too many professing Buddhists who go say a few prayers when they want something worldly / materialistic / greedy, but otherwise live their lives however they want. When you ask the right questions, they'll reveal their true colours and say something like: 'Actually I'm not completely into it, it's just like a source of comfort for me', or 'we're still humans after all, we still have to get by.' Of course this also applies to many if not most Westerners who are superficially 'Christianized'.
Wonderful post, Bao3niang.
Thank you for taking your time to think and write.
On the topic of “downsides”, there is a different dimension, almost never mentioned, which is highly positive:
Thailand compared to our home countries (in the Anglo-sphere).
The negative factors in Thailand do not attack me.
But back in the USA, the negative factors are actively at war against men like me.
Many say, “I looove Thailand.”
I do not love Thailand.
Instead, I say, “Thank you Thailand for giving me a safe and comfortable home far, far away from (in my case) the USA.
At first, yes.
But observe and analyze those problems in Thailand.
Almost all are easily avoided by any cautious foreigner.
On the other hand, “back home” many problems aggressively aim attacks at men like me.
I rely on 10+ years of careful observation.
Yes, "face" is a factor in social interaction, but it is possible to avoid most trouble about that.
I'd much rather deal with 'face' with a Thai than encounter some Western Femi-Nazi screaming, “Rape! ... 13 years ago!”
I like courtesy.
Superficial or not, I like courtesy.
There is a lot of it in Thailand.
Those “countless stories” are widely available on the Internet.
Many foreign men marry Thai wives but neglect to do their homework before getting married.
Those men who don't read before getting married, then write their own story afterwards.
Another good point.
Most don't believe, they just go through the motions.
It is easy to assume that religion exists for the benefit of the people.
Not so here: religion exists to limit individual initiative and protect the status quo.
Everything thing else is just smoke screen.
No wonder most people don't believe.
Member: Thailand Expats Email Discussion.
Membership inquiries welcome; send private message to me on this forum.
It's interesting how you mentioned Buddhism as a tool to maintain the status quo for those in power. Usually when we think of religion as political tools, we think of monotheistic faiths such as Christianity and Islam. However, I can also see how a religion like Buddhism may be used for the same purposes. As an ex-Buddhist (in the not-so-authentic way), I can see how the passivity and 'anything goes' mentality of the religion can be used in favor of controlling the population, as they'll perceive a sense of powerlessness and turn a blind eye to the numerous social ills and injustices rather than joining together to improve things for the better.
I would say it depends less on Thailand itself but more on the individual foreign man, what does he expect... Not such a small number of foreign men are totally misguided by the media and grossly misinformed about what you can and what you cannot do in Thailand.
It's always the same with such so-called 'yellow-fever-men' - if you talk to them they will not listen to you. They ignore any warning.
For me of course Thailand is a great place for vacation and retirrement.
I have my own rooms in Thailand and I have a 12-month-retirement visa/multiple entries and I do not need any guarantee money in a Thai bank, as my government pension is over baht 65.000,-.
I also do not have any personal relationship with Thai people. Thai people I know are service staff, small shop owners and similar people, who help me when I need them and I pay for their assistance.
Yes, for me life in Thailand is fine.
But there are also the others, he comes with a little money, thinks he can live with his great love - a Thai bargirl who is 'different' LOL, in the paradise up to the end of his life - and finally he is sitting in front of a convenience store with a piece of paper 'Please give me a little money, I want to go home' and a plastic cup for the coins.
All in all, I think Thailand is fine for a foreign man, if he has his own income from abroad (in my case a retirement allowance) and if he sees a possibility to qualify for a long-stay visa (in my case a retirement 12 month visa).
For sure visa-run every 30 days to borders is not a solution, but Thailand is reluctant to offer long-stay visa - the visa-problem should not be underestimated.
Missing health insurance is also an important issue.
Marriage with a Thai woman gives you a spouse visa - however no working permit... keep this in mind!
All in all, Thailand is not so welcoming as some foreigners think it is.
30 days, vacation, this is OK, for a few times per year - but if you want more.... I warn you, it is not so easy.
Words of wisdom in the post above from Yohan.
Thank you, Yohan.
They LOVE your money $$$ not you!
They are SUPER RACIST!
I. Light skinned Thais
2. Light Skinned Asians (Winston Wu)
3. Dark Skinned Thais
4. STRAY DOGS! (Thai retards love their stray dogs, if you defend yourself from a stray dog expect to get arrested or attacked by Thais)
5. Dark skinned Asians (e.g. Filipinos)
6. Distant #6 Farang White Foreigners (along with Latinos/Native Americans Thais cannot tell the difference). THEY LOVE YOUR MONEY YOU IDIOT! They may even want your bastard children, but within their hearts they hate you personally!
7. VERY VERY DISTANT NUMBER #7. People from India and Black people THAIS DO NOT LIKE YOU.
As I have a fosterdaughter in Cebu - now already grown up - I am visiting Cebu frequently and also I had some Filipino office staff here in Tokyo I was always interested into retirement in Cebu.
However I found some problems, better in Thailand if you ask me.
Of course Pattaya vs. Cebu - Pattaya has also its problems but unfortunately I found only some few advantages for retirement in Philippines:
English as language can be widely used
no interpreter/translator required even for official documents
easy visa and quick flight from Tokyo to Cebu
easy to talk with locals, very communicative
However Cebu vs. Pattaya:
real estate is more expensive in Philippines
weather is not stable with plenty of rain, storm, but also earthquakes and floods
street crime, street children, beggars and pickpockets, burglary
significantly more poverty and slums everywhere
time consuming if you want to move from island to island
streets often in bad condition and dirty, lot of garbage around
regular brown-out, black-out of electric power
city is rather dark past 9:00 PM
many children are clearly malnurished and not healthy
OK for a visit for a few weeks and travel a bit and look around especially if you know some Filipinos personally like I do in Cebu, Leyte, Bohol, Camiguin Island....Welcome!
But for long-stay? Far better in Thailand...
Thailand can be very bureaucratic, but the living standard is much better than in Philippines.
It's not located on islands, therefore easy to travel around also to nearby countries.
Plenty of cheap flights daily to almost everywhere from Bangkok
and so on....
I was checking also other places for my second home outside of Japan, (Malaysia, Cambodia, also within EU) but I found Thailand fits me best.
Thailand is better if:
* You love ladyboys
* You love to play Pokemon (catch'em all I mean STDs with prostitutes please note all Thais women are prostitutes some just hide it better than others)
The only decent women in Thailand are Filipinas.
That if you give a single f**k about living standards please do everyone a favor and stay in America! Thais do not like you! Thai women may want your bastard kid but what they really want is to see you leave!