Any ‘westerner’ visiting or living in Thailand will have come across the term Farang. It is the blanket term applied to all people with white(ish) skin and translates as ‘foreigner’. I have previously allluded that, for these two and a number of other reasons, I take umbrage at being called Farang and I hope you won’t mind if I bang on about it for a moment. This is not necessarily a rant (….it might be, a little bit), it’s just that I have a few (hopefully interesting) observations to make.
Firstly, it’s at once broad and vague while at the same time very exclusive. Spanish, Germans, Russians, Americans, Australians and Brits are all dubbed Farangs, despite their widely varied backgrounds, customs and cultures. Which is sort of OK, I suppose, if you’re trying to indicate all people who are ‘not Thai’ i.e, foreign. But Farang does not seem to apply to Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and so on, in other words, other Asians. So, basically its use is to denote ‘white person’, which sits a little awkwardly with me. Still, I think I’d be ok with it except for the connotation it has – Farang is generally a negative term. And a negative term used to refer to people of one colour skin, indiscriminately of their provenance is well, basically, when you think about it, pretty much….racist. Isn’t it?
I can think of another word that’s used negatively to broadly refer to people with one colour skin, regardless of the wide and diverse cultures they might come from. It also has 6 letters and begins with N. And we’re definitely not allowed to say that, especially not as a way to identify someone. So why is Farang acceptable?
Now, arguably, we’re not helping ourselves; Strolling around with our sterling, dollars and euros, getting drunk on buckets, wearing inappropriate clothing, sweating too much, not bothering to learn the language, preferring to shout in pidgin English: ‘Oi, darlin! What do you mean there’s no fackin ketchup? I gotta have ketchup on this filthy foreign nosh.’ This is the Farang to whom the term deservedly belongs. But, just as not all black people are N*****s, as Chris Rock will now brilliantly explain….
… not all white people are Farangs.
Maybe we should follow in the footsteps of the likes of Jay Z and Kanye and claim the term for ourselves. Let’s take back FARANG and make it our own property. I think these guys have the right idea:
Now, THEY make me quite proud to be a Farang. Let’s have more of that and less of the other.
What’s up, my Farang?