Another slightly ranty post coming your way. This one’s about the widespread use of the word “farang” here to describe anyone who’s not from these parts. I feel like of all of the ways that I’ve heard foreigners talked about in different languages, this is the most disrespectful one.
Whatever I do, I haven’t been able to shake being described as “that farang” by everyone I’ve talked to in Thailand. I hear the term thrown around wherever I go. I’ll go up to a stall and ask for apples, and the vendor will turn to tell the people sitting with her that “the farang wants some apples” At my school, I get labeled as “that farang teacher.” Can’t I just be the English teacher?
I’m not a woman, I’m not a person, I’m not a teacher, I’m not Renee; I’m just another farang. What does my foreignness have to do with anything? Why do I need to be labeled as a farang in every conversation? Can’t we all just be people?
I feel like while I’m here trying to absorb Thai culture, speak the language, do things as they do them, people could at least not dehumanize me by referring to me with their friends as “that farang.” To me, use of this term indicates a choice not to learn anything about me (or any other farang)– where I’m from, what I’m like, if I even resemble anyone else they label “farang.” The term cries out exclusion– you’re just a foreigner. I’d rather be labeled as American, tall, black, or any number of other things that make me stand out around here.
There are similar words in other languages– gringo in Spanish, for example. However, I feel that you only get labeled as a “gringo” if you are acting stupid. You have to earn your way into that slightly derogatory term. But here, all foreigners are automatically in the same category, although our diversity spans the entire world.