I wouldn’t call myself prejudiced. At least, not in the usual way. I don’t hate anyone because of skin color, gender, age, or sexual orientation. I do, however, harbor a universal loathing for one group of people: tourists in Thailand. They are all horrible, and nothing you say will convince me otherwise.
But to give you the benefit of the doubt, you who would call me bigoted for stereotyping all visitors, rather than cite all the reasons I hate them (many other writers have done that already), to illustrate the contrast between what should be and what is, I’m going to describe a person that doesn’t exist—a fictional person that, as much as it would improve our lives, Thailand, and the world, we will never see. The following is a breakdown of the perfect Thailand tourist:
Let’s call him Biff.
Before getting on the plane—in fact, before even buying the ticket, Biff researches Thailand. He looks at the top destinations and things to do. He studies the different kinds of food, and cultural norms and traditions. He reviews immigration procedures and visa rules and fees. He even looks up dangers and don’ts so he knows what to avoid. He even teaches himself a few useful Thai phrases. In short, he gets his beak and his feet wet before even booking the trip. This ensures that he won’t be caught unawares as to the basic need-to-know stuff, like so many morons do when they come here without even cracking a guide or looking at a map.
Biff doesn’t have to barter at home, so he learns how to do it before coming. He learns that the Thai merchant high-balling him isn’t doing it to be evil, rather she’s trying to get as much money as she can to feed her family. Biff knows that if he’s dumb enough to overpay for something, it’s nobody’s fault but his. He also knows that if he’s rude, curt, and frowning, the person will be less-likely to offer him a deal. Because people prefer to interact with kind people rather than sh*tbirds.
Similarly, Biff learns through his research that lots of people will offer him lots of stuff he doesn’t want—from suits to tuk tuks to knick-knacks to pingpong shows. He knows that, for these businesspeople, numbers are key. For every hundred people they ask, a handful will say yes, so they ask absolutely everyone. They’re not trying to bother Biff, or insult him or trick him, per se. They’re just trying to make a living. Therefore, instead of taking it personally or assuming the world revolves around him or that his poop doesn’t stink, when he’s offered something he doesn’t want, he simply smiles, shakes his head and says “Mai ow, krab.” A polite no-thank-you. It doesn’t take much effort, and shows he has a sense of courtesy, as opposed to scowling or ignoring the person, which is so, so, so rude.
Because Biff knows he’s not the only one on holiday, and because he knows Thailand is comprised of millions of people who aren’t on holiday, he doesn’t act like he’s the center of the universe. He keeps his voice down in public, and doesn’t spoil other people’s time in his effort to enjoy himself. He knows he’s a guest in a country that isn’t his own, so he doesn’t do anything in this country that he wouldn’t do in his own. Because that would make him an insufferable d*ckhead.
Biff thinks fairly highly of himself. He comes from a country at the cutting edge of society, civilization, and First-World comforts. Yet, he knows that just because Thailand’s roads aren’t paved as well as his home country, and recycling isn’t as modern as his home country, that doesn’t make Thailand a lesser country than his, and that doesn’t make the Thai people dumber or lower or less valuable human beings than he is. In fact, he’s learned that Thailand is home to some of the kindest people on Earth. Therefore he takes the differences in stride, does not look down on the country or the people, and instead is polite, respectful, and courteous to everyone he meets, lest he wind up looking like a gaping a**hole.
Biff doesn’t have a family, but if he did he wouldn’t drag them through Patpong at 11:00 at night, knowing what an inappropriate time and place it would be. If Biff had his girlfriend with him, he wouldn’t let her stand outside the door of a gogo bar and stare in disapprovingly, or cast dirty looks at the girls. He also wouldn’t let her get on stage and start waggling her saddle bags back and forth, because he’d know that every other man in the place came there to see hot young Thai girls, not fat ugly farang.
Biff tips, but doesn’t over-tip, because that conditions some Thais to expect an unrealistic amount of money from everyone else.
Biff goes to Youtube in the weeks before coming and watches videos on how to buy tickets for the Skytrain. He does this so that he doesn’t wind up standing in front of a machine, blocking everyone else from getting a ticket, while he stupidly stares at the numbers with no hope of discerning in the moment how to work the contraption. Instead, he learns the process beforehand, so by the time he goes to buy a ticket, he’s memorized what to do from watching the video demonstrations, so he doesn’t waste other people’s time like a brainless douche-canoe.
Biff has been to Ibiza, where people go shirtless everywhere—even in church. But since he’s not a brain-dead Neanderthal, he realizes there’s a difference between the cultures in Spain and Thailand. He knows that, while Thailand has a wild reputation in the collective mind of the West, in reality the culture is quite conservative. No self-respecting Thai person would be seen shirtless (or in a bikini) in public. The fact is, if he were to walk through a mall, or down Silom Road or Sukhumvit without a shirt on, he would be advertising himself as a steaming pile of human garbage—which is why he dresses appropriately at all times.
Finally, should Biff find himself alone in a hotel with a lovely girl he’s just met, he knows not to try to act out his favorite porn scene. He resists the urge to think of her as an object, to get rough or go without a condom, because no matter how focused he may be on self-gratification, he has respect for her as a fellow human being. Because he has at least a shred of humanity, and at the end of the day, he’s not an abominable prick.
So that’s Biff. He’s a fantasy, because tourists rarely take the time or make the effort to learn what they should before coming here in order to avoid making jackasses of themselves and annoying the crap out of everyone everywhere they go. It’s a damn shame.
Attention tourists: Don’t be like your usual selves. Instead, be like Biff. Thailand thanks you in advance.
Attention Chinese and Russian tourists: You’re welcome for not singling you out as the most horrendous offenders.