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The Lone Faranger
P.S. From Wikipedia:
It is generally believed that the word farang originated with the Indo-Persian word farangi, meaning foreigner. This in turn comes from the word Frank via the Arabic word firinjīyah, which was used to refer to the Franks, a West Germanic tribe that became the biggest political power in Western Europe during the early Middle Ages and from which France derives its name.
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I found this topic fascinating. I spent 3 hours last night reading everybody's comments. This is not the first time I've heard it being discussed. Now that I had it in my face for three hours straight, I feel inspired to voice my little opinion.
I am Thai. I suppose I can say that I was born and raises with this word. I never realized and never thought of it as a rude word. I never used it as an f word when referring to the "white" foreigners. I use it just like another adjective, never meant for harm. I think most Thai people would agree with me here.
Then at some point it hit me. Some people are actually hurt by it even if I mean no harm. Yes even if I mean no harm, some people are still hurt. So lately I found myself saying the word less because I don't want to hurt my friends or I just want to be nice or polite to acquaintances or strangers (because I never knew who would be offended). I don't know if the following story can be used as an analogy. In college, I hung out with this group of girls in which I and another girl had the same nickname so everybody else in the group started to refer to us as "Big Jane" and "Small Jane". They used it to differentiate us the Jane's so in a conversation they didn't have to further explain which Jane they were talking about. I was really annoyed because the word stuck, even when there was only one Jane around, I was still being called "Small Jane". I know they meant no harm but I still didn't like it and preferred that people did't call me that way.
Now back the the "Farang" word...yes I accept that I use it less and less now...but still in my mind I never thought of it as an f word. Again, most Thai people don't use it as an f word. I don't know how to express this. Personally, it's almost like, I'm being a bit defensive here. If I accept that it was a f word, then somehow it implied that I was racist all along. And I am not a racist. So I don't want it to be a f word. But our society is becoming more multicultural now, if some people find this offensive then I'll be extra careful with it.
Like for me, being from a small town, it was common for us to "greet" people with "Where are you going?". I never knew that it is a bit rude (or nosey) to say that to foreigners (say Westerners). How could I know if I never had contact with foreigner before, right? So when I learned that some people don't want to be greeted that way then I just had to reminded myself to say "How are you?" instead of the Thai way of "Where are you going?".
If your friends or in-law insist on calling you "Farang" instead of using your name, then it's just inappropriate and rude. I don't mind being referred to as Asian because I know strangers won't be able to tell easily if I'm from Thailand or the Philippines, etc. But if my friends refuse to call me by my name then it's a different story.
If a stranger point at you (who are just walking by minding your own business) and say to her child, "Look at the Farang". This is rude. If some how she miraculously knows your origin and says, "Look at the Canadian". It is still rude, isn't it?
I don't know maybe I babble too much and do not make sense to some of you...I am never good at making my argument. I like all the posts here though because it makes me see the world from a different stand point and keep my mind open.
Last thing, I feel that sometimes when foreigners here want to express their view of Thai people, they generalize all the time based on their own experience. The Thais this, the Thais that (mostly bad). I feel hurt too because we are not all bad. So if I'm nice to you by not calling you "Farang" because I know that it hurts you. Would you be nice to me by not saying all Thais are bad, ignorant, foolish, selfish, sticking their heads in the ground, etc.?
PS If you walk in to a restaurant and you hear servers shout at one another and say, "Farang are coming" instead of "Customers are coming", I think I would advise you not to take it as they are discriminating against you. My money is on that they are exited (never served a white person before in their lives) or scared (don't know how to speak English) or they just want to give an alert (go and find an English menu or find someone that can speak basic English to communicate with you).
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I really enjoyed reading your post...
At the beginning of my stay in Thailand, I remember being asked all the time, where am I going?! At first, I felt like saying, this is not your business, but I refrained from doing this. I just put my finger in the air to feel where the wind comes from. Generally people took this as a good-enough answer and stopped asking me.
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Thanks for your post, it was a joy to read it.
Speaking for myself, not all foreigners, I don't see anything wrong with being called Farang, and I don't take it as an insult.
Being European, and married to a Filipina, I am used to being called "Joe" or "Kano" (short for Americano) in the Philippines, since for them every white guy is American.
I posted this before on here, but if I have to get upset everytime, my life would be absolutely miserable.
For me it's just a matter of fact, I am a white foreigner in this country, and the local people refer to white foreigners as Farang. So be it, no harm done.
I know that there are many foreigners that feel the same way, but you will always find some people that make a problem about everything. In my honest opinion they don't belong here. As a "Farang" you always have to remember that you're not in your own country, and not to expect everything to be the same as in your country, simple as that.
As for generalising Thais by foreigners, again, there are foreigners that do that, and there are those that don't. I believe mosly it's just easy to say for them "Thais are like......." whatever. Fact of the matter is, not all Thai people are the same, just like not all foreigners are the same. When we can start accepting that, we can start appreciating each other for the good things, not hate each other for the wrong things.
Anyway, I saw this was your 1st post to the Forum, so welcome, and hope to see more from you.
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Truth of the matter is, race is a natural reference in describing others. Back to Hawaiian experience, even for white guys, after you live there for a while, when you describe someone, race is the first reference. "You know him? Yeah , the Filipino guy.." then followed by other relevant data. This is universal to the human experience. It's only the recent attempts at "political correctness" currently infecting the "developed" countries, that are the exception.
So, if they call you Farung, but are good to you in all the ways that count..GET OVER IT!
I made a lot of Hawaiian friends when first met by referring to my self as the F*in' Ha'ole. Getting a laugh at your own expense seems to almost always be a great ice breaker.
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for those of us that are both older and seasoned world travelers and who have lived in multiple other countries, it is impossible to mis interpret the use of the word here; those of us that understand thai language understand the use of the tones and the general usage is 90+ % derogatory for this word; (note the chidren use is about 100% neg)
the hilarity is that we farang laugh constantly at the thai for their governance stupidity, general tragic comical corruption, and general systematic inability at the same time they are laughing at us about oour social ignorance; however we are gaining in an arena where they cannot and based on the recent flood observations, we are gaining at a high rate
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As maybe many of you have noticed, the Thai culture has a strong Indian culture influence, even a big percentage of the Thai words are derivated of the Pali language, the native language of Lord Buddha that was a derivated from Sanskrit, and still used nowadays in religious affairs in Thailand and Theravada countries.
From very long time ago, until nowadays, the word to describe the westerners in India has been "ferenghi" or "faranghi" (although now is also common for foreigners "Pardesh"), even used to denote the British at the time of their domination. It is known, also, the big influence that the Persians exerted on the Indian culture.
In Persian, the word is "farangi". Makes more sense thinking that "farang" came that way.
Is quite clear that the word is derivated of the Arabic word "faranj" or maybe"ifranj",
This word was widely used in the 13th century when Rashid al-din Fazl Allâh seems that wrote a whole essay about it.
Probably started too be used as soon as in the 8th century, some say because of the West-German "Franks", name that the rest of the world applied already to all Europeans, even Latins, due to the fact that the Franks Empire ruled Western Europe for several centuries.
Some other say that this name was a synonym for European because of the Greeks that in Byzantium called themselves "fragkoi" or "frangkoi" or having the meaning that has in modern Greek "ferengios" meaning something like "trustable independent person"
Barang in Khmer
Pirenghi in Orissa
Parangiar in Tamil.
Curiousity: the word used in Indonesia for westerner is Orang Bharat, people from India ("orang" meaning "people", like in "Orang Utan" = "People of the Jungle", "Bharat" meaning "India" in Sanskrit). So every westerner is "people from India", and is nothing pejorative on this fact.
It seems, then, that is not derivated of "fa-rang-se", being this just a phonetic composition to sound similar to the "Français", as is "pha-lang-xa" in Vietnamese.
Amazing: Seems that "Thai" means "free", while "Frank" means "free" and "Frangkoi/Ferengios" means "free" (and independent).
So when not used as an irony, what is the problem on be called "Free"?
Again peace, love and health to everyone.
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