Recent changes to the visa rules coupled with general political instability in Thailand have prompted many ex-pat residents to ask themselves if now is the time to go home or at least time to seek out a new home somewhere else. Somewhere where we might be better received buy our hosts.
It has always been the case in Thailand that foreigners were tolerated as long as they came for a short time, dumped their dollars into the economy then buggered off home. Staying here, running a business or owning property was always made difficult by the authorities but now the rules have been tightened so much so that many people have chosen to leave rather than try to deal with the new rules or even bother to try to find a way around them.
I have made the occasional return visit to my homeland of UK over the years but now I’m not convinced that the UK I left in 1995 ever really existed at all the way I remember it. It sure as hell doesn’t exist now so in some ways, I don’t have a ‘home’ to go back to.
When I left the UK for shores foreign, the Brits I left behind were still reeling from the good old days when Margaret Thatcher beat the piss out of the trade unions and threw some four million souls onto the unemployment heap. John Major (anyone remember him) was then on the throne doing his level best to retain Thatcher’s conservative utopia and was shortly to get thrown out on his arse for his trouble. It would appear that things have steadily gone down hill since then.
I gave the Thatcher doctrine of the 1980s a lash. I bought into the hype that if you got off your backside, worked hard and stepped on anyone who stood in your way you could have the big house, the BMW and the expenses account well before your thirtieth birthday. You wouldn’t have any friends of course, but who needs scrounging bastards beating a path to your front door just because you’ve got a few quid in the bank, right?
I saw the writing on the wall on a British Airways flight from Frankfurt to London in 1993. In the in-flight magazine was an article describing how British Airways was an ‘equal opportunities employer’ and how in the not too distant future the BA fleet would undergo a change of corporate livery and dispense with its Union Jack insignia. Reading this article had a profound effect on me. Political correctness had been around for years but this was a new departure. “Equal Opportunities” and doing away with the flag on your national carrier just seemed to smack of degradation to me.
Who wants cabin crews from ethnic minority backgrounds, with questionable sexual orientation and physical disabilities? British Airways, apparently.
I noticed how this article contrasted with an advertisement I had recently seen for THAI which proudly displayed its national identity and hinted heavily that the cabin staff on its flights were good looking babes with a ready smile who would make your long haul flight to The Pacific Rim a real pleasure.
We all have choices and thanks to the power of advertising, THAI looked to be more in-touch with my feelings than BA. Fly THAI and be waited on by smiling, Oriental beauties or British Airways where thanks to their equal opportunities programme, the stewards were queer and your stewardess would likely be a vegetarian lesbian with a limp. You could be sure she would know how to do her job though because she certainly didn’t get this position by blowing the boss.
I wondered if this was just a one off example of contrasting cultures or were these Asian economies going to eat us alive with their ‘just do it’ attitude and their utter shamelessness in using that marketing tool that has worked the world over since the dawn of time, sex!
Anyway, this article got me thinking that if Western civilization was really heading that way, where your national flag was to become something you hid at the bottom of your sock drawer, and the best jobs went to homosexuals and vegetarians, maybe I was on the wrong continent. The Thatcher days of ‘me first and sod thy neighbour’ seemed dead and buried in the UK. Maybe Asia had something to offer me?
Now don’t misunderstand me, I am very proud to be British. I carry my British passport with pride. I preferred it when it was that distinctive black, hardcover book with the Royal Crest on the front but I’m realistic. Sacrifices needed to be made in the name of Europeanisation. A lowering of standards is usually required when trying to get in step with the likes of the French and the Italians. They’ll be after having us drive on the wrong side of the road next.
So, largely thanks to the political correctness revolution and in no small part to the ‘THAI – Smooth as Silk’ advertising campaign, I found myself in South East Asia.
First there was Singapore where everything is ultra competitive. The Singaporean wants to be first into the lift and first out. He’ll jump in front of you to get the cab that you just hailed and he won’t understand it when you challenge him. To him, you just came second, you loser. Money is everything there. Don’t ever find yourself in Singapore without any money. You will be deported or in jail within hours.
It’s a pity there are only four million of them because if there were more, they would soon knock this sorry planet into shape. If the whole world was as tidy and efficient as Singapore, how bad would that be?
I’m sure it was working and living in Singapore that straightened me out really. I was soon weaned off that sickly diet of political correctness that you just can’t get away from in the West and learned once again that a spade really is a spade and it’s OK to refer to one as such. I found out that you can do pretty much whatever you want in business in Asia. If you want a twenty year old female receptionist with big tits and long legs, you just put an ad in the paper saying so. Work hard, pay your taxes and your business will flourish. If that doesn’t work, you just bribe somebody. Easy really.
Then came Thailand. Once I got used to everyone talking in riddles, saying ‘yes’ when they actually meant ‘no’ (and vice versa) and being continually told that I was a hansum man with a good heart, I gradually lost the will to go anywhere else. Imagine a place where you can get a beer and a packet of Marlborough Lights for less than two quid and a seemingly endless supply of pretty girls. Why would you want to leave?
Makes you wonder where the hell we started going wrong back in Farangland.
Now though, times are changing in The Kingdom of Thailand. The price of beer, cigarettes and the girls haven’t changed much but making an honest living is definitely getting harder. The US dollar in your pocket is worth less, these days and renewing your visa is likely to not be the formality it has been in the past. Some say that these changes will cause many foreign residents to reconsider their options. We know some who are so doing. We know some who have already decided to get out of Dodge.
Me? I’m keeping my head down and my options open but return to Farangland? Probably not in this lifetime.