greener grass

Interesting conversation tonight at Greyhound with two friends, about foreigners salaries (and the value attached to foreigners in thailand in general). It was interesting because between the three of us make up the entire spectrum: I’m a foreigner, Para is a Thai, adopted by an American mother, who grew up in America with dual citizenship, and then returned to live in Thailand as an adult, and Oat who is a native Thai.

Oat was saying that he hates how foreigners get paid more than Thais, and he expressed some concerns at foreigners stealing Thai jobs. Para and I explained that foreigners aren’t allowed to do almost all jobs in Thailand — those are reserved for Thais. Para, who is an executive, tried to explain the point of view of bringing in foreign talent to help develop the Thai economy and help Thai companies compete. How can you get that talent unless you give them a good salary? And we get that expertise by our education in foreign countries, many times with huge students loans to pay off — how can we pay off those loans with 300$/month salaries?

But I told Oat that I think Thais have to take some responsability too for this situation: in Thailand, they really overvalue foreigners, foreign things, imported goods, etc. I sometimes feel like Thais have no self-esteem about themselves because they always think foreign things are better than their own culture!

For example, pretty much any trashy loser, as long as he is white, can come here and teach English, someone who NO ONE would ever let near children at home. Thai schools will pay a polite, neatly-dressed Philipino woman who takes the job seriously half the salary they will give to to 40-year old alcoholic who dates his 16 year old students. Whose fault is that?

Similarly, while I’ll happily buy some bok choy or whatever at the local market, many Thais in my neighborhood will buy imported fruits and vegetables shrink-wrapped at Villa Market, for 3-4 times the price, and MUCH WORSE quality.

I wonder how a Thai woman would feel if I declared to her that the dream of my life is to marry that alcoholic tuk-tuk driver over there with the dark skin and two girlfriends already? That’s how I feel when Thai women point out Western guys to me that they like.

So I wish Thai people could realize that there are good foreigners and bad foreigners, and good things about foreign culture and bad things about foreign culture — you know, just like Thais in Thailand.

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A blog about culture and technology in South-East Asia.

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