Writing the ‘Farang’ Experience in Thailand

Whilst browsing in Asia books in Bangkok looking for a Thai cook book I came across a shelf of books dedicated to the experience of ‘farangs’. Farang is the Thai word for a foreigner of ‘Western’ descent and is in common usage among both Thai’s and Westerners living in Thailand. The word is thought to originate from Indo-Persian term ‘farangi’, which was derived from Arabic (firinjīyah). Its meaning comes from the reference to ‘Franks’, a Germanic tribe who had vast imperial power across the region in the Middle Ages. Today it is used mostly to denote ethnically White migrants in Thailand, although some use it as a generic term meaning ‘foreigner’.

At first glance the majority of books on this shelf relate to the experiences of farang men, many are about their experiences of getting to know the place, the people and forming relationships. The two standout texts are by Dr Iain Corness, a regular contributor to the Pattaya Mail and resident in Thailand for a number of years. In the book he muses on a variety of topics from motoring and immigration to medicine, spirituality and death…all in good humour though. And both books are available on Amazon!

If anyone knows of other books published on this topic please send us a link!


3 responses to “Writing the ‘Farang’ Experience in Thailand

  1. When a book gets published it often tells us more about what publishers think people want to read than anything else. So, what sorts of thing are these books about? And do they sell well? Do they reinforce or challenge stereotypes? Books about moving to Spain often leave me frustrated because they are so romantic and portray the Spanish as some sort of quaint relics from a nostalgic past.

    • Hi Karen, I think some are intended as entertaining reading and some as guides for how to live somehere (and I’m sure plenty are a mix of the two). Published books (and many blogs I’m sure) are usually exaggerated to make them more interesting so don’t give a true picture of life in that country (eg Bill Bryson).
      I found that as a woman moving to North East Thailand (Isaan) I had a blank canvas in front of me – there were no books or guides or blogs or websites to tell me what it would be like. So I just took aspects from similar ‘stories’ ie men living in Isaan, women living in Bangkok, Thai women in Isaan, as a starting point then the rest I had to fill in myself. I guess even when many people have already done what you are doing and there are lots of guides, you still have to make it your own – they are just a starting point.

  2. Great questions Karen, I find myself asking the same and unfortunately can’t answer them yet as am waiting for the book to arrive. From browsing, there seemed to be quite a range of experiences recorded – many from Westerners settling in Thailand, often with Thai families, others were more about the journey of self-discovery alongside getting to know Thailand and it’s culture. Other books on the shelf are more of a niche market, like the one in the top left hand corner – ‘Muay Thai Fighter: A Farang’s journey to become a Thai Boxer’ by Paul Garrigan. As for stereotypes, I’ll keep you posted.

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