Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Farang Friends

"Farang" is a Thai word that means "foreigner", specifically referring to Westerners. It's similar to the Japanese gaijin or Spanish gringo.

An interesting thing about traveling through Southeast Asia is the camraderie we feel with other Western travelers. There are very few Americans, but our peers are now the Brits, Dutch, German, and Australians also traveling through the region.

Last summer I spend two months traveling through Western Europe. It would have been interesting to meet and talk to Europeans, but since I was a tourist in countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and France, it was hard to meet people my age. Americans traveling through Europe don't have much opportunity for interaction with the locals, unless we're far away from the tourist centers, or if we have friends already in the country.

Here on the "banana pancake trail", there are Europeans everywhere. And since most Europeans learn English in school, that becomes the default language in which everyone communicates. If French tourists meet some Germans, they will have to speak to each other in English, because that is the one common language they share. It makes it easy as Americans to talk to all the European travelers, who are an interesting bunch.

Just from the first two weeks of our trip, I have a few impressions:

-There are 2 kinds of Brits: funny, witty Brits from the North, and spoiled gap-year babies from London and the South of England who are traveling on mummy and daddy's coin.
-The Dutch have the un-politically correct, insulting, and interesting way of swearing. Instead of having a few choice words to yell when something bad happens, the Dutch method of swearing invokes illnesses with varying degrees of severity. If you don't like someone, you can wish typhus upon them. The mother of all insults is to call someone a "kankerlier", which literally translates to "cancer patient". By saying it to someone, it basically means "I hope you get cancer and die a slow, painful death".
-Europeans smoke WAY more than Americans. There is also a breed of traveler called the "travel smoker", or someone who claims they've never smoked before, but they smoke while traveling. This may be an extension of the social smoker, or it may be due to the fact that smoking in Thailand is (like most other things) an inexpensive activity.

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