One of the first things I learned when I arrived in Thailand was the word ‘falang’. It is the word that Thai’s use to describe a foreigner. Now, whether this word is meant to be an insult or not, I still haven’t figured out for sure. According to some fellow travelers however, it is meant to be an insult, an impolite expression to describe people basically with white skin.
While I’m not entirely sure the exact connotation this word is supposed to carry, here is my take on it. Perhaps at one point this word was supposed to be an insult. Perhaps even today, depending on how the word is spoken (whether spat out with spite or generally inserted to refer to specific people present) it may or may not have a derogatory meaning attached. But what my opinion is overall on the issue: it just doesn’t matter.
There are a lot of words out there in the World that people of one race or origin use to describe other people who either don’t look alike or are from somewhere entirely different. And though I know that even today many of those hateful words are still used to inflict pain or rile up others, to me, allowing a word to change my attitude or way of thinking or feeling is just ridiculous.
I’ve been called a falang countless times while here. And while sometimes I could say that the way in which they said the word was rude or hateful and meant to be an insult, why bother letting it bother me? To give a negative reaction back to someone who may be trying to be hateful is to allow them to win. For me to be upset at being called a falang means that I’ve given my power over to another. I’ve allowed them to change my behavior for the negative.
This is why personally, I find no offense in the word or being called a falang. Falang simply means foreigner in my book, no matter the tone in which it’s spoken. Because let’s face it, that’s what I am! There’s no debating that. I can’t tell you the number of times traveling with others that I’ve had a discussion on ‘falang’ and what it means. And it’s even more surprising to me how many find it insulting. Again, perhaps once upon a time it had a bad meaning attached to it, but today I don’t see why people are still carrying around the idea that it does.
We are all products of our reactions. If we allow our reactions to be negative or hateful, that’s what we will continue to be and to spread. If we choose not to let words or allow ourselves to feel other people’s negativity, yet simply move forward in a positive light, then light and positivity will be all that’s spread. Simple choice to me.