Does Patong Attract the Worst Thais?
I know a few ex-pat residents in Phuket who have a very negative view of Thai people. In fact, I would go as far as to say their anti-Thai rants border on racism. These few ex-pats also do that horrible thing of saying all Thais are the same. Whatever bad fault they see in one Thai, they will happily project on to every other member of the population. It is them and us, they say.
Now I am not going to get all rose-tinted about Thailand. We all know there are good people and bad people, just the same as anywhere else. However, why is it that my experiences of Thai people are so different to theirs? They seem to encounter rudeness, arrogance and cheating in their every dealing with Thai people. Yet when I meet Thai people, I generally find them charming and pleasant. Yes, there are certainly exceptions, but I find the vast majority of Thais to be good people.
So what can possibly explain these contrasting experiences? Well one thing that comes to mind is that these cynical, miserable ex-pats generally live or spend a lot of time in Patong. I have to say that the Thais in Patong do seem to be worse than average. The town seems to bring out the worst of the Thais. It is all about squeezing money from the foreign visitors. Patong is where the scam masters ply their trade. Tailors and other touts aggressively hassle tourists into buying their service. Annoying timeshare touts try to fool tourists into their sales room. The tuk-tuk drivers are surly and uncompromising. The stallholders generally quote an opening price of at least quadruple the going rate.
Yes, I have to say that I think there is little doubt that Patong brings out the worst in Thais and attracts the worst Thais. There is a lot of money to be made in Patong and unfortunately, money often brings out the worst in people.
I live outside of Patong and I do think that the Thai people I meet outside of Patong are generally nicer than the ones I meet in Patong. Yet still my experiences in Patong are not that bad. They are certainly not bad enough to justify disliking all Thai people.
I tend to avoid the tuk-tuks but on the few occasions I have to use them, I have always managed to negotiate the fare without any big drama. If you just shake your head at the touts, they move on to the next person. The tailors can be more persistent but then most of them are not Thai. The timeshare companies and many of their employees are not Thai.
Despite the large number of scam masters working in Patong, you still meet many more nice Thais. There are many very nice Thai people working in the bars, restaurants, shops and other establishments in Patong.
So while I think yes, Patong does tend to attract the worst Thais, I really do not see that it is bad enough to justify this blanket negative view of Thai people. I think there is something else at work here. When it comes down to it, it is the people with the negative attitude who have the problem. The thing is you tend to get back what you give.
One of these guys recently told me he likes to project a "don't mess with me" attitude. He goes around with a scowl on his face. He is gruff and short with Thai people. This you see, stops him from being a target. They know he is someone with whom they should not mess. He assures me it is a policy that serves him well.
Apparently, nice guys might as well have 'target' tattooed on their forehead. If you make the mistake of being nice to Thai people, they will only see it as a sign of weakness and take advantage of you.
So there you have it. An unpleasant attitude is the best way to deal with Thai people. There is one big flaw with this guy's argument. You see despite all his "don't mess with me" attitude, he is still the one who constantly has bad experiences with Thai people. He is constantly in disputes with them. He has been scammed, overcharged and pick pocketed. He often receives poor and surly service. He is always telling stories about it.
It is not a coincidence. It is obvious really. It would be the same anywhere in the world. If you are unpleasant to people, they will respond badly. I would be exactly the same in my own country. I would always respond better to a customer who is pleasant and polite than to one who was surly and unpleasant. This is just human nature and Thais are the same.
The way to get the best from your dealings with Thai people is the same as with anyone else. You should be polite, friendly and reasonable. That does not mean you need to be a soft touch. There are Thai people who will try to take advantage of you. It is not all of them, not even most of them, but definitely some of them. You do not need a "don't mess with me" attitude to deal with them. You just need to show good judgment. If someone asks to borrow money, just say no. You don't have to turn it into a drama or make excuses. Just say you don't like lending money.
I find myself impressed with the quality of service I receive in Thailand so much more often than I am disappointed. There are times when service staff are disinterested or inept but there are stupid people everywhere and you have to remember they are probably earning around 6,000-baht a month. At that salary, it is more surprising that so many service staff are attentive, charming and helpful. It will always help if you approach them in a friendly and polite manner.
And yes, I do think Patong attracts some of the worst Thais but even in Patong, there are still plenty of nice Thai people.