The glimpse into the world of bar boys provided by some is an erroneous one.
Perhaps it is because fantasy plays such a pivotal role in many visitor/bar boy relationships that the claims about bar boys you so often hear are so fantastical. For those who have visited Thailand many times and who have indulged frequently, the myths perpetuated on the message boards and on some blogs are not a problem. They know it is often nothing more than the disgruntled and disenfranchised proving how miserable their little world really is. For newbies these often repeated tales can be problematic. Not knowing better they buy into what they have read. That can easily lead to a holiday that is not the incredible experience it could have been.
Over a hundred years ago, Rudyard Kipling wrote, “Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” His observation about the vast cultural differences between the two areas is still applicable today. Those who visit, or live in Thailand, who ignore the country’s culture or who filter everything through their own upbringing, rarely come to valid conclusions about Thais, their customs, or what motivates them. And often miss out on those things that make Thailand so unique and special. Unfortunately, those same folk often post their opinions as gospel truth when in fact they really don’t have a clue.
The lazy – and those with a predilection for dishonesty – repeat what they’ve heard or read, erroneously adding to misconceptions, often for no better reason than to appear as though they have a greater degree of knowledge than they really do. It’s a shame that type of puffery exists, but then overinflated egos being what they are, it’s not really that surprising either. It’s just too bad that there are not warnings posted on the forums alerting newbies to which posters’ info should be taken with a grain of salt. Or a similar warning on the blog of those who attempt to pass off fictitious flights of fancy as truth.
Bar boys may not all be angels, but seldom are the little devils some like to make them out to be.
Recently, there was a thread started on several of the boards, ‘The Boy Didn’t Even Say Thank You!’, that was a nicely thought out piece about why Thai culture does not provide for what is a common courtesy in the Western world. The boards being what they are, follow up comments included similar thoughts – which extended to customs surrounding the receiving of gifts – from those members who tend to be rational as well as in-tune with Thai cultural norms; ridiculous claims by Pattaya sexpats that only serve to show how narrow of a world they live in; and, what has to be one of the most unintentionally humorous posts of the year (so far).
A querulous old fart who abandoned his wife and kids to move to Pattaya to spend his golden years paying for sex with young boys said that he demanded his boy always verbally thank him and that he must make sure his mates did so too whenever the sexpat took them somewhere. That resulted, he bragged, in a group of boys lining up to say their thanks one night when he took them all out to the movies. Those heart-warming expressions of gratitude, he noted, were due to his boy’s insistence that his friends bow to the farang’s demands, and that they were offered with ‘military precision’. He felt that it was his right to put his cultural needs in the forefront and was proud of having done so while missing the fact that whether it is a thanks or a wai, it is the sincerity of the gesture that really matters. I’m sure the boys all got a good laugh over his antics too. That’s probably what they were actually thanking him for.
The same type of sexpat contributes frequently to the Walking ATM Syndrome myth too. There is little doubt that in their world bar boys really are only interested in money and view all farang as cash machines. Perpetuating that particular caricature is popular on the forums. Those who view all bar boys as paid-for sex toys share that belief. Seldom do they realize that it is their attitude that the unfortunate boys whom they’ve come into contact with are responding too. If you view your time with a bar boy as a sex for cash transaction . . . uh, just what do you expect? The follow through is that these guys are rarely happy with the boy they off. It amazes them that the boys are so often duds. Imagine that.
Stud or dud? It often has more to do with you than it does with the bar boy.
Is the money-grubbing bar boy nothing more than an urban myth? Of course not. As with most tall tales, there is some truth mixed in with a lot of fantasy. Bar boys work at gogo bars because it is a job. Not because they want to service ancient farang. They do so for the money. How much money though often depends on the farang and how he has treated the boy. When it is all about the farang and his needs, no one should be surprised that the boy’s response is to push his own needs: cash. It really isn’t that different from why back home a garbage man makes more than a school teacher. The more disgusting the job, the higher the wage. When you off a guy and treat him like a piece of meat, you shouldn’t be surprised if he treats you like a cash dispensing machine. But then telling everyone else that all bar boys are just in it for the cash is a disservice to both the boys and to those who don’t know better. That may be your experience, but more pleasant souls have a much more enjoyable time and are seldom treated as a road to financial largess.
The myth that purports bar boys all have a stable of unsuspecting farang who send them large amounts of cash on a monthly basis is almost as popular and frequently used as a warning against any farang entering into a relationship with a bar boy. From reading the boards and blogs you’d think there are rich bar boys all over Thailand living large off the ‘allowance’ a dozen poor fools from the West send to them. But if you stop and think this urban myth through, you’ll quickly realize how ridiculous this claim really is.
There is no doubt that a bar boy who spends some time with a farang may later ask for financial help when the farang has returned home. It’s worth a try, even if the success rate is a low one. That same boy may even have met several farang over the years who may, for example, send him a few bucks for his birthday or as a Christmas gift. If he is lucky and has met a farang with whom he has developed an on-going relationship, he might even hit the jackpot and receive a small monthly stipend from his friend. But lining up a half dozen or more Westerners who each send him several hundred dollars every month? It makes for a good story but in reality would be quite a feat. Bar boys don’t make close to 50,000 baht a month working in their bar. And they certainly don’t pull in that kind of money from funds being sent to them from overseas farang. Foolish ones or not.
Some would have you believe bar boys spend all of their time at internet cafes keeping close track of the seven farang who send them hundreds of dollars every month. Some people believe in Santa Claus too.
As prevalent as that tale is, you never hear it recounted in the first person. It’s always about some other guy who discovered his special friend was taking him and another six guys to the cleaners; it’s always the infamous ‘friend of a friend’ whose experiences are told about. Or the even more ridiculous claim that a bar boy – whom the teller of tall tales just met – told him about all the pitiful fools he’d been swindling. Because that, of course, would actually happen. We all known Thai bar boys love nothing more than confessing their nefarious deeds to a farang. Especially one who is a complete stranger. Anyone who attempts to pass that story off as truth is obviously genetically unsuited for the task and should instead devote his efforts toward producing the fictional fantasies his soul is more attuned to . . . sort of how a dog might concentrate on fetching a stick instead of trying to drive a car.
The guys who like to perpetuate these myths never claim to be one of the unsuspecting, though at least doing so would add some legitimacy to their fiction. Because it really is about nothing more than making bar boys look like crooks. Which I guess is supposed to make the farang appear superior. You have to wonder if they are trying to fool others, or are only fooling themselves.
The erroneous myths that the disingenuous like to keep alive play heavily on the cultural differences between those from the western world and native Thais (those tales are always about farang – guys from North America, Europe, and Australia – and never about other Asians). It’s easier to believe those who do not share your cultural upbringing are so different from you that they should never be trusted and should always be assumed to be up to no good. Rather than try to understand a different culture, it’s much easier to lump those different from you into a group and then make grand pronouncements full of sweeping generalizations. Even when doing so actually shows how much racism is in your heart.
The question may not be if you can trust him, but rather if he should trust you.
Kipling’s opening line from The Ballad of East and West is often repeated to validate the differences in culture between those from the East and West. The ending two lines of that refrain don’t get as much press, unfortunately; they paint a much different picture: “But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth, When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!” Trying to understand someone raised in a different culture than yours is a noble effort if not always a successful one. But in the end, cultural differences or not, basic human needs, attributes, and morals are the same the world over. You do not need to understand the culture of someone you’ve just met to acknowledge their worth as a fellow inhabitant of this planet. Or to understand who they are or what motivates them.
Those lines by Kipling have a bit of a karma equation to them too – easy to overlook – that provides some insight into the character of the farang who disrespect Thai culture and ignore Thai customs, or who would have you believe every Thai bar boy is a thief. He cites the resulting similarities between ‘two strong men’ of different cultures, which is about strength of character, not physical strength. Those lacking in that attribute seldom see it in others. Or if you prefer the ramblings of a syphilitic German philosopher to explain the warped minds of disgruntled farang – when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.
There are a lot of sexpats and frequent visitors to Thailand who’ve spent far too much time staring into the black hole that is their soul. It’s no wonder their perspective of others is so distorted.
Honesty is a honored characteristic everywhere in the world. It’s just a shame so many farang fail to practice it. You have to wonder about the myths bar boys believe about farang thanks to those who have misbehaved in the past. And hope they are not as faulty as some of the myths perpetuated by farang about them.
Related Posts You Might Enjoy:
The Myth That Is Tawan
Thailand’s Gay Go Go Bars and the World of Cheap Bastards
Who Said Money Can’t Buy Happiness?