There are two very different and distinct types of ex pat I’ve spent time with over the last couple of months
The rich set. The bankers, execs and their glamorous wives I met in Malaysia.
A community involving ostentatious wealth , big cars, big sunglasses, expensive nightclubs and parties.
More of them on another day.
But it’s the other kind that fascinate me. The kind of Runyonesque characters that could fill a book entitled Lost and Found
But mostly. Lost
Burned out, disillusioned, bitter and living out what’s left of their lives passing judgement from the pulpit of a bar stool on a home country they no longer understand.
British men of a certain age. Mine actually. Staring into the mid distance and stroking a grey stubbled chin while a bored Thai girlfriend sits alongside them.
Drinking themselves into oblivion at 11am.
Usually in a bar that – for all their declared hatred of a mother country which destroyed their dreams and broke their spirit- is a replica of an idealised English pub.
They’ll tell you with a warning glint in their eye that the UK is finished. That they are living the dream. Then admit in the next breath that they have to go back to England for a scan on their wrecked liver because they don’t trust the hospitals here.
And that the Thai girlfriend or wife really loves them …despite the age difference
I heard about Ting Tong Tony in another faraway place.
A lottery winner back home he drank away his winnings – and his life – in a place where many tattooed Brits wash up.
Running bars like Tony. Running them but not owning them because I’m told it’s difficult for foreigners to own businesses here.
More than one ex pat has come to grief putting everything in his Thai wife’s name…
Tony died broke in a local hospital. His wife reduced to going from bar to bar asking for handouts from other ex pats to pay the medical bills.
Lets be honest here. It’s 2pm and I’m writing this in a bar in a northern Thai city.
I’m no saint.
And I can see exactly how and why some people end up this way.
I look across the bar and into a mirror that reflects a sunburned face showing the effects of too much Chang beer
But let me tell you about Ken. For so I shall call him
A former manager with a well known retail chain back home, Ken was made redundant and for six years has lived in a single room in a budget hotel with his Thai wife.
He was given 3 weeks to live after his liver packed up. The legacy of a life of hard drinking. Not helped by cheap booze here.
I don’t judge him for that. His father knocked him about and almost killed his mother. Ken left home at 14 to live on the streets. Worked as a bouncer for a while.
But he can’t afford to live in the UK. And even if he could, he wouldn’t.
“Too bloody cold, too expensive and too many bloody foreigner,” he says
Once more I point out that HE is an immigrant. A foreigner. A farang .
“Yeah but I’m not a drain on the state I can support myself”
Thing about Ken is that he shows glimpses of self awareness.
(I break off to note that a European ex pat is pissed and haranguing a Thai lady trying to make a few baht by selling flowers in the bar)
“Fucking idiot, I tell you every day I want no fucking flowers,”
I’m tempted to tell him that we all look the same to them ..
The woman smiles and backs out of the bar
Back to Ken. He dislikes other ex pats and their lifestyles.
They all run bars and have impossibly young local girlfriends
“They are all too ugly or stupid to get girlfriends back gone,” he says
There’s a bar here called Good Times
Ken believes that’s irony of the highest kind.
“They are all in there from the morning getting pissed and then they start arguing and fighting”
But he loves it here. The climate. The prices. He may even buy a place one day.
And there is romance in his soul.
He also loves the rain
“The rainy season is beautiful mate,” he tells me
“You can stand in the rain it’s so warm and everything smells so fresh and beautiful afterwards.”
I suspect Ken is looking for a fresh and beautiful life here.
But he and I both know he’s not going to find it.