The Cultural Divide

Thai men can be tricky to figure out. Sometimes I’ll be out in a bar or a nightclub, and a gang of Thai lads will come over wanting to shake hands with the farang – other times, like at Saphan Kwai, there can be a distinctly hostile feeling in the air. To be fair, as a race we do fly uninvited to their country, loaded with unfathomable wealth, and spend our time mostly shagging their womenfolk. I know very few farangs here with male Thai friends.

I had quite a shock when I first encountered the “toilet massage” service offered in the men’s toilets of many Thai nightclubs. I walked in to take a leak, stood at the urinal letting it all out, and suddenly felt a warm damp sensation on the back of my neck. A distinctly male Thai attendant had draped a hot towel on my shoulders, and then proceeded to massage my shoulders and back. I somehow managed to finish the job off without soaking my shoes, then staggered to the sink to wash my hands – after which I was physically picked up and shaken as this giant Thai cracked every bone in my neck and spine. And then held his hand out for a tip.

Anyway, I was recently trying to explain to a Thai guy that this kind of thing doesn’t happen so much in the UK. In fact, it’s pretty unthinkable. If you attempted to massage the average British male clubber’s shoulders as he stood “shaking hands with the big fella”, he’d likely turn round and knock you out, pissing on your shoes as he did so. This poor Thai couldn’t quite comprehend why. The East/West thing (or Thailand/Farangland thing) is such a massive cultural difference, but sometimes it’s difficult to know where the culture ends and sheer sexual harassment begins.

I went for a haircut this week. I sat down in the chair, and the very male middle-aged Thai barber reached around to unfasten the top buttons of my shirt, so that he could tuck the towel and sheet in more easily. He didn’t do that straight away though – he grabbed a tuft of my chest hair first, and told me how sexy it was. Already distinctly uncomfortable, he then proceeded to tell me how astonishingly handsome I was, as he clipped and snipped away.

Once that was over with (and not a moment too soon), I paid the ฿60 and made to leave – but not before being cut off at the door and physically embraced in a bear-hug by said barber. Cultural divide, or did I just get gayed?