Life as an expat in Laos is a constant struggle to “out-do” other expats in Laos. Though a few facebook photos in a tuk-tuk may be enough to impress armchair traveling friends at home, they are of no interest to the hordes of other falang in Laos. Anecdotes that illustrate a more adventurous or authentic lifestyle are an important currency in falang conversation. Well-integrated falang derive their bragging rights through numerous channels: “cultural encounters,” extreme travel, uncomfortable experiences, and length of time living abroad. Overheard at Sticky’s, 7PM, Friday night:
- When my Lao friend took me to his village his grandmother gave me this disgusting blood soup. I didn’t want to offend her so I just had to eat it.
- Remember when Sunset Bar was still open?
- The people in Myanmar are just so kind. You really haven’t been yet? You have to go before it gets ruined by backpackers.
- Ugh, I got so sick of the rice porridge at the Udon hospital when I was there for dengue.
If a fellow falang is telling you about the time they were bitten by a spider while conducting surveys in Phongsali Province and had to negotiate for local medical care in a combination of Khmu and Lao languages, and end their story with “it was no big deal,” then you are interacting with a truly advanced falang. Your bragging rights stories will have no effect on this person. Move on to Bor Pen Nyang Bar for better luck.