Tag Archives: bragging

17. The Feeling of Superiority While on Vacation

How many falang had this exact conversation during their last vacation?

  • Wrong kind of falang: “Did you just see that?  Six people with some chickens just drove by on a motorbike!  This place is crazy?”
  • Expat falang: “Yeah I saw someone carrying pigs once.”
  • Wrong kind of falang: “No way! [awkward pause] So…where are you from?”
  • Expat falang: “Well, I’m from [insert your country of origin here]…but I live in Laos.”
  • Wrong kind of falang: “What!? You live there?  For how long?”
  • Expat falang: “[insert any length of time greater than one month]”
  • Wrong kind of falang: [regardless of actual length of time] “Wow that’s so long!  Wow!  So you must like it there, huh?”

Of course, falang relish in their own private moments of superiority while on vacation, laughing at the wrong kind of falang for their fear of fresh produce and habit of dropping stray 20 baht notes from their money belts. But if falang are going to be forced to talk to wide-eyed tourists then they certainly expect to get something out of the deal. There is no easier time to brag (with less of a chance of someone one-upping you) than on vacation.

Whenever they are engaged in conversation with travelers on the road expat falang get filled with butterflies inside, in anticipation of the inevitable small talk question “Where are you from?”. If studying abroad in a foreign country means essentially having lived there, then working in a foreign country must give you the right to say that you’re essentially from Laos. It’s something all falang aspire to: having a nationality more interesting than their own (without actually holding a passport that’s difficult to travel on). After all, a conversation that goes something along the lines of “You’re from Canada? Oh, me too” just doesn’t have the same zing.

Perhaps even better than the thrill that comes from answering the question “Where are you from?” is getting asked the ultimate expat falang small talk vacation question: “Where were you traveling before this?” Relish in this moment falang, you won’t get another one until the next vacation (or the next time you wind up at Bor Pen Nyang).

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6. Cultivating Facebook

typical falang status

In addition to being a developing country, the fact that Laos is small, landlocked, and Communist, gives it a very high exotic and obscure coolness ranking. Thus, falang believe that basically every aspect of their daily lives is fascinating and unique.  Falang in Laos thrive off of the jealousy of friends from home, which allows them to bravely endure daily trials and tribulations–like when the mani-pedi place downtown is too busy on a Sunday, or the internet goes out at Joma–in hopes of always having a good story.

Luckily, social media makes it easier than ever for them to share their foreign and completely one-of-a-kind escapades.  This allows for posturing with other falang abroad, eliciting shocked and envious comments from falang not adventurous enough to travel, and amassing as many “likes” as possible.

Examination of a typical falang facebook profile reveals numerous tell-tale signs of careful Expat Coolness Cultivation:

  • Profile photos engaging in extreme activities, on mountains, or with locals. (The introduction of the Cover Photo has offered falang the welcome opportunity to showcase their striking foreign panoramas.)
  • Checking themselves and their friends in to exotic locations: “__________ is at Meuang Pakse” or  “____________ is at Inle Lake, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar with 3 others”.
  • Instagram photos of sunsets, lunches, and motorbikes.
  • Complaints about the daily inconveniences of life abroad: “Ugh the internet is hardly a trickle today!” or “So much boat racing traffic I can’t go anywhere!”
  • Overexaggerated excitement about managing to find falang comforts in Laos: “OMG just found Skittles at DMart/Simuang/Phimphone, so excited!” or “The turkey sandwich is back at Joma. Makes me nostalgic for home!”
  • Appreciating the beauty of living such a meaningful and culturally-enlightened life: “The old Lao woman at the end of the street smiles and waves to me each afternoon, which always brightens a stressful day” or “I can hear tuk-tuks, birds, dogs, and a distant temple gong right now, the symphony of the city…”
  • Outright bragging: “Manicure, massage, and happy hour, not a bad life!”

It’s only polite to like your falang friend’s status about her meaningful experience sinh-shopping in the local market, and then she’ll return the favor by liking your next (and 12th) latte pic.

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4. Bragging Rights

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.
photo via: kimchimaiden.wordpress.com

photo via: kimchimaiden.wordpress.com

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.

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