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).