Chiang Mai Thai

Ever wanted to learn Thai, in Chiang Mai? I did just that from November 2010, returning home in October 2011. If you don't want a headache, start HERE, it will explain the preceding posts. I'm Snap, Stray's other half. COOEE is our (other) travel blog.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Farang, falang - let me count the ways.

Recently a friend of ours jokingly referred to his beer as น้ำฝรั่ง nám fà~ràng, meaning liquid that ‘we’ Caucasians like...but it actually translates to guava juice. Nám (water/liquid/juice) + fà~ràng (guava or, westerner...hardly think they’ve squeezed and bottled us
You know, when you come from a society that is politically correct to the point of absurdity, referring to someone by their race...all the time...everyday...many times a day, would be considered rude, if not racist.

But here, it’s just how it is. It doesn’t intend to cause offence, unless of course it’s accompanied by other farang 'no good!' I think Stray’s reconsidering that he overheard and responded (in Thai) to a negative comment out on the street. Perhaps the guy was just asking his mate for chewing gum????

I think I mentioned previously, the paranoia I felt in a fruit and veggie department, when being shadowed by an elderly lady who kept repeating falang, falang, falang...that was before I knew the word for potato ;)

However, I wish I knew more Thai six months ago when browsing through a small trendy shop with my Mum (only her and I in the store), and the word ‘falang’ rang out at least a dozen times in our five minute visit. Even if I don’t understand all that’s being said, NOW, I could still scare the bejeebers out of the sales girls with my pidgin that evil?

Bless the lovely loo attendant at Chiang Rai's White Temple, who ushered me into a ห้องน้ำฝรั่ง (falang toilet)...just joshing, I think I made that word up...but she did.

This post was actually partly inspired by MJKlein , who commented on my last post: “once in Lao, we saw some bread being delivered to a restaurant. the writing on the box said "baguette farang" lol!”

That would be ขนมปังฝรั่งเศส (kà-nŏm bpang fà-ràng sàyt) – French bread!

Farang, falang...let me count the ways. So, far I have 14 including the two above and not including plain old references to French, France or Western/ers whatever!

ฝรั่ง fà~ràng: guava (not the guava as I know it), with the fruit classifier of ผล or ลูก, for small round thingys

ฝรั่ง fà~ràng: spelt the same way, except with the classifier of khon/คน, for us white folk.

ฝรั่งเศส fà~ràng-sàyt: for French people or France.

มันฝรั่ง man-fà~ràng: (Irish? OK, I admit they have the monopoly on them) potatoes...coz, farang love em’.

มันฝรั่งแผ่นทอดกรอบ man-fà~ràng-pàen-tâwt-gràwp: potato crisps.

มันฝรั่งทอด man-fà~ràng-tâwt: hot (fried) potato chips

หมากฝรั่ง màhk-fà~ràng: chewing gum.หมาก = betel nut, which is chewed...and farang like chewing gum.

หน่อไม้ฝรั่ง nàw-máai-fà~ràng: asparagus. A plant shoot + stick + farang...not sure, did they come from France?

ระนาดฝรั่ง rá~nâht-fà~ràng: Thai xylophone + farang = not a Thai xylophone ;)

หมากรุกฝรั่ง màhk-róok-fà~ràng: chess is obviously a white man’s game?

ผักชีฝรั่ง pàk-chee-fà~ràng: parsley. Cilantro/coriander + farang.

แตรฝรั่ง dtrae fà-ràng: a clarion or trumpet of the farang kind.

บุ้งฝรั่ง bûng fà-ràng: Western Caterpillar or morning glory, depending on your resources, oi!

And, last of all, my personal favourite ดีเกลือฝรั่ง dee gleua fà-ràng: magnesium sulphate – Epsom salts + farang.

Whether the word originated from the mispronunciation of ‘France’ (or adapted in reverse), ‘Franks’ (the Crusaders), or the Persian word ‘farangg’, ‘firangi’ from North India or ‘parangiar’ in Tamil, the Khmer version ‘barang’, the Malay word ‘ferenggi’, or the Arabic ‘firinjah’...or a mish mash of all the fore mentioned, is neither here nor there, and we’ll never know. It does however, make for an interesting and on the odd occasion, a mildly irritating subject.

How many farang/falang do you know?

PS. Guess what we bought this afternoon?

*Post edit:

มะกอก ฝรั่ง (makok farang) “A western-style olive”, as opposed to the larger Thai ‘makok’
ตะขบ ฝรั่ง (takhop farang), kind of flowering plant
ประทัด ฝรั่ง (prathad farang) “a shrub or small tree” native to Brazil.
แพงพวย ฝรั่ง (phaengphuai farang) “The Water Primrose”, a herbaceous perennial plant native to the Americas and found on the margins of lakes and ponds.

Farang count: 18


See what else we're up to at Cooee!


  1. @Snap

    i seems to always hear that word when Thai people walk by me in Taiwan. dunno why though.

  2. @MJ Klein I'm sure I have no idea either ;)

  3. Snap, Great post! Thai kids are always yelling FARANG! FARANG! whenever I appear at a country wat. I want to respond in kind but... I'm reluctant to insult them. Perhaps that's the difference between Thais and... farang? Different mindset... totally.

    Btw: Rikker has quite an informative post about farang on WLT.

  4. @Catherine Our teacher used to say just reply 'khon Thai, khon Thai'...but she was joking ofcourse and I never would unless I thought I was being insulted...maybe, would depend if there were a dark alley involved.

    I'll add Rikker's post link and some of the farangs I missed. Ta!

  5. Yes, but khon Thai isn't as annoying as FARANG! FARANG! following me everywhere :-D

    Oh! Having you link to Rikker's post was not my intention. I didn't sleep well last night so my brain won't kick in... mentioning it was my Thai contribution. Lame. I know.

  6. @Catherine I know you didn't intend for me to link...but the more the merrier. In hind sight if I'd known about Rikker's post, I probably wouldn't have done my own. However, in the long run, it's all a learning curve :)


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