I'm An Expat, Get Me Out Of Here
The Phuket Gazette.
Recently, I've spent some time reading the often rash letters sent to the editorial staff of the Gazette. The opinions seem to range from the hilarious to the slightly off center, from the informed to bordering on the fringe of lunacy. It doesn't just end at the Gazette. On many of Phuket's news websites and blogs, there seems to be an unusual amount of Phuket bashing taking place.
At times it reaches such a frantic state, I have to wonder if the people who wrote them see themselves as crusaders of the truth, determined to fight their corner until the bitter end – something akin to gladiators doing battle in a Roman coliseum. Whether it's corruption, over development, garbage, taxis, tuk-tuks, thieves, motorbikes, noise, jet-skis, local people, expats, tourists, touts, ladyboys, banks, shopping malls, dogs, cats, water buffalo or another hundred things, there appears to be a group of people who live here, who, for one reason or another, just don't like the place and nothing anyone can say or do will change that.
In days gone by, the expat population often comprised career civil servants, traders, adventurers, people on the run from the law and so-called 'remittance men' – misfits who were given money by their families back home to stay away and not cause them further embarrassment (there still are a few of these around). Nowadays, cheap airfares and a pretty reasonable cost of living have brought the dream of moving to an exotic country within reach for a growing number of the population, but for many this dream, for some reason or another, becomes a nightmare.
The loudest rumblings of discontent are heard in May every year – traditionally the lowest period for tourists. Head to almost any bar on the island during this period and you will hear the pessimistic murmurs from those who proclaim the imminent death of Phuket. More often than not, these utterances center around how hundreds of the expat population have fled (where they went we aren't sure and that, all too often, is never explained), how tourism and all businesses here are failed to doom, and that it's the end of the world as we know it for the slightly more melodramatic among them.
While the end of days in the book of Revelations could be relied on to strike terror in the hardiest of souls in days of yore, these current, localized forecasts of doom wash over most people. This is largely because as we head into another high season, Phuket is back on track and as good as it ever was. Perhaps the extra-sensory radar belonging to the prophets of doom are on the blink.
I would never argue that Phuket is perfect, although it would be easy to put on some rose-tined glasses and ignore all that's wrong with the island, but what I really can't fathom out is why people stay here if they are that unhappy here – why not go to their real or imagined 'happy place'? Perhaps come next rainy season, one of those Vietnam cargo planes used towards the end of 'nam could be brought in to transport out unhappy expats. The key question for the pilot, however, is where to next?
Reading the seemingly endless complaints, one of the ever present bugbears is corruption. While Thailand certainly has issues with corruption that need addressing, it's not as though it doesn't take place elsewhere.Take, for instance, the whereabouts of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, Peruvian President Alberto Fumitory and Taiwan's President Chen Shiu-bian who all looted the coffers before doing a runner and more recently we've had Flavio Briatore's Formula 1 cheating scandal.
No doubt another series of complaints, screams and yells will be forthcoming at the end of this coming high season, followed by the final declaration, “Well, that's it for me. I'm leaving and never coming back”. That's fine as long as you find somewhere better; somewhere that makes you happier and stops you from denouncing the place so many people love.
Phuket isn't everyone's cup of tea. Places change, people change, giving us something new in our lives, but after a tough year, living in the moment and enjoying the time we have on the island might not be such a bad idea. As Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young wrote so prophetically, “If you can't be with the one you love, then love the one you're with”.