Last year, I wrote a piece for Sweet3Mango about how, as an aging expat bachelor in Thailand, I’ve lost all desire and need to be nice to people. When I finally admitted it to myself, it was as if a ton of bricks were lifted from my shoulders, and I could stand up and breathe freely for…possibly the first time ever. Here’s that post, as it was originally published:
“I think the British, for the most part, believe they always have to be. Canadians actually enjoy it, even when they’re being duplicitous pricks. Aussies take pride in eschewing it. As an American it was something I always hated and longed to be free of. I’m speaking here about the convention of politeness.
All my young life, I was constrained by the stranglehold of being nice. My religious upbringing instilled in me the golden rule and a staunch belief in the benefits of patience and kindness—especially toward strangers. My Baby Boomer parents were careful to teach me proper manners and courtesy. In the 80s, people who were impolite were considered uncouth, low, stupid, and despicable. Being intelligent meant being calm, courteous, and considerate.
Today in the United States, half the country is impolite. The turbulent political climate along with decades of dumbing down the population have resulted in people behaving horribly toward anyone they disagree with. I’m not surprised. And given that the rest of the planet is headed in the same direction, it’s only a matter of time before the whole world descends into barbarism. One reason why I find this less-shocking than most media pundits today is because, as a free and independent thinker and aging pedant, I abandoned civility years ago. What else can a smart person do these days but turn his back on the unwashed masses? If you can’t beat ‘em, reject ‘em. Though having said that, I should point out that I don’t behave inappropriately. I don’t punch people on the street or anything like that. I’m just not nice to people anymore.
I finally threw off the chains of politeness at age 40. I’d been living in Thailand for a few years when I reached my breaking point. Three decades in the hellscape of America didn’t do it. Teaching knuckle draggers in Essex didn’t do it. Traveling to 25 countries on 4 continents didn’t do it. The straw that broke the back of my manners was my experience working for a fake NGO in Krabi.
I stayed with that band of lowlifes for 2 years, purely out of loyalty (OK, maybe some of it was laziness), even when I learned they were fleecing their clients and raking in millions off the scam (they’re a global scam). Other employees came and went, but I stayed. Then when I finally had the gumption to move on, I put in my notice, and a week before my last day, they fired me so they could hold on to my contract bonus. Since their home office was based in the States, I sued them for wrongful termination and won. That was the moment I realized that 1—nice guys finish last, and 2—you don’t have to be nice to assholes. It was like I’d been in a cave of ignorance my entire life, and suddenly found my way into the sunlight. That was when I made a promise to myself. I had put up with dickheads for decades, but those days were over. Suffering fools was for fools.
It’s ironic that someone would abandon the principles of politeness after relocating to Thailand, where civility is a fairly important aspect of the culture. And to be clear, I’m still polite to Thais. My freedom from decorum is restricted to my interactions with other foreigners. So I guess it’s not that ironic, considering the high percentage of farang in this country who are nothing but a waste of good oxygen. They make it easy to be impolite. And as I’ve grown more accustomed to Thais and their gentle, kind, humble demeanors I’ve become increasingly intolerant of anyone who displays less-appealing attributes. Especially arrogance. The most common combination I find in people is the gasoline-and-fire blend of stupidity and arrogance. Stuparrogance (copyright BKK7) is the number one cause of my curmudgeonery. I can’t stand it, even a little. And foreigners have it in spades.
My coworkers don’t know what to make of me. I’m not rude or insolent in conversation—I merely don’t converse. I smile and nod in the hallways (most of the time). I do my job well. But I don’t go out with the gang after work, and I never initiate contact or pleasantries. I avoid social events. People have stopped inviting me places because they’re tired of hearing “FUCK no!” but still can’t make up their minds whether or not I’m a dick. On the streets of Bangkok, I’m the same. Expat loners who try to make a friend of me in bars find it a fruitless endeavor. When tourists ask me for directions, I pretend to not speak English. When I’m not at work, I only speak Thai. In fact, I’ve almost trained my eyes not to see other foreigners. If I could, I’d Sunshine-of-the-Spotless-Mind them right out of my conscious. This is how I go about my daily life, and I’m happy to say it is a blissful one.
Liberation from the burden of courtesy is a delight. I strongly recommend it to anyone who is sick and tired of enduring intolerable people. Guess what? You don’t have to. If that’s as shocking to you as it was to me when I first figured it out, congratulations you’ve been too nice all this time. Stop. Stop it right now. You owe it to yourself to taste the sweet, sweet relief of a life devoid of annoying people. It’s also really refreshing to just be honest. A coworker of mine was worrying the other day about which lie-slash-excuse he could use to get out of an invite to a stag party. I laughed to myself at the absurdity of the situation. If only he knew how good it feels to say “Nope! Not doing that. Why? Cuz I don’t wanna.” Done and dusted. In the end, he wound up going. Doing something for someone else’s benefit that he didn’t actually want to do. Noooooo, thank you.
And for anyone thinking, “Gosh, Seven must be one lonely dude,” don’t cry for me, Argentina. I spend my idle time in the company of young women in short-shorts and bikini tops. It can get rough, I’m not going to lie, sometimes there are too many vajays and boobs for my two hands to grab, but someone’s got to do it. And it beats listening to people’s inane stories about cheese or backpacking (two subjects that, if another foreigner tries to broach with me again, I might get violent). So the next time you find yourself stuck on a double date, listening to your girlfriend’s friend’s idiot boyfriend go on and on about how amazing Costa Rica is, and how he “really gets” the plight of poor people in 3rd World countries “like Thailand,” remember you have another option. And if you’re ever onPong and you see a guy wearing a t-shirt that says SHUT THE FUCK UP on the front, you don’t have to wonder—it’s me.”
Looking back now, I can’t say my feelings have changed. If anything, I’ve reaped the benefits of a life less-cordial. My days are fuller, freer, and virtually doucheless. And I’ll never go back to being nice. There’s nothing to gain and too much to be annoyed by. As Morrissey famously said, “In my life, why do I smile at people who I’d much rather kick in the eye?” Amen to that. So cheers to everyone who sees my scowl and steers clear, leaving me blessedly free to pass the time on my own terms in this, the greatest country in the world–Thailand.