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Why I Never Married a Thai
« on: April 06, 2014, 06:33:08 AM »
Sun 6 Apr 2014, 9:28 am  :encouragement:

Hi ForumMates!

If you have been around Thailand for a while, unless you have been hiding under a rock or something, you are aware that Stickman and his blog "Stickman's Guide to Bangkok"http://www.stickmanbangkok.com/ are a Thailand institution.  Stickman has been "blogging" about Thailand long before there were actual blogs, and his collected writings represent an important contribution to cross-cultural communications and understanding.

From his website here is an article by "Arthur" should should be required reading for any newbies (and any "oldbies" as well) to Thailand. I am making this post "sticky" so that it is always on top.  It is quite long and text-heavy for a forum post, but well worth the time to read and digest . . . and please share your experience and tell us what you think.  ~Rex

Frim Stickman's guide to Bangkok Readers' Submissions

Why I Never Married A Thai
By Arthur


Some of you (very) long-time readers of this site may remember that a few years ago Stick provided a section on his website that listed forthcoming articles. One of these was entitled “Why I Wouldn’t Marry a Thai,” or something similar. I awaited this article of his for some time, but realized after his marriage that it would not likely ever be published. As a result of this omission, I decided to discuss the reasons why I didn’t marry a Thai. Please note that these are my observations, I don’t expect you to necessarily have had similar experiences or opinions.

 Because this is a rather long submission, the links below will let you jump to the 5 issues that highlight the main differences between Thai and Western culture and which undermined the relationships with my Thai girlfriends.

 • Honesty-Integrity

 • Intellectualism-Style v. Substance

 • Value of a husband

 • Accommodation, Compromise, Gratitude

 • Sex

 Some background about myself may help provide context to this submission. I first arrived in Thailand as a foreign exchange student, in the 1970s. I can’t remember all the reasons why I decided on Thailand (Bangkok region) as a place for a year of high school, but some factors were that it seemed to be as out-of-the-way place as you could find in the world, that no one I knew was really familiar with the country (although my father had been stationed nearby during the Vietnam War), and that I like to explore. I had almost no knowledge of the country back then and I certainly didn’t know anything about the Vietnam Era R&R thing that was going on and for which the country would become infamous.

 I later taught English in the country for a time, and also returned to study at one of the (supposedly) top universities in the country, again living with a middle-class Bangkok family. Since then, I’ve also worked at several jobs in the country, including international organizations and Thai employers (government and non-governmental). In my current work I now visit the country about once a year (sometimes residing for several months) and at one time wished that I could find acceptable long-term employment there, but not with a Thai employer (Stick has pointed out several of these frustrations in his columns). Over the years, I’ve worked closely with about 80 Thai colleagues, and have had @20+ Thai acquaintances that I would get together with for social occasions. Today, I keep in regular contact with about eight Thais and count three of them as close friends (not including spouses and kids).

 The total amount of time I’ve lived in Thailand is about 10 years and the pattern of trips I’ve made has been an advantage as I’ve been able to better appreciate the many changes in the country over the past 30+ years. My time away from Thailand has also provided the advantage that I haven’t become so enamored or bored with the place that I either wish to live there permanently or never wish to return. I think this option has provided a perspective on the country that has allowed me to appreciate it more, while at the same time moderating the incredible emotions and frustrations that everyone I know who has ever lived in the country for a stint of more than one year (sometimes far less), has reached. Also remember that Thailand has changed quite a bit since I first arrived, especially the liberalization of attitudes about dating, relationships, and getting to know members of the opposite sex. Today it is MUCH easier to meet and date Thai women, so if today’s attitude about dating were present in the late 70s & early 80s, perhaps I would have married a Thai, on the other hand, even though I would have met many more women or at least gotten to know them better, the issues I discuss below could have easily resulted in the same situation as today.

 As you read the remainder of my statement, remember that I like Thailand and the people; I also don’t buy into the idea that Thai men are no good, that they are poor husbands, or that they don’t care about their wives and families. The vast majority of married Thai men I’ve known care deeply about their wives and families, and would never allow themselves to be distracted by a female to the detriment of their family, unlike many, many Westerners. Also note that my familiarity with the country is NOT based on the nightlife of the country. I had lived in the country for over three years before I ever had a drink at a bar in a farang nightlife area, and while I’ve met many Thai women over the years, before 1988 I had talked to less than 5 women who to my knowledge had ever worked in the sex industry. My introduction to Thailand then is definitely not from a tourist or sex enthusiast perspective.

 I’ve met dozens of regular Thai women over the years and I’ve had a ‘handful’ of Thai girlfriends; it was one or more of the five factors below that kept appearing when I would become serious about a long-term relationship which would ultimately result in our break up. While most of these factors are not exclusive to Thai-farang relationships, I believe that they are more common to Thai-non-Thai (especially farang) relationships and so my thoughts may provide some degree of insight about the different ways that our two cultures see the world. The order in which these factors are listed is based on the size of the problem they became in my relationships, but none of them singularly resulted in the demise of the relationship.

 Note that I am not saying that the practices noted below are not found in western culture, they are, but they are far more prevalent in Thai society and to a degree that I have found to be incompatible with my interests in a spouse.

 1) Honesty-Integrity

 Above all else, I appreciate honesty and integrity in my close friends and my spouse. As most of you know, these traits are hard to find in LOS, perhaps because they are also related to the important issue of face and the significance of duplicity common in Thai society. While there is also plenty of dishonesty and lack of integrity in my own culture, what I am discussing here is the way in which these actions are manifested in Thailand and the rationalization and inability to accept truth when it conflicts with other important issues such as face. This is the most difficult portion of the paper to write, as there are so many examples I could discuss and so many ways in which the Thai can be seen by farang as dishonest. I don’t think that there are many more divergent ways of distinguishing among Thai and farang than how we view honesty. There are few Thais in whom I can place my trust or rely on.

 Part of the problem is that Thais try and accommodate every one with whom they come in contact and perhaps because they are always in search of their own identity, they try hard to be all things to all people. This is very different from the NW European culture that I grew up in, which suggests that compromising your integrity for the sake of others is tantamount to making a pact with the devil, and there are clear firm lines of demarcation between right and wrong and honest and dishonest behavior.

 In spite of its Buddhist basis that alludes a strong moral ethic, in practice Thai culture has been very lenient in condemning actions that may seem incongruous with the religion. Right and wrong is certainly a matter of interpretation and there are few easy hard-and-fast rules that apply. Everything is transient and everything is flexible. More appropriate to this section, however, is that the Thai try very hard to be all things to all people. They befriend everyone with the goal that they can play one group off against the other as the need arises. WWII is a good example, while officially at war with the allied powers, the Thai ambassador to the US declined to deliver the formal declaration of war and instead helped to support the Thai anti-Japanese effort to fight the Japanese. In other words, the Thai want it both ways, they choose to play both sides of the game because they want to be on the winning side. The morals or ethics of the situation are really irrelevant because it is more important to be on the winning side. Read up on what happened after WWII, what did the Thai do? This is why the Nana Hotel is always full. Never place your trust or faith in the individual to come through, but rather befriend all and you maximize your chances.

 One of the things that really annoys me about Thai ‘friends’ is that they are only your friends when things are going well, while in bad times, they will desert you for the other side. Are these friends? Thai ‘friends’ often ask me to do some sort of favor inferring that I am the only one whom they have taken into their confidence or who they have asked. Many years of experience with these situations has taught me that it is never the case that I have been the only one they ask the favor of. When a Thai asks a favor of you, it is nothing special; basically they have asked several people hoping that one of them will come through. To many Westerners this seems like a breach of trust as our culture teaches us not to be greedy when asking favors and if we do ask we must really be in need. In addition, if we say yes, then our reputation is on the line. For me, this situation combines the importance of trust-integrity with reliability, which is important among friends and paramount in a spouse; failing to follow through on this type of agreement signifies unreliability and lack of trust. Unfortunately, it does not have the same connotation in Thai, who for a variety of reasons will commonly breech this type of agreement. To me, this breech is another form of unscrupulous behavior by a duplicitous individual, but that is not how most Thais will view the situation. They have an impressive ability to rationalize actions that seem to Westerners to be in contradiction with their cultural - ethical system.

 Thais are particularly good at using their skills to mislead or deceive others, especially us farang; and often times we are either too ignorant, too blind, too stupid to see what is happening, or just simply in denial. I think one of the major concerns any Westerner should have when marrying a Thai is to determine why she is marrying you, love, economic gain, no other options, etc. There is no way to tell what her motives truly are before marriage; in fact I would go so far as to say that she probably has many motives for marrying you, and is just waiting to see which opportunities present themselves. This statement shouldn’t be seen as necessarily something negative, as all women probably have many reasons for marrying a particular person, but given the basic view of honesty in Thai society, the lack of remorse, and the exceptional ability to rationalize unscrupulous acts, the potential for dishonesty, manipulation, and deceit is very high.

 The Thai seem to think that they will never be caught in a lie and even if they do they believe that they can either sweet talk their way out of the situation or their countrymen will take note of the lie but try gloss over the situation, once they both realize that the lie has been caught, in order to help the perpetrator from losing face. Because this type of recognition is not present when dealing with a farang, or it is not a concern, the Thai are very willing to take their chances to see if you, a farang, can catch them. If you don’t catch them in the deceit, then no harm done! If you do think you have caught them, rather than fess (face) up to the indiscretion, they will do all in their power to find a way out of it, by fabricating an even bigger lie. Thais have, or pay little attention to the ethics of these situations as we do in the West, which is tiresome for me as I dislike dealing with individuals who are such blatant liars, not just from my perspective, but their actions also breech the basic tenants of the religion to which they profess adherence. This situation ultimately eliminates as friends or spouses most of the Thais I have come to know over the years. If I can’t trust them, then they cannot be my close friend. A friend is someone whom I can trust, which doesn’t seem to be an important problem for Thais.

 In my formative stages of studying Thai, Thai culture, and Thailand, I came across one scholarly work which argued that Thais don’t really have friends in the same sense as Westerners, as Thai friendships are more like foreign relations among countries. This is because Thais never fully trust the individuals whom they refer to as friends; in fact they may not even like the folks in their ‘phuen fung’ (circle of friends), but that they make certain to maintain contact and some sort of relationship with these individuals. This is because they never know when someone’s assistance might be needed. It is best to never completely sever ties with anyone, but rather keep in contact (minimal) with as many people as one can, while the ‘circle of friends’ will be constantly in flux.

 While I’ve known many Thais, I can’t say that I trust any of them implicitly, which is not necessarily a condemnation of Thais, as there are very few westerners I’ve met who I would trust implicitly either. But my dilemmas with trust sometimes come down to silly little things that a Westerner believes a true friend wouldn’t do, because they are so small we wouldn’t risk a friendship by doing these minor things. Perhaps to the Thai they see things a bit different, if we are friends, then I shouldn’t be bothered by the little things. Unfortunately for me, I am bothered by them.

 Perhaps the best example of this situation is the friend who used to let me keep some clothes and other household items at his house when I was out of the country. Over the years I began to notice certain items missing, and thought it odd that they should disappear since my friend didn’t have use for them. I later learned that he was ‘loaning’ these items out to his Thai friends, which of course made him more important in their eyes. I discovered this when I would return unannounced to find some things gone and he would tell me that they were at his office, etc. He never once asked if his friends could use these things, and he knew that I wouldn’t have wanted them to, but as long as I was away and wasn’t using them, I guess he felt it was alright to lend them to others. Of course, when they were lost, wore out or broke, I was the one who had to replace them.

 Except for my Thai mother, there are only two Thais who I really feel I can take into my confidence and whom I believe I can count on if needed. One of these people is a Thai woman whose personality seems to run counter to Thai culture. While quite attractive and well proportioned, she might seem at first glance to be every western male’s dream faen, but most men are very surprised at how bright, outspoken, quick witted and quick tempered she is. Much more important to me than her physical attributes, is that she is someone I trust. I am often asked why I never married this female friend, and the reason is simple, we learned years ago that we would not be a suitable couple, as we wanted very different things out of life. She once told me that she would probably never be married for any length of time as she was too difficult to get along with, but that she would take a series of lovers throughout her life (only one at a time-serial monogamy as it is now known under the politically correct term in the U.S.), which would allow her to travel the world, meet new people, and she wouldn’t have to change much because she could always split from her lover when he tried to get her to change. I guess she is very characteristic of Thai women in one way, as she is cunning, stubborn, and expects her men to do accede to her requests. She has now had 3 long-term lovers since we met and each time I meet the new boyfriend, I get a bit of amusement out of wondering how long they will last as a couple. I have a deep amount of respect for this woman because she is honest almost to a fault. Just like she told me 20 years ago, she also tells her lovers what her intentions are. Those who enter into a long-term relationship with her should be fully aware of what to expect. My friendship with her is built on honesty. She has no pretense, does not care about ‘face’ (part of my next topic), and she will always respond to my inquiries with the absolute truth. She doesn’t come up short on any of the issues that I discuss in this submission, but we never married because I knew that she wanted something very different out of life than me. My respect, admiration, and appreciation for her honesty is immense and I wish there were more people (everywhere) like her.

 Years ago, my Thai ‘mother’ told me that I was no longer farang, but Thai, because I could discuss just about anything with her in Thai and she felt that Thai women would love this ability. Well, it didn’t exactly turn out this way. Knowing the language well does have advantages, but today it also has some big disadvantages, which in the past 10 years (since the Asian Economic Crisis) has meant that more foreigners are coming to Thailand who are sufficiently stupid (ignorant-to be nice) and rich to attract almost any attractive woman seeking the upward mobility of having a rich farang boyfriend. Fifteen-20 years ago, I frequently met Thai women who only wished their farang husband could communicate with them in Thai like I could, and I often met Thai women married to farang men who would say how nice it would be to finally be able to really understand their spouse when they talked to one another.

 Now in 2005, when Thai women hear me speak Thai, I certainly don’t get the same response as a decade ago. What changed? In my opinion, it was the Asian Economic Crises, which exposed many European and Japanese to Thai women, due to the impressive foreign exchange rates that were found at the time (Hey, I don’t belittle these fellows' interest in being with Thai women. In fact, I’m impressed with the tenaciousness and abilities of many foreign men who come to Thailand seeking a spouse). The result is that today, Thai women can find lots of men that (as I’ve been told by many Thais) are just stupid foreigners. Increasingly Thai women don’t want you to know Thai, because they want to be able to mislead you and because they want to be able to talk about things with their ‘friends’ that would not put them in a favorable light in your eyes. Maybe this is why you hear Thai women say that Thai men are no good. Why? Because Thai men can see through the deceit? NW European style honesty has never been a big factor in Thai relationships and if you can’t understand the language (speaking- reading) of your spouse how will you ever know what she is saying to her friends, or emailing to others on the computer? This lack of knowledge on your part is desirable for all Thais, not just bargirls. Within the past decade, the farang (pejorative) have increasingly shown how naïve they are and how easy they can be deceived. (Thanks to Stickman for providing the forum to point out these many frauds). Why would any gold-digger want to waste her time dealing with someone who understands her culture and what she is saying or writing when there is a ‘lonely-sex crazed’ idiot just down the next block who can be easily misled and who will give into just about any request?

 These days I still meet and talk with many Thais, only to find out that when I speak Thai, they become very cautious and concerned about what my interests are in the country. Today it seems as though the women are certain that I am a whoremonger or worse, have either been married to a Thai (and divorced-for shame). What used to be an asset, language, is almost a handicap. In my mind, though, I am one of the lucky ones who had the fortune to meet real Thais before the (idiot-sex-tourist) language/knowledge issue became a problem. I am lucky, because now I know how to separate the gold-diggers from the legitimate interests. It can take a VERY long time to convince a Thai that their ignorant beliefs are wrong, for no other reason than because Thais are NEVER wrong, and because it is difficult to overcome cultural-intellectual handicaps.

 I also feel sorry for the legitimate Thai women that are seeking friends on-line or through dating services, and who want to meet farang men. These women have to compete against the unscrupulous male (idiots) and female (gold-diggers); and for a farang who doesn’t know Thai or Thai culture, this is a problem. Personally, I don’t understand why Thai women seem to be inordinately attractive to western men. Mainly I think Thai female’s main relationships with non-Thais are often based on a sham (money-looks-superficiality), which in the end will do them in, but perhaps not before they have schemed their way into their faen(s)’ finances.

 I think that this is especially true for the relationships initiated over the Internet. In most cases, these relationships seem to me to be based on the idea that the women felt that they could ‘mould’ their man into something that they want (see my later discussion on compromise). Many Thai women today seem to be desperate to get out of their relationship and figure out the way to ‘deal’ with it is by looking for a replacement. In short these women are incredibly immature and naïve in how they approach their relationship with the farang. I would add again, though, that the situation is not helped any when one partner is not honest with the other; this very important to most farang relationships, but is not as important in Thai relationships. I wonder what proportion of Thai-farang relationships have actually succeeded? I believe most of the failures can be traced back to a lack of honesty, where at least one partner misled the other into thinking that they are something they are not. This is something that is very common in both societies, although it seems to have been elevated in Thai society to an art form (next topic).

 Although the basic tenants of honesty in Thai culture are similar to Western culture, Thai culture seems to have taken the rationalization of actions without apparent consequence to a level that westerner culture has yet to master. Thailand is way ahead of the West in some ways. Amazing.

 2) Intellectual Curiosity, Style v. Substance – The pursuit of the superficial, an inability to distinguish among salient and insignificant information and issues, and the need to be entertained.

 There is a long held joke in U.S. society about the dumb blonde that has been around for so long that today the caricature is a standard form of saying someone may look nice, but they are stupid. To be blonde is to lack intellectual substance. In a way, the Thai are the blondes of Asia. The Thais are wonderful people and the women are pretty, sexy, and fun (suay, sexi, sanuk), but they are also not an intellectual force... in any way. You may enjoy looking at them, and having fun with them, but long run commitments to them soon become tiresome as there is little intellectual curiosity that creates a long-term interest; the longer I am with them the more I feel that I’m taking care of a child, not dealing with someone who is supposed to be an adult.

 One of the things about Thai ‘culture’ that I noticed after living in the country for about a year, and after I had begun to understand Thai customs and the Thai mentality, was how different Thai intellectual interests were than mine. Thais have very astute observational skills, but they are not focused on things that Westerners consider to be significant. Thais often fail to notice a driving force that would result in an accident or a potential future development that would result in a major problem in their life. They are, however, masters at the art of the superficial; if I needed a haircut, hadn’t shaved, or I was wearing a pair of pants and shirt that didn’t match (according to Thai fashion) it would be noticed by everyone. I could be a brilliant scientist, but this ability would not be recognized by the Thai if I did not have the right LOOK.

 If my work is viewed by Thais as requiring a necktie, or wearing the most current fashion, then presentation is usually far more important than ability. If I look right, then I must have the ability. I agree that in the business world, and some other places, appearance can be important, but the Thai have taken this type of superficial appearance to a level that places it above any other factor, and to which few Thais can see beyond. Apparently, if you look the part, then there is no reason why you are not that person. The idea that appearance is the most important component in one’s life is something that I can’t fully understand, as my western-Greek-logical tradition suggests that looks can be deceiving and it is not looks, but works that matter most. In this regard, Thai and western cultures are almost diametrically opposed.

 Thais also love to gawk, not because they have a passionate desire to analyze, but rather their passion is confined to the superfluous; they want to see the accident, but never wonder how it occurred or how it could have been avoided. They are far more interested in the form or style of something than the components that make up the object of interest; initially I tallied this mentality up as a lack of an intellectual tradition that rewards insight, forethought, and forward planning, and the inability to identify problems before they smack you in the face. I have now come to believe that this perspective is a result of two things, an educational system that basically teaches rote memorization rather than analysis, and a general lack of interest in learning for its own sake (keep in mind what our Western word for education came from the Greek word [schole] that meant leisure; yes, learning was a leisure activity!), instead what the Thai will more frequently tell you is yaa kit maak (literally-don’t think too much). This last comment may be a bit harsh, because the statement is normally used in situations that would be more appropriately translated as ‘don’t worry about it’, but it underscores my point about how differently the Thai language is from English in its use of the concept of thinking, thought, and analysis. Fortunately for Thailand, some of the population are able to escape from the initial handicap that their tradition and education has provided and have gone on to provide the intellectual capital that the country needed as they grew economically, even if not intellectually. Unfortunately, though, this component of the culture represents a rather small proportion of the overall population, while the Thai elite (an even smaller proportion) come from a different intellectual tradition, as they were either born into a family tradition where the goals of higher education were understood and/or they were educated in Hong Kong or the West where they acquired the analytical abilities that would make them successful wherever they lived.

 Individuals without the same options as the rich or fortunate will struggle their whole lives to catch up with the rest of their Asian counterparts, but only a few will ever succeed. Over the years, I worked with several Thais possessing a very high level of education, and it was clear which individuals had the benefits of both the education and the intellectual curiosity. One of those individuals who did not have both of these benefits even came from a wealthy family and had never wanted for much. In spite of his doctoral degree from a very well known Western university, he had almost no curiosity about anything intellectual outside his field. He spent most of his time working, and when he did have free time, chose to watch TV, watch movies, or go to a club. He barely learned to drive, could not do any repairs on his car, would not cook for himself, could not fix anything in the house, and even eschewed changing a light bulb if it burned out; although he did know how to wash his own dishes and clothes, but had never ironed his own clothes. This fellow’s response to inquiries about his lack of ability or interest in basic household (life) chores was that he could always pay someone else to do what ever he really needed to be done. (He would ask a friend to change his burnt out light bulbs). The only area where he seemed to excel was in his work. In spite of all the movies he saw and the music he listened to, he never bothered to find out much about either the directors of the movies, his favorite bands, or the evolution of the music he liked.

 While we would occasionally go out together, usually to the latest trendiest restaurants so he could see who was there and be seen, there really wasn’t much to talk about because we had almost nothing in common. He had no interest in politics, world events, or the economy (he was from a wealthy family, why should he be concerned as his parents could always help him if the need arose), he never watched the news, never watched a documentary film (too boring), had never read a novel (Thai or English) since his high schools days when it was required (I‘ve probably read more Thai novels than him in the past 15 years), and he had no interest in playing any game that required general knowledge, intellect, or ability to analyze (i.e. Scrabble, Boggle, and Trivial Pursuit) – the only exception was poker. It was after I met this man that I fully realized the great intellectual gap between the Thai and myself. I am not especially bright, but I am very curious about the world and why things work the way they do. I love taking things apart and putting them together, my upbringing instilled a curiosity about the world, his did not. As a result, I would just as soon fix something myself as pay someone else to do it, not because I don’t want to pay the money, but because I really want to know how things that are integral to my life function. I can’t imagine going through life uninterested in the world around me and I am surprised by the lack of interest the Thai have in understanding the world around them.

 There are some true Thai intellectuals, but to my regret I’ve never had the benefit of getting to know them very well. I’ve known lots of Thais with a higher education, but very few of these people could be considered intellectuals. They had a degree that gave them a certain status and a job, but they were not particularly curious about the world and their analytical abilities were minimal. Thailand is not without people with this curiosity, as I’ve met several Thai women who were as bright as anyone I’ve ever known (only one of whom attended the country’s ‘best’ university), and I would have loved to have developed a relationship with these gals, but I was unsuccessful.

 When I think of Thai intellectualism, I am reminded of a dear European friend who was as well read as anyone I’ve ever known. He could read and write 4 European languages, in addition to English (which was not his native tongue), and he had read a far greater volume of classic English literature than I will likely ever read. He had traveled the world and had lived in Thailand for many years, yet the only Thai he had learned was sufficient to order a meal, get the check, find a restroom, and give directions to a cabby. When I asked him why he didn’t learn more Thai he said that it would only increase his frustration with the country, as he never found a Thai whom he would really want to or could have substantive conversations with, in Thai; the Thais, he said, “had almost no interest or perhaps ability for in-depth discussion or capability to analyze an issue, they are too interested in the superfluous”. While I thought this might be a bit of an overgeneralization, he did have a point. Any Thai that my friend would want to get to know would probably speak better English than him and he would never be able to learn Thai as well as a Thai intellectual would know English, so there was no real reason for him to learn Thai, as anyone with whom he would want to converse would soon, be able to converse with him most effectively in English. He was a very generous man and almost every Thai who met him enjoyed being around him. He also had an incredible ability to make everyone comfortable, and he had a gift for communicating with people, even if he couldn’t speak much of their language. This latter point was perhaps the only thing about the country that we didn’t agree on.

 While I don’t necessarily agree with my friend’s lack of interest in learning Thai, I do concede to his argument and keen sense about Thais, Thailand, and Thai culture. In the 2+ years I attended school in Thailand (high school and university), there were perhaps less than a dozen occasions when I had a substantive conversation with my classmates, yet I spent hours each day talking to them before and after class, during lunch, etc. By the time I finished my studies at the university, I had become tired of the superfluous, meaningless, inconsequential, and incessant chatter that passed for conversation, and I slowly became less and less interested in engaging Thais in conversation.

 Interestingly, my friend’s lack of Thai language skills did not seem to hinder his ability to find girlfriends, as at one point I was rather envious of him because his girlfriend was one of the brightest Thai women that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting; I would have loved to have her as my girlfriend. Unfortunately, however, even though my friend was a gifted intellectual, he still made stupid mistakes on occasion, such as when he cheated on this girlfriend and she dumped him. Som nam naa [serves him right!].

 When I first arrived in Thailand, I was continually surprised to see how often Thais would tout and flaunt their education and the numerous titles that they had acquired over the years, especially if it involved graduate level university degrees, schooling abroad, or some type of government rank. It didn’t take long to realize just how meaningless these degrees and accolades usually were. In many cases, the recipient of a degree must have been lucky to have just graduated, much less learned anything.....or perhaps these people didn’t really do the work themselves. Several years ago, I met a woman from another country in Southeast Asia who had received her doctorate from the U.S., she mentioned how she had two fellow Thai students in her doctoral program neither of which were terribly competent, in fact they would often get ‘sick’ before every exam and then ask their fellow classmates about the exam before they took a make-up. These two students did graduate with doctoral degrees and one of them became Dean of her faculty at a prominent school in Thailand. My friend was surprised at this situation because she thought that scholars who rose to the level of academic prominence of ‘Dean’ in her country would be considered top scholars in their fields, and she knew that her former classmates simply didn’t have the intellectual rigor to be the Dean of a college in her country. Since I had attended school in the country, this Asian woman asked me what I thought of Thai students. I relayed an experience from my second year of graduate school.

 While working on a graduate degree at a well-known university on the U.S. west coast in the 1980s, I was assisting with an undergraduate course in my field and had almost no input into the grade. On one occasion, I was invited to dinner by a Thai student in my class who was living with her Asian boyfriend. I decided to accept the invitation, and at the end of the night, the gal and her boyfriend made their pitch by talking about what it would take to improve their grades in the course and trying to suggest that maybe I could help them out. I got a real kick out of this blatant attempt to get a higher grade, as there was no way I was going to divulge anything about an exam, and the only thing I could provide was help in studying for the exam. Neither the gal or her boyfriend, ever bothered to invite me out after that, she (nor her boyfriend) ever dropped by to ask for help on the exam, nor did either one of them receive the grade that she was hoping for in the course. School for this gal didn’t seem to be about learning, but rather a necessary requirement for receiving a college degree from the U.S. and since no one would ever know the grades she received in her courses, it would be easy to lead others into thinking that she was a stellar student.

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Re: Why I never married a Thai
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"Why I Never Married a Thai" continued . . .

Because there was an active international student’s organization at my university, including a number of Thai students, it was easy to get to know many of these people and learn about their relationships, much easier than at my undergraduate institution where the Thais seemed to be rather stand-offish and had almost no interest in talking to me, especially in Thai. One Thai gal at my graduate institution, stood out among the others as she was both quite pretty and also seemed to change boyfriends every year, both Thai and farang. In three years I knew her, she had three separate boyfriends. Later, I learned from one of the boyfriends (farang) that at first he couldn’t believe his good luck in landing this gal, but over the course of the year he found that she was increasingly asking him for help with her school work, and by the end of the year he had written about half of her Master’s thesis before he graduated, moved, and they broke up. No worries though, as the next year this gal had a new boyfriend and was finally able to finish up that pesky thesis and return home triumphant in her ‘educational’ success! I know her last boyfriend (a Thai) felt a bit used by the situation, which just goes to show that it isn’t just the farang who can be duped by the pretty face and great smile. These reflections are just a few examples of the Thai students whom I have met over the years, and I am amazed at how adept many of them were, especially the women, at obtaining ‘help’ in their studies.

 I don’t believe that this lack of interest in learning and the focus on getting the degree by any means, is an isolated example of a few Thais; take a look at the minor scandals that have arisen among Thai politicians over the past 20 years and involve the legitimacy of the degrees that they have received; there are several. This situation is also not unique to Thailand, though, as by the time I finished my formal schooling, the type of superficial learning experience I am talking about had become a major factor among many of students I met at school (here is an area where perhaps Thailand was leading a trend rather than following); it is probably also reflected in the type of westerners that increasingly seek to live permanently in Thailand.

 A related issue to intellectual curiosity is face, which is so important that to the Thai it negates the importance of issues (that I believe should be) of greater concern - remember this is my view of what is important to a relationship. A Thai friend once told me that she had to spend a lot of time and money to dress well for her work, because how she dressed expressed what she was. Thais do seem to live life on the surface and appearance is perhaps the most important element in this quest. Unfortunately for me perhaps, I see things a bit differently. To take my friend’s argument to a logical conclusion, if I choose to dress a certain way does that really make me the kind of person that my dress mimics? In my very narrow Calvinist/Puritanist view of the world, if I try to appear as something that I am not, then I am a charlatan, and this issue has very important consequences to society. Suppose that because of the way I have presented myself, as a specialist in some area that I am asked to help. What do I do? The charlatans have considerable time perfecting the art of diversion, by claiming to either be busy or tied up with something else. How many Thais have you met who can talk all day about their abilities, but have never been required to demonstrate them. Some of you may not agree with this view, but I abhor pretense. Even if I were rich, I wouldn’t show it off, and if I were not, then I damn sure wouldn’t pretend to be rich or affluent. To me this is not just dishonest but ridiculous and embarrassing. Yes, I know this type of activity is a handicap in Thailand, to making Thai friends, and to attracting Thai women; however, my view is that I would rather not have a girlfriend or spouse with whom I have to live my life on the surface, or as an imposter. At some level, I think this is the issue what most people are addressing when they talk about the basic dishonesty among Thais.

 Thais are very conscious of wanting to be all things to all people, and they spend incredible amounts of time and energy working and hoping that they are never pinned down to prove or manifest their abilities in an area that they have superficially made claim. This is why Thais have become masters of deception and duplicity, which helps them to avoid embarrassing situations while still allowing them to come off looking good. I think this is also one reason why Thais often seem to hire Westerners who are among the least capable farang I have ever met, as all it seems to take to impress a Thai is an easily acquired superficial appearance, rather than the much more difficult to acquire, ability, capability, and expertise that takes time to acquire and to ascertain in an individual. Thailand has attracted an assorted hodge-podge of underachievers over the years who have been able to ‘con’ their way into employment simply because they pass the ‘form-superficiality’ test.

 Face also plays a factor in the issue of style v. substance – Thai women place themselves on a pedestal and are only interested in marrying up, not down. When was the last time you met a Thai woman who married a man either younger than her or less educated than her? There are some, which shows that some Thais are able to accept this potential loss of face, but the vast majority of the women would never consider marrying below their station in life; and even when they do marry someone with the right pedigree, they are usually highly driven to insure that they will never have to bear the unsightly loss of face that comes from living below their ‘perceived’ status. The gatekeepers of status, class, and hierarchy in Thai society are the women, the wives who benefit from the wealth, status, and respect that is a result of their husband’s occupation. Because traditionally Thai women didn’t have many opportunities to generate or expand this status on their own, they now make damn sure that everyone knows how important they are. I sometimes think that if the men had it their way, Thailand would be much more egalitarian, but the simple fact is that the wives can’t control the need to flaunt their status. When was the last time a Thai man told you how much he spent on something, a trip he took his wife on, or a present he gave her. He doesn’t have to, or doesn’t get the chance because his wife makes sure to tell everyone who will listen, ad nauseum.

 I’ve had a number of male Thai co-workers over the years and one of the things that I found interesting was how much these people’s lives changed when they married. One fellow told me about the time when he was still dating his wife; she was not particularly demanding and never really asking for anything. They both had careers and he felt that when they wed, this aspect of their lives would continue on in a similar vein. He mentioned how it wasn’t long after marriage that his wife began to ask that he begin buying more and more items, expensive cars, a second home in Chiang Mai (a middle class Thai mark of success?), etc. because their position in society now demanded that they show their success. It didn’t seem to matter that they already had two perfectly good older cars, they needed at least one new vehicle every few years, and even though they already had a large mortgage on their house, and only visited the north maybe once each year, they still needed a second home in Chiang Mai.

 Another fellow (farang) whom I knew over 20 years ago told me how after meeting his wife during the Vietnam War and setting up a home in northern Bangkok, things were fine for while, but in the mid-1980s, his wife began asking him to buy a car. They didn’t own a car, and as any old timer in Bangkok can tell you, traffic was horrendous in the city and most people could easily get by without one, especially if you didn’t have to commute to work. The wife couldn’t drive and the couple really had no need for a car. They were next to a major bus line that connected them with routes throughout the city and taxis were cheap if you could speak Thai and knew the price. However, because he was a farang, the wife had told him that she was losing face in front of the neighbors because some of them were buying cars, so in order to keep her from being embarrassed about marrying him, he had to buy the family a car. In 2005, a car in Bangkok might make sense, but in the 1980s, it was both incredibly expensive (200-300% tax) and the lack of roadways was so sparse that it wasn’t practical to own a car back then, if you didn’t need one to commute to work. Remember, no expressway when you drove from the airport to Siam Sq., today’s major roadway (Viphaowadi Rangsit Rd.-now the expressway) was only completed in 1976. Phaholyothin Road was THE north-south connection and traveling from Bangkhen to Siam Sq. and back was about 2 hours each way. A trip to Lard Phrao Road and back was about as far as anyone usually went in a day. To stop his wife’s continuous complaints about a lack of personal transportation, he bought a car, and it sat in his driveway for years as the wife never learned to drive, and he only drove it when they went upcountry, about once each month. However, it did provide face. I kept wondering if the $20,000+ (1980 dollars 25 baht/dollar back then) was worth it.

 It is not always the wives who complain about money-face related issues though. I’ve also had several male acquaintances that needed a car or a mobile phone (in the early 1990s cell phones were as big as a shoebox, weighted a kilo or more, and cost a fortune), and strapped to their side like an old West gunslinger, they provided an obvious form of face. My colleagues were broke, but they had style. While I think it is generally a waste of money trying to keep up with the latest style, what really bothers me about the practice is that it is often placed above what I feel are more important issues, such as ability and capability.

 At this point some of you may suggest that this superficiality is also common to western society. I agree, it is increasingly prominent as westerners are becoming too lazy to teach analytical skills to their children, to demand them in the workplace, and by their unwillingness to demand much from the books they read, the movies or TV they watch, or the kinds of things they do to pass the time. Western society is becoming increasingly focused on the superficial rather than the substantial. However, an important difference still remains between the Thai and farang, which is that if you confront westerners about their lack of substance, and its value, they will generally concede that we have increasingly focused on form, but that it is the substance that really is more important to the system which allows us to have our superficial lives. Thais usually can’t even understand this argument, and sadly, an increasing proportion of westerners can’t either.

 While some people may suggest that my intellectualism - style v. substance factor is not so important, I suggest that you reflect on your perception the next time you have to rely on someone for something important, for your personal safety, to finish a task you need to accomplish in a timely fashion for your job, or to complete something that needs to be done in a very specific way so that you don’t have to undertake repairs a month later to fix what should have been done right the first time. I don’t care how the engineer dresses, as long he/she is competent. I want a doctor who can correctly diagnose a medical problem, and a ‘specialist,’ in any important matter regarding my life, to be able to analyze, explain, and solve the problems that I’ve asked for their help with. I don’t want a smooth talking visually appealing caricature of the real thing.... and I want a wife who recognizes the difference. I also want a wife who will keep quiet about my/our personal finances.

 3) The role of a husband. This section is based on my observations, and my discussion with former girlfriends and Thai female friends over the past 20 years; (note that some Thai women will occasionally change the order for the benefit of the potential or actual spouse).

 The order of importance of individuals in the life of a married Thai female seems to be: a) children, b) her parents, c) extended family/maybe husband, d) the neighbors, etc.; note I would be, at best, third on the list. Secrets are also important; keeping them from me is annoying. I think the general tendency about secrets is: (correct me if I am wrong here Stick as I last discussed this issue ten years ago with a very close Thai female friend, in which case this would be a change among current Thai women aged 20-30) that while the Western male tends to see their spouse as someone whom they can both trust (control) with most household matters, they are also someone with whom you can discuss issues in confidence, and share secrets. That is NOT the case in the traditional Thai family.

 The average Thai woman will tell her closest girlfriends many more secrets than she will tell her husband. Why? Well simply, her husband is not her top priority in life, she controls the household budget and related matters, is equally, or more, attentive to her parents than her husband, whom she may or may not love, and she has not married her ‘best friend’. The wife’s best friend(s) are her school chums, her mates, or those whom she knew from the neighborhood she grew up in. Each of these groups has a greater chance of finding out her secrets than her husband. Furthermore (as Stickman has admirably noted in his web posts) Thai women have many secrets that they will not share with anyone else. Compare this to the European tradition; my parents always shared everything. There were NO secrets, of that I am absolutely certain; same for my sister and my extended family. It is counter to the NW European (Calvinist?) tradition that I grew up in, that spouses have secrets.

 Now, as the husband of a Thai woman, some suggest that I am supposed to do several things. Provide a dowry, provide for her, provide for her family, produce children, and provide for her parents. Well, how about my cultural background, doesn’t it matter? (more about this later).

 I think that one of Stick’s earliest submissions stated this issue quite well. In his submission, the fellow’s problem with the girlfriend was that she saw him as not a particularly important priority. Apparently I am only there to produce offspring and to support her, the offspring, and the family of the person who gave birth to her. Sorry but this is a real problem for me, leaving the Thai cultural issues aside for the moment, but to which I will return later.

 To be a bit direct, as a husband in the SE Asian tradition, I am apparently there only as a sperm donor and financial support. My job is to provide genetic material and a dowry to the wife’s family (which in the Thai tradition is really supposed to be returned to the wife, as a means of support in case of divorce - got that guys? I’ve lived throughout most of Thailand, except the south, and NONE of the families I discussed the dowry issue with have intimated otherwise. In the past 20+ years(?), however, there seems to be a growing knowledge among poor, especially NE Thai, families of how ‘ignorant’ farang are willing to pay exorbitant dowries for their daughters and maintenance to the in-laws (Shame on them and you desperate idiots who pay this ridiculous type of extortion!).

 Thais know when the family is really in need, and then it is ALL the kids of the parents that chip in to help, not just the richest siblings! This issue varies somewhat, by region and income level, but that is the main idea. In short, if your potential in-laws, are asking for a dowry that they aren’t going to return to the wife, then they are nothing short of greedy gold-diggers.

 I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to live with Thai families for more than one year on two separate occasions. My Thai ‘mother’ who was raised in central Thailand, educated in Bangkok, married to a central Thai government official, and sent six kids to university that included the top three universities in the country and Ramkhamhaeng-apparently the last kid was a disappointment, have taught me a lot about Thai society. These experiences have allowed me to meet many wonderful Thais for which I am very grateful. This ‘Theravada Buddhist’ Thai family also firmly believed that it was important to speak the truth. Yes, they were a very unusual and an amazing family, to whom I will always be indebted. The mother of this household also told me that a common dowry for her university educated daughters would be 50,000 baht (@1980), which would either be returned to her daughters and/or used for the reception, depending on circumstances. There would be NOTHING else. They didn’t expect that their son-in-law would provide anything else (got that guys? - I can’t believe how many of the people to Stickman’s site say they are avid readers of his site and yet willing give in to this Thai brand of extortion. Why are some of you [idiots by many of my Thai friends perceptions] still giving money to your in-laws? Stick has already noted this in his column). This is NOT a standard Thai tradition, although it appears to perhaps be an up and coming ‘Thai’ tradition among a certain section of gold-digging families upcountry, only because so many desperate farang are willing to support the practice.

 I lived in NE Thailand for over a year in the mid-1970s, and no one mentioned a monthly check to Mom and Dad to me. Of course, I knew Thai pretty well before I moved there, and I also took the time to try and learn the language and I didn’t have much money at the time. The Thai wife craze was also only common to Udorn, Ubon, and Korat, where U.S. military were stationed, so perhaps I missed out on something, but I still believe that this monthly allowance to the in-laws from the husband is not as common as one might expect. I’m also curious if these (clueless farang) westerners willing to give these large monthly allowances to their families also give to all the charities in the West that seek donations by showing a ‘destitute’ child on the tele? Did they assess the real need here, check out the aid organization, its financial status, and the amount of donations that went for administration v. actual aid or did they just say heck, these people look destitute in need of care, and the kids seem so needy that I should really give? Thais excel in their ability to sense desperation in others and are seldom loathe to take advantage of this, so I often wonder how desperate some of the farang men are to land a Thai faen. Desperation = Baht to most Thais.

 My Thai mother would have never asked for financial help other than perhaps help in times of absolute, incredible, and dire need. She was also the Thai who first told me that ‘you don’t live beyond your means’, (I guess she really was an oddity in Thailand based on Stick’s reader’s submissions.) My European cultural traditions see this exactly the same way. You help family when someone is really in need, you are close enough to them to understand when they need help and you provide it, without them asking. You don’t require them to ask (beg), so that they have to appear destitute, you give it to them because they are family and you know that what they need and what is necessary. When you provide help, you also don’t do so, in a way that will make them out to be beggars.

A few years ago, I met a gal that I was interested in but who soon told me that not only would I have to pay a dowry that went to her parents, while they also expected that I would be giving them something every month for as long as they lived. I asked why this was the case and how much they expected from their other children? The answer was of course most disappointing, as I was informed that because I was richer than the other potential ‘luk kery’ (son-in-law), I should paying the most, of course her salary was going for her ‘needs’.

 This is also the first gal that surprised me not long after we became a couple by stating her love for me, using English. Please note that this is not what it may seem on the surface. Thais ‘love’ to use ideas (concepts) in English that they are uncomfortable with or unable to say in Thai, curse words for example, or anything that sounds sophisticated or ‘modern’. Sorry but my gal will have to do MUCH better than this. She must be willing to tell in Thai, the proper way. On another occasion she expressed this love using the phrase (nickname, rak khun); well those of you who know Thai understand that this is a ridiculous way of espousing one's love for someone. The Thai language has a very succinct way of stating someone’s true love for someone they consider as a spouse, ‘chan rak ther’; NOT (nickname or chan) rak khun, and for someone who is relatively competent in Thai (taken university exams and regularly done simultaneous Thai-English-Thai interpretation as part of my job), her ridiculous expression was an insult. It also violates other aspects of my criteria for a spouse as it is not honest, and tells me that that this gal thinks of me as perhaps just another idiot farang.

 I told this gal that she either had to express her love for me properly or not say anything at all. If she wanted to show she loved me, she should demonstrate it and also say it correctly in Thai, and if I ever heard that ridiculous statement again our relationship would be over - I realized at that moment, that she really didn’t think I understood Thai very well, as she always wanted to speak English-more about this later. If she was either too stupid or incompetent to appreciate my ability in Thai, then we had no future together and if she ever insulted me again, that way, then I would leave (We did end our relationship soon afterwards, not necessarily because of this statement alone, but it was a signal to me that this gal thought of me only as an idiot-farang).

 My view is that if your girlfriend expresses her love for you in Thai, in the inappropriate way noted above, forget her. She may say, “I love you” in English, but this is easy to say in a foreign language that doesn’t begin to provide the same connotation and meaning to her as when expressed in her native tongue and in the proper way. You really need to understand Thai in order to appreciate the significance of the language nuances, in this context. How many of you have learned a little Thai and tried to show off by interspersing Thai words in your sentences, e.g., the food is ped, or something is sabaai? Now you think you’ve gotten the hang of the language and you have learned some Thai slang and tried to show of your expertise using these terms only to find your Thai friends shocked or laughing at your statement as it was used in appropriately. How many of you have heard Thais use English slang phrases and thought how ridiculous they sounded? (Hint: one of the quickest ways to undermine your credibility in a foreign language is to misuse slang phrases; which are very difficult to learn to use in an appropriate context; if you don’t think so just reflect on your last English language conversation with a bar girl who was using a lot of slang. It is not just the words that matter, but also the context, and in Thai there are many ways to state feelings that may all seem to be the same, but which have radically different meanings. The use of the word love (rak) is one of these. In short, if your gal really loves you and knows that your Thai is pretty good, then she should be willing to espouse her love for you in Thai, the proper Thai way. A Thai’s unwillingness to do this for me is a giveaway that she doesn’t respect me, AT ALL. (I shouldn’t need to discuss the issues related to referring to her older ‘faen’ [boyfriend] - either to your face or especially her friends or anyone else - as lun, [Uncle]...dump her you fools!!!). Also, keep in mind that Thais will VERY seldom express their intimate feelings for another. When your Thai gal expresses her love for you, you may learn more about her feelings for you than you expect, especially if she says this in public, as a Thai (male or female) would NEVER state this love in public, as it is too embarrassing. ONLY WHORES/GOLDDIGGERS DO THIS!

 My devotion to my wife is above EVERYTHING else, the kids come second, and then maybe OUR parents, etc. If I can’t have a similar commitment, I want her to at least be willing place me just after the kids. If my wife were Thai, she also better be able to espouse her love to me properly.

 4) Accommodation and compromise...or just giving up – In the movie, “When Harry Met Sally”, Billy Crystal explains to Meg Ryan that there are basically two types of women, high and low maintenance, which is determined by what the woman felt were the necessities in life, what they could do for themselves, and what others should provide. Meg Ryan said she was low maintenance, while Billy Crystal responded that Meg was the most difficult combination of the two as she was a high maintenance gal (because she wanted things the way she wanted them) who thinks she is low maintenance. Most of my Thai faens were this latter type of high maintenance, who like to believe they are low maintenance. I’ve had many female friends over the years, and many of them were truly low maintenance, at least it seemed this way to me. Fun loving people, who didn’t require much to make them happy. Most also seemed to be fairly independent, which is both a characteristic of low maintenance people and a trait I admire in all my friends and seek in a spouse. Unfortunately, something happens to Thai women when they get a faen. They quickly transform themselves into rather needy and demanding high maintenance women, who don’t think they are much of a burden on anyone, or at least think they can smile and connive their way into getting what they want. One day you wake up and wonder what happened?

 Even Thai adults still often remind me of stubborn self-centered children, who need instant gratification and have to get their own way most of the time. The idea of compromise, especially with a farang, is difficult in the best of circumstances as it almost becomes a contest of face and will that is often engaged in for the superficial reasons of being able to beat the foreigner at something.

 How many times do you say no to your gal about something she wants and then shortly afterward are asked th


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Re: Why I Never Married a Thai
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2016, 12:47:00 AM »
I can definitely understand why these points would be a deterrent. How can one have a successful marriage when the honesty is shady and the wife isn't putting her spouse first? I suppose people do it all the time, but I wouldn't want to be a part of a union like that.