Daily Archives: September 30, 2004

Under magnifying glass (2)

Welcome back to the second installment of my latest blog! If you haven’t read the first one yet, please click on the corresponding link on the left before proceeding any further. However, if you are the type who reads the last pages of a detective story to see who was the murderer, then you are welcome to stay…

Last time we looked at the white male who comes to Thailand with the sole reason to find a subservient Asian wife for himself, after failing miserably with Western women. Now let’s take a look at the other side of the equation: explore the circumstances that prompt a healthy Thai woman to marry the white version of his father/grandfather. As you might imagine, these must be really desperate times for her! I will describe this the same way I did previously.

Hopes fade when flowers wilt

“Thai women form the hind legs of the elephant”, the old saying goes. Despite Western cultural influences increasingly penetrating the fabric of Thai society, the saying still holds true in many aspects of Thai life. The result is an uneven share of burdens, always to the disadvantage of women, placing them in a very vulnerable position. Consider the following:

– there is a strong sense of filial piety in Thailand. Children are expected to take care of their parents and other elder family members as soon as they are capable. To take a chunk of income and give it to the parents is the norm.

– in economically disadvantaged families there are not enough funds to send all the children to school. When the parents are forced to choose, they will usually send the boys to school, keeping the girls at home for a variety of reasons.

– there are considerably less opportunities for uneducated women to get decent jobs than for their male counterparts.

– from these labor-intensive jobs that yield very low wages, Thai women cannot adequately fulfill their duties of helping the family. This will create a sense of urgency to find alternate methods of getting money. Depending on the individual, some might end up being prostitutes, but let’s leave that Pandora’s box for another discussion. Some others (or the same people!) marry Thai men, hoping that this will alleviate their problems.

– in Thailand, marriage is held more stable than it is in the West. Couples don’t divorce on a whim; it takes unusually bad situations to make Thai couples even consider divorce. Now, it is well-known that many Thai men are unusually fond of alcohol, visit brothels, have mia noi [minor wife, mistress] and cause a bunch of other problems. Despite this, Thai women used to be very resilient and willing to hold on to the marriage for the above-mentioned reasons. However, nowadays some are not so lenient anymore; they finally start to realize that they don’t have to put up with all that just because a monk sometime tied a white rope around their hands.

– Divorced women are looked down upon; they are not considered good women. Their chance of marrying another Thai man is practically none, simply because they are not considered reliable marriage partners anymore. Note that divorced Thai men do not have this problem at all. They are “just being men”. Divorce is always a woman’s fault, for not accepting that. (See “hind legs” syndrome, yet again.)

Now you see where these women get their desperation from. Here is where the white prince enters on the white horse: a little balding maybe, but with a fat wallet that is a cure for many of her problems.

The two together: an incorrect solution (0 x 1 = 0)

So, they found each other. What happens now?

-Thai women got their cash cows; they are now able to sustain their families: both that of their parents, and that of their own. The expectations placed upon these women are now fulfilled. They even get national recognition and appreciation, according to the latest news.

-the Farang man made it to seventh heaven now. He got a wife who tolerates all his vices, serves him every way, every time, and obeys his whims. He can live like a king due to the generous exchange rates. Forget Mark Twain’s “Prince and Pauper”. This is the real story of how a wishy-washy nobody gets a king’s ego.

So, why would I not call it a happy ending? Why not the laissez-faire attitude that some others have? Because there is one crucial element is missing. Nowhere in the story do I see the happiness of the Thai woman. Governmental appreciation does not make true happiness. Having a white version of her father/grandfather as husband definitely does not make true happiness. Having a husband whose character lead to failed relationships with several other women does not make true happiness. Having a loving, caring, equal partner who values her as a whole, unique person, sharing her happiness and sorrows, making her feel valued – that’s true happiness.

The man who was unable to give this to women with whom he shares common cultural background will have little chance to form a deep relationship with a person of a very different background. Only men of character with empathy are capable of that. Our hero, the “fisherman” can only give her a secure future in a relationship that lacks any depth.

No critical work can be complete without due disclaimers to douse potential flames, so here it is:

From the above, you may get the impression that I am against international/interracial marriages. On the contrary! I think it benefits everyone. A Western man with no previous failed relationship (okay, maybe one – everyone is entitled to a mistake), marrying an Asian woman after he took the time to know her and her culture – that’s absolutely beautiful! However, it’s only good if said man didn’t come to Thailand for the purpose of finding a wife here (ie. wife-fishing). I can imagine that some forum members have such a successful relationship.

My anger is that of a humanist who believes that everyone deserves to be happy, and those who abuse others deserve to be ostracized and worse. This righteous anger is the result of the line of thinking I sketched above. You may not agree with it; perhaps some points you may find questionable, that’s fine. However, what I wrote is not coming out of thin air: these points are either based on personal experience, observation while here in Thailand, accounts from my Thai family, and reading Thailand-related literature.

I am, as I was in the past, talking always about a selected group of people, not everyone included in a particular group. Not all Thai women, and not all Farang men. Not even all older Farang men. I can’t emphasize enough how important this distinction is. It distinguishes blind stereotyping from clear criticism on a pressing issue.

You may have different experiences, talked to different people and came to a different conclusion regarding this issue. The diversity of opinions is what makes debating so interesting, as long as the opinions of others are treated with respect.

Take care until next time,


Under the magnifying glass (1)

Hi folks! Welcome back to my life! It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen you here. The rainy season doesn’t give much interesting experiences to write about; lots of water, big storms, sleepy weather and a few occasional rays of sunshine peeking through the dense clouds. My Rains Retreat is soon to be over though: tomorrow I will leave Thailand to visit the neighboring Laos where I will spend a few days. I hope to take a few pictures and I’ll also bring my laptop with me to tell you anything interesting that might happen there.

Where there is sun, there is shadow

Most people who talk about Thailand usually do so in a positive manner. That’s perhaps because there are so many good things about this wonderful country, there seem to be little need to complain. However, like every other country, Thailand has her own share of problems to struggle with. Though I don’t like to complain either, the picture we paint here about Thailand would not be complete without its shadows.

This time I would like to talk about some of Thailand’s most annoying, dangerous and occasionally vicious pests. Seasoned visitors might sigh here and think “oh no, he’s gonna talk about cockroaches, fireants and 15-cm millipedes. How boring!”. To the relief of you folks, no, I am going to skip these. I consider them merely annoyances. I will talk about some of Thailand’s bloodsucking leeches and sludgeworms instead.

Meet the species

I’ve visited all regions of Thailand: Central, North, Northeast and South. Wherever I went, I could count on one thing I’d always see. I used to cringe my teeth when my lil’ sis yelled “Farang” somewhere, because of the anticipated sight. Now I just sigh and reply her: “old geezer”. More often than not, she nods. I don’t even need to turn my head in the direction she points at, but I do anyway. What I see is always the same: an older man, 50+, with his “daughter” or “granddaughter” perhaps; a dark-skinned woman, most likely from the Isaan farmlands. The watery, hazy eyes, big red “wine-nose” and beer belly are the usual telltale signs of this fine knight in shining armor. A sorry sight indeed, and like always, a mixture of feelings overcome me. Pity for the woman, and disgust for the man who is a disgrace to all white male expats – including me.

Why are there so many of them? Why in Thailand? What’s in this country that attracts these low-life creatures? We debated this on the Thailand forums before, but didn’t come to clear conclusions. To keep the arguments civilized, one of my debate partners and I took the conversation to PM (personal message). Because of this, I was prompted to think the issue in such depths that I haven’t done before. Let me share the results with you. The clearest way to do this is a simple but effective list of facts and beliefs that will eventually lead to the conclusion. Since this matter involves two distinct groups of people, I will do this on two lines and then join the two to form the conclusion.

Analysis of a sludgeworm

– “It takes two to make a relationship work”, the old Western saying goes, and this must especially be true for marriages.

– Westerners are known to divorce easier.

– a Western man with repeated failures in his relationships might allege that something is wrong with all Western women, quite understandably. From the neutral observer’s point of view however, which one is more likely: that millions of women are not fit to form a healthy relationship, or that the one complaining man has a serious problem handling women who grew up with Western values?

It was a rhetorical question. Of course the man has a problem. Now, what are these Western values I just mentioned?

– – strong sense of self-esteem
– – open nature, outspokenness
– – insistence on equality: a fair share of burdens and privileges

These values are the hallmarks of modern times. Times when it is no longer acceptable to view and treat wives as inferior creatures, slaves, sex-toys and housemaids. They are equal to men in every aspect, except one. They are also the bearers of life, and as such, they still deserve the extra care and attention that every gentleman gives them. Men who accept and live by these rules are capable of forming happy relationships with Western women, and in turn, get the same love, respect and happiness from their wives.

– on the other hand, some men still cling to the old days when cavemen-values were the norm. They wish to have a submissive wife who observes the wishes of her lord ( I mean, husband), never complains and lets him do whatever he wants. Perfect housemaid, action-ready sexpartner, or a silent dummy at times when His Lordship gets home drunk and wishes to beat the **** out of someone.

– the stereotype of submissive Asian women is still very much alive in Western circles, mostly due to the media.

– unable to form a lasting relationship with Western women, these guys turn their eyes to the East. (Those who are not Asiophiles tend to look at Russian mail-order brides, like someone mentioned on the boards).

– Thailand has an international reputation of its women.

– in real life, there are Thai women in vulnerable situation – I will talk about this next. The Farang man comes to Thailand to exploit this vulnerability, and uses the economic disparities to his advantage.

Now, let’s talk about Mia Farang (Thai wife of a Farang man), and what happens when the two come together… in the next blog.