(The following blog/article was published in The Nation newspaper on March 1. Here below, however, is the originally un-edited submission)
Thailand is universally infamous for many a thing, besides its scamming gem shops, dangerous billboards, never-ending plastic bags, drunken cops, pick-pocketing ladyboys, pictures of dead bodies, rabid stray dogs, dodgy beggars and uncovered manholes, there is, and last but not least, it’s women.
I’m certainly not going to argue that such a fine species is perfect beyond belief or that every one is a deliciously honest darling, but there are, in general, a rather nicer breed of individual than that perceived by a lot of Farangs, including those who have never even stepped in the country. According to some newspaper reports, websites, Internet forums and barstools, Thai women are nothing but, scheming promiscuous gold-diggers who view Farang guys as dumb classless walking ATMs. So, with that said, let me take the opportunity, just for once, to give Thai women a bit of a break and see their ‘side of things’
I can’t find any clear statistics, but from what I’ve read and heard, there sees to be a frightening percentage of marriage failures between Farang blokes and Thai women – the latter of which nearly always gets the blame (including ever pleading mothers). It is quite obvious that two of the significant factors behind such catastrophic break-ups is ‘cultural misunderstanding’ and generalized myths circulated by some of the ever-knowledgeable Farangs themselves.
Let’s have a look at one of the matters which often leads to the beginning of the end – the marriage dowry. Don’t get me wrong like, there are plenty of scheming Thai mothers out there hoping to acquire as much cash as is heavenly possible out of their the son-in-law wanna-bes, but there are more than enough honest ones who prefer to just adhere to modern-day tradition. More than your fair share of Farangs either choke on their coffee at the prospect of having to give one or rant and rave in refusal, but much of the time it’s all simply a ‘cultural misunderstanding’. We’ve all heard that classic one of ‘it’s just a matter of saving face’ but we seldom hear Farangs explaining to each other that getting married in Thailand (the Thai verb for marry ‘taeng-ngarn’ literally means ‘to make a party’) is a combining of two families and not just the two romantic lovers.. When you get married here, what’s mostly yours is hers and what’s hers is yours. And with that said, if the guy pays any kind of dowry (which may be excepted and pocketed – some, half or all of it) then you can be rest assured that one day you’ll be receiving something in return; be it land, big shares in dad’s business, grandmother’s old house or a herd of buffalo. Depending of course, on what kind of family you wish to marry into.
Like I said, a lotta Farang geezers throw a frenzy when toothless mother-in-law asks for a substantial amount, but they fail to realize that if they hadn’t perhaps been so extravagant prior to the engagement, mother wouldn’t have ended up being so ‘greedy’. I think quite a few Thais would like to tell the Farangs that ‘if you wanna show off how rich you are to everyone in the village’ then it can be guaranteed that in adhering to the Thai sense of ‘face’ mum’s gonna want to ‘show off’ a big sum of greenbacks on the morning of the engagement on wedding day.
Let’s have a look next at some of the well-told myths about Thai women and start with this awful one ‘Proper Thai women don’t want a Farang as a boyfriend’. Shiver-me-timbers, but ‘proper’ Thai women have been marrying Farang ever since the first Portuguese arrived. All right, there are old-fashioned Thai grannies who wouldn’t want their granddaughters marrying some scruffy-looking Farang, but to stick them all the same boat is bewildering generalization. Next up, how about this one? ‘All Thai women only like Farang for his cash’. Well, if you decide to marry into a poor rural family say, then by Gove, your wife will certainly be expecting you to flash some cash and when she does, you have know right to complain. You should have realized that from the start, there are a million blogs on the Internet written about such experiences. Another, quite derogatory myth, is this one ‘All Thai women want a Farang husband so they can move to the West’. Again, what a load of old cobblers. Then again, if you are a fan of such websites hooking you up with ‘lovely Thai brides’ you can be forgiven for your irrational perception. Of course, it simply depends on the woman, there are plenty of Thai women here whose ambition in life is not to wake up to the smell of black pudding and fried bread
Let me turn my attention to frivolous but quite important cultural differences, which looking from some Farangs’ way of thinking, may look bad on Thai women. “I’ve been dating this girl lately but wherever we go she always brings her friend”. Well, the reason for that buddy, is probably she’s still a bit afraid of you; she’s also following a kind of Thai tradition. Next, “I don’t know what she really thinks about me, she doesn’t show me any affection and especially not in public”. Well, sounds like she’s a decent enough women, Thais don’t exactly appreciate watching two lovers snogging each other on street corners like high school kids in Farangland. Thai women show their affection in a much more subtle, hard to detect, kind of way. Or “How come when I offer a woman out on date to a disco, she always turns me down. Again, a simple cultural difference, your average Thai women would prefer to go to the cinema.
“My girlfriend is so funny, every time we go the seaside she keeps out of the sun and splashes on a whole bottle of sun lotion”. Now, Farang guys always laugh about Thai women and their fascination for fair-skin. We all have to realize however, that Thais think we are just as weird for our obsession of ‘getting a tan’; lying on a beach all day ignorant to the threat of skin cancer. Joke about Thai women and their whitening lotion but don’t forget that the major companies who produce them also sell darkening lotion in Farangland. And, “When I’m not happy about something and complain to a Thai, my girlfriend never sticks up for me”. Probably not, I think a lot of Thai women get completely bored of their Farang boyfriends constant bickering usually ending with the typical “Well, in my country, it wouldn’t be like this blah blah…” You have to realize that most Thais are proud of their country and get tired of Farangs who compare all the time to how things are ‘back home’, often in an extremely negative way. Ok, sure, a lot of the times it’s perfectly fair to raise your voice, us Farangs do have to admit that we moan a lot. Thais don’t do it a lot, so that again is just a cultural difference.
There are even different culturally spoken mis-understandings. “She must like me, she was asking where my apartment was and if I lived with any woman”. Ha…what a joke! While this elderly guy thinks that some hot honey of 25 fancies him, he is completely oblivious to the fact that Thai women do ask such questions out of normality – they are not Farangs. It’s like the other way around when the Thai woman says “You look fatter now”; while he is furious at such an insult, she is thinking that him putting on a bit of weight has actually done him a bit of good.
Anyway, things have certainly improved in regards to ‘culturally mis-understanding Thai women over the past decade and even a lot of the old scary myths are being squashed. Let’s just hope that things will continue to do so and even speed up. Not forgetting to mention of course, this article could also be written completely in vice-versa.