Stickman's guide to Bangkok
Thai-ing the Knot
I was in the Emporium department store in Bangkok just before Christmas and I saw a couple of Americans chatting. 'Have you met my wife,' says one, and introduces a girl probably ten years younger than he was, holding a small baby. A nice enough girl, but clearly a former bargirl. Showing her midriff, a bit too much make-up, probably a tattoo hidden from view.
I couldn't help wonder what had gone through the guy's head before getting hitched to a prostitute. Hasn't he read the warnings on sites like this? Doesn't he know the dangers of getting involved with a bargirl? And leaving aside the sheer futility of expecting a marriage to a hooker to have a happy ending, doesn't the guy realise that every farang who knows anything about this country will recognise her as a former prostitute? Doesn't he realise that every Thai who sees them together will know that she was a bargirl? Every time they go out together, every restaurant they eat in, every cinema they go into, every shop they visit. And it will stay like that for the rest of their time in Thailand. No Thai he meets is going to take him seriously. If he works for a Thai company, his bosses will lose all respect for him. His Thai co-workers ditto. Why would anyone respect a man who has married a prostitute? Taking her back to the States won't be any easier. Most people he will meet will assume, rightly, that he married a hooker. Why would any guy put himself through that?
That got me to thinking about farangs who marry Thais. It seems to me, based on almost twenty years experience, that the vast majority of farangs who marry Thai girls are sex tourists. And most of the Thai girls who marry Westerners are bargirls. This is a fact, no matter how unpalatable that is. A common complaint from farangs who take Thai wives back to their own countries is that their girls are treated like prostitutes by all and sundry. There's a simple reason for this. With few exceptions, they are prostitutes.
Now, most sex tourists wouldn't think of describing themselves as such. They see themselves as men of the world, visitors to an exotic country where young, beautiful girls treat them as gods. Time for a reality check, Gentlemen. If you come to Thailand to have sex, you are a sex tourist. If you come to Thailand to have sex with underage girls, you are a paedophile. And if you come to have sex with katoeys, then you are a queer and God help you.
Ninety-nine per cent of men who visit Thailand without a female companion are sex tourists. You might be a sex tourist who spends three months a year in the Land of Smiles taking Polaroids or digital pictures of all the girls you've had sex with. You might come over once a year and hook up with a regular girlfriend. Whatever the arrangement, if you're here paying for sex then you are a sex tourist. And you can be sure of one thing - no regular, decent, Thai girl is going to let you get close to her. As soon as she finds out your history - and she will - then you won't see her for dust.
That means there is only one sort of girl who will have you - a bargirl. And truth be told, that's the sort of girl you probably want. Young, pretty, sexy. Despite all the warnings, including many from the honourable Stickman, sex tourists almost always marry prostitutes. They might be bargirls, they might be freelancers working out of a bar beer, or a hotel receptionist who occasionally goes with a guest for money. But one thing is for sure - they will be selling sex for money. And marriage between a sex tourist and a prostitute will always end in disaster.
Why? Just read the horror stories on this site, for a start. Virtually without exception, bargirls are damaged goods. Addicted to booze, drugs or gambling. Probably with a Thai husband or boyfriend in the background. A child or two up country with the relatives. A box full of photographs and business cards. A mobile phone full of telephone numbers of guys she's slept with. A jaundiced view of farangs in general and sex tourists in particular.
And what of the sex tourist? He's paid for sex with God knows how many young, sexy girls. How likely is he to settle down? In a way, sex tourists and bargirls deserve each other. But one thing is for sure - the relationship won't last. Guaranteed.
The next group who tend to marry Thai girls are expats who say they live here. You'll meet them all the time in the bars of Bangkok and Pattaya. They sit there with a thick gold chain around their thick neck and a mobile phone clipped to their belt and talk about Thailand being their home. But when you get to know them, you discover that the bulk of them are actually long-term sex tourists, working at jobs that do little more than cover their living (and screwing) costs. English teachers, bar owners, website designers, scuba instructors. Anyone serious about any of those professions wouldn't be working in Thailand. A teacher of English as a foreign language can earn several times a Thai salary working in the States or Europe. Website designers abroad make a good living, here it's thirty or forty thousand baht a month at best. Magazine sub-editors here earn a fifth of the salary they'd get back in the States. Freelance journalists have to live like paupers to survive. These guys aren't here for the money, they're here for the sex.
The same goes for most of the old guys here on retirement visas. They're not here for the cheap food and the temples. Ask yourself why so many live in Pattaya or within walking distance of Nana Plaza or Soi Cowboy. They are long-term sex tourists, nothing more, and personally I look forward to the day when the Government here bites the bullet and sends them all packing. Let's see how they get on paying for sex with girls a third of their age back in their own countries.
As in the case of short-term sex tourists, the long-term variety of sex tourist has no chance of getting close to a decent Thai girl. When they do marry, they almost always marry bargirls. Often they'll lie, claiming to have met the girl in Robinson's Department store or at a temple. Bollocks. Spend any time talking to the wife of a long-term sex tourist and you'll soon see her true colours. Often these guys end up marrying a succession of prostitutes before returning penniless to their own country. Let's repeat - you cannot have a successful relationship with a bargirl. Anyone who thinks they have a loving, caring, sharing relationship with a (former) bargirl just hasn't discovered the truth yet. Get yourself a decent (honest) private eye and get the facts before you throw more good money after bad.
For a really good insight into the thinking of long-term sex tourists, have a look at Stephen Leather's book Private Dancer. It's a free downloadable book at www.stephenleather.com/unpub.html. It should be compulsory reading for all sex-tourists, short-term and long term. The great thing about Private Dancer is it demonstrates that it isn't just the bargirl half of the equation that leads to disaster - it's a game of two halves and the sex tourists are as much to blame as the girls. They deserve each other.
A growing percentage of marriages to Thais involve sad bastards who can't find a wives in their own countries. Strange as it may seem, there are probably more success stories among this group than any other. Read Bangkok Angel by Mike Smith and Robin Hayes for one sad bastard's tale which had a happy ending. (Asia Books sell it, so do Bookazine.) Usually they are middle-aged men, often with at least one failed marriage behind them, who decide that they want a Thai wife. What saves these guys from disaster is that they don't go through the sex-tourist phase. Instead they use an agency to find them a partner. Providing the agency doesn't fix them up with a hooker, and providing the girl/woman is serious about wanting a farang husband, and providing she moves with him back to his country, these marriages do have a surprisingly high success rate.
They also tend to be marriages of equals, which makes them more likely to succeed. Mike Smith, the guy in Bangkok Angel, isn't the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, and the woman he married wasn't especially well educated, so they are unlikely to get bored with each other. Plus marriages through agencies tend to be less for sex and more for
companionship. That's where the sex tourist usually comes adrift. The Thai girl who looked so attractive dancing naked around in a silver pole isn't quite so alluring wrapped up in a duffel coat against the chill winds of north east England. And it's amazing how quickly the slim, sexy bargirl figure (probably due to heavy Yar Ba consumption) turns to fat on an American diet. Guys who use the agencies tend to be looking for companionship rather than sex, so they are less likely to be disappointed if they don't get fixed up with a sex goddess. Or if their sex goddess metamorphoses into a heavy-set lump, albeit one with a charming smile.
The last group of guys who tie the knot with Thai girl are the long-term expats. These guys are totally different from long-term sex tourists. They have real jobs and earn salaries comparable with what they would get back in their own countries. Often they are not here by choice, but have been sent to Thailand by their companies. These are not guys you will ever see in a go-go bar, unless they are entertaining a visitor from overseas who wants to see sleaze. These are not guys who would go near a bargirl and who would be contemptuous of any farang who did. More often than not, such guys will already have families. Of those that are single, most would not want to marry a Thai. Those that are single will know all the pitfalls of marrying across a cultural divide, and will not enter into it lightly. And if they do marry a Thai girl, she'll be from a good family, either with a career of her own or rich enough that she doesn't have to work. It won't be a girl he met in a bar, working at Robinsons department store, dancing in the Hard Rock Cafe or prowling the various Thai chatrooms. Where do you meet Thai girls from good families? If you have to ask, gentle reader, then I'm not going to tell you because I'd only be wasting your time. You stick to Nana Plaza, Soi Cowboy and Pat Pong. Where you belong.
One thing you will notice about long-term expats who marry Thais - generally the age gap isn't much greater than it would be back in their own country. Generally five years, probably ten, in some cases fifteen. But what you won't see is a long-term expat marrying a decent Thai girl young enough to be his daughter. Or, God-forbid, his grand-daughter. I don't care what the sex tourists say about Asian girls appreciating a man of senior years, there is something grotesque about a fifty-year-old man walking hand-in-hand with a twenty-year-old unless he is a blood relation. A thirty-year age gap is simply ridiculous. Forty is sick. That goes for Hugh Heffner, Rupert Murdoch, and the sad sex tourists in Pattaya.
Time for another reality check, Gentleman. It is not true to say that Thai girls prefer older men. Men with little or no hair. Men with beer guts. Thai girls like girls the world over prefer young, fit good-looking guys. This is where the average sex tourist says, 'yes, but I make them laugh. They like me. I'm different.' Sadly, you're not. I've never yet met a sex tourist who I've found the least bit entertaining or interesting. Generally they're working class in a dead-end job from a minor provincial city. If they're Brits they're wearing sandals and socks and have probably got a shaved head and a couple of tattoos. If they're Americans they're from some mid-West town you've never heard of wearing a Harley t-shirt stretched over a massive beer gut and a goatee beard disguising a weak chin. These are not attractive people in the main, but even the good-looking ones fall down in the IQ department. You do not find New York bankers or London company directors hanging around the bars of Nana Plaza and Pat Pong. Sex tourists in the main are taxi drivers, butchers, plasterers, plumbers, low-grade office workers. Guy who would find it difficult to get a half-decent girl back in their home towns.
You think that just because you've sat in the economy section of a long-haul flight for a day that you've suddenly become a fascinating person? Think again. Bargirls are not hanging on your every word because you are the life and soul of the party, but because she is a sex worker and you are a sex tourist and you are getting what you are paying for. Nothing more, nothing less. Long term expats know this and would no more dream of getting into a relationship with a bargirl in Bangkok then they would with a hooker in New York. They meet decent, 'real' girls and go through a proper courtship process before proposing and settling down.
So, do relationships between long-term expats and Thai girls from good families work? An unequivocal 'yes' to this one. They do work, with probably a better success rate than marriages generally in the States or Europe. That's because more effort is made on both sides to choose the right partner. And because the girl's family will also play a crucial role, both in whether or not they give their permission (and without it no decent Thai girl would get married) and the support they give after the marriage. Never forget, when you marry a Thai girl, you marry her family, for better or worse!
So, to sum up, here are the rules:
1) If you want a Thai wife, don't become a sex tourist. Find a Thai girl in your own country, or join a respectable agency which can provide you with checkable references. And if you do find the girl of your dreams through an agency, get her checked out by a trustworthy private eye. It's the only way you will ever be sure that there isn't a Thai boyfriend or husband around.
2) If you decide to come to Thailand to look for a wife, do not go into a go-go bar or other places of prostitution. You wouldn't go looking for a hooker to marry in your own country so don't do it here.
3) Do not, under any circumstances, marry a bargirl. Marriages to bargirls do not work out. Anyone who has married a bargirl and thinks that he has a successful marriage just hasn't discovered the truth yet.
4) If you do marry a bargirl, don't complain when it goes wrong.
5) If you are a sex tourist, you will never have a successful long-term relationship, with any girl. Accept that and continue being a sex tourist. Oh, and stop taking off your shirt and dancing with the go-go girls. It isn't funny.
6) Treat any Thai girl you meet on the Internet with suspicion. Ask yourself why a good Thai girl would go looking for a Western boyfriend on the Internet. The answer is simple - a good Thai girl wouldn't.
7) Marry a girl as close as possible to your own social, financial and educational standing. And the closer you are in ages, the better.
8) If you do marry a Thai girl, only stay in Thailand if you can earn more here than in your home country. Or if her family is a positive asset. Out with those two provisos, your marriage will have more chance of working outside Thailand.
9) If you do stay in Thailand, learn the language. Learn about the country's history and culture. Watch local TV and local movies. Listen to Thai music. The only way you are going to have even a chance of understanding how a Thai thinks and feels is to understand their culture.
10) If all you want is some dream Thai girl who will satisfy your every sexual whim and be the perfect subservient wife, then forget it. You have no idea what Thais are like and are going to have all your illusions dashed. Thai girls/women are not subservient in any way and long-term they get exactly what they want. If not from you, then from someone else. Marrying across a cultural divide is not something to be taken lightly, especially a divide as huge as the Thai-farang one.
I agree with most of what you say although there are certain things which are, in my opinion, not quite as black and white as you see them. Yep, these fools who shack up or God forbid, marry bargirls are demeaning themselves - no question about it.
Return to Readers Submissions index
All feedback is welcome - please forward email to firstname.lastname@example.org.