By Not So Ugly American
I am an American recently married to an Isaan bar girl. Now I am looking for input / feedback on some Thai / Farang issues. Any / all advise would be appreciated.
I knew about my wife’s past and I do not have any ill feelings towards her due to this. My problem is in dealing with her parents. I have some pretty strong ill feelings towards her parents because they had her “work” to support the
family. My wife is actually the middle daughter of three. Her older sister first went to work. Her parents either did not think that her sister was enough money or they wanted more so they had my wife go to work. The youngest sister is now 17-18
and has not yet been sent to work.
Even to this day the relationship between the oldest sister the family is strained. She is pretty messed up and probably could use some professional therapy. Part of this is because she feels she let her family and in particular her sister down. She feels bad that she was not able to send her parents enough money so they had to send her sister to work. Even when her sister (my wife) was working the older sister would make her take time off (months) because she did not want her working – during this time my wife lived with her sister. My wife would always return to work because the parents were always asking for more money. Part of it is because she had done the math and can see how much money she has sent home over the years and it is never enough. Any way the older sister has a pretty much on-again off-again relationship with the family. She will go months without talking to the family with the exception of my wife.
The father use to box. Now he is too old to box, he can not read or write, so he has very little ability to provide for the family. I know family is important to Thai culture, and I know my wife cares a great deal for her family. I know the family is poor and has limited ability to make money. But I have a hard time dealing with the fact they sent their daughter off to work.
Any advice on how others have dealt with this issue would be helpful. Maybe it is just an issue of letting the past be the past. In truth one of my biggest fears is that the family will want the youngest daughter to go to work now as well. Especially since the funds from my wife have disappeared.
Now I am faced with the daunting task of dealing with the family and with money. I have read Stickman thru and thru and I have seen the horror stories.
I told my wife long before we married that I was not going to support her family. After she stopped working and moved in with me a gave her an allowance in which she was able to spend how ever she wished. I know most of this went to the family – but this was her choice, and I have no problem with this.
I know that in Thailand the family is very important, and I do not have a problem helping her family. I do not how ever want to become the farang ATM. How do you (can you) strike a balance so that the family respects me and appreciates the help that I can give them. As apposed to be an unappreciated ATM. It is not that I want them to grovel at my feet and tell me how thankful they are that I am able to give them money. I just want to personally feel like they appreciate the effort that I am making. I want to feel like I am part of the family and not a foreign bank.
A friend of mine (also with Thai wife), had advised me not to give the family anything. He says I am worrying too much about her family and being accepted. He says I am a farang and will never be accepted so don’t give a baht. He also said when he first got married he gave the family money (but no dowry). But once he gave it was never enough. They continued to come back for money more often, and for more money.
Note on the above:
I have given her family money – once. A member of the family passed away and I volunteered to pay for the services / coffin / flowers / etc. The family member had been sick for some time and I knew this was coming. I gave 40,000 baht. Now I figured (and
I had spoken to some friends about the cost of traditional Thai ceremonies) this should be enough. Well, the next day the girlfriend asks for 20,000 more. Well for various reasons my girlfriend was not able to attend the services and I knew this
bothered her a lot. This is the main reason I offered to pay for the services in the first place. So I went ahead and forked over the extra 20,000 baht. Put this put such a bad taste in my mouth in regard to her family (60,000 baht for an Isaan
services???) that I have refused to give her family any additional money.
They have asked. Soon after this the family completed a new house (paid for by my wife and her sister). A very nice house at that – two bedroom, western toilet, nice indoor dinning / kitchen area, and large main room. The wife asked me for 6,000 baht to get the house blessed. I refused. The wife’s sister ended up sending the money.
A few months later the wife wanted money because her father was ill. 8,000 baht please. I refused. The wife had saved 6,000 baht from her allowance and I agreed to front her the extra 2,000 baht – to be deducted from future allowances. She was happy to agree with this.
My wife and I were legally married but we did not have a ceremony of any kind – a “courthouse wedding” . But I told her I would agree to have a traditional Thai wedding if she wants. She wants to plan and have this wedding in about a year – fine by me. Has anyone heard of doing something like this – married and not having the Thai wedding (in Isaan) until much later? Is this something that Thai’s are OK with?
Now she has recently been asking about a dowry. To this point I have refused. I have heard of situations where the husband agrees to pay a dowry and the wife’s family returns most or all of it following the services. This allows the family to save face in the community and allows the Farang to not feel like and ATM.
As I understand it the dowry is very much a part of Thai tradition. So on that basis I do not have a problem paying a dowry. The biggest problem I have is who and how to negotiate this – and what is a truly reasonable dowry. I have heard that 40,000 baht is reasonable for an Isaan bar girl – I hate the way that sounds – 40,000 baht to purchase your wife for good.
I can speak basically no Thai, and besides my wife and her sister no one else in the family can speak English. So do you sit down with Dad / Mom and use the wife to translate negotiations on how much the dowry will be? Yikes – talk about being between a rock and a hard place. And how do you possible broach the subject of getting money returned after the ceremony?
As I mention above to this point I have refused until I can formulate how to deal with it any better. Any advice in regard to who to negotiate with / how to handle negotiations / and how much is reasonable would be helpful.
I was communicating with a regular reader and frequent contributor recently about parents who suck money out of their children. He suggested that the girl cut the family off. I agree. The problem is that if you put a Thai girl under enough pressure, more often than not she will choose the family over you. It is hard to say just how much the family want, but if I was you, I'd encourage your Mrs. to get a job, and let her know that if she earns something, then she can send some money to them.
As far as the dowry goes, you are married already. There is no need to pay. Also – and at the risk of alienating a few people here – if she was a bargirl, the dowry should be VERY low indeed….