Meeting The Isaan Family
By Not So Ugly American
First let me thank all those who replied to my earlier post, and helped me prepare for my trip to Isaan. While it turns out all my advance planning / preparation and worry were not necessary – Yet. No real pressure from the family for money, and only one mildly uncomfortable money related situation. The issue of sin sot was not discussed and it appears that the family is content at this stage with the simple fact that I have agreed to pay some level of sin sot. I think it helps that at this time the oldest sister has also landed a Farang.
I was with the family for just over one week. Quite a long stay in Isaan, but I spent most nights in a local western style hotel so this made the longer stay quite easy – as did the way the family treated me.
Upon arrival I was met by the wife (1), Mom & Dad (2,3), a couple of aunts (4,5), and a few of the family young ones (6,7,8). So dinner for nine (9) including myself at the western style hotel to kick off the trip. Paid for by me (as I expected), at a very reasonable price, and a fairly small family group (considering the wife’s mother has six sisters). Late lunch / early dinner the next day for twenty (20) at a local Southeast Asian restaurant (actually near the same price as the previous day's meal for 9). As this was kind of the introduction meal for me and the main family group I was also happy to pay, especially since a rather large portion of the group were kids – still have not met all six of the mom’s sisters. ALL of the remaining meals were kept to small groups usually only me, the wife and the wife’s parents, or were not paid for by me. Many of the remaining meals were actually at the Isaan homestead and the parents paid most of the tabs at the local food markets.
Besides the food other remaining money related issues were quite low with one exception (which I will get to later). I had asked the wife about gifts to give to the family – as this is the first time I met them. Her reply – up to you. But she did recommend that if I wanted to buy them anything I should wait until I get to Isaan to buy as the prices would be lower. So over the first few days I took various parts of the main family (mom, dad, wife’s sister, wife’s brother, brother-in-law's kids) to the either the main market or to Big C and bought a combination of clothes / shoes depending upon the individual want / need. Actually the wife was quite the penny pincher on this trip and reigned in the family on some items that I would have had no problem buying – I had to practically sneak a soccer ball into the cart as the wife advised me not to buy one. I had to practically force the new mother-in-law to pick a dress out at Big C as she thought the 250 baht price tag was far too expensive.
Now the bad news – I had seen pictures of the homestead and I knew the family had a TV. When I show up there is no TV – it had been struck by lightning. As luck would have it the older sister's farang boyfriend is to show up a couple of days after me so I kept my mouth shut on the topic until he arrived. After he arrived we agreed (with absolutely no request from any family member) that the two of us would by the family a new TV (I heard all you guys moaning on this one). But I was so pleased by the way I had been treated by the family so far I was more than happy to splurge on this item. So we load the family up into the truck and head off to select the new TV. Get to the shop – the store clerk sees two Farang and heads straight to show us the mother load of TVs. Next thing I know the family is gathered around some mombo sized flat screen that comes with a “free” DVD player. As the family gathers around and listens to the sales pitch the two Farang fade to the back and begin to look elsewhere in the shop. The family quickly gets the picture – the model they are looking at is not going home with them today. They looked around a bit more and decided they wanted a different model – but one that we Farang thought was pretty expensive considering they could / would never consider such a model on basic Isaan wages. I pointed out to the wife that it would take ages for the family to save up and buy such a TV, and that it was not considerate of them to ask for us to buy them such a model. Much discussion between the family and they agree to a model more in our price range – still a few baht more than I expected to pay but a good TV. Went to dinner (sister's new Farang boyfriend paid this tab – for seven (me, wife, older sister, boyfriend, mom, dad, and one aunt)) after purchasing the TV. Mom made a small show of displeasure (a little crying) about not getting a better TV <fxxxing unacceptable; ungrateful old hag – Stick>. I made a small show (ate almost nothing at dinner and said next to nothing) to show my displeasure about the TV episode. The next day all is forgotten and things are back to “normal”.
If I had this to do over again I would certainly state head on that the two Farang’s are willing to pay “X” baht for a new TV, and stood firm at that price. Or even just went out and picked the new TV out myself and brought it back to the house. In reality I spent a bit too much on the TV, and the brother / aunt actually had the balls to complain to the wife’s sister that we Farang were being a couple of “Cheap Charlies” for not buying the more expensive model. But for the trip I spent far less than I expected and was not asked for any parting gift / money upon my departure at the airport.
While I am sure that a large portion of the readers are thinking – you goof “what the hell did you buy the family a new TV?” If I had it to do over I would still buy them a new TV – I would have just handled things differently. Plus keep in the mind that this new TV was from two Farang so the cost was not bad at all.
In my opinion (which is what really counts at this stage), the visit was a big success. The wife proved to be much more fickle with my money than me, and money proved to be much less of an issue with the family than what I expected. Especially when you consider I have a soft spot for children, and would be easy to “break” on expenses for them. Even when it comes to my nieces and nephews in the US – I spend more than I should. With this in mind I would have gladly bought more for the children in the wife’s immediate family, and was prevented by the wife’s as well as the mom on a couple of occasions.
In summary the first time meeting the family – very good results. Only hurdles (big hurdles all the same) left will be sin sot and traditional Thai wedding. I think at this stage that the traditional Thai wedding is only about a 50/50 shot. I have told the wife the only way I pay sin sot is if there is a traditional Thai wedding, and that the sin sot will basically be to pay for the wedding. Neither the wedding nor the sin sot were topics of discussion in this trip. I even tried to get the wife to go to a couple of the local gold shops to look around, and we never quite made it into one – if you can believe that. Here I am willing to take the Mrs. into a gold shop and she is not that interested in going.
So now we know why provincial Thai centres have shops with super large TVs!