Don’t Let Thais Into Your House
For the last six months, I’ve had some Thai friends / co-workers that lived a few blocks away from me. They actually got here to our neighborhood over a year ago, but my wife and I just got here about 6 months ago since we spend half of each year in Thailand. Because they were only in the US for temporary work reasons, they did not have a full grasp of the culture and bureaucracy here. When we arrived and I realized that there was a Thai family a few blocks away, I was happy to introduce myself and my wife and shortly thereafter volunteered to help with anything they might need assistance with in dealing with typical US bullshit. Ie: calling the phone company if there were issues with the bills, going to the motor vehicle office for vehicle transfers, and things like that. At first I honestly didn’t mind helping, but my wife advised me it was a bad idea. She said it’s no problem to assist, but if I over-did the help, they would eventually just take my assistance for granted and ask me for everything.
As a little background, my wife and I live half the year here in the US and half the year in Thailand. We’ve got a home in Isaan, but I spend most of my time in our apartment in Bangkok where I work. My wife actually gets more of a headache than I do when we are at our home in the Northeast because her family is constantly asking for things.
The Thai couple that lived up the block were both very well educated. Back in Thailand the wife is a teacher at Chula and the husband works for the Ministry of the Interior. While in the US, they were receiving a LOT more money from the US government for the husband’s work here than what they both make combined in Thailand. However, they were outrageously keenyouw and tried to save every penny for their return home. This meant that they were over-reliant on everyone else, including my family and other local Thai families, so that they could use everyone else’s “resources” but their own.
The six months that we were here together, they were always asking for this or that. They never asked for money, but they always asked for things that cost money or time: ride to work, ride to the airport, help translating business papers, etc.
Sure enough, after about 6 months of helping our friend up the block here in the US, it was coming up on time for them to move back to Thailand since their work was finished here. The wife and I were to leave for our home in the Kingdom about 2 months
later. Anyway, to get to the point, the family up the street did exactly what my wife warned against. When they started cleaning out their house, they would always ask me to help them move since I own a truck. They never offered gas money. Since
they had to vacate their house about 3 weeks before departing for Thailand, they asked to stay in our house rather than pay an expensive hotel bill. I agreed, but it just turned out to be a disaster. They have two kids who made a mess of the house.
The couple, husband and wife, were constantly asking to borrow my wife’s car, use all the household appliances (ie: washer / dryer, dishwasher) without ever replacing any of the detergent, etc. We went away for one week and found when we
got back that they had driven several hundred miles with my wife’s car and didn’t tell us. They even invited people over to the house for a dinner party while we were gone. It was just ridiculous. While every day they apologized
for inconveniencing my wife and me, they continued to do so; much more than I felt was appropriate. The only thing that they would do to try to “pay us back” was that the wife would always try to cook lunch or dinner for us. That
was a nice gesture, but it really didn’t make up for the unbelievable burden that they placed on us daily.
If you ask yourself why my wife and I let this happen, there really isn’t a good answer other than the guy and his wife really are good people. I would even call them friends.
Unfortunately looking back, that wasn’t a good enough reason to let this burden to continue, but I let it happen anyway. Another reason is that in the future, when we return to Thailand in about one month, I already have assurances that he will
help with business matters that I need assistance with (of course this is yet to be seen). When the couple finally left the house, my wife said that for the entire last six months she’s felt like we were back in Thailand simply because
it’s so routine for Thais, including her family, to ask for too much, all ungratefully.
But I have learned a lesson – one to pass on to all of you who don’t know it already. My wife reminds me of this every time we discuss our acquaintances: It’s OK to help and be nice to Thai people, but don’t let them into your house and don’t over-extend your kindness or you will simply be taken advantage of. Lesson learned.
The wife and I return to Thailand next month and will be there until the end of 2005. I’m looking forward to getting my payback in the form of business assistance from my friend, and I will be an absolute pain in the ass until he gives me the help I require.
One of my workmates reckons you should never help the Thais too much. He cites the cases of the farangs at work who offer extra assistance – and then are expected to help with everything in the future while those who have never offered assistance are never asked.