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Money, Money, Money – It’s A Lich Man’s Wurn


I was sitting in a bar minding my own business and everybody’s else’s, when this big, fat Indian woman walks in. She’s dripping with gold and lays her eyes on me immediately. She rolls over to my corner. ‘Hey big boy, why don’t you and me head back to my hotel for an afternoon of fun’.

‘Where you come from?’ I asked her. She flicks the edge of her Sari across the bridge of my nose. Stupid question, for sure, but then I’m not the brightest pea in the pod.

I never really liked the smell of an Indian women’s skin but the price she mentioned was a white-collar guy’s monthly salary. Sure I’ll go with her.

‘Money no good’ I say. I like to be brief and to the point.

I demand double her asking price.

‘OK’, she says, but for long-time.

‘Pay bar fine, I go toilet first’. Holy cow, I’m going to be lich!

OK, so I made up that first bit. But who wouldn’t be tempted to earn a nice, easy stack of money – if the price is right? $200, $500, $1000. At what point do you jump in and say ‘That’ll do nicely, madam?

So when your teeruk has figured out you must be earning at least 30 times the salary of an MBK shoe salesman, it isn’t so surprising that she is truly, madly, deeply in love with you.

And when you pop the question, she’s got the answer.

And that’s how you find yourself standing in line at the airport immigrant check in Copenhagen, Karlsruhe or Cummin-on-the-Marsh or wherever you happen to live. Your little teeruk is submerged under a stack of luggage and plastic bags of foul-smelling vegetables. Now you understand why your flight is called the Chatuchak Express. Don’t panic. Immigration Officer has seen it all before. My God, he’s been there, done that himself, got the penicillin shots to prove it. He waves you by, quickly.

Only trouble is that the first full flush of romance, born under a golden Pattaya moon has somewhat wilted in the scorching midday sun of Surin. Did she really have so many sick buffalos all at once? And were Mama’s gambling debts really equal to the February GNP of Laos? You shrug your shoulders. Never mind that you were cleaned out, you only marry once after all (twice in teeruk’s case), and let no one accuse you of being a cheap charlie.

But in the pale gloom of a wet and cold Des Moines or Melbourne morning it doesn’t look so rosy.

Why not?

It’s the economy, stupid. Or rather, you’re skint, broke, busted. The wedding cost more than you expected, the credit card is maxed out, your mate’s refuse to lend you any more. And little Nid thinks she’s landed in the land of milk and honey. Sure she does. You’re a farang, mister, ergo you are lich. Lich and hansum, so don’t forget it. Nid saw you flash with the cash on that first night in Rick’s Chee-Chee Bar. Little does she know that it took you six months to save up for the trip. It was Kev’s stag party. You and you mates were going for the big blow out. Nid and her mates were happy to oblige.

So how are you going to rescue this situation. Make Noy aware of the truth. You’ve read the three golden rules of Stick a thousand times and you know what’s in it for her.

1. Noy wants security. That is – money. The more she gets, the more secure she feels. Stands to reason, right?
2. Eat, drink and be merry – for tomorrow we die. Could be. No need to save all that money. Big brother would come in the night and steal it anyway. No, let’s have a party and make big face.
3. Love me, Love my dog. And my chickens. And the sick buffs, and the shrimp farm that Papa wants Mr. Farang to invest in. Did I mention Papa? And his lovely extended family? We just call him Mr. Isaan because his loins have roamed further than a farang’s mobile telephone. Yep, Lek loves ‘em all so much, she’s redistributing your wealth among them. Boy, are you going to make merit!

Now a lot of farangs are going to advise you to immerse yourself in her culture if you want this marriage to work. Learn the language, follow the custom, go to the temple. All good stuff, I say. But if there’s one thing we get right and they get wrong, it’s money. We handle it better. A million times better. If I had a euro for every time I’ve seen a Thai fritter money away on useless purchases, illegal lottery tickets, or just plain old duff loans to duff Uncle, then Lek would have it out of my wallet and into the cup of a beggar before you could say European Exchange Rate Mechanism. Boy, is she going to make merit!

So how do you turn this lovely, gorgeous creature from being the bounteous, benefactor from Buriram into the meanest money machine in Minnesota?

Play devious my friend.

I know you’ve just promised to love and cherish in sickness and health, for richer for poorer until death you do part. But you did that in Thai and therefore you didn’t understand a word of it. Forget that stuff. You have to be cruel to be kind. You are the teacher of all things Western. Now you have to save your marriage even though it has hardly begun. Check out the stories on Stick’s site if you don’t believe me

So why does Nid keep on asking you for more money when she said yesterday that she only needed 10,000 baht for the new cellular phone, and that was that. Promise, cross-my-heart hope to die in a really nasty car crash sort of promise. No ask for more, honey. And today she needs another 15K baht despite yesterday's promise because she got no clothes to wear now she’s in Farangland, and while we’re on the subject, your taste in furniture is horrific and it's all got to go, even though its comfortable and lived-in, and you like it. Where’s your face, mister? She needs new furniture to match her new clothes.

Truth is this is the first big test. Not of her, dummy. You.

She’s testing your limit. See how far you will go in meeting her demands. She asks for 10. You give it. Oh boy, she’s underestimated you. Ask for another 10. Grudgingly, you hand it over. Hmm. Have I made a booboo big time, she thinks. Honey, I need another 20. But I…. Yes but… And so it goes on until either you dig your heels in or your funds are exhausted. Is she unreasonable? Nope. It’s a test. Just you and your mates see how much tequila you can drink in an hour without falling down. Only Nid is seeing how much folding stuff you will hand over before you snap. She needs to know your limit. It’s reasonable.

Well, Noy has settled into your life fairly well. She’s a busy little bee. Dusting, and sweeping with those maquat brushes. How the hell do they manage to find one of those things in Barcelona or Bratislava? And she’s gone through all your cupboards throwing those old clothes. Mister, how can you wear this stuff. Have you no face! Yep and she’s also noting those papers you keep at the bottom of the sock drawer. You know, the one that says life insurance and savings book and maybe stock certificate.

Now little Noy didn’t get much of an education back in the land of smiles, but she knows a column of numbers when she sees them and there’s that Thai girl working down at the Chinese supermarket who can translate for her. So at the next card school (oops, Noy forgot to mention that), the whole Thai ex-BG community gets to pour over the extent of your wealth. You have just been sized up, my dear friend. If Nid isn’t there when you get home, then your little nest egg wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, was it? On the other hand perhaps you’re the golden goose and she’s in melt down mode. Watch out buddy.

So get those papers out of sight, out of mind. Deposit them in a bank safe. In fact make your bank deposits safe. Move them offshore if necessary.

Devious? You betcha. Managing Expectations? Now you’re learning the game.

Now my dearest wife knows exactly how much I earn. She had to do my Thai Tax returns. One-zero to the missus. But she doesn’t know about the other income. The offshore stuff. Make that one-one.

I don’t have a floosie on the side. No little bastards to support. (Are we still allowed to use that word in the proper sense?). I don’t have a gambling habit. No secret vices – well not THAT many. But by keeping the extra money secret, it’s there when we need it; for those rainy days that always follow the hot season. And at the end of the day, I’ll be the hero and she’ll love me for it. It may be devious, but in the long term, the end will justify the means.

‘Good God, Lek, look at the price of the guay thiaw’. You point out that a bowl of noodles costs 400 baht in Farangland. You fake a swoon. She fakes a swoon. ‘Only 25 baht in Soi4, Tilac’ she purrs. Yep, there’s still something in Soi 4 that you’ll get change for a 100 baht note.

She’s learning. She’s getting ripped off. How can anyone charge 400 baht for something that doesn’t even taste of home. This lady could get mean. Keep it going, mister. Show her the price of Farangland and let her make the connection.

Well then.. Did you give her a regular allowance on arrival to the land of plenty?

What! You fool. How much? Are you crazy?

Don’t you get it? Allowances are never enough. How are you going to fix a problem by throwing money at it?

No allowance, Sir. Nope nothing. It’s a toughie, but you’ve got all the leverage. And remember, this gal knows what its like to be without the cash. Well, she might refuse you sex, but that can always be bought, can’t it, you naughty boy. And who better to buy it from than the wife (or her best friend – no only kidding about that one).

So your Dad used to give your Mum a regular housekeeping allowance, and you thought it was the right thing to do. But then Mom didn’t have a serial gambling addiction or a lazy father in Isaan to support. An allowance has to be earned. Has little Jeab shown herself capable of managing an allowance successfully. If you’re in any doubt then manage all the outgoings yourself. Even for that lady stuff they need. That way you’ll know exactly how much everything costs, and she’ll see that you really are a tough pair of balls after all. Sure, when she has proved herself to be capable, then release the reins bit by bit. May the force be with you. You’ll need it.

Here’s something I used to do in the early days. My teeruk says to me ‘I want 3,000 baht to buy some piece of crap’. I would say. ‘Look, I think you’re buying crap but I’ll give you 3,000 baht if you really think it is necessary. On the other hand, if you don’t think it is necessary and you’re prepared to wait, I’ll give you double the amount tomorrow’.

Man, that used to stop her in her tracks and set her mind off working in ways it had never done before. She learnt that with patience she could actually have more. And by the next day the whim for the piece of crap invariably had gone. I was always true to my word and paid up double, even if she had forgotten about the original deal. If she went for the original deal then fair enough, I’d go along with it. But I would remind her the next day, how much better off she could have been. That hurt. Her. Not me.

How about a joint bank account? No plobem. Just don’t pay your salary into it, that’s all. Credit Card? Ha! Get serious. Lie through your back teeth, friend. For example, foreigners in my country are not allowed a supplementary card – or – people with your blood group are ineligible. Keep up the untruths for as many weeks, months, years as you can, by which time you must have her trained to the Western way of thinking about money. The day will inevitably dawn when resistance will crumble and plastic will line the inside flaps of her purse. It’s just like the time when your kids leave home. Now you can only start praying that she heeds the lessons you’ve taught her. If not, boy, watch out!

But if she spends, spends, spends, and finds the plastic is fantastic, don’t nag her. It’s not her fault. The kid is only following what Thai genes instruct her to do. It’s your fault for not training her properly. Step up to the mark, mister, and get it right.

Be generous, though. Now it sounds as though I’m contradicting everything I’ve previously said. But the generosity is coming from you, sir. You are controlling it. You’re the Boss. When she’s droned on for weeks about getting a new washing machine, or hair dryer, or poodle and your defenses are shot to pieces, then you turn to her and say, ‘Hey I have a great idea, why don’t we get ourselves one of those German Shepard dogs’. Steal her ideas and transform them into your own great thinking. Confuse the lass from Laos.

But mind, you’ll never be able to take your foot off the brake. After twenty years of marriage here is a snippet of conversation we had last week after hearing of coming into a small inheritance on my side of the family (note: inheritances on the Thai side are about as likely as a freebie in Nana).

Farang brain: “Great, we can put the money towards our pension”

Thai brain: “No way. We can buy a new car”

Farang brain: silence…

Thai brain: I wonder what farang brain is thinking…

One more thing. She’ll lie to you (Submission: Thai Lies and Wondering Why). Ever heard of a white lie? Well this is more of a charcoal grey. No. Make that a coal black kind of white lie.

‘Darlink, Papa is sick and we need to buy him medicine’. But you flick through your Thai-white lie/white lie-Thai dictionary and find out this translates as ‘Papa is sixty next month, and as it is his 5th cycle we need to sponsor a massive party and invite everybody in the Changwat to get drunk on Johnny Walker for two nights at your expense. And I’ll need some new gold to show to everybody what a generous sucker, I mean husband, I have attached myself to. Oh, not forgetting the 27 monks who’ll be chanting about giving up attachments and the meaningless of life and they need to be fed from the best Chinese restaurant in Korat, because this is big-time face, and boy will you make merit!’

And you reply ‘We could always send him a get-well-soon card that plays a tune when you open it, and write Happy Birthday Papa inside. It’ll be a first for the village and Papa will have big face’. At this point young Nid realises she’s met her match. No Sir, you haven’t trained her at all. She’s not changed one iota. After all, did you really believe you could change the genes of that girl in jeans? It’s you who’s changed, mate You’re now thinking like a Thai. Using the white lie. Devious. Underhand. But with charm. All in the nicest possible way, of course. You’ve learned to say ‘No’ the Thai way. She hates it, but is secretly impressed.

So to recap. Understate your wealth. Work on a need to know basis. Keep the evidence out of view. Be tough, tough, tough. Feign ignorance. Lie when required. After all, you’ve nothing to lose except your hard earned cash.

Stickman's thoughts:

Absolutely excellent. This advice probably would be best advised with Western women too!