Readers' Submissions

Thai Bashing

  • Written by George
  • July 22nd, 2005
  • 5 min read


It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Stickman favors Arthur's perspective over Joe's. After all, the Stick is totally immersed in Thai culture whereas Joe deals with it 12,000 miles from the Kingdom as I do.

My wife is 40 something, has three adult children, a stepmother and stepfather as well as a 100 year old grandmother. In America she is a meek, affectionate and caring individual (and I stress the individual part as in; mind of her own) who usually defers to my wishes even though I encourage her to make her own decisions. In Thailand it's totally different. She takes charge and pretty well treats me like a lost soul, although I certainly am not. I believe this is a desire to protect me from the crafty Thais and their wily ways.

This behavior, while appreciated, can be very irritating as I know what I want and most of the time, get my idea across to the locals. Invariably, Thais defer to my wife as it is much easier to communicate with her. This tends to complicate even the most simple things. An example; We were placed in a hotel in Chiang Mai by a travel agent (farang) who told us we would be close to the night market. He lied. When we arrived we were nowhere near the market and we immediately took a tuk-tuk to the Suriwong Hotel in the heart of where I wanted to be. My wife asked me how much I wanted to pay and I replied about 2000 per night. She emerged from the hotel saying they had no rooms but their sister hotel 3 blocks away did. We checked it out but I did not like it and asked my wife again if she was sure the Suriwong had no rooms. She said that they did but they were 2500, not 2000. I suppose 500 baht is a great deal of money to her but only $12 to me and well worth to be where you want to be. There were many incidences like this because of her attempts to save me / us money even though it was only a dollar or two.

We went to Thailand with the primary purpose to experience a Buddhist wedding ceremony even though we were married in the States a year earlier. Like Joe, my wife did not bring up the idea of paying sin sot. Not wishing to embarrass anyone, especially myself, I asked her how much we should give her mother. She replied that she didn't know but would telephone her mother to find out. Her mother said that 40,000 would be fine as that would pay for the wedding and reception. So I think Stick is not quite correct in stating that $1000 is very cheap in the eyes of a Thai. Maybe it's my wife's age OR the likelihood of future support that set the price. <You married a woman who had been married already, was no spring chicken and who had three adult children. You're hardly comparing apples with apples, as per my comment in a previous submission about a woman at a different point in her life who would command a higher priceStick>

Anyone who has experienced a Thai wedding knows that it begins with a procession / parade through the village led by the groom to the house of the bride. In his pocket are about 10 envelopes containing 100 baht, 2 with 200 baht and 1 with 500 baht. These are given to people who are blocking the way (100), washing my feet (200) and the 'big cheese'(500) who is blocking the final door. At this point the bride is brought out of her room by her parents and 'given' to the groom. All of this money was later given back to my wife as a wedding gift at the reception / feast, and indeed a feast it was.

Prior to the ceremony and following the monk's blessing, all gifts are put on display including the sin sot in 1000 baht notes. I can tell you that there were far more 1000 baht notes than what I had given. I think that mama and papa and grandma emptied their bank accounts to make a good 'showing' for the neighborhood. At least there were many oooohhhhs and aaaaahhhhs and the family seemed very pleased. Phoney??? Of course it's phoney, but who cares. They all do it, at least in her village and if it makes them happy – so be it.

The whole shebang including gold necklaces, flowers, hairdresser, wedding dress rental set 'us' (remember we are already married) back less than $3000, about 1/5 of what it cost for my daughter's wedding. I realize that in America it's the brides parents that pay. You may say that is our culture and should be respected, but from a practical viewpoint it's just not going to happen

I'm not into Thai bashing and never will be even though I've been a 'victim' from time to time. In a country that is raising their minimum wage from $3 a day to $4 who would not expect it. If my math is correct I think the Thais are paying about the same for gasoline as we are in the good ol' USA on far less income.

This might change big time in a year or so when I will be living there for 6 months of the year. I have a great respect for their sense of 'family', a concept that has long been lost in mainstream America. Am I a part of this family???? I don't have a clue. It appears so, but you have to wonder what would happen if the cash flow suddenly disappeared.

Anyhow, I have not found the cultural differences to be a huge problem. Perhaps it's because of my wife's age and her life experiences and my age and my life experiences. She is very grateful for what I have done for her and I am very grateful for what she has done for me.

Maybe that's the magic formula, mutual 'gratefulness' and being 'nice' to each other.

Stickman's thoughts:

Two seniors getting married, each presumably with so much life experience, surely increases the chances of a successful union.