Stickman Readers' Submissions April 26th, 2006

Negotiating With The Wife

The wife, no different from many others out there from around the world, sometimes drives me barmy… this is just one of those occasions.

We had just traipsed around another part of Bangkok in search of a new condominium to rent. We don’t necessarily need to do it because we both actually like where we are now, it is centrally located, convenient and close to all the major links in and around the city, and apart from some ‘dregs’ who have just moved in to a corrugated shed on top of a building someplace below our Condo and who constantly drink whisky all day and occasionally thump out boom box Thai crap to all hours, the place itself is just ideal for us. It has two decent size rooms, two bathrooms, and good condo management and as such is very safe and secure. Even the street just down from our Soi is on the up and up with some major developments going on… So why on earth would we want to move?

He Clinic Bangkok

Well, believe it or not, the wife thinks we are paying too much for our two roomed Condo and believes instead that we should actually be paying Thai prices. Now let’s put aside what everyone else in the neighbourhood is paying, which contrary to popular belief from my wife, is actually market value for the area (I know because she has dragged me around most of the surrounding Condos to check), but not one to be deterred, my wife wants us to pay Thai prices and won’t be budged from that particular mindset. Well good for her, nice to know she is trying to save ‘us’ money, and although I suspect she has an ulterior motive to this, in that she made the comment one day that any money we saved on rent could be shared 50:50 despite the fact that it is me who pays for it all now as it is, it does mean that I have effectively been dragged around half the Condo residences around Bangkok as part of the process.

When she first tried to show me the delights of getting digs with Thai prices, she tried to drag me to what the average Thais would be able to afford and be happy to live in. Well, I soon put a stop to that because it summed up all the images of a very run down block of council flats in an inner part of Hackney in London, and apart from the absence of any obvious graffiti, it wouldn’t have surprised me to have seen some scowl faced, chain dangling, tartan trousered, Dr martin wearing, ‘I am an anarchist – sex pistols’ ripped t-shirt clad bunch of skin heads swaggering around the corner with an evil intent… and so we moved on, or rather, I ensured we ran out of there, quickly!

So I decided at this stage, to at least set out some criteria for the wife to follow. I said, “It must have two rooms, a built in kitchen and preferably two bathrooms. It must also be in a nice condition and location, be within convenient travelling distance for both our jobs, and have reasonable security… basically what we have now but only bigger, oh and of course let’s not forget your requirement, to be at a Thai price”.

CBD bangkok

Not too much to ask is it?

Unfortunately, we have not yet managed to find one at a price that keeps the wife happy or when we do, in a condition and location that keeps me happy… and so we are in that compromise mode of still looking.

Anyway, today, like any other day after a fruitless search, we find ourselves with the ones we both liked either being full and with no vacancies, or with a shortlist of compromises, usually price or location orientated. I do think the wife is beginning to get the idea about the price that we are currently paying as not actually being that expensive with all things considered location and convenience wise.

I did chuckle at one point today because my wife went into a place with the salubrious title of ‘Honey’ residences. I stopped at the door and refused to go in because I had an inkling of what kind of place it was. I mean, it was right next door to a ‘privacy’ short time hotel for goodness sake, but with a merry pat on the back, I told the wife to go and have a look if she wanted, “up to you honey”, well, it was no surprise when she came out flushed and muttering something about the Honey place actually being very close competition for the privacy hotel next door… it was not like it wasn’t obvious after all… anyway, we wander off, and find somewhere to eat and discuss our options and we both agree that we should stick to where we are for now and just keep our eyes and ears open for places that we both liked to become available. In the mean time, the conversation shifts along the following lines…

wonderland clinic

The wife: “You know, for the price we pay for our Condo each month, that Thais believe that you can use that money instead to buy a good house, much bigger than our Condo, or at the very least, be able to buy a good car”

…I notice the glint in her eye and think… hmmm here we go, it dawns on me that we are about to have a conversation that we have had at least three times before and I wonder how long she has been mulling over this new slant to an old debate…

Me: “Yes, dear I know…”

The Wife: “Well what do you think?”

Me: “About which bit?”

The wife pops in some ‘kung’ with her spoon and whilst chewing blissfully, just glacially looks somewhere in my direction…

I take a deep breath and start as I always do when we approach this subject with the following:

Me: “Ah, ok, we are on to why we haven’t got a house yet… or rather why I haven’t bought you one. Ok, well as you know darling, your Government won’t allow me to own a house here in my name, and as I don’t want to buy a Condo here for reasons we have discussed many times, then that pretty much leaves me in the position of not being able to buy one. Anyway, I thought we agreed to build up your credit history so that you can apply for a mortgage and thus obtain a house that way thus keeping my money happy and safe in its offshore account.”

I cheekily smile back and do some munching of my own…

The Wife: “Yes, I know we have discussed this, but don’t you think we are wasting money by ‘just’ paying rent each month. I heard the lady in that last Condo tell you how much the prices have risen in her building this past year and that to buy a Condo today is far higher than what it was last year or even two years ago… so why don’t you buy somewhere today before the prices go higher and let’s stop paying rent and have our own place or at least let’s get a house…”

…I actually think that she has a lucid and sound argument this time and that her thinking is no different to where my mind has been and gone several times before, and to be honest, if we had been back in the UK I would fully support this argument and buy somewhere without a bat of an eyelid or even a flinch… but unfortunately we are not in the UK, we are in Thailand, and as such the game rules are different, hence…

Me: “Yes, dear you are right, but do you also remember that this same lady said that we should also wait if we wanted to buy one of the Condos for sale in her block because she believes the prices are too high compared to what they were and that we should rent in the mean time and wait for someone who is desperate to sell… she also said that if we rent for a year that the owner of the Condo may also offer to sell the Condo to us at a later date too”

…Actually what I suspect is that this lady who happens to be the manager and jurisdiction controller for the building, controls all the Condos and annual collection of maintenance fees etc… plus she also allocates which Condos to selectively rent out based on who walks through the door and as such I suspect is onto a huge earner and is pulling some strings to maximise her return, but that’s just my usual suspicious thinking kicking in…

The wife: “Ok, but why not buy a house… or let’s get a car…”

I sigh… we have been here many times after viewing several delightful properties with Land and House, and as for buying a car, well for me that is just being silly and I am just not going to spend money on something that is just going to sit in a traffic jam in Bangkok when I have cheap taxis, the MRT and BTS at my disposal.

Me: “Ok, well as you know darling, we agreed for you to apply for a mortgage because your Government won’t allow me to own a house here in my name and… Oh I give up!”

… I actually stop talking at this point because I realise that my wife has just entered into that glazed look mode again and although her lights appear to be on, she has actually vacated the building and was now probably thinking about the delights of slurping her way through a bowl of spicy som tam

I wake her up out of the dazed state she has gone into by mentioning that I think her ears are switched on but her brain had stopped transmitting any signals… and I was right, she quickly came to and laughed because she realised that she had been caught out but then she goes into one of those Thai silly modes…

The wife: “It’s ok, I understand, you don’t trust me, you don’t love me, I understand, you care more about your money than you do me… it’s ok, mai bpen rai… I know you think I will keep your money, that I will not sell the house and give the money back to you if you have to leave Thailand… you don’t trust me as your wife to take care of you…”

She pouts, her mouth goes down at the corners and she takes on the look of a droopy sad eared puppy…

Me: “Ok, and what if we ever got divorced… would you sell the house and give me all my money back then?”

The wife: “You want to divorce me huh? Do you want that?”

…At this I just laugh because I have heard it all before and won’t put up with any of that emotional nonsense and silly tantrums…

Me: “Of course not… but darling, let me put something to you… why don’t you go home and ask your parents to sell their house and their land, to then sell their motorbikes and their cars, to cash in all of their life insurance and savings bonds, and to sell what ever valuables and gold they have and while you are at it too, I want you to do the same. Then using that money, give it all to me and I will go back to the UK and invest that money in a house where you will receive a higher chance of return in say 2 years time, in fact you may even double your money depending on the condition of the house and location that I purchased…”

…Now I know the wife or any other Thai for that matter would never do this in reality, as they would never expect their parents to give it all up for some notion to earn extra cash in say England, but she listened and considered it anyway, probably more out of amusement than anything else…

The wife, intrigued says: “What about my parents and me, would we be able to come and live in England in this house?”

Me: “Sure, I could arrange for you to be there for 12 months as my wife and we can invite your parents over for three months at a time providing I can show that I will support them…”

The Wife: “Ok, go on…”

Me: “But you do realise that when my government tires of you, or feels that you don’t belong there, or that you cannot support yourself or for what ever reason, then you will all have to leave England and come back to Thailand…”

… Actually, what I told her wasn’t entirely true because as my wife, if we live there happily together for two years or more then she would be allowed to live there legally and stay forever with all the rights of a native UK person… and based on what the Indians, Pakistani and Moslem communities seem to be doing in droves back in the UK, is that I probably would be allowed to have her family come and live with us too “long time”, but I am not totally sure of this in reality and anyway what I was telling her in this case was to portray a particular point that I wanted her to understand…

The wife: “Ok, if we did have to leave, what would happen to all my family's money, would you promise to give it back?”

Me: “…of course, but as the house would have to be in my name initially back in England, you would have to trust me ‘as your husband’ to sell it for you and send you and your parents the money back in Thailand…”

The wife: “Huh! You wouldn’t give us the money straight away? Why would I want to do that?”

Me: “My point exactly!”

Stickman's thoughts:

You gotta laugh! EVERY Thai / farang couple has had this conversation!

nana plaza