The Other Side Of The Coin
I have just read Jangler’s interesting submission and my experiences of Southern Thais sort of rang a bell. I too married a young girl from the south. She came from a small town south of Chumpon so we must be close neighbors. I have read many tales
of joy and woe from your correspondents marrying into a poor Isaan family and I thought I would tell my story of a poor Farang marrying into a well off southern Thai family
I first visited Asia in the 1967 and basically fell in love with the place. After traveling around most of Asia I moved on a semi permanent basis to Thailand in the late 1970s and there met my future wife. She was working in one of Thailand’s better known education institutes.
When we first decided to get married I was basically a drifter without much money and no idea of the consequences of marriage to a Thai. My idea of getting married was catching a tuktuk to the local Amphur, signing on the dotted line, buying a few boxes of beer and celebrating with some friends.
“Are you crazy” said my betrothed (a phrase I was to hear with monotonous regularity over the next couple of decades), must have a big wedding, big party. Explaining that I did not own the keys to the local bank she replied that was no problem.
Then she asked what sort of car I liked, BMW was my reply. Too expensive she said, we find something cheaper. After trolling through the car yards we came across a mid size Toyota that she liked, and to my question, who is going to pay for that?
Came the reply “no problem”.
After spending a couple of weeks delivering invitations far and wide all over Thailand came the big day. Having spent the night in a hotel, and dressed in a new suit (paid for by my wife), I arrived at the house for the wedding and the first thing I saw was a new Toyota sitting outside the house. Greeting me at the gate, one of my future in laws explained that the car was a wedding gift from my mother in law. My wife of course, told everybody I had bought it for her. They also gave me a tray holding the sin sot, which was five baht of gold and 100,000 baht in cash. Where did all this loot come from I asked my dearest later. Oh that is my money she replied (remember this was in the early eighties when a baht was worth a lot of money).
After going through the mind numbing rituals of the wedding, we then after a break of a few hours turned up at the reception. There was a crowd there that would have filled a small football field; including the guest of honor who my wife said was her
oldest sister. She also said that she was a Khunying, which did not mean much to me, as I had not taken much notice of such things in Thailand. Music was supplied by a passing Farang who by some strange coincidence was carrying a guitar and started
a conversation with me at the door. Turned out he once played lead guitar for Jim Croce who was tragically killed in a plane crash.
After the nuptials my education started in earnest with my wife trying without much success for a decade or so, to teach me proper Thai manners. I thought I already knew enough, i.e. don’t wear shoes inside, don’t touch anybody’s head and that sort of thing but I found out that was just the beginning. Who and how to wai was an education in itself. After a few years of marriage I asked my dearest what she ever saw in this hard drinking no hoper to make her want to marry me. (She proposed to me, not the other way around) and her reply was that her mother was pressing her into a union with a wealthy Chinese man that she wasn’t particularly enamored with, and when I come along she saw a rough diamond that she imagined she could polish. More fool her; diamonds are the hardest things in the world. When I make a social gaffe (about once a week) she threatens me with divorce or worse, but she never carries through with her threats. She admits she would lose too much face. Face is a subject that is never far from our conversations but I must admit it is something that I will never understand.
Over the years together we have developed into a fairly wealthy family unit. We have, in the south, a few hundred rai of farmland most of it given to us by my mother in-law plus, houses in Thailand and abroad. Gradually I met her family and friends who included some of the more prominent members of high society, public figures and business people in Thailand. Her family includes people who have reached high positions such as provincial governors and members of parliament. One thing I learnt very quickly was how close knit Thai families can be with all her family helping out when someone has a problem.
I have read in many of the submissions to your pages, that you can’t make friends with a Thai. It may be very hard to make friends but that is because the Thai thought process is so alien to Farang thinking. Thais have just a big problem understanding what you are thinking, as you Farangs have understanding what they are thinking. Funnily enough I think the best friend I ever had in Thailand was a Muslim, although I do count a couple of Chinese as good friends. But one thing I can say is I do not, nor ever had any Thai friends. As to the BS factor I can guarantee that it extends at all levels, right through the spectrum of Thai life. Even at the top levels of the Thai social strata most of what is uttered has no relation to reality. Just listen to most of the politicians for example. My wife is always telling me to just filter all I hear and don’t believe much of what they say, and don’t tell anyone the truth about myself.
After two and half decades together in Thailand our life developed into a constant social whirl too demanding of our time, the telephone ringing constantly with calls from our friends wanting something or other. Nearly every day of the week was booked up with some party or gathering. After discussing this, my dearest and I decided it was time to get out of it and make a new life in a foreign land. So off to the embassy for a permanent residence visa, which was approved after a short interview and delivered a couple of weeks later. Helps to have friends in Thailand! So to much dismay from all our friends in Thailand, we moved back to my home city, which I left 39 years ago. (What happened to all those years?) On arrival back home I have found the culture shock more distressing than my darling wife does. She seems to thrive in the quiet life. I have found that although life in Thailand has some downs, it had more than enough highs to make up for the less attractive parts and already I miss the freedoms that I once enjoyed. I have a sneaking feeling it wont be long before I return.
Great story – nice to get a positive one!