Delightful SE Asians In Europe – Conspecific Encounters
In cold smelly Europe, SE Asians stick together. Be it in the classroom or on the street: Wherever Nahlee, my SE Asian wife, sees another bronze lady, warm smiles go across. Even if we only sit in the crammed corridor that serves as a waiting room for her school: If there's another SE Asian face, at least we exchange encouraging looks. It's like "Oh, we SE Asians in this bizarre over-regulated country, we must fight and stick together".
— ENCOUNTER IN THE TRAIN —
In the train to the capital, another SE lady chats Nahlee up. First they talk about the shopping options in our district capital. "And you know what", says Nahlee: "She had the same feeling like I: The big red chilis in our local Asia Store are not so good. We need the small green one. But they never sell the small green one. So it's better to buy chili in the capital! We both agreed."
The other lady has been married to a European for twelve years. She could easily have a local passport, but doesn't have one. As she explains to Nahlee: "If I get a Euro passport, I have to give up the Thai passport. Then, if I travel to Thailand and stay more than 30 days, I have to pay for a visa or must do visa runs. This I couldn't do."
This Thai lady tells of other conspecifics, Thai women staying in Europe now for several years, but don't even start to learn the local language. "They say, why, if the husband speaks English or Thai."
— ENCOUNTER AT THE TRAIN STATION —
Nahlee takes a rest in the train station's waiting room. A Thai lady sits down and loudly drags Nahlee into a talk. The Thai lady is currently married to her fourth husband in my country. According to her, he is "about 25 years older" than her. She receives 2,000 USD per month. She just stole 125,000 USD from him. Now she takes the train to the casino, where, according to her, she lost a lot of money on all of her previous visits.
The Thai lady says: If Nahlee wanted to marry someone else, Nahlee could join her en route to the casino, she would set her up with a rich guy. “But not 20, not 30 years old. They must be over 40, they have more money then.” For other needs, said Thai lady confessedly keeps a younger boyfriend on the side.
At that point, a western lady leaves the waiting room. She had just sat down, obviously tired from a long walk. The Thai lady had noisily shouted across her head. Nahlee had been very shy about that scene, but had been unable to alter the seating order.
The Thai lady never went to a language school here, because she cannot read Roman script. She also never cared to get alphabetized.
“Was that Thai lady very beautiful”, I ask Nahlee over a steamed fish dinner?
“I don’t know… maybe for you? You know, she is mid-30s at least, but she tries to look… very very… sexy…” Nahlee saw cigarettes, tattoos and a lot of paint on her.
Funnily enough, two days later Nahlee sees her again at the train station – this time with a man.
"Oh my dear!! This man was eighty, or maybe ninety! He was trembling all over. He will die soon."
Nahlee approaches the couple at the bank. The man starts a friendly talk, but his Thai lady abruptly drags him away.
Nahlee: "She didn't want me to talk to him, I don't know why?"
Nahlee concludes: "She suggested that her husband is about 55, but now I see he is 80 or 90. So she lied about this. So now I know that she also lied about her money. I'm sure she doesn't get 2,000 USD a month, and I am also sure she didn't steal another 125,000 from him."
She seems relieved somehow.
— FAMILY ENCOUNTER —
We learn of another Thai family who might be nice friends for Nahlee. The first telephone contact between Nahlee and the other wife is promising: She knows where in the capital to buy those special Chinese noodles that Nahlee craves so much.
When we finally arrive at this all-Thai family, the house looks much more European than at Nahlee and I. TV and couch dominate the living room – oh, and there are kitsch day-glo paintings of Wat Arun and Krabi beaches. I always thought these paintings were made for tourists, but maybe they actually cater to home-sick Thais from abroad.
Thai style at least: The ladies prepare the lunch, the men sit on the couch discussing world affairs. I am offered a beer, but we both stick to water. We get a big lunch at an uncomfortable Euro style dinner table, while Nahlee and I often prefer floor seating.
They are actually boring and none of the fun I have when visiting Asian families in SE Asia. Their music CD collection is one disappointment. At the train station, they had picked us up with a shiny upper middle-class car. The man mentions his little hobby on the side, bicycling, so he also owns a 2,500 USD race bike. Nice.
After lunch I make my excuses – work’s calling. I actually have no time at all, but I definitely wanted to inspect the people she visits. And I have no problem leaving her there alone.
Finally, Nahlee spends two nights there. She is dragged through several Asian family dinners with varying personnel around town. All these families are completely Asian without any white-skinned members. Obviously they have a whole network of compatriots in the surrounding area. Some of the men have been in Europe since early childhood, but to find a wife they fly home, then import her.
Nahlee and her hosts also go on shopping sprees to the capital. I am glad that Nahlee finds a welcoming and experienced lady to take her around on a shopping trail – I hate shopping. They find the beloved Chinese noodles and check the dress shops in the capital. Nahlee learns that she should only buy brand name dresses in Europe, because they will stay good-looking for several years. That’s just in sync with my policy of buying only fake fashion at MBK, Pratunam and the Russian Market.
When Nahlee finally comes home, she has forgotten one thing – the bag with her noodles she craved so much.
Three days later her friends are on the phone: “We are five kilometers from your place now in the district capital. We brought her noodles. Maybe you come and pick them up?”
Couldn't they call earlier? I am just busy in the office. Nahlee is just busy in the garden. Of course we drop everything and happily meet them in the district capital to get her plastic bag full of dull Chinese noodles. They brought friends too. It is decided that they will come to our place for a drink. In their upper middle-class car they follow my sub-economy hopper and suddenly I have six SE Asians in the house. The ladies retreat to the garden to discuss the pros and cons of growing chilli, lemongrass and allium in Central Europe, while once again I have to do forced small talk with the most boring SE Asian man I ever met. Fortunately I can entertain the kids, too. A few apple juices and biscuits and lots of polite bye byes later and they are all gone again.
— SCHOOL ENCOUNTER 1 —
One Cambodian lady in Nahlee's language class always looks tired. She does a lot of office-cleaning, where she gets 5.50 to maximally 6.50 USD per hour. The agreed minimum wage in that branch is actually around 9 USD, but then that money gets taxed.
The Khmer lady says she cannot come to the special class "Proper Pronunciation for Asians", because she couldn't afford the extra 40 USD. I tell Nahlee I will pay 30 of those 40 USD if the lady promises to go to every class meeting. The offer is rejected, the lady says she has no time anyway. A little later, the Cambodian drops out of her regular language class and never comes back.
— SCHOOL ENCOUNTER 2 —
Thai girl Dao, also from Nahlee's regular language class, has no monetary worries. From her western husband, she gets money in bunches of 150 USD per pay-off. She has to present bills for every single item she bought, including shampoo and bus tickets, and once the bills add up to 150 USD, she gets another 150.
Thus, Miss Dao can always invite Nahlee to a snack at the Asian fast food shop. "You don't pay anything", insists Dao: "I show the bill for your food to my husband, and he will pay it, why not."
There is only one proviso: Dao may not shop in health food or delicatessen stores; she has learnt from her husband that these shameless enterprises sell the same stuff as everybody, just more expensive.
Miss Dao is 23, her western husband 45.
They met through chatting on the internet. Dao speaks Thai and Lao only, but a polyglot Thai friend chatted on her behalf. Just by e-mail it was agreed that her western man would come and marry her. And so he did, even after discovering that not Dao herself had been his chatting partner.
Dao asks Nahlee: "How much did your husband pay for you?"
That question is one which I get asked by taxi drivers all the time when I say I am married to a Thai woman. These stories of Thais and other Asians in Europe are downright fascinating. More please!