Stickman Readers' Submissions December 13th, 2007

Live And Let Live

I have visited Thailand 4 times. Each visit has not exceeded 20 days. I have, however, been living in Asia for over 15 years. For me, as with most western men who visit Thailand, the women of the LOS are, of course, the major attraction. That is not to detract from the lure of the tropical climate, the cheapness, the emphasis on pleasure, and the relaxed atmosphere of being away from it all. Overall it means that I can sleep better at night and enjoy even simple pleasures like reading a novel by the side of a hotel swimming pool.

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I do not live there, which means that I am largely unexposed to, or at least, unaware of, the everyday frustrations and annoyances which too close a connection with Thai society has seemingly brought to other expats. I know that these problems are not to be taken lightly as I have encountered similar problems in the part of Asia in which I am resident.

I am not a great drinker, which means I have largely missed out on the bar scene, but people seem to be having a lot of fun in those places and, as far as I can tell, they are not so prone to provoke one another and get involved in the brawls and the other disagreeable acts which are so common in western watering holes. Perhaps this more benign behaviour has to do with the calming effect which the availability of women has on the male ego and psyche.

The Thai women I have come into contact with, have been, for the most part, uneducated with a limited command of English, so it is not surprising that they use certain stock phrases, which they learn from one another, in order to get by; of these, "Up to you" seems to be the most useful to them and also to those of us who find bossy women increasingly tiresome.

I have yet to encounter the, "sick water buffalo" which has been such a long standing joke, but I am surprised that nobody has noticed the frequency with which husbands or boyfriends die in "motor cycle accidents". I know that there are a large number of road accident fatalities in Thailand but, even in my relatively few conversations with Thai women, I have found it to be the standard method of clearly indicating that the lady has no romantic attachments and so there are no obstacles to forming a romantic attachment with me – or the next man who comes along, I suppose.

The formula also serves to elicit sympathy, which, in turn, might translate into greater monetary reward. This does not mean that these women are any the less attractive and even if we recognize their intellectual limitations most of us continue to try to engage them in conversation, after all, there is always the sex to look forward to. These women are undoubtedly limited as sources of stimulating conversation. They seem to be, for the most part, simple girls from poor regions of Thailand. However, many of the contributors to this website emphasize how difficult it is to truly understand them. Why is this surprising? Men throughout history have declared that they are unable to understand women, even when they are of the same culture, but have continued to be intrigued by them.

The real hindrances to our realizing our desire to enjoy ourselves in Thailand are not our inability to understand Thai women, but, are rather a product of the petty jealousies and prejudices which have been brought along by westerners as part of their emotional and intellectual baggage. We seem to like to hate one another, or at the very least, to mock. Moreover, "sex" for the Anglo-Saxon is a dirty word and any interest in it is to be hidden or masked, or turned into vulgarity – this is well understood by the hacks of the tabloid press. Thus, when "sex" is combined with "tourist" the epithet becomes the ultimate put-down. The vulgarity shows itself in the term, "whoremonger" [although, the Elizabethans may have had a hand in that]. The most obvious outcome of this is to be seen with the western families and couples on vacation in Thailand who openly display their dislike of the western man / Thai woman relationship to the extent that one suspects that they have, in many cases, allowed it to interfere with the enjoyment of their own holiday and are also doing their best to spoil other people's. There is probably not much to be done about these vacationers. Most of them will have their own problems to come – if the high divorce rate and the number of recently divorced men who come to Thailand is anything to go by. The Asian tourists, on the other hand, do not react in this way. They are mostly merely curious but also see Thai / Westerner couples as being phenomena unconnected to their own immediate families and therefore of only passing interest.

I know from my own experience that to the Japanese, Koreans and Chinese the family is all important. I also know that they would be bewildered if they were aware of the endless debates that western men seem to be engaging in over the relative merits of youth and looks as opposed to age and money in truly appealing to the local women. A young man in north-east Asia would not be considered eligible to be married until and unless he could provide an apartment and had the highest status job, preferably with a well known company, of all the possible suitors of the girl in question. Anybody declaring that he should be considered eligible because of his youth, good looks and "six pack abs" might be in real danger of being certified as insane. In these societies enhancing a family's social status is the aim of marriage and, as attaining promotion within institutions, private or public, mostly comes through seniority and seniority is only possible through educational success followed by length of service, the highest status individuals are nearly always older men. If you have read the book [or seen the film], "Memoirs of a Geisha" you will remember that the one true love of the heroine was the "chairman" – the CEO of a large company who was many years her senior, and, of course, of very high status. The down side of all this is that there are many young men who are unable to find marriage partners, some having been dropped by their girlfriends because they have failed to find a suitable job after graduation – not to forget the bleak future facing millions of young Chinese men who are of insufficient means to find women for marriage. Westerners, having not been brought up in this way, cannot begin to understand how they think and feel. How many of us would contemplate suicide over a failure to pass the entrance exam to a high status university, for instance? However, it happens so frequently in these societies that only the most bizarre cases are reported in the newspapers. Can Thai society be very different? I think not, as I have noticed that in general Asians seem to have a good basic understanding of each other and that the differences in their societies are outweighed by the similarities.

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Anyway, given that, for most of us, young or old, it is nearly impossible to understand these societies, why not, at least, cease our fruitless internal warfare and carping, live and let live, try to enjoy our vacations or longish sojourns in Thailand, and, above all, try not to spoil the vacation for others.

Stickman's thoughts:

I really enjoyed this explanation of how life can be so different in the East compared to the West.

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