Fish Out Of Water – 5 Years Later
I’ve written several submissions on Stick’s site before. Like many, I’ve used different e-mail addresses and different screen names to protect the guilty. But here I am again, now calling myself yet another name that I thought of in about 2 seconds. Anyway, that’s not important. Off to the story.
This is more of a 5 year trip report about taking my girl from Thailand to the US. For all of the fish that get taken out of water and wind up dying of Thailand homesickness within the first day / week / month / year and going straight back home with eventual divorce papers, I guess I’ve been lucky. So for those of you who are wondering if it can work, this is yet another one of the submissions on Stick’s site that should give you hope.
Mistakes I made. Immediately trying to get my wife to every Thai restaurant there was so she could taste her own food and meet Thai people. The lesson learned is to ease into these things. It turns out that she’s much happier finding her own ingredients and cooking for us at home. And the people that work in the Thai restaurants are not always the type of people that you want your wife associating with anyway. Lots of illegal immigrants who have overstayed their visas, former bar workers, and lots of trouble in my opinion.
I pushed my wife too quickly get a drivers license. This wound up being a good thing because it gave her independence. She already had a good grasp of the English language because of attendance at an English speaking school in Bangkok. She failed the drivers test 2 times before finally passing, but she was happy when it was over with. In hindsight, this could have backfired on me because pushing my wife at the time, fresh out of a lazy Isaan lifestyle, often resulted in her getting pissed off quickly.
Unlike Stick’s advice that if a girl show irrational rage for no good reason that you should walk away on the spot, I endured some serious arguing matches for the couple years we were together in Thailand before bringing her to the US. I don’t know if it was just me being soft or hopeful that I could work it out with her since my previous marriage to a farang didn’t work out, but regardless I stuck it out. When my wife first came to the US, there were definitely a few times those first few months of her being here where the anger on her part was so intense, and she was packing her bags saying get me back to Thailand NOW! Somehow we got through it and it never came to me buying a plane ticket or driving to the airport. And I’m happy to say that 5 years later, she has definitely calmed down. Maybe it’s her seeing how farangs deal with their anger and try to talk through the problems rather than just explode and run away from them. Now we have a serious argument about once a year over something stupid – about the same as when I was married to a farang before. Communication has a lot to do with all of this. No matter how well one learns Thai (and I can read / write / speak at a decent level from formal schooling) or she learns English, there is always going to be a cultural barrier that prohibits some messages from getting through in their intended way. This means that someone has to compromise and back off and be quiet sometimes. More often than not, that is me. It would be great if we could both logically observe that in this moment, there is a communication problem and let’s try to understand it, but that just doesn’t happen – with my wife and I anyway. So I compromise.
As mentioned earlier, we got to know each other for about 2 years before getting married. I took several trips to Thailand and spent a great deal of time there with her. This is important to get to know the person. You wouldn’t marry someone you met in the west if you didn’t know them, would you? My wife was familiar with the bar scene in Bangkok. Her step mom owns one of the biggest bars that is often discussed on Stick’s website, so my wife saw it all. And I can say that I got to see quite a bit of it all as well as a result. I spent many nights upstairs from the bar becoming friends with the guys and girls who work the scene. It was amazing to see behind the scenes. I could write a whole submission about this. But my point here is that my wife was familiar with the bar scene. So if your wife is familiar with the bars, or even works in them I suppose, all hope is not lost.
My sister-in-law, who has to be one of the dumbest people on the planet, on the other hand, is a mess with her farang marriage and living in the US. After seeing my wife and I get to know each other for almost 2 years before getting married, decided that she was going to get married to a farang she knew after 2 weeks because all farangs are rich. Boy was she in for a surprise. It turns out that her husband, who spent money lavishly in Thailand, was in fact just blowing cash at a reasonably good exchange rate while he was in Thailand, but was quite in debt and living a very conservative lifestyle back in the US. He, being just as dumb as her, married her thinking life with her back in the US was going to be just a continuation of the party in Thailand. Problems started with them as soon as they got back to the States. Lots of arguments over money, and within months she got pregnant. Since he already had kids from a previous marriage, you can imagine that things got even worse. Not to mention that she doesn’t speak English very well, is not willing to learn, which means he has to do everything for her, drive her around because she can’t even begin contemplating a drivers exam, etc. To their credit, though, they are still together about a year and a half later, still plugging along. Honestly if I was her, I would leave his sorry ass, take the kids and go back to Thailand. If you’re going to be poor and unhappy, why not do it in your own country surrounded by family? Anyway, that’s another submission in itself.
We’ve been lucky in that the places we have lived in the US have all had easy access to Thai ingredients. We really eat only Thai food at home, unless I cook something occasionally. My sister-in-law, on the other hand, has been with her husband in some absolutely terrible locations in the US and not so lucky with the Thai ingredients. As a result, this has also seriously affected her happiness. For those of you even remotely familiar with Thai people, you know how serious their food is for them. I have friends in Europe, and from what I hear, it is near impossible finding what the wives need there. I feel sorry for those guys. It also helps that I eat Thai food, as spicy as it gets. This makes my wife’s eating and cooking more fun, because Thais like to have friends to eat with.
Another thing that has helped us is that we don’t send one dime back to Thailand to give to her family. My wife’s father died several years ago. Her mom treated her terribly as a kid, so my wife doesn’t send her anything. For most people who bring a Thai wife home with them, this will NOT be the case. It’s just one luck aspect, in my opinion, that I have enjoyed. We have occasionally (2 or 3 times in five years) wired money when some work was required on our home there (We built a house in Isaan in which no one lives but her cousins watch for us). But that money was strictly for our home, with a few hundred baht as thanks for taking care of it for us.
With all the issues and problems that we have in the US, one thing I can say with confidence is that there is plenty of diversity here. Sure, there are spots here and there with problems, and racism is not completely gone. But generally speaking, and in all the places we have lived, there are blacks, whites, Asians, Europeans, Christians, Buddhists, and the list goes on. One thing my wife really was self-conscious about coming here was that everyone would be “looking at her.” Well, she quickly found out that no one really cared about what she looked like and how she acted, because everyone here looks different and does stuff differently (which is the complete opposite of Thailand). So she enjoys the anonymity that living in a diverse country provides. After seeing all the daytime talk shows and how stupid and completely idiotic some Americans are, she knows that she is more “normal” than half of America anyway. And as time has gone by, she feels more “American” herself. One good thing about this place, unlike Thailand, is that you really are accepted as a local.
I have tried to capture some of the trouble spots here as well, but I probably didn’t do it enough. In my opinion, some marriages run more smoothly than others, but none of them are perfect. We argue and have problems just like any married couple. And there have been some times, especially in the beginning, when I thought she really was going to get on the first plane to Bangkok, but we got past them somehow. This is one of those things that one just has to work out with their wife, and that is made easier if you’ve actually known her for a while and didn’t just buy her out of the bar..
I guess that’s about it for now. I probably haven’t said anything prolific here, and I know I did a lot of rambling, but I just wanted to pass along some short clips of our life here, some mistakes that I made, and some hope to those who are wondering if taking the fish out of water can work or not.
It’s always good to hear positive stories. Let’s hope we hear more positive things from you in another 5 years.