Delightful Thai Wife in Europe – Nude in Public
Before moving to Europe, she had announced that every second day at least she'd need a dish with rice. Definitely, every second day at least. Not that *I* would have to eat rice with her, she happily cooks something entirely different for me, and with the open minded food knack that's inherent in all of her family (especially mom and little sister, gosh how they cook anything), she now does some western dishes very very well.
We just discussed her rice desire and found out that various times recently, there had been two- or even three-day-gaps between dinners with rice in our European home. She hadn't even noticed it so far. But with Nahlee knowing exactly what we ate one week ago, she was easily able to specify her newest rice dinner intervals.
Cold Showers No More
At times, we have no hot water in the house. But you can always press the button in the basement and half an hour later, there's hot water.
In her first Euro year, she didn't like to wait for the water to warm up. Be it summer or winter, she simply took a cold shower.
No more. She needs a shower and the water's cold? She takes a trip to the dark basement, bravely ignores all the resident ghosts there, presses the button and waits half an hour. Be it summer or winter, a cold shower now is "too cold" for her.
Ugly, But Convenient
She always maintained that the Birkenstock "health sandals" so many westerners and I constantly wear are utmost ugly. They may be comfortable and actually "healthy", but that's of course no criteria for a Thai lady's footwear.
Before she moved to Europe I suggested she'd buy some cheap Birkenstock copies on Chatuchak market, just to try them. To my surprise she did.
In Europe, she first used the sandals only inside the house (as you can't be barefoot on the cold tile floor there, unlike Thailand). Later, she took them on summer walks in the field. Even later, she hiked to the local supermarket on Birkenstocks (as everybody does here).
Her 200 Baht sandal copies from Chatuchak fell apart after some months. Without announcement, she went out and from her own money bought a pair of the long lasting Birkenstock originals at around 2000 Baht in our district capital.
Meeting old friends at home, many wear those health sandals. Nahlee still comes in shiny leather shoes though.
When she saw the very first cappuccino in her life she frowned as if I planned to poison her.
These days, she makes better cappus than I. She gets better foam and the perfect mix of coffee, milk and the sprinkling of dark, oily real chocolate powder on top. And a Nahlee cup'o'cappu always looks most inviting, for Nahlee's food is always a feast for the eye, too.
So hard is her yearning for coffee now that she even drinks dull German filtered coffee in her school's cafeteria. It tastes ill, it makes your tummy ill, she knows all that and still orders German filtered coffee when in need.
She says: "And that's new too: I need a hot drink in the morning. I used to get up and jump into turbo. Now I do need my hot drink to wake up. No, two."
She got quite to a bit of alcohol too. When we met first, she was a teetotaller. Now she may sip red wine while cooking, a habit first seen on me. My wine delivery guy, a psychologist in disguise, prides himself in finding "fruity, lovely, but not too sweet" reds and rosés for my inexperienced Asian wife. He succeeds.
She also does quite a good caipirinha now, something she wouldn't even have tried to drink in the first or second year of our relationship. She buys lime from supermarkets, not from the Asia store, "they are too expensive there". Sometimes ten at night she gets up after a lengthy low-seating dinner and asks: "Would you like a caipi, darling? Well anyway, I'll do one for me".
As we have no ice crusher, Nahlee developed this procedure for crushing ice:
- Wrap the ice cubes into a clean kitchen towel.
- Lay the towel with the ice cubes onto the kitchen floor tiles.
- With the stem from the mortar, hammer onto the ice cubes filled towel.
That way, the ice gets perfect. But I ask her: "Why don't you crush the ice right in the mortar base?"
Nahlee: "No, I clean the mortar all the time, but the ice would still smell like garlic, chili, lemongrass and ten other condiments. You wouldn't like it.”
And right she is, I don't need Thaipirinha.
Remote friends invite us – and ten others – for a Sunday brunch. For unclear reasons Nahlee refuses to come along, but says she'll prepare food I can bring to the event.
I ask her to do her self-developed "un-spicy som tam for Hans". I like it a lot as a side dish, and it will be an interesting item on the brunch table.
"No", she says!
"Why not", I ask? "It's very interesting, delicious and nobody knows it. This will be a hit."
"No, you cannot eat som tam in the morning. That food is only for after lunch."
"Ah, Nahlee, we are westerners you know. We can eat un-spicy som tam for brunch too."
She does me a good real fruit salad instead.
Another invitation she accepts: An Afghan lady from her integration class invites for tea time in her living room. Nahlee and two more Afghan ladies from class appear.
On Nahlee's cell phone I later see three dignified oriental ladies not wearing headscarves indoors. The all have Afghan men and children. They all stay in Germany for decades already, but news laws require them to do a language class now. It's a posh, completely western style living room. No husband is to be seen.
Nahlee had asked the inviting Afghan lady to do the dry corn flour cake she had once brought to class. "But please start preparing only after I arrive at your place", Nahlee had asked and so they had done the corn flour cake together, with Nahlee taking many notes. These eastern ladies really click over food concerns.
Of course Nahlee brings home some pieces of corn flour cake for me. I don't really understand her enthusiasm for that kind of food, but that holds true for other foods too. "After the tea time", Nahlee says, "I jumped into the oriental shop she recommended and bought this corn flour. Now I can do the cake here too."
Nude in the Public
On a steel blue ice-cold winter day, I take Nahlee to a water park with a delightful semi-open air sauna complex. We swim in an outside pool with clouds from our bodies rising up in the air. Then I suggest to Nahlee to try a sauna once, "but of course you sit there totally nude with other men and ladies".
My conservative Asian lady is curious and – after more than two years in the west – open enough to try a public sauna. So we enter the steaming hot sauna, wrap us out of our towels and sit there totally naked with a few other sweating guys and gals.
Nahlee sits there slightly crooked. "You know", she whispers with a clever smile, "when I sit like this nobody can see something".
We step back out into the ice cold air and with steaming bodies eat the complementary cold orange slices handed by a bath attendant. Then, as you should, Nahlee uses the ice water pool to cool off – she can stay there much longer than I.
We walk to the relax area. Nahlee thinks it's really really wonderful that the management provides free deckchairs there. She feeds me some snacks brought from home, then snoozes off for an hour, wrapped in her towel.
Later I tell her: "I will inform your grandmother that you shared a steam sauna with five nude men".
Nahlee: "Oh please, never ever tell this sauna thing to any friends or family in Thailand."
Excited as she is, she reports her sauna adventure back to her youngest, unmarried sister via satellite. Sister replies: "Sitting there in the nude with five naked men? I'd rather die, ching-ching."
We just come back from the district administration, getting her last one year visa. Next year she'll get permanent residency. Then she'll have to show some certificates from school – but she has all those already. The classes she visits right now are no longer requested by law.
(Many Thais here do the minimum classes required, then do the test required, fail at the test (passing is not required) and from then on work full time in cleaning, gastronomy or retail.)
A few years later Nahlee decided to get her naturalization. Many Thais don't go so far, because when they receive the German passport they have to drop Thai citizenship – on trips home, they are tourists in their own country, forced to think about tourist visas with limited time to stay in their original home country.
And a German passport is not really necessary. With a permanent residency and all language classes certified, they can stay in Germany forever, even after a divorce from their local husband. So I tell Nahlee there is no need to pursue a German passport, permanent residency might be all she wants.
"Why", she says, "I live mostly here so I want the German passport, too."
It's marvellous that she has adapted to life in Germany so well. I would guess she is probably less typical. I know a lot of Thais live in Germany but I would not have thought it that easy a place to integrate into.