Dutch Follows Up
I wrote a submission called ‘Generalizations about bargirls’. Your nice comment was, I quote you partly: “You're not out of the fire yet sunshine…let us know how it is going in another 18 or so month's time!” Well, this is the follow-up. Not after 18 months, but after eight years. If you like it, feel free to use it.
Reading back my first contribution (28 November 2001) on this fine site a while back, I had to suppress a smile: how naïve I was eight years ago. But was I really? Let’s find out. The contribution was called ‘Generalizations about bargirls’. At the time of writing I lived a year and a half with a Thai lady I met in a Patpong bar and lived with her for a year upcountry. The moral of that story was, I quote myself: “No (bar) girl is the same. They are all different people, that is, if you are prepared to look through the surface.”
Mister Stickman replied with, I quote him partly: “However, one year is not long enough to really know….though you have done well so far. You're not out of the fire yet sunshine…let us know how it is going in another 18 or so month's time! Remember, with virtually any other girl, the experience would not have been the same at all…”
So here it goes, not after 18 months but after 8 years.
Well, we still live at the same place (upcountry in the Central Plains that is), we still live together and we’re still going strong. Eight years ago I couldn’t speak Thai at all and was just able to give the locals a stupid smile whenever someone was trying to talk to me. In the meanwhile I learned the language and I’m now almost fluent at it. I can even read and write it. Would I’ve believed it 9 years ago? No, probably not.
I speak the lingua and do the same work most of the villagers do: farming, growing rice that is. I remember the first time I was driving around our little tractor. Most villagers who saw me riding this post-buffalo machine that day were laughing out loud while others just gazed, their mouths dropping a few inches.
We decided to speak Thai from the beginning. English was forbidden. My wife taught me to speak Thai. She encouraged it in every possible way. She was and still is, the perfect Thai teacher for me, telling me that understanding the language will make my life far easier up here.
She was right.
In the years that we’ve lived here, we managed to develop our farm from quite small (10 rai) to rather big (60+ rai). In the province where we live, that’s enough land to have a good income. We grow rice year ‘round, because there’s water year ‘round. That means three harvests a year. I have to say that we were rather lucky, because within a year (2008) the (selling) price of rice suddenly climbed from a meager 6,000 baht a ton to a stunning 11,000 baht a ton.
As a consequence the prices of land exploded. Suddenly growing rice became lucrative. You can see it around here everywhere: people build new, beautiful houses like there is no tomorrow. Right now there are probably more pick-up trucks then mosquitos in this village. We bought most of our land for less than 40,000 baht a rai, while at this moment one rai will set you back 120,000 baht. So our (her!!!) land is now worth over 7 million baht.
From Monday till Friday my wife runs a small but successful business in a city 10 kilometers up the road. I teach some English every now and then and take care of the work that has to be done at home: washing clothes, making food, shopping, taking care of our rather big fruit garden, a.s.o. Most days you can find me working a few hours at our rice fields. In the weekends we both work at our rice fields.
It is very unwise to buy land, being a farang in Thailand. You cannot own land, so that must be a stupid thing to do. But I did it nevertheless. I did it after living with my wife for more than three years. My wife is honest, hardworking, and loyal. So I bought her the land. I saw no reason why not. I bought her 30 rai. Later on she bought more farmland because she then could easily get loans from the bank. Right now she doesn’t have debts.
The money we make is far more than we spent. We split the money 50/50 and it all goes directly to our (separate) bank accounts. Why separate? Well, because this is Thailand… My guess is that we spent some 20,000 baht a month to live up here, also 50/50. We don’t like to go out and we like to lead a simple life. Can’t remember the last time I’ve been outside this province.
I think it’s not far from the truth to say that I have totally adapted to life in this Thai village. Having a few drinks every now and then with some (Thai) buddies, attending the occasional cremation ceremony or wedding, exchanging the same dirty and rather childish jokes with my mates from the village. People address me with pee, lung, naa or sometimes luk. Within 20 years there will undoubtedly be (young) people who will address me with taa. When and if that’s the case, I’ll slip into a minor depression for sure. If you want to have a good life upcountry in Thailand you’ll have to learn to be as Thai as possible and be happy with that.
The other day I had a few drinks with a Thai mate. The whisky made him obviously speak out his mind frankly, because at one point he told me that Thai people don’t really like farang that much. So you people don’t like me, I asked him. His funny reply was something like “Yes of course we all like you. But you are not a farang, you only look like one.”
In the early years I had to travel 25 kilometers for the closest ATM machine and the same distance for an internet connection. Now there are at least five ATM machines close by and I have a high speed internet connection at home. For potatoes I had to travel 70 kilometers and when there finally was a Tesco Lotus shop opened nearby, I was so used to Thai food that I didn’t give a shit about potatoes anymore.
I came to Thailand nine years ago with two million baht in my pocket and a small monthly income from abroad. My wife had only debts and just 10 rai of land. After living with her for three years, my money was reduced from 2 million to a meager 50,000 baht, just enough for a ticket back to my corner of Farangland. My money went to the house I built (1 million baht), paying off her debts and to the 30 rais of land I bought us (her). From the day I bought my wife this 30 rai, she didn’t needed my money anymore. I live here for free, for the rest of my life, doing nothing, if I choose to.
Right now, I have more money in my bank account then I ever had, while my wife is close to 1 million baht and with her lands’ worth you could call her well off, not only by Thai standards. Two weeks ago my wife bought an extra 5 rai of land, with her own money. I told her that I was happy to help her out with something like 200,000 baht but she said that I helped her enough already and that she didn’t need it nor want it.
I was happy with that, so me, being the sentimental and romantic fool that I am, I took her to a gold shop and asked her to buy herself some gold, to show my appreciation and also for good luck to her. Two baht I told her, pick out whatever you like. She told me not to act silly and simply refused to let me buy her gold. She knows I pay quite a lot of money for my sons abroad who both are university students in Farangland. She told me that I’d better spend the money on them.
But of course it’s not only me and my wife. At the time the missus and I decided to give it a go, I also had to deal with her son. He was 3 years old when we first met. Now he’s almost thirteen. He’s not my son, but he is my best friend. We both grew up in this country together and we have a bond, a strong bond.
Is my wife really that good a lady? No, she isn’t. She can be bad at times. A month ago I bought myself new glasses and the moment she saw me coming home wearing them, she started calling me Harry Potter (‘Haily Potten’), very annoying indeed. I hate it when she calls me Harry Potter.
There are three main reasons that made our relationship and my life in Thailand relatively successful I think.
1. I control the language.
2. I control the language
3. I control the language.
Why the emphasis on the language? Well, if you want to have some kind of fulfilling life in Thailand, you must be able to interact with the people surrounding you. If you want to be part of Thai society at least a little bit, you’ll have to learn the language. It’s your most important tool. When I lived in Europe I had little respect for people coming to my country and not being able to speak the language after living there more than ten years. Also: how can you work on a relationship when you don’t have a common language?
Why bother learning Thai?
1. You can act as Thai as possible (Why should you act like a Thai? Well, because you live in Thailand)
2. You can take part of Thai society as much as possible
3. You can interact with your Thai wife on every level
4. You can go to a restaurant and buy the food you want
5. You can have a real social life
6. You can say ‘fuck off’’
Of course there are more reasons why the relationship between me and my Thai wife is good. My wife is a nice, warm and giving person. She’s sweet and honest. On this much appreciated site, there is (IMHO) been given too much emphasize on the differences between Thai and farang cultures. There are differences indeed (‘face’ being the biggest) but I wouldn’t call the differences a big gap. Thai and farang have more or less the same goals in life: being happy, taking care of the family, having a job that one likes, etcetera. My wife’s a nice lady but she is quite chaotic. So I asked her one day: “Is this a Thai thing, or is it a ‘you’ thing?” She laughed and told me that this behavior was typically hers. So don’t conclude too fast that a certain behavior from a single Thai person is exemplary for Thai people as a whole.
What I don’t like about Thailand after living here all these years is mostly that I cannot participate as much as I would like to in this society. I never can be a ‘poo yai’ (village chief, obt or kamnan for example). I have no ambition whatsoever to become a poo yai, but the fact that I am totally excluded of it (because of my race) is annoying, to say the least.
What annoys me greatly is the following comment that I hear at least once a week: “Why are you working in the rice fields? You are rich already!” I always respond with: “How do you know that? Do you have access to my bank account?” Thai people think that every farang is rich.
One could say that this behavior towards farang is plain racist, but I like to think of it as ignorance. It’s no news when I say that the Thai education system is, to put it mildly (scraping my throat heavily), not as good as it should or could be.
You have to work on every relationship and that cliché goes for us too. I had to learn where she came from (poverty, almost no education, Buddhist, former prostitute, construction worker in Bangkok at the age of 14), not only ‘knowing’ it but most of all ‘feeling’ it. The same goes for her, being married with a guy from the other side of the world, middle class, with a bachelor degree and a Christian/humanist background. Differences couldn’t have been bigger. She and I made a huge effort to make this relationship work and it did. Especially in the early days we had our ups and downs, but by working on the differences and trying to understand and accept them, I really can say that our relationship today is perfect. ‘Perfect’ is a big word, I know, but that’s how I feel and that’s how she feels.
Our relationship is equal. Everything we do or don’t do is mutual decided. Yes, we talk a lot. When she’s not happy, I’m not happy and vice versa. I look at the people in this village as equals. Yes, I was lucky to have had a good education and yes, I was lucky to been born in a rich part of the world, but that doesn’t mean that I am any better than people who were born in a less developed (I hate this word because when I look at most farang frequenting Pattaya I ask myself who really is ‘developed’) part of the world. People in this village know how I look at them and they respect me for that. They don’t say that out loudly, but they let me feel it.
Two years ago I had an accident with my motosai and was brought to a hospital in the province capital with minor injuries. I just stayed there one night, but that night became special, because more than 50 people from the village came to visit me. My room (‘Hong pised’) looked like a Patpong bar at closing time the following morning: empty bottles of whisky and beer everywhere.
A final thought. Before I came to Thailand I had a good and fulfilling life in Europe. The choice to come and live in Thailand was absolutely not a negative choice (negative choice = because your life in Europe sucks, you decide to live in Thailand). If you’re not able to find your luck in Farangland, you will definitely not find it in Thailand. You could say that I am happier in Thailand then when I lived in Europe, but not more then, let’s say 5%.
A second final thought which I write with some hesitation, because it’s probably a gross generalization and therefore perhaps a bit out of line. But nevertheless, here it goes: I believe that part of the success of our relationship lies in the fact that my wife comes from central Thailand and not from Isaan.
I enjoy my life, because I know that my wife enjoys her life. We’ll stay together ‘till the end of times, no doubt whatsoever. This sunshine definitely is out of the fire. He actually was never in it…
Excellent! Thrilled to hear things are going so well!