Stickman Readers' Submissions February 1st, 2010

Marrying A Traditional Girl Part 3

We continued our talking on the internet and she continued to declare that she would be able to leave her family and depart for a western society.

Her savvy cousin was now married and in the process of making her visa. The uni cousin was in now in major talks with her new internet beau. Three cousins, all in the throws of becoming the wives of farangs, would all be married and overseas within a year.

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Were we the pairings, listed from a menu? Three early 20s girls from a non bargirl background, three just 40s farangs from English speaking backgrounds.

I returned to Thailand this time with the intent of asking my girl to marry me. Doubts aside I thought the gamble was worth the risk to take.

I never told her that on this trip, a proposal of marriage would take place. Our relationship whilst painfully slow, still left many questions unanswered.

Answering the questions about her ability to leave her family were consistently repulsed with the comment "I am a woman not a child, I am ready for a new time in my life."

We spent every day together at her house, following a predictable pattern of her cooking western food for me (I of course purchased that food), of sitting down at the dining table (I never saw them use it for eating, only for doing paperwork and my future wife and her sister's jigsaw puzzles) with her father, me reading the Bangkok Post and him the local press, myself fielding questions about all things farang from the parents of the other cousins.

Sitting with maps of Thailand and an atlas, and talking about different places within the constraints of language but like talking football, you can get away with a smallish vocabulary.

After about two weeks, something changed. I felt that something important was happening. My future father in law wanted an answer. A school principal friend of his was in attendance. I knew this man could speak better than average English and my future wife was conspicuous by her absence from this gathering.

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Upon me an answer was demanded, via the principal friend, "What was my intention to his daughter? The time has passed for a decision to be made. It was now almost beyond good manners to continue coming to his house!" The all important Thai face was in danger of being lost, and to a very proud man that could not happen obviously.

Was I being railroaded? I did have the intention of asking permission to marry her, but in my second last week of my trip, he wanted an answer. It bordered on an ultimatum. <Many readers and some friends have told me of being put in a similar situation with the Thai woman they have been seeingStick> I thought I would be losing the people I really cared about, but "it is my life" crossed my mind at this time.

I explained my plan of when I was going to ask his permission. I told him that I wanted him to be sure I would be suitable to marry his daughter. Upon hearing the interpreted answer, there was much smiling and laughing. I was told that if he did not like me, he would have stopped my interaction with his daughter much earlier than this.

I then asked him formally if I could marry his daughter, who had mysteriously returned. The father said no, it was not appropriate to talk of this that night, because senior relatives were not present.

I prepared my speech for the intention of the engagement which would be in two days. The speech was practiced over this time, after school hours, with help of a school teacher friend from the school that my soon to be sister in law worked at.

Mention was made of my happiness at the way my girl had be been raised, my background, my parents' background and that of my siblings and the sin sod that would be paid.

If you wish to pay sin sod, which seems to be the source of confusion to many farangs is not that difficult, you only have to know in what cases it would be paid and the “value” of the type of girl you are marrying.

The exorbitant sin sod paid to ex-bargirls is always a mystery to me, but it is up to that farang to pay it. It's only an attempt to make face in those situations.

Her sister in law received sin sod at her wedding to her Thai husband, so I knew it was expected.

The day of the proposal of engagement though officially not accepted, was pure chaos! There were old relatives everywhere, teachers and police past and present, the gang from the or bat tor.

I knew my initial amount of sin sod to be offered would have to be refused, only manners declare that to happen, so I was prepared for that.

So the event started with a friend of her father speaking. He spoke of my future wife and of her family, outlining the positives.

Then it was my turn, using words outside of my normal Thai vocabulary was a bit intimidating, but I had practised and of course they would not complain about my efforts to do it.

My offer of sin sod was refused, so to part 2 of my speech and I offered more, an amount of course I was prepared for, and that offer was immediately accepted. <Come on, tell us how much they sucked out of you!Stick>

The inevitable followed. Those married to Thais will know, but wai beautifully and correctly and you can't help but succeed. Remember that whatever actions you do now reflect heavily on your wife and indirectly upon her family.

After this event, I could now walk with her alone in the village (still staying at the hotel of course), chaperoned in the city.

If you marry a traditional girl, please remember that you are so much a reflection on her as she is on you. Some readers of course will be of the opinion “I don’t let those things worry me”, but please, if she has a good place in the local and greater community, your actions really do matter.

Do you wear a shirt down to the local shop? Of course you must, even though you will see some of the locals shirtless. “Do you cut rice?” would be your wife's comment, if you see the monks when out for your morning walk. Do you wai as you pass them? Of course you do. <I beg to differ and am not sure I have ever seen any Westerner do this although if I saw a Westerner do them, I would respect them for showing respectStick>

Seeing the odd farangs about seems to be very handy to her to reiterate to you the ills of farang behaviour in public, stupid it may seem to some, but if you wife is happy not to teach you those things, then the local gossip will be in full flow. Thai gossip is virulent and if you or your wife are the subject of it, you as a farang may never know because your wife will know how much it will anger you. When you know how much it hurts her, more face could be lost.

So all that happened from this time in our lives was a marriage, her visa to join me overseas, and now almost four years together. It's not always been straightforward or clear sailing, but our unity is very strong, and her ability to adapt to a life away from her comfort zone should never have been doubted.

Yes, she misses her family, and of course she would be happier in Thailand but she is making a very good effort overcoming all the obstacles she has faced and is still facing.

Stickman's thoughts:

Well done on 4 years success to date.

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