Readers' Submissions

My Back Legs

  • Written by Huli
  • February 18th, 2011
  • 10 min read



Hello fellow Thailand aficionados,

I been following Stick's column for many years and it has truly been a great help and enjoyment for me. Now, I think the time has come to put together a little submission myself, being fortunately in a successful marriage with a Thai woman, and currently enjoying my retirement in Chiang Mai. There has been quite a bit of Thai woman bashing on this site, and I'd like to put in my 2 cents in their defence, and then mention some qualities in my wife that I think have contributed greatly to our successful marriage. First, a little background.

I first visited Thailand in 1970 as a GI on R & R from Vietnam. I flew into Udon for 3 days and hooked up with women companions who were so accommodating and friendly compared to anyone I had ever met. I thought Thailand was a paradise, and wanted to go back someday. However, I ended up marrying a woman from California and living on a small island in Hawaii where I had a good government job and we had 2 kids. Then, after 20 years, my wife left me to move to Maui, casting me as a villain, with all the western-woman vengeance and scenario that we have all read about on Stick. I thought I needed a vacation in Thailand! The year was 2001.

I did not think I was looking for a wife, I thought I was having a holiday in Chiang Mai. I was out looking at the temples with a tuktuk guy and he ended up wanting me to go to a tailor shop, even though I didn't want anything. He would get a commission anyways, just for bringing in a potential customer. The monk at Wat Pra Singh had just tied the white string on my wrist for good luck. The saleslady tried to sell me something but I said I lived in Hawaii and didn't need a suit. She gave up. Somehow I ended up showing her a picture of my farm in Hawaii, sparking the interest of her and the other ladies there. She said she wanted to work in Chiang Mai another 10 years, and then go back to her village and have a small farm too. This connection touched me, and I asked her if I could come back and see her the next day.

Of course, this woman went on to become my wife, and that day is etched into our memories forever. I can't say I recommend another man to follow my lead for what happened next, but with that caveat, here goes. I went to see her the next 4 days in the morning, bringing her a Bangkok Post which she liked to read. At that point, I had to leave and go to Bangkok and return home. We both liked each other, and we were talking about when I might be able to come back and see her again. I called her a lot from Bangkok. She decided I was a good guy.

Back in Hawaii, I was calling her weekly, and e-mailing her almost every day. I was all jazzed that I had met her. Every day the internet shop in Chiang Mai would print up my e-mail and hand deliver it to her at her tailor shop. Sitting alone in my house, it was only about a month later that I asked her to join me. I offered her a K-1 visa and a chance to marry me, which she accepted. She did her interview all by herself at the American Embassy in Bangkok, left her 2 kids with her mother, and flew by herself to Honolulu where we finally met again. I had never been to her home or met her family. I had never seen her except at her tailor shop. I had never kissed her or held her hand. I admit, we must have been crazy.

I don't mind saying, it was almost like an arranged marriage, in that, there was a lot of room to learn more about each other. As it turned out, I was just lucky. As for her, she was just determined to make this marriage work. Her overall motivation, to this day, is to have a companion to grow old with. As for me, I was reeling from my failed first marriage, and I knew I had to make this marriage work. Failing once, I could blame on wife #1, but if I failed again, I would have to admit it was me both times. So we both had a lot of commitment.

We had issues here and there for our first few years. Sometimes I was too hard on her. She wasn't a terribly talented farmer. I finally realized she was just a farmer-wanna-be, and calmed myself down. She managed to find a few friends in the new-immigrant community, Filipinos and a Korean woman. The Thai women she met were no good, either bossy or greedy wives. She did really well with 2 cooking jobs at the hospital and the hotel, but the locals gave her a hard time, and neither lasted. Finally, when I retired in 2009, I decided to move back to Chiang Mai, having had enough of living on a dinky island. She warmed to the idea, but was surprisingly equivocal at first.

I hope I haven't lost your interest with this lengthly introduction. I just thought some background about me and her, and how we met and lived, would be appropriate for an intro. I'll now proceed to describe and discuss some characteristics and qualities of my wife that I think have made our marriage work as well as it has.

AGE: When we met, she was 33 years old. She had already had the Thai husband, who did a runner, leaving her with 2 kids. The point is, a woman still in her 20's still has that feeling that life will give her dreams, whereas by the early 30s they see that it didn't happen and the clock is ticking. The childishness has gone. They know who they are by then. They know that options are few and far between. They are fully disillusioned with Thai men and so are their friends. They have half-accepted the idea that they will remain single forever. Should they have a chance to have a "good man" for a husband, they know the value.

WHERE FROM: By this I mean, what part of Thailand. It wouldn't be fair or accurate to make broad generalizations, but worth remembering, that what you want in a Thai wife is a traditional kind of wife. Thailand has been known to have great women as wives for like centuries but the world is changing fast. The people in Bangkok are more exposed to the materialistic life, the people in the south are hard as nails, and the women of Isaan have this huge gold-digger bargirl trend that everyone there knows about. The people in the North are the most cultural and traditional in the country, so I think that is an advantage. My wife says the monks would come to her school and teach them how to be a good wife by taking care of the house and husband, by making him happy. There is a Thai saying, that a marriage is like an elephant, where the husband is like the front legs, and the wife is like the back legs. My wife believes that. They need to have this traditional role intact, and the best chance you have of finding this kind of woman is in the North.

FAMILY: As I said, my wife has 2 kids and her mother to take care of. Because I took her away from her job to be my companion instead, I have always accepted that I have to take care of them financially too as part of the package. It turns out to be within my budget, and has never been a problem. More to the point is my wife's attitude towards their support. It goes without saying that they need what they need. But, beyond that, she is never trying to get me to buy them extra stuff or spoil them. The kids got school, the mother got to live, and that's about it. For their part, they don't ask for more either, they are happy to have that. This is not a middle class family and they are satisfied to be in what they consider a good situation. If there were always requests, it would add strain to our marriage. I am also lucky that she doesn't have any brothers or sisters or others asking for money from us.

MONEY: My wife won't buy hardly anything without asking me first. More than anything, I have to talk her into buying something, like her clothes for example. If I do, she will forever be saying I bought it for her. She loves to get a bargain, to budget and to keep track of our expenses. She doesn't ask to have an allowance, but is content to trust me to give her what she needs. I give her a couple thousand baht when she runs low. When I do give her money, she wais me and wants me to put the money in her purse, not her hand. You know, money demands and issues can be really hard on a marriage.

ENGLISH: Communication is so important in a marriage. If your wife can't speak fair English, you won't enjoy her companionship much. When problems come up, it will be hard to explore them or solve them. Not only should your Thai wife speak some English, but she should be eager to improve her English daily. My wife improved herself greatly while in America, and talks to me in detail about world events or whatever. When I met my wife, she was selling suits to international tourist clientele having worked in many textile and tailor shops as well as a tour company. In all of these she had to communicate in English to some extent anyway. Women that work with tourists in middle level jobs often know some English and this makes them better wifely candidates.

PERSONAL QUALITIES: By the time a woman is in her 30's, she should have some accomplishments. She should have some personal success, some challenges overcome. Being married to a foreigner is going to be a challenge, and it must succeed. You don't want her giving up and running home. If she hasn't been able to accomplish anything in school or work by then, it is not a good prognosis for a marriage. This can also relate to the "mai pen rai" attitude that is usually considered so charming. There are a lot of benefits being married to a foreigner. She needs to see this and be determined that the marriage works. Not "whatever".

In my wife's case, she had a tragedy when her father died and she was only 5 years old. As an only child, she and her mother struggled along. She did lots of small jobs before and after school. She was self-reliant, saving her own money, doing well in school, and generally pushing herself constantly. This served her well as she entered the workforce after high school. The reason I mention it, I often wonder if this didn't make her a better wife now. Having experienced a tough life, she appreciates what we have now more. Were she raised a middle-class person, pampered by her father, I wonder. It's a fair question, and worth pondering when looking for a wife.

PRIORITIES: Finally, I know that it is usual to hear that to a Thai woman, her family will always come first. That is true in a way, that if her Mom and kids don't have what they need, sure that is job one. But once that minimum is assured, her total attention is directed to the life we live together and her core wish, to have someone to grow old together with. That was the thing she left her job and family for, moving to America for 8 years, and that is the thing she says she wants the most. The companionship. If you are thinking of marrying a Thai lady, I would want to hear her say that this is what she wants more than anything else. Listen for this.

I hope you enjoyed my little essay, and maybe it can help some of you guys out there. As I said, I just got lucky.


Stickman's thoughts:

It's always interesting to hear the methodology behind someone's successful relationship with a Thai woman. I have to say that women from the North do tend to be more traditional and the best Thai girlfriends I have had have been either from Bangkok or the North.