Readers' Submissions

Trials And Tribulations

  • Written by SAM
  • September 8th, 2011
  • 11 min read


I’ve read with great interest probably all Sawaddee 2000’s submissions since finding Stick’s website and have truly enjoyed them. They have that sort of dry humour and feet-on-the-ground approach that makes me connect to his world. Also his very straight-forward teaching tips have helped me teach my 8year old niece some words of English particularly in what comes to pronunciation. I am not a native speaker myself so any kind of help is always appreciated and I truly admire Sawaddee’s efforts penning down his thoughts and experiences. He is not ranting. He is not shouting. He doesn’t claim to be an expert and always right. And I truly admire his patience. I – and believe many others – are much easily drawn to the point of explosion purely out of frustration. And to be fair to him, my approach to Thailand is much like his living on the countryside in a small village not far from Khon Kaen. So maybe I know a bit where his experience is coming from. We don’t get farangs here a lot. To be honest, I’ve been to numerous Thai village parties, temple celebrations and whatever just to notice that I am only guy from Caucasian origin. This sort of surprises me since Esaan is supposed to be the hub for some expats.

This brings me a tad closer to the real issue which is that we farangs – I would give a number of 95% or even more – tend not to mingle much with local people. We occupy the expat bars in the city center or stay in our newly-built house taking care of our partners and occasionally their extended family. Rarely do I acknowledge an outsider speaking the local dialect but what they normally do is complain about their trials and tribulations. Makes me wonder about a saying that most problems in the World are normally based on language – or the lack of it?!

There are also reasons why Thais don’t mingle much outside their family or closest colleagues or such. Much the same reason why I don’t drink with Thai guys late evening. There might be trouble ahead not to mention the jungle drums gossip the next dawn. Thais tend to take part in the official happenings like weddings, funerals, merit making offerings and so on but they, in my experience, don’t often go to bars seeking new friends or companionships. They have more than plenty of friends to choose from to accompany them to various places so they don’t need new ones. There is always present the danger of losing face and that alone is enough for most of them not to mix with people they don’t already know. Losing face to a Thai is an unthinkable thing. This should always be kept in mind. The exceptions for extending boundaries of social activities might be when looking something outside the circle of friends. Like a secret liaison with a farang or such.

Thai culture is very hierarchial. It differs so much from European and Western culture that penning them down in the sentence is like an oxymoron. Compering them is like trying to find a tree being at the same time lost in a forest. This, I believe, is the common breeding ground for so many problems amongst Farang-Thai relationships. We simply can’t understand WHY things happen the way they do. We might be able, after few experiences and knowledge, to know what to expect. And we might even be able to adjust ourselves to the Thai mentality. Somehow. I say somehow, since I can’t do it all the time and even having been here for years it is a strain to my peace of mind. Sawaddee 2000 seems to have found his way of dealing with multiple issues facing every foreigner living here is LOS and I congratulate him for it. I also have a garden project and whenever stressed, a walk around “my” land thinking of pruning helps my blood pressure come down. I add that I am a bit hot-headed so it has taken more than few years for me to practise these so valuable skills. Also the fact that I am younger than Sawaddee is, might be sort of an explanation. I hope I will be with such mettle when growing older.

For these above-mentioned reasons, I was quite disappointed at the responses poor old Sawaddee got from various readers. Some were to an extent even angry by nature or somehow trying to point that whatever happened was his own fault. More malicious nature was one trying to question whether something vicious drove him to Thailand. All this being a very archetypal way of responding to someone’s distress on so many expat websites. We seem to be very eager ranting, blaming, naming names, spitting, vomiting and rambling towards somebody’s opinion. Opinion, I repeat. And some, like Sawaddee’s, are normally quite interesting and well-balanced. Even if I don’t always get why he decided this or that, it anyway makes normally sense. After all, I don’t know all the facts and haven’t been a fly on the ceiling. That can definitely not be said about some other submissions. Good behaviour is giving some benefit of the doubt – or not?

Some foreigners just can’t get it through their thick skulls that this is Thailand. Things don’t work here like they used to in their native place of origin. This could be repeated and they still wouldn’t believe it. This reminds me of Korski’s submission not long ago where he tries to convince two Asia newbies of some facts and experiences he has witnessed around. Trying to question some people’s preset attitudes is like being in that before-mentioned forest and shouting to a tree hoping it will reply. Some just deserve what they get… Being gullible in Asia – or any foreign land – is asking for trouble.

What comes to Sawaddee’s decisions, I believe he did the right thing. Whether I or someone else would have had similar strength, is another question. I have never been a teacher in Thailand (been years for different age groups in my own country) but what I see and witness doesn’t attract me in the least. I have daily contact to school through my Thai family’s children and results simply don’t shine. As Sawaddee pointed out in one of his nice subs, even the English books printed in the MeCanNoReadOrWrite Ltd. are so faulty that I could write them after downing a bottle of local whisky…no…it would take at least two bottles! So he and others who try, really try, to improve this situation deserve my utmost gratitude and admiration. What’s it worth, anyway. I truly admire someone going against the windmills. One has to be at least as crazy as Don Quijote to try to change something in this country. My deepest sympathies to all of them.

I believe that Sawaddee tried to be…a good teacher! God forbid! He probably thought that he simply tries to do his best and everybody else should do as well. I think this might be an explanation why he was given the boot. He made other teachers see themselves what they are. Not simply worth a toss. And here we come to the subject of losing face, again. It doesn’t have to be that someone looses face and launches revenge. Oh, no! It is simply enough here in the Land Of Smile that it MIGHT happen. That chance can’t be taken. Better kick that farang out. Who does he think he is anyway? This could or could not be the case but something similar could have been going on in the bushes. Or he simply was thought to be too dear and 3 Thai teachers were hired at the same money. Never mind if they can’t teach. That has never been the number 1 qualification in Thai schools. Maybe somebody just wanted to change some staff so he could get his cut from it. Who knows? Probably remains unresolved as long as we exist on this planet.

Now I tell a small story about how I got an idea on how to solve Thai problems. It doesn’t fully relate to the above but might give some food for mind. It was how I learned to deal with Thai problems. It is a secret so don’t tell it to anyone.

I bought some land few years ago for my partner. The same reason as so many before me, to build a second home here on Thai soil. After looking at all options, I simply decided that the land can belong to my partner and on the house we made a long rental to my benefit. I am a great believer that one should not invest in Thailand if one can’t simply walk out on everything some day. It is so unsecure here for foreigners that any legal agreements are not normally worth the paper they are printed on. Just my belief. You can always prove me wrong. Anyway, I live with my Thai family and we’ve been together for years before all this house business started so I have some confidence that we know each other.

We had a particular piece of land on mind when thinking about building. The land we had seen years ago on a motorbike trip around Khon Kaen. So we went looking it and couple of other places as well. I have been a great believer that when something feels right, it normally is good. So we started negotiations and the owner was in need to sell since his businesses were not doing so great (mental note: if Thais are doing bad in business, how we could do better?). Price was negotiated through a village person since the owner could not attend from Bangkok.

Next step was to go to the land office and change the names pn the land deed (chanote). Many other pieces of land we looked at did not have land papers and the ownership was not clear. We were told various stories about how we could get everything straightened up if we paid some money in advance. One plot of land that I liked was on a beautiful river slope but had no papers. I even offered to bid up if they come up with proper papers themselves before money was paid. Nothing happened so I gave up. I would recommend to anyone buying land without proper papers to check his mental state. After time that felt endless in the steaming heat, papers were signed and money changed hands. BTW, why all these local government offices don’t have any air-con is beyond me or at least some fans blowing? After all, they get decent money for their paperwork.

So, now I was a happy “owner” of a piece of land where my little piece of heaven would be built. Right? No!

When reaching my rooms and cooling under lovely air-con breeze, I noticed that the land deed (chanote) did not look somehow right. The form of the land was not according to what we had been looking at on the spot. Next day my suspicions were confirmed. The deed was only for the back of that land, not the piece connecting it to the street. F**K!

So, that was one of the times that I managed to keep my cool and after assessing the situation I turned to my partner and told her that all the Thais connected to this deal must go to the village chief and explain him the situation and make a paper of all the agreed things. So the person that had been involved with the sale, a seller’s relative and my partner went and made proper documentation about what had been agreed earlier.

We tried to contact the seller calling him and he said that we could get the deed in “couple of years”. My ass! I simply said to my family that no deed, no house. My partner went to see a Thai solicitor and inquired about possibilities. The best option according to the legal advisor was that my partner should go to Bangkok with people related to this deal and prepare all necessary papers beforehand including the power of attorney documents. The trip was arranged and the seller found some people on his doorstep early morning. Probably to avoid losing face in front of his village people, he signed. With these documents the other deed was transferred to proper names after being found already existing in the Khon Kaen land office. The former owner probably had some kind of other ideas for that piece of paper.

End well, all well. Some might now ask, what this has to do with Sawaddee’s tale of woe. Probably nothing much more than my observation how to save myself from various dangerously high blood pressure moments. The answer is:

To Thai problems, there is a Thai solution. Don’t get involved.



Stickman's thoughts:

I have heard of similar to what you experienced with that land deal. In some cases, the farang's lawyer was in on it, working against the client paying their bill!