Readers' Submissions

America Today, Reply To Caveman




Hey, aren’t honeymoons great. Without that honeymoon period, I doubt the world would face a population issue. The honeymoon and its positive attitudinal biases is often so much better than the long term outcome. Enjoy your honeymoon, Cavey. Truly. It is a wonderful experience. Been there, done that with her lady the Kingdom of Thailand. No real regrets, some long term downsides, but, wow, loved it and glad I had it!

I have a lot of issues with how you go about saying something akin to “I am so much smarter than all of you, because here I am and you, or BKKSW, have it all wrong, this country is so much better than my homeland…” as some kind of newbie justifying his choice. I do not believe you really believe all that. It is the way you come across, at times. Otherwise, I would not write this.

Thailand is so great and the U.S. so bad, in your arguments. You are right and BKKSW or similar thinkers are wrong. Here is my view on some of your points.

Let’s start with the easy stuff. Violence. Well, I have never been able to find official crime statistics for Thailand. Thai to Thai, I doubt they are good. That is normal. Crime is largely within one’s own group, worldwide. Any criminologist can tell you that. Your best defense is not to be like you attacker, or to move to a different neighborhood, if you can. America has 5 times as many people and a thousand times the number of English language news coverage sites, so, yeah, you will read about more crime here. Thailand has a couple of scanty English language newspapers and a bit of pressure not to rock the tourism dollar boat, so there is the illusion it is really safe. There are lots of cops and as many Thai, and one Monk here in America, who have said to me, “yes, but I think the Thai are much nicer to Farang than they are to each other.”

There are bad neighborhoods over there. You have no need, desire or likelihood to go into them. You are not a woman. You are probably fine. Mass killings, like the “Batman” shooting started in America and have spread to Europe and Asia (though in China, it is mass stabbings, as guns are hard to get). Hope they do not get to Thailand. Gang violence is there; sometimes referred to by the name of the vocational school whose students open fire on a bus.

I do not think you can use violence to compare one country to another, or more accurately one people to another. As humans, we have a lot of work to do.

Forgive me this, but you are in your 40’s and dating in a country that is notorious for forming relationships with local women, that has banned legal abortion, where women are remarkably (by Western standards) unlikely to use female contraception and every guy knows how often the crap condoms there rip. So, use condoms and withdrawal. Otherwise, you will end up having to learn more about the Thai educational system in time! Man plans, God laughs…

Education? Anyone with serious money in Asia sends their kids overseas for university for a reason. Australia, NZ, the UK, America, Singapore and other countries love and seek this trade (overseas students pay full fees). I did a lot of years in academia and graduate school admissions. You can Google this university-seeking foreign students topic it if you like.

The issue is generally more a rote learning v. problem-solving and questioning, learning English, etc. issue than anything else. But it is very real and no one in Thailand, China or elsewhere over there questions that there is a problem. No one here and in other Western countries did either, and educational changes have emphasized problem-based learning for the past decade. In Asia, they are all working on a cultural shift. Hard though. We are still struggling with it here too.

I have been involved with or had relationships with well-educated Thai and even lectured a tiny bit over there. On the whole, involved parents will get well-educated kids, same there as here. Poor socioeconomic areas have poor schools, same here as there and everywhere. Private schools are expensive, same same, as they say. Thailand has some good Unis (e.g., Chula, Mahidol, etc.), but no Harvards. Outside of the U.S., UK and a few European countries, who does? There is no great need to worry in Thailand, if you are involved. Home schooling is a full time job and most parents are not good at it (there is a reason for schools of education). Home plus school is best, no matter where you live. I chose to move to an area with good public schools for my latest son (and yes, latest as I married a younger Asian woman to try to cure my fever – palliative care, it turns out, but that is another submission). No reason you cannot do that there too when love bites, your condom breaks, or hopefully both.

You and BKKSW are both in the right here. I just think you are a little wrong to think that childhood education will NEVER apply to you or that you can solve it yourself, at home without school. You are too young for that. So many older Dads with younger wives, especially there.

Whenever you talk about “the Thai language does not even have a word for…” I just ignore that. You neither speak nor read Thai. Having a specific word that transliterates from one language to another has nothing to do with being able to communicate a concept in a given language. Become a linguist and then use those arguments. As I will note later, become a business person and make those arguments.

I am not going to comment in detail on Cavey’s political views, but given the recent election here in the States, we all know that they are consistent with those in the minority. In comparing the U.S. to Thailand, then, it is wise to take this into account.

What is important to note is that politics matter less when you live in someone else’s country than when you live in your own. In large part, this is because you are both probably much less well informed in expat land than in your home country and, of course, you cannot vote anyway. So, they are less relevant to you.

But anyone who holds up Thai politics in comparison to any Western country I can think of must be either biased or misguided. How many coups is Thailand up to now? Nineteen, I think. And the last two were not so long ago. Did people die? You betcha; just not you. The Thai political situation is the most stable it has ever been, but we all know there are weekly articles in the international press about its instability. Thaksin was the first Prime Minister in how many years, was it forever (?), to actually finish his term of office. Look where that got him.

So, let us suggest that comparisons between Thai and Western politics (pick your country) only come out well if you do not care about politics. As a newbie ex-pat, Cavey has an advantage there. He does not yet care.

When he talks about doing business in Thailand versus the U.S. (and I could extend this to other Western countries), I scratch my head. So far as I can discern, he has done neither. I have done both. My first Thai business, and that of a few others I knew in the late 90’s, was shuttered when I had to flee the local mafia. The second business I ran, not mine, was in an area free of that stuff. But, there were daily reporting requirements to the government and the owners had to put out cash whenever there was an issue with a representative from a government agency. We all know that is not unusual in Thailand and the Thai know and are concerned about that too. I do not think you will find a Thai business owner who glories in the lack of Thai government regulations and bureaucracy. They either tolerate and overlook that stuff for Farangs who are benefiting the other Thai in their local area, hammer them big time, or applaud the highly successful ones whose very professional enterprises meet all the regs, know the rules, and benefit the society. Most simply just fail. How long that takes is timed in pocket depth. Those who make it in the long run do not post on this site.

Getting on the wrong side of a government agency is bad news the world over. My personal favorite in Thailand was when my passport was stolen and I took the replacement to immigration for a new visa stamp. They changed my 90-day visa, obtained overseas, to a 30-day visa obtained in-country and told me I was on overstay. I tried politely arguing “but you just changed it, I saw you…” and even got to speak to a supervisor. With a wide grin he told me in perfect English how much he loved my country. Then he reminded me that the person I was speaking with was a Police Officer and did I, by the way, have the money in my wallet to pay my overstay right now? Otherwise, she could lock me up while I sorted out getting someone to bring the money in. Needless to say, I smiled and wai’d and did the old “my pen rai”, thank you for your assistance.

I have seen the good and less good of Thai bureaucracy, but never anything bad. When they talk about learning the “Thai way” to you, Cavey, this is a big part of what the Thai friends you make will be referring to. Learn from them.

And, yes, I have been audited in the U.S. I still have another few years from a business where it could happen again. My first came with a very scary (to me) letter. After wetting my pants and reviewing what they said, I called them. Turns out, the guy was nice. I based the figures on end of the year, they based them on value provided by my brokerage at time of trade for a whole boatload of stuff and the difference I owed. They were right, so I paid, and paid (state I lived in there at the time) and paid (state I moved to in that tax year)… They were pleasant and professional. Hope I never, ever, ever (ad infinitum) ever speak to them again. Think that would be better in Thailand? Anywhere? Doubt it. If bureaucrats were user friendly, no one other than scholars would know that word. Too hard to spell!

My wife, a highly educated Chinese woman, tells me I have no idea of what politics, bureaucrats or corruption and risks in business are like in Asia. Guess she thinks Thailand is like playschool. Never had the guts to live in China and find out. Putting Thailand forward as an easier business environment than anywhere in the West, though, is somewhat amusing as an argument.

As to the courts, Stick can tell you more about that than I can as he has come much closer to that than I did. I did get a police investigation, but they came down in my support as I had the support of the Thai in the neighborhood. Worried me to no end, but came out just fine. And hey, what the heck, they never even talked to me (my opinion did not matter to them), so language was never an issue.

Cavey, you call the lack of regulation “freedom”. That man on the scaffold is not free to decide to wear or not wear a safety harness. The owner of the company is free to decide whether or not he wants to pay for one for him to wear. In the most egregious incidents of workplace fatalities, the Thai occupational and safety authorities will indeed come down on the owner. The payments to the dead workers family and fines could even end up being as much as one to two thousand dollars U.S.

Life is cheap in Thailand. The Thai I knew told me that all the time. My response was often a sarcastic, “really, I thought in Thailand you die for free.” Neither is far off the mark. That is just part and parcel of a developing nation.

But it is rather distressing to see poor occupational safety as a country “benefit.” No one in the public health field in Thailand would agree with you. The Thai view it as an important issue and are striving to address it.

Road safety? Thailand has a very poor record. They are working on that too. As it stands, your motorcycle is more likely to kill you in Thailand than anything else; number one cause of death. I agree, drivers are much more polite to bikers up in Chiang Mai (have ridden there) and that is a plus. At least they honk and try to move over instead of just knocking you down.

Your bike (or food poisoning) is also more likely to put you in the hospital. Yeah, isn’t it great you can see a doctor and get a handful of antibiotics for anything, literally, for a few bucks? I won’t get into the concerns about overuse of antibiotics and developing drug resistant diseases (suspect you know a lot about that, Cavey).

Here is what I do want to point out to you and anyone else who sets foot outside of their home country. Three big things, really. First, those cheap bills may not extend to serious, emergency medical care involving surgical intervention or extended hospital stays. Bills in the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars U.S. are neither unheard of nor uncommon for Farang in Thailand. In the press frequently. Insurance that covers you while you are overseas is a REALLY good idea. Perhaps I should type that ten times.

Second, did you know that if you cannot pay, they do not have a “duty of care” as they do in most (maybe all) Western countries? If you are conscious and cannot tell them (and prove) how you are going to pay for that craniotomy, you may not get it. That 30-baht health scheme that Thaksin introduced to address this does not apply to expats.

Third, if you do not have the bucks or are unconscious and they are nice enough to give you the care you need, you still have to pay. You cannot just go home. You cannot leave the country until you pay. You cannot leave Thailand with a debt once it is registered with immigration. You are flagged. Of course they will not let you live on the street or starve; they will take care of you. It is called the Immigration Detention Center. You can work with your consulate to help sort all this out.

I am not singling out Thailand on this. So far as I know, and I know a bit, that is the case pretty much anywhere. If you are not a citizen, you cannot just leave another country to skip out on your bills. The only case, and I do mean only, that I know of where the person’s own country stepped in was that of an Australian woman who had a seriously premature baby while in Canada on vacation with her husband. She got a U.S. or Aussie or CD (forget which) 1 million bill and a lot of publicity. The government helped negotiate a reduction in her bill and people from her home town raised the money to get them home.

So, be sure you have insurance or keep tight with your MC. You might need them as fundraisers someday! Also, make sure your insurance covers claims related to riding a bike. Some may require a few extra baht for an insurance rider that covers motorcycles. Hopefully, you can find a company whose full policy details are in English.

America and every country I can name that has real healthcare has a problem with how we will control growth in cost as the standards and technologies involved in care evolve. Using that to compare the U.S., or Australia, Canada, the UK, NZ, etc. as a plus for Thailand is a pretty poor way to pick a country. Thailand has not solved its healthcare issues either. At least in theory, any Thai can get care for 30 baht. It is causing big economic problems for hospitals over there, but, hey, anything that gets people to approach and get their health care is OK by me. LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of happiness… (from one Yank to another).

I will not get into the tea party, Obamacare stuff. But, just one dig, all the insurance company CEOs plan to keep most of the changes no matter what happens with the politicians. They believe they will save health care dollars in the long run (I am a financial equities junky these days, so I see the interviews). Off-topic, though.

Environmental issues, including noise pollution. Hey, cities have their up and downsides. Find me a place with no environmental issues and, alas, I will find you one with no people or jobs. Worldwide struggle. I lived in NYC for a while. Wow, loud as Bangkok (worse, maybe). Traffic, I live outside Atlanta. I hear it is better in LA. Fortunately, my wife and I only rarely drive into the city (and then on weekends or off-peak times). You want quiet, live in the countryside or suburbs. I have quiet here where I live, so I am happy. This has nothing to do with the country you live in, just where you live in that country.

As to using that A/C to block noise, yeah, sure. Here is another environment tip. Your honeymoon has encompassed the easiest months. Start using it less and acclimating more. April will impress you, even up in Chiang Mai. In the end, that heat and humidity that drew on me so much was the hardest thing for me to deal with in Thailand, long term. Acclimate. Number two, maybe, after insure. Or maybe a chastity belt would do most Westerners better. Toss up; all are major issues.

The Western v. Thai or Asian women issue? I am married to an Asian, so that says a lot. If you are not in a serious economic disparity situation, where she is wholly dependent on you or maybe locked in a closet (bad solution), you will find in the long run that Asian women do not generally put the toothpaste on your brush and massage your feet, or whatever. Educated Asian women and those who gain more confidence in their relationship with you will generally be pretty bossy, especially when it comes to finances, the kid(s), your health-related behaviors. That is the family orientation. Beware of women who want to wait on you, eat, sleep, and shop. They may change, they may bleed you dry or they may run to greener (read, richer) pastures. If your Asian wife does not want to run your life, she is not a really traditional woman, not working together with you, or the most amazing creature in the planet. The last is not likely.

I spent a lot of time in academia. I have met many feminists, but no femi-nazis. I have seen many instances of sexual harassment, but no false claims. I cannot comment on PC, per se, but I do have to believe that job ads that ask for women in a certain age range with pictures for the application are not the height of gender equality. I have only seen those in Thailand. Most of those who argue that Thailand is great for lack of PC do not acknowledge all the very real discrimination there. I do not think that discrimination is the solution to being PC, or the other way around. We need a middle ground. Thailand has not found that, nor have we. This argument will take some time to work out. It really is not a plus for Thailand. If you think that, you are not an ethnic minority, a dark skinned Thai from the North or a woman living in Thailand. You are a Farang.

It never annoys me when people send posts that tell how much they love Thailand; would any of us read this site if they did not? I also enjoy reading people like BKKSW who left, as I did too. Like to see their thinking too.

It does annoy me when people run down their own home countries to justify their choices or post comments against people like BKKSW that suggest they may not really understand their own issues. It does so especially when so many of the arguments seem so naïve and uninformed.

Thailand actually has a Minister of Propaganda. If you were Thai, probably male, maybe of Chinese descent, less than 60 years of age and had great political connections, you could apply for that position. It might suit you.

Cavey, I love your photos and your stories about dating and settling in. I look forward to them. They are great. I sure wish you would dump the politics and not run down the country that as another poster has noted, you served and is now picking up your tab for living there. You are too young to be an angry, old tea party Republican. Chill out (really, acclimate) and enjoy it! Tell us more about your dating adventures, we are all waiting to see what happens – funny stuff, guts getting ripped out, triumph or tribulation. That is the stuff we love when we read this site. And vicariously, man, right now, you are us!!!!!!!! And, you are doing a damned fine job of writing it (wish you could sneak pics of the girls in there, though, but really respect and hope you do not).

We all love you, from afar,

David
Aka Slow Learner



Stickman's thoughts:

So many really good points made. I think if one is truly objective, it's pretty hard to argue for Thailand being a better place to live than most Western countries. Yep, by some measures Thailand has much going for it, but I think it's not until we factor in issues that may be specific to us as individuals and the comparison becomes subjective that we can really make an argument for Thailand.