Readers' Submissions

Face Saving






I was prompted to write this submission after reading the latest article by HuaHinHarry, "Venture Sponsorship 1". In it, Harry
told of his tribulations in building a house with his Thai wife. He more or less paints a picture of rural Thai females as being less than intelligent in business dealings. I don’t mean to imply that he said his wife was stupid or that
rural Thai females in general are stupid, but he did leave the impression that you could not count on them to handle business decisions.


Harry is obviously an intelligent man. But, right off the bat he questions her “business acumen” so I wonder who’s more at fault here? Knowing your wife is not quite on the ball in the matter of business, why would you throw her in the middle of such an important project?


He more or less disparages the intelligence of “ladies from rural backgrounds” and continues the stereotype of them all being out to empty the pockets of hapless farangs. While this may be true in some cases, I for one am married to a “rural” Thai lady and I would trust her with my last dollar.


I am sure that there are plenty of rural ladies that would struggle with making these types of decisions just like you would find plenty of western females that you wouldn’t trust to make a choice of which value meal to pick at McDonalds.


A lot of it comes down to experience in life. My wife has now lived in America for almost ten years. She owns her own business and has several close Thai friends from rural backgrounds that also are running successful small businesses here.


The one thing I see that they all have in common is that they have lost the “face” saving excuses. It was one of the first things I drilled into her and now she is quick to point it out in other Thais that are struggling here because they are afraid to lose face if they admit they don’t know something.


My wife will very rarely associate with other Thais that are still face savers. They inevitably are the ones that cause conflicts in her life here. Some are good people but unwilling to change when she tells them what they need to do to solve their problems. We have 8 – 10 Thai / farang couples we associate with that are doing wonderfully. The wives all speak English to a good degree. That opens all kinds of doors intellectually in a western society. When they see that westerners don’t care about face, it really changes the way they handle their “business”, so to speak.


Once you can admit you are wrong or don’t know something, you can move on and learn from your mistakes. She will now ask for help when she is unsure. Harry’s wife said “she knew how to do something” because it would mean a loss of face to admit she didn’t. This is the biggest stumbling block for Asians in general when dealing with the Western world. Once they get past it they seem to thrive in business.


In general, I think Harry has trust issues with his wife. Not in the sense that he thinks she is less than honest but more in the sense that he doesn’t trust her judgment. I trust my wife to make smart business and personal decisions. She is not one to squander money on sick buffaloes and other such nonsense.


Instead of worrying about “being a lamb led to slaughter” I would recommend paying more attention to finding a girl that is on your intellectual level and from a hard working family that values the same things that you do. I met and married my wife here in America and only met my in-laws on my first visit after being married. But, I saw how close my wife was with her family and how she talked so well about her deceased father and how he drove them all to get good educations. My wife is now in a position where she can send money to her mother knowing it will be used to help other unfortunate family members or neighbors in need. She does it because she wants to not because she feels obligated. That is a big difference for both of us.


In conclusion, don’t disparage rural Thai girls for where they come from or paint them all with the same brush. They are no different than the vast majority in your own country. Just don’t put them in situations they don’t have the tools to deal with. It’s not fair and inevitably will not end well. If you married them for their beautiful smile and sweet disposition then enjoy it and find someone more capable to handle your business. Let’s stop the stereotyping of rural Thais being mental midgets. My experience tells me they are more than capable when given the right tools to succeed and can learn once they get past the face saving excuses.



Stickman's thoughts:

I am totally with you that the face concept is a flawed and creates many problems.

Going off slightly on a tangent, it has long been my belief that Thais aren't good at business, period – save for Chinese Thais. Most Thais have a VERY simple approach to business – buy a product at one price and sell it at a higher price. That's it! There's little in the way of adding value, marketing, product positioning, understanding the market and the zillion other things one needs to consider. Further, I have found that when negotiating deals here the other party seldom seeks an outcome where both parties are happy with the deal. To me, that is the ultimate outcome for if that can be achieved then both parties will likely be keen to pursue further business dealings together. In the few times I have tried to do business with Thais I have too often have the feeling that they not only want to fxxx me over, they want me to know it…and I have very soon pulled out of the deal.