Stickman Readers' Submissions August 14th, 2014

Venture Sponsorship – 1

First, let me make it clear that this generalised piece is no more than that. I do know some farang meet nice Thai ladies, and have long and happy relationships – at least no worse than they might have experienced ‘back home’. I sometimes wonder if this simple statement might not be a crux in Thai/farang relationships… Could it be that most of us arrive here hoping, even expecting, that a relationship with a Thai lady will somehow automatically be better than what we’ve previously experienced ‘back home’…?

As for the danger of ‘generalisations’… there have been many on this site recently, as in life generally, but statements like: ‘Anyone who claims not to have been sexually aroused by a teenage girl is a liar,’ makes the writer look like an idiot – as a general rule, anyway…

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During several years trying to find a way of channelling my Thai wife’s apparent business ‘acumen’ into a venture that would be commercially viable, and having to accept she simply didn’t have a clue how to run a business, despite her enthusiastic proclamations (a la, Boys From the Black Stuff), we eventually bought a plot of land and built a house, for which my wife confidentially assured me she would be Site Foreman.

Through the years we spent searching for a peaceful rural plot (my wife was a Bangkok townie and had no contacts in the rural hinterland), my wife was supposed to be supervising the negotiations. Having never bought anything in her life that cost more than 50,000 ฿, I tried to teach her how to buy and sell property – the basic economic principles are surely much the same in any country.

My wife’s translation skills were also limited, not so much because of the language but I slowly realised she didn’t understand the Thai terms either. On one bizarre occasion the very rich vendors (who only possessed an ‘interest’ in the land for sale, along with dozens of other plots) refused to give me a price and insisted I told them what I was prepared to pay. Naturally, as I was unable to change this odd situation (with my wife also pressing me to state my offer) I came in low, as a starting point for a conversation.

The four vendors (two brothers and two sisters, all in their 30’s, all part-educated in Europe) rushed to cry, “Pen pai mai dai…!” (‘Impossible…!’), but were all soundly trounced by my wife, who just beat them, by herself crying, “Impossible...!” – while I was trying to lower their price, which we were yet to discover, my own wife was trying to get me to raise my offer…

I didn’t hang around there much longer, especially when the vendors commented how rich I must be, otherwise how could I live in Europe. I tried to explain that I had been earning a European salary, and had still found Europe expensive to live – it’s all relative. I added that when I saw the prices in Siam Paragon I was not foolish enough to think all Thai people must be rich.

On the way home I tried to work out a way to utilise my wife’s talents to keep them on my side. She asked why I was ‘angry’ (whenever I was thinking, she always called it, ‘angry’…). I said I didn’t like that family. She asked why I was angry with her… perhaps I had just snapped at her. I told her, in future I would conduct all the negotiations and hopefully she would translate for us.

When the land was eventually purchased it was not put solely in her name – I wouldn’t do it in the West, so why do it in Thailand…? Look at it this way: you can either buy property with your wife, which you will part-own (as usually occurs in the West, though it is more complicated in Thailand) or you can simply make her a present of the property. If you are happy to give such a gift, and not expect to have any rights on the property ever after (exactly as if you’ve given her an iPhone), then go right ahead – no problem – but, if you feel that you might be upset at the loss of your supposed (retirement?) home… Do – Not – Buy – It – For – HER…!

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Ignore claims like: “Oh, but I will look after you… and my family will look after you… and you will never have to work or worry again…” Even with an old and trusted friend from your home country you would be unlikely to sign away your life savings without any safeguards. Why do it with someone you’ve known for a few months, just because she tells you all will be well…? or because, ‘it is Thai custom’…?

Having found our builders my wife attempted to fill ‘her’ role as site foreman. I tried to go along with this but when the guys made a ‘mistake’ which varied from the plans, they claimed they were following my wife’s instructions.

The builder had previously asked my wife about a detail, which she almost certainly didn’t understand, and simply chose one of his options. I would have hit the roof, but it wasn’t on yet. As diplomatically as I knew how, I took the very nice chap to one side and started to discuss the project with him in drawings, which are international – if you know what you are doing, and the builder is basically honest, I suggest you can build a house anywhere in the world without worrying about a language barrier. A picture is worth a thousand words…

The final problem occurred when we were discussing a detail near the roof and I nipped up a ladder to point out the parts involved, while talking over my shoulder – a bit like a teacher writing on a blackboard. When I looked down the foreman had a glum look of continued incomprehension while my wife bore an embarrassed smile. She shyly stated she thought the foreman was hard of hearing and had hitherto been lip-reading.

I explained again but, at a crucial point, I turned away from my wife and directly addressed the foreman, whose face was now an absolute delight as his comprehending smile spread from ear to ear. Turning back to my wife, and asking if she now understood as well, I discovered it was not the foreman who was hard of hearing. In English (so he didn’t understand) she had tried to blame the only one there who understood anything, to cover her own predicament.


Throughout those years my wife had constantly informed me she knew how to do all these things, and would take care of everything for me, while I, effectively, could relax, and simply foot the bill. However, I had never done such a thing before, i.e. just sat back, and paid, and with my practical, engineering and architectural background, I was looking forward to seeing just what I might achieve.

Many of us have been caught in just this way, and many came off worse than I did. Many of us meet ladies from rural backgrounds where happens to exist a wonderful plot of land, with her name on it, just waiting for some kind farang to build her, and her family, the best house in the village. Allied to this, many of us have little idea how to put up a row of bookshelves, or even hang a door… let alone, build a house.

If two such people get together, the non-DIYer simply doesn’t stand a chance. One of my favourite sayings is: If in doubt, Don’t…! Nine times out of ten we should probably say, No… yet eight times out of ten we usually say, Yes…

From the beginning I was naturally inclined to take my wife’s claims at face value – if she said she knew, how could I disbelieve her…? I knew nothing of her background, nor the abilities of her numerous relatives yet, during my life I had bought and sold seven houses, and two apartments, and renovated five of them, stripping two of them back to bare walls and foundations. There was never going to be a chance that my wife could have matched that. But those of us with little or no practical experience are prey to ‘cowboy’ builders the world over. If you are also the prey of a scheming lady, who needs to bring home the bacon to her family, you have my full sympathy.


Is there any…? Should I offer advice to strangers with very different hopes and aspirations…?

Of course it is easy to say: Don’t put everything solely in her name – after all you wouldn’t have to do it in the West, and there are ways to avoid it in the East. If a Thai (or worse, some know-it-all farang) tells you it isn’t possible to have your name recorded somewhere as part-owner, ignore them – it is…! It’s not so easy, and can be frustrating, but… it – is – possible. I did it.

It’s similar to declining the opportunity to lavish her family with some ridiculous figure for sin-sot when marrying. I told my wife: in the West the bride’s family traditionally provides a dowry, and suggested a compromise: we would both ignore our national customs. She didn’t understand the word ‘compromise’ and always thought me kii-nii-o… (miserly). I would be providing considerable funds to build us a nice house, where her family could visit – but NOT live. I might as well have been talking to the cement posts holding the structure up. She understood as little of my intentions as I did of her desires.

I can appreciate how easily some of us lambs are led to slaughter in some far flung foreign field – I was lucky to be able to avoid much of that – but, even those who don’t leave their brains and ‘moxie’ (backbone) at the airport Lost Property office, on arrival in Thailand, several still find themselves caught between a rock and a proverbial hard place. I had my experiences long before the internet was able to offer warning cries of alarm and, without farang contacts (in Thailand or at home), I had to work it out as I went along. It has subsequently amazed me that so many guys are still being led up this same garden path, to financial oblivion, when they have the internet to educate them, but the arrogance of human nature (‘It won’t happen to me…!’) seems to win through.

If you’re the sort of person who might be conned by a Nigerian scammer, or a market trader with dodgy scales, or even a pirate DVD at a garage sale, you might well suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune as practiced by (amongst others) Thai bargirls. You have my sympathy. At school many young lads like to play with the ‘big boys’, and have to quickly learn new rules, which can change daily. If you have ever failed at any of these pursuits, and not learned from the experience, it has to be largely your own fault – you can’t blame the rule-makers just because you have presumed to know the rules. Do yourself a favour – stay away from Thailand… It isn’t all bad here but you are more likely than average to get caught in all the wrong places, at the wrong times.

If you still choose to visit the Land of Smiles, beware… Don’t believe everything you hear (even from other farang) and see – it is less likely to be true than what you might read in a cheap newspaper. And don’t do anything rash. Yeah, sure… of course you won’t. I once heard a lady say to her beau, after knowing him for less than a month, that if he didn’t agree to marry her now, before he returned home, she wouldn’t wait for him. If a lady said that to you back home would you instantly hurry her to the nearest registry office…? Or, would you say “Farewell, sweet Juliet. I sense the dawn approacheth. Got to go. Things to do, people to see… Bye…!

To be continued…

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