Generalizations Part-I, or ‘My Bar-girl is Different’
I’ve been toying with writing something along these lines for quite some time but never got round to it and, anyway, would anybody want to read it…? I tend to write semi-serious (hopefully helpful) stuff for this site but this one is intended to be more light-hearted or, as Markin (‘Out of the Formicary’ – my favourite series here at the moment) might put it: “Honest.”
Disclaimer: I hate generalisations. Human nature seems to dictate we all generalise. I often find myself battling against this ‘disease’…
I have previously enjoyed reading the experiences of naive newcomers (I was a newcomer, once… but maybe I’m still naive – leopards, and all that…) and ‘their’ bar-girl, who was ‘different’ to all the conniving witches who might otherwise have taken them to the cleaners – Unquote. I’ve also enjoyed reading the responses from hardened ‘mongers’ who ‘know the truth’… The one thing we all eventually learn: Bar-Girls are not to be trusted, believed, or lusted after (except temporarily), nor given more than their bus fare home afterwards.
I don’t know who first penned this maxim but many have repeated it – ‘pay the lady for her assistance in your hour (or ten minutes) of need, but don’t fall prey to further requests’… because they will all take you for a ride.
So, Generalisation-1: All bar-girls will take you to the cleaners.
Much as I understand where this comment is coming from, and I’ve my own experiences that help to corroborate it (to a limited degree), I naturally shy away from assertions that use the words: ‘all’; ‘always’; ‘never’; ‘none’ – these are invariably generalisations masquerading as ‘gospel’ – generally, that is… Thus it might be more honest and useful to assert: ‘Most (or just, many) bar-girls will take you to the cleaners.’
Even if 90% of bar-girls are guilty, as charged, that still leaves 10% who are, in some way or other, ‘different’… and human-nature is such that people are much more inclined to complain, moan, and whine when something doesn’t come up to expectation (and perhaps so we should) whereas stories about the other 10% (or more…) are simply not often written about… and, even when they are, they are often couched in general terms that are (‘generally’…) as unreliable as the more prolific negative comments.
Two guys recently submitted pieces here relating how their experiences showed that many(?) Thai / farang romances do work, and therefore can work, and farang should not be afraid of trying it. I totally agree on the last part – do not be afraid – faint heart never won fair lady… [NB: I’ve often wondered what the lady’s version of this is…] However, both guys drew their conclusions from groups of about a dozen couples and, although I enjoyed reading both pieces, I was unable to accept any conclusions therein, being the result of a tiny statistical sample.
My own experiences in the Kingdom amount to half a dozen years with a Thai wife, living in Thailand in the winters and working back home in the summers… followed by divorce, a year or so spent traveling in South-East Asia, Europe and the States, followed by a decade living in Thailand permanently, most recently in Hua Hin.
More recently I encountered a very interesting piece that states, I think conclusively: “I will deceive men with sex to obtain money” but, from the experience of many bar-girls in Hua Hin (and, as always, I offer these comments as specific to Hua Hin only, and no other part of Thailand, of which I have too little knowledge, but enough to believe Hua Hin is sometimes ‘different’…), it might be more fair to say: “I will attempt to deceive men with as little sex as possible to obtain as much money as possible”… the reason being that, although, it seems to me, from what I’ve been told by them, most ladies arrive in the bars with this primary purpose (whether for ‘short-time’, one-night-stand, the whole holiday, or, ‘for ever’…), many (arguably most – in Hua Hin) of them fail, miserably, and return home with their ‘tails’ between their legs, having to admit defeat – and lose face.
They are told: their sisters / mothers / aunties / neighbours all came back with the goods, so what’s wrong with you. The main thing wrong, I would suggest, is that these ladies were either not really natural deceivers, or were just not too good at it – it just wasn’t in their psyche to the same extent. And perhaps these ‘bar-girls’ were indeed, Different…
While I’m here, the above writer also declared ‘customers’ to be either (or was it ‘mainly’?): “2-week millionaires” or “white knights”… and I liked his comment that the former save all year, and then splash out with gay[sic] abandon, but the latter, who ‘spend, spend, spend’ until they are either able to extricate themselves, or are broke, are actually “bigger spenders than the 2 week millionaires” – but realistically adding: “with less fun”.
This is a neat summing up, but my point here is that there are of course many other farang classifications than just these two, although I might concede that the two together might constitute a majority.
Generalization-2: There is no need to wai bar-girls…
‘Generally’ this might be true but what about the bar owners…? I have been acquainted for several years with Thai owners of bars in Hua Hin and they have ‘always’ (that word again…) wai-ed me when I pass by, even though I rarely enter the bars any more, because I can’t stand the noise. I do however return the wai… Some people say you shouldn’t – others disagree. I feel that if you know why you are wai-ing, rather than just blindly mimicking a bar-girl as she thanks you for a 20 ฿ tip, then maybe it can be right to do so, despite being ‘technically’ wrong.
Many years ago I spent some time living and working in Japan, where I learned to bow, and I still tend to do this automatically, all over the world. I sometimes heard, at the time (and saw written), that westerners should not bow because an ill-conceived bow can be more insulting than not bowing at all. Perfectly true, but… it should not automatically follow that one should lazily take the least insulting path… because it is still insulting. I spoke to three Japanese people about it: my female Japanese language teacher (about my age), a male Japanese colleague (older than me), and a male Japanese friend (a waiter in my favourite Tokyo restaurant, who was younger). They all assured me that one most certainly should bow – and each set out to teach me how to do it as respectfully as possible.
Whether I subsequently continued to insult anybody will never be known, but I was never made aware of it. On one occasion I met Japan’s highest-ranking (allegedly…) kabuki actor and, though I gave him one of my best bows, I noticed he didn’t bother at all. Afterwards I discreetly (if that is ever possible in Japan…) enquired why… and was assured the man did return my bow but… as he was so ‘superior’, his bow was no more than a very slight nod of the head. I jokingly suggested it seemed he had barely even nodded his eyebrows, which at least had everyone laughing… But, as I said, I have no idea whether I upset anyone at that time.
Maybe farang could try looking at the wai from a different standpoint. ‘Generally’ it seems we equate the action with the western custom of shaking hands but, if you also acknowledge that Asian societies can tend to be more militaristic in their everyday life than most westerners (another neat generalisation…) one might also regard the wai as a form of salute… Now, if you go to a building in the west and the doorman offers some kind of ‘salute’ I doubt any of you would return it – except perhaps in jest as a result of the surprise. If you just accept the guy’s action, and enter the building, or taxi, all is well – nobody is offended. If you return the salute (especially in jest) the doorman could be deeply offended at worst and, at best, he might wonder ‘what you’ve come as’…
If such a doorman offered to shake your hand (albeit unlikely) you might accept, if only to be polite, but many times you would ignore the proffered hand… Viewed from such a perspective maybe our reaction to being wai-ed might justifiably alter, and we might have a more productive understanding when and how to wai… rather than just doing it all the time… or not at all… When a Thai waitress or bar-girl thanks you for coming, and offers a wai as you leave, there is no need to turn in the doorway and return the wai… It just holds everything up and prevents them getting back to their job – or to a game on their mobie…
If I go into a police-station or Ministry building in the west I don’t find myself bowing, or shaking hands (unless it’s the Minister him / herself…), but if a higher-ranking police officer, or a Private Secretary proffers their hand I will accept it. However, whenever I go into an Immigration Office in Thailand I always wai (and usually first…!) whoever I speak to, especially if I’m seeking assistance. If I am stopped by police while driving I invariably wai the guy although I know this isn’t entirely necessary, if at all… I mainly do it because I have found it sometimes puts the cop out of kilter and he has to pause, to return the wai, before saying how much he wants… It also usually results in a polite salute, and being quickly waved on. If such a simple action will save me time, money and bother (especially the latter), I will happily perform it – whether it’s socially necessary or not.
I cannot really claim there is a connection but… in nearly twenty years I have invariably received prompt and courteous attention, and never had a problem with any Thai authority figure – except once when my Thai wife tried to deal with it, and nearly had me deported…
Generalisation-3: All expats in Thailand are old, fat, misers…
I have a sneaky suspicion that many of the people who perpetuate this insult are themselves over 50, over 80 kg, and over here with insufficient funds (or dwindling resources), who ratify their own (possibly sad) existence by trying to assert ‘the others’ are worse off than themselves. Personally I have no problem with anyone’s age and, as long as their obesity doesn’t make me want to pluck out my eye, not with weight either. I also have no problem with someone who enjoys (for whatever reason) a bowl of noodles every evening… and I have no idea why others wish to be so insulting about it – what happened to ‘live and let live’…?
If a guy is out of control, sprawled on the sidewalk, unkempt or in any other way a disgrace to himself, I would not object if someone from his Embassy or home country (nor Thai Immigration) assisted his passage home. If some ‘old fart’ is able to dress well (i.e. no T-shirt, no shorts, shirts with sleeves, tucked into the trousers, when he’s walking about town, and is not on a beach), feed and clean himself (regardless of budget), and do nothing to upset those around him, why on earth should others feel a need to cast aspersions and libel someone just because they have a different lifestyle…? There is a distinction between ‘different’ and ‘wrong’…!
A little while ago another writer on this site, in an otherwise intelligent and erudite article, made a couple of generalisations that 90% of single guys in Hua Hin bars, with young ladies, were over 60… That evening I took a slow perambulation around the Soi Bintabaht area and I came to a figure of less than 30%. The ‘norm’ (another potential generalisation) seemed to be an age range of 30-50
I also stopped to chat with a few ladies I’ve known here for some years and their feeling was that a figure of less than 10% was more realistic. Given that bar-girls can have a poor ability to judge farang ages, and are less bothered anyway, I suspect my figure is fairly reliable… I have repeated this exercise a couple of times since and come to much the same conclusion. It seems that the figure of ‘90%’ was not only a gross over-generalisation but also simply inaccurate… and a sad attempt to be insulting… but it can be published on the internet, and can become gospel.
While on the subject of aging, another writer in these pages recently asserted:
‘Now I’m an old man who spends half his time regretting his past and the other half dreading his future.’
[Forgive me, I made a note of the comment, but not the writer…]
I just wanted to offer this chap my condolences. I also am over-50, over-80 kg, but happily living on a steady income. Even so, I would claim I spend half my time happily remembering most of what I have done in my life, and the other half wondering what delights the future might still offer… Maybe it’s like looking at a half-filled glass and seeing it as half empty. I’m sorry if this sounds smug. I don’t mean it to be. Perhaps, despite the hardships in my youth, I’ve just been very lucky in the adult part of my life…
I also came across another article [which I don’t think was here, but forgive me again if I’ve got that wrong] about the way ‘old’ people can so easily become ‘grumpy old gits’… Again, it’s a question of perspective:
‘If you are using your aging mind to blather about cell phones, you're missing a lot of other stuff – a lot of delightful stuff, even. I suspect that being old somehow diminishes the capacity for delight. It should be at its height, because we've already seen what life is going to throw at us, and we're free of many real and imagined restrictions, so why walk down a city street on a lovely summer evening and get grumpy about cell phones? They are not the problem. Absence of delight is the problem.’
To be continued…
I find myself in agreement with generalisations #1 and #2.
When it comes to those who may be referred to as misers, I have to comment. There are rather a lot of Western retirees in Thailand who tell some remarkably stories about how they ended up where they are today. The number in Bangkok who will gloat about how they worked so hard and has such a successful work life, earned more than most and were able to retire early is significant. Yet these people seldom have anything about them and stumble through life, all making you wonder if they actually had dead-end jobs and more likely retired for some other reason, such as an inheritance. They are insulting, not just to those who they are essentially saying have been unable to retire early as they did because they were not as successful, but to those (their parents?) who left them the money that allowed them to retire. Why not just come out and say, "I was able to retire because I inherited a lot of money". There is absolutely no shame in that whatsoever.