Generalizations Part-IV, or ‘My Bar-girl is Different’
Generalization-5: You cannot trust a single thing a Thai lady says…
There is a very old theory that people are often guilty themselves of the faults they criticize in others… Allied to this is the aspect that human-nature, around the world, possesses an innate desire to use what Westerners call: ‘The Little White Lie’…
Imagine you’ve just arrived home from a hectic business trip, have thrown the dirty washing in the machine, taken a shower, poured yourself a generous G&T, and a good mate phones to say he’s got tickets for a ball game that evening and you need to meet him in two hours… You know he’ll be upset if you turn him down, but that you’ll also be asleep before ‘half-time’… So you say you’re off on a business trip, and have to be at the airport in two hours…
Providing you are not caught out in your deception no harm is done. All farang are acquainted with this principle – and so are Asians… But… I suspect the greater Asian need for ‘face’ causes Asian people to be even more deceptive, to the point where we feel they are being deliberately deceitful… and thus, it can be very easy accept the generalisation, ‘You cannot trust a single thing a Thai lady says’…
One of the differences is that, in Thailand, any given excuse doesn’t necessarily have to be credible… it just has to be accepted… and therein perhaps lies a major danger. Perhaps because farang don’t use white lies as frequently we might tend to be more fastidious when we do, making the lie more successful… but I have the feeling that, as they don’t have a need to be believed (just accepted) Thai people rarely challenge each other’s ‘lies’… and so their powers of deception are less well attuned… and we farang are often amazed when given some clearly unlikely excuse.
When I was first married, and my wife started this process, designed simply so she could be in control of everything we did, I was rather surprised by many of the childish excuses I was given, rather like finding a child with their hand in the cookie-jar, asking what they are up to, and receiving the instant retort: ‘Nothing…’ which is clearly untrue. Thus any parent will ask a secondary question (perhaps: ‘Then why are you standing on a chair, with your hands inside that cupboard…?’) – it’s how we are brought up. The child, meanwhile, will often be amazed at the astuteness of ‘the aged P’, and will probably try another excuse… such as: ‘It wasn’t me…!’
My wife used to freely hand out such excuses, all equally irrational, that made me smile at her presumption that I was stupid enough to believe her, and I invariably challenged her. However, instead of discussing it, and perhaps explaining why her first excuse was watertight, she would just snap back an alternative excuse… and this would sometimes continue for five or six ever weaker excuses until she just snapped, and I was left bemused, wondering ‘what just happened’…
It took me longer than I might have expected to acknowledge that it didn’t matter whether she was on her way to the airport or not… just that she was unwilling to go to the ball-game.
However… I still had to somehow learn to live with this aspect of our relationship. I was brought up not to lie, and to avoid offering white lies, even when there was no other option. As a result I have most of my life (perhaps naively) tended to assume that others followed the same convictions – I tended to treat others as I would like to be treated… and only doubted them when I had good reason so to do.
Obviously my baptism into Thai culture (which I found rather different to previous experiences in Japan and Hong Kong) was one of fire because I had difficulty understanding why, when I was being totally honest with her, my wife was deceiving me right, left and centre, apparently because that was simply her nature. She was also a victim of her upbringing and, therefore, did not trust a soul… Not even her own family members, nor her friends and neighbours. Not one of them. In seven years of marriage I never heard her say a good word about anyone… and this must, in any society, be considered odd – and sad.
When we started to look to buy property her only desire was to get some ‘deeds’ with her name on them. For about three years (I married in haste but I didn’t intend to sign my money away as hastily) we searched much of Thailand and every property that I liked, she confirmed was a ‘good buy’… I was never aware, nor ever suspected, that she had no intention of ever living there herself. When we settled on a purchase, and I had discovered how farang could retain some interest in it by forming a company to buy it, and my wife was panicked into another ruse, it took us almost a whole year to make the purchase because, unbeknown to me, she was desperately trying to prevent the deal because it would scupper her intention of owning the property all on her own – I was definitely hasty in marrying her, and was certainly naive in following her claims (‘It always takes this long to buy a house in Thailand, Darling…!’), but I was not stupid enough to just kowtow to her destiny…
Her tears of disappointment that I didn’t trust her had, after all those years, no effect on me because I’d sadly been forced to accept I had no reason to trust her and so, with my innate trust spurned, I sadly became untrusting with my wife – and this is not, in my view, the basis of any kind of marriage.
Although I didn’t like to accept that everything she said was (or might be) a lie, in the end I was obliged to accept that I could never automatically assume anything my wife said was true… In other words I was forced to doubt her every utterance, and require confirmation from a second source before I was actually able to believe her. I found this an intolerable basis for a relationship.
At the same time my wife seemed to doubt everything I said… How many times have you said something to a Thai lady and received the instant riposte: ‘Mai na cheu-ah…!’ (‘I don’t believe you!’) Is this because these ladies have learned from personal experience that we all automatically lie, or because they know they all lie, and are unable to acknowledge anybody else would not…?
If we think they all lie, and they think we all lie, either we are living in a terrible world or there is something wrong with our perception of it. I prefer to hope it’s the latter…
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Generalization-6: If you disagree with FarangDave you are a snarky, bitter old sourpuss, only interested in booze and sex with whores, hang out in the ex-pat ghettos of Thailand (I’m sure the Mayor of Hua Hin will be delighted to know this is how his town is perceived…) and, as ever, will be accused (without evidence, as always) of never stepping foot in the ‘other’ Thailand. It will also be assumed everything you say is a personal attack on FarangDave, but nothing you have said will be logically addressed by him although, if you’re lucky, you might be invited to ‘take it outside’…
It might be unfair to offer such a generalisation on only one example (although I have no doubt more will now come… Eh, Dave…?) but… who cares… LOL.
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Generalisation-7: Thai people will always block roads and sidewalks in order to gawp at traffic accidents.
I think this generalisation is largely true – as it also is in many (perhaps most) other countries.
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NB: It was never my intention here to start a dialogue about the rights and wrongs, true or false, of any generalisation, but to hope to foster an awareness of the folly/absurdity/banality and inadmissibility as evidence of all generalisations – generally speaking, that is…
I doubt Simon, who first raised the subject of ‘intellectual curiosity’, expected such a response but I still feel much of what has been written to challenge his theory devotes the greater part of the argument to denouncing Simon personally rather than to addressing his ideas, which is perhaps a shame, in a world that might benefit from more logical debate and less belligerence.
Even the erudite ‘Professor’ finds himself slipping… by declaring: ‘I know many Thai women who are curious [So do we all, but is it intellectual curiosity…!?]; but they don’t work in bars or the night scene.’ – and there we go again… assuming that it is bar-girls that are being discussed – which it isn’t… and tactlessly assuming it must be bar-girls who are lacking…! To my knowledge nobody here has stated that their experience with bar-girls leads them to believe Thai women in general lack intellectual curiosity. Indeed, almost the opposite, as most of the comments seem to have been directed at educated and intelligent people. It might be true that many bar-girls are poorly educated but this has nothing to do with their perceived intelligence, nor their intellect.
But ‘Professor’ does inject an excellent point: ‘Say, for the sake of argument, that Thai women have no intellectual curiosity. I then might say, “So what?”’ – two words that mean so much. For Simon it was, ‘make or break…’. For others, who might themselves also be intellectually incurious, it perhaps doesn’t matter one iota – horses for courses.
If you’re a sports fan but your wife isn’t, you might be disappointed at having to go to the gym alone, or watch football on TV alone but… if you, like your wife/girlfriend, also have no interest in sports you are likely to be happier with your choice in women. However, if you declare you cannot marry a Thai woman because they have no interest in football (keep calm, it’s just a generalisation…), someone might diplomatically suggest you change your wife, or have the discussion with your mates instead – both, perhaps, reasonable solutions. But god help you if you suggest not marrying a Thai because they are not intellectually curious (in your opinion), because the fighting furies will be unleashed about your head… which isn’t a solution for anything.
I had a degree education and, for about a decade, my business and social contacts were of a similar ‘ilk’… and I seem to recall about 90% of them seemed to have no intellectual curiosity, in the sense that they knew about their jobs, and family lives, but had no interest in who directed a particular movie (one even said to me: ‘Kubrick…? What did he do…?’), or how the MacOS was created, or was concerned about gorillas and tigers, or the effects of the van Allen Belt, etc… Of course none of these things is essential to life (except perhaps the last one…) and human intercourse can continue without ever knowing the answers… but, if you are curious yourself, and find your friends are not, you might do as Simon did, and try somewhere else or, as I did, give it all up and start a whole new life for myself – and I have been learning (all sorts of things) ever since.
This suits me. It wouldn’t suit everybody. Judging from the comments I received all those years ago, even intelligent and educated people are sometimes unable to understand such a ‘willful’ action… and I also say, ‘So what…!?’ It’s my life, it doesn’t seem to have hurt anybody so far, and if anyone doesn’t like it, perhaps because it is perceived to be challenging and dangerous, get over it… or debate it… but please avoid insultingly and libelously accusing me of obviously spending all my time with ‘whores’, and suggesting I need to get out and meet the ‘real’ people.
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Generalisation-8: The ‘real’ Thai people will always be found outside the cities…
This hoary old cliché has been doing the rounds for centuries, all over this planet. City dwellers have, seemingly forever, regarded ‘country folk’ as ‘bumpkins’… Maybe, traditionally, rural people have been less sophisticated (in the sense of worldly experienced), but to regard them as inferior is at best, snobbish and, at worst, racist.
This has been going on for so long, and still persists today. My own Bangkokian wife, when we lived in Isaan, openly said to our neighbours: ‘Tuk-khon Isaan baa…!’ (‘All Isaan people are stupid…!’). It’s perhaps not surprising she didn’t last long up there, and my neighbours were astonishly supportive to me after she flounced out… This (often) North/South divide has equally created an inverted snobbery where the rural denizens retaliate by endeavouring to destroy the reputations of the ‘townies’. Both are doomed to failure, with or without civil wars.
Such attitudes have existed around the world for centuries, and human nature seems to dictate it will continue, but the cause of intelligent debate will not be helped by either group attempting to proclaim they are the ‘real’ people. To my mind it’s a stupid assertion, on both sides and, to be told one has to get out of one place in order to meet the ‘real’ (i.e. ‘better’…) people is just silly. I have met decent folk in both Bangkok and in Isaan (my best Thai friend, and ally, is a village headman in Isaan), and yet both areas have also had a few people I would rather have not met at all.
For the record I have lived and worked in New York, San Francisco, and Des Moines; in Barcelona and Andalucía; in London and Co. Durham; in Milan and Calabria; in Tokyo and Kagoshima; and in Bangkok and Isaan… and have visited thirty-two other countries… and, for those who have their own idea of just where the ‘real’ people are, I can only add that I have found, generally, human nature is the same the world over…
To be continued… but only for masochists….