Thai People – Another View
First, let say how wonderful it is to have Stick’s readers’ submissions back in operation. I really do like to read each story as I value most the opinions on Thailand, especially those who seem to have been there for some time. Yet, even with this new start we seem to be back to the same old, worn out playbooks of “Thais are [fill in the blank with something bad] because I’ve lived here for [fill in the blank over 10 years] so I should know.” I don’t mean to discount experience in trying to understand the Thai people, it’s just when writers start to make blanket statements about any group of people, especially the Thai people, as you really have to take a huge grain of salt with their statements. A long time observer of Thailand, J.M. Cadet, once wrote, “The Thai are one of the more elusive peoples of the Orient.” That was nearly 50 years ago and I think it’s still true.
What prompted me to write this was a new rash of submissions offering up all sorts of “experienced” opinions of Thai people, especially on the women. If you’ve been a reader and writer of Stick’s site as long as I have, these are familiar screeds based more on personal prejudices and old scores to be settled. And they almost always conclude as accepted fact that most marriages between a Thai woman and a western man, are doomed from the start. And if you read all their submissions, they seem to have the same notions about marriages to western women, whom they accuse of being spoiled by feminism and entitlement. Which makes one wonder whether there is any woman worthy to be wedded to such noble males.
But back to the opinion that most Thai-western marriages end in divorce, which I actually agree with but not for the reasons presented by these authors. Consider that the divorce rate in most western countries hovers between 40% and 60%. So saying “most” Thai-western marriages fail is consistent with all other marriages. But these authors seem to believe these marriages are particularly more prone to divorce than others. And again I agree, as a recent study on divorce found “incompatibility” (religion, where to live, children) to be a major reason why all couples break up. Two people being from very different cultures, languages, and societal mores, would definitely fit that category.
So these marriages fail are the real statistical reasons all marriages fail. But if you read the authors’ personal anecdotes supposedly proving their assertions, there seems to be one common thread. The petite yet conniving Thai woman is always the root cause of the breakup, mostly because of her insatiable demand for more money from the poor innocent farang, who only wants a happy marriage in a blissful home. Well, I believe more honest Thailand observers know this is not always the case. I could spin my own anecdotes in counter theirs, which I will spare you from. But I will say this, how many husbands of Thai women are monogamous in Thailand? My personal count is few and far between. The bottom line is simply this: Thai women and western men who walk into a marriage with such a huge gap in language and in culture with their eyes closed, are rolling the dice at house odds. Decisions made with groin or purse in mind almost always have unhappy endings.
There is also this notion presented as “facts”, that Thais are not good with money. Granted, I have heard stories of poor Somchai who hits the lottery and blows it all on a 3 day sanook dee with friends and neighbors. And certainly, my Thai ex-girlfriend who spent (my) money like there was no tomorrow, is a good case in point. Yet, are there not similar stories from around the world about similarly thriftless people? A quick Google search found many, including one about a Pennsylvania man who lost a $16M lottery prize in one year because of (wait for it) demanding (and suing) family members. I suspect if you did diligent research into this subject, you would find in all cultures nearly equal percentages of bad results.
Anyway, my own experience with Thai people I know personally, is quite the opposite of the “expert” opinion. My wife, for instance, left a banking position in Bangkok, worked years as a waitress in America, spent 2 years training to be a registered massage therapist, and is now raking it in as part owner in a Thai massage shop here in America. She pays her fair share of the bills and the rest goes into the bank. Her friend owns a private lottery in Thailand – don’t try that if you’re not good with money. And everyone in her Thai network have good jobs, good businesses, nice houses, etc. Even my wife’s parents, who lived frugally their entire lives on a public school teacher’s salary and pension, still sent 4 of 5 children to college. Yeah I know, these are my anecdotes. Yet for those of us who hang with Thai people from the middle class of Thai society, these stories should sound familiar.
I could drone on with this subject for some time, instead let me close with another quote from J. M. Cadet, who lamented in the introduction of his book “The Ramakien” about the lack of informative works on the Thai people, even though the country is easily accessible by westerners who have been traveling there since the 1600’s. He offered his own reason why, “For like the chameleon, the Thai have perfected the useful art of being fully in view and remaining almost invisible.” So much for “expert” opinions on Thailand, even my own.
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