Stickman's Weekly Column August 31st, 2003

Are English Teachers In Bangkok Little More Than Permanent Resident Whoremongers?



I puffed and panted my way up five floors of a non-descript Bangkok building having been forced to do so because the management at the main branch of a certain chain of language schools were too tight to run the elevators during the day. When I got to the top of the castle, ready to for an interview, I must have looked like every recruiter's idea of a nightmare. There I stood as a prospective English teacher with my shirt clinging to my back, sweating like someone who had just arrived in Bangkok and hadn't yet got used to the heat. Funny that, because that's exactly what I was.

The interview went well, too well in fact and I was offered the job within 30 seconds. Upon exiting the interviewer's office, I felt a little bemused and confused at having been offered a job without even introducing myself, let alone being asked any questions so when I heard the accent of a fellow Kiwi, I thought I'd seize the moment to introduce myself and try and find out if this was a Mickey Mouse outfit or what. Explaining that I too was a Kiwi and that I had just accepted a job and would be starting the following Monday, just what was the deal with this outfit. "Oh mate, its great. Don't worry too much about your teaching. Just get your ass down to Nana Plaza and we'll tell you more about it there. You can find most of us down there most nights"…and so it was. I had been offered the job as English teacher, and it seemed that I was now amongst a bunch of sex tourists masquerading as English teachers.

After many nights learning the ropes of teaching in Nana Plaza, a school conference took place just a month after I had started and 40 odd farang teachers were put on a bus and taken down to Pattaya. The conference lasted a full day and as night fell we were put up in a decent hotel and told to go out and have some fun, the bus wouldn't be heading back to Bangers until around midday the next day. Let's just say that the next morning, there were plenty of teachers at the breakfast buffet with, umm, errr, teaching assistants. In fact the lobby of the hotel from around midnight until about 4:00 AM was something of a meeting spot for us all, each checking out what out colleagues had ended up with. Who would get the booby prize and return with a katoey? While Pattaya is known for such things and it would be unusual for anyone attending a conference in Pattaya to return to their hotel alone, the familiarity with the nightlife industry of most teachers left me in no doubt that this was not their first time with a lady of the night.

I didn't stay at that particular school very long, but I got the distinct impression in my relatively brief time there that this was simply an English teacher thing, and all English teachers were like this, quite comfortable carrying a conversation about the benefits of short time versus long time, but out of their depth when it came to expalining the differences between the past simple and the present perfect.

The school where I am presently employed has a large number of farang teachers, and those who have not ventured AND partaken into the naughty nightlife scene at some stage, would be in my estimate, no more than 10% of the foreign staff. So almost everyone has played at some stage and some continue to do so, though more than a few, myself included, have settled down with someone.

English teachers don't have a lot of money and one of the side effects of this is that, very much in an effort to survive, they generally make a bit of an effort to learn the Thai language. And once you learn some Thai all sorts of opportunities present themselves to meet the opposite sex. And subsequently, once you have met someone really nice away from the bar industry, the fascination with the bars starts to wane, and your visits become less and less regular until you get to the point where it may even start to bore you. Not everyone gets bored of it of course, but few people seem to maintain prolonged interest in it over a long, long period of time, at least while living in country.

And speaking of the money issue, the average English teacher really doesn't earn enough to go out whoring every night, even if he wanted to. That is of course to say nothing of the fact that it is seriously bad form to turn up at work after a bender the night before with lipstick or goodness knows what else on your neck and collar.

The English language school industry in Bangkok has been growing for many years and more and more Thais are learning English, many of them young adults. English teachers get a stream of office girls passing through their classroom and believe me, more than a few of these girls pass through their bedroom too. As an English teacher working at a language school or teaching English in the corporate sector, the opportunities to meet someone are huge. And it doesn't matter if you are not Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise, just smile a little and those office girls will love you. Basically, as an English teacher you have a huge chance to meet someone nice away from the bar scene. Of course, the reason that you wrote your email address on the white board is so that you students could contact you if they have any questions about English…

It seems that a good percentage, no, I'll be more precise, the vast majority of English teachers do, at some time in their Thai experience, spend a period of time down in the bars but most escape and as you would expect, fall into a more settled lifestyle. The two big influences are a lack of money to go whoring, and the very real opportunities to meet someone nice away from the bar industry.

So why were so many of the guys at the language school where I started my teaching career a bunch of Whoremongers? Would that not seem to contradict what I have just said that the average English teacher is not a long term whoremonger? Well, that language school used to have a very average reputation and many people started their Thai teaching career there but soon moved on, hence the large number of whorists there at that time.

The average Bangkok English teacher may not be the most wholesome creature in the world, but neither is he likely going to be down the bars every night either. The stereotype of Bangkok English teachers being a bunch of whoremongers is not really valid. The stereotype about the way they dress though might be a bit more accurate…

Where is this pic?

Last week's pic

It was Sukumvit Soi 11 as seen
from the Ambassador Hotel.

This week's pic

Last week's picture was taken from the 14th floor of the Ambassador Hotel, overlooking Sukumvit soi 11. This week's picture is also in Bangkok and is not a lot more difficult. The first person to get it right wins a 500 baht credit with Cheap Charlie's Phonecards. As you can now use the card to call from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, US, as well as Thailand, the prize is available to the first person to get the pic right, from any of these places.

FROM STICKMAN'S BAG OF EMAIL:

Light fingers in the night.

Your letter writer suggests some way of making the farang more important to the locals when they are thinking of interfering with ours, but not the locals' nightlife. The key is how to do it without hurting ourselves. If we boycott the bars, we lose. If we don't come over there, we lose, What you do is have a targeted boycott that will shake up someone those in power will listen to. Suggestion: If every farang boycotted Thai Airways only, we would still have plenty of way to visit the kingdom. But Thai Airways would not be happy and they could get someone to listen. Or boycott all the hotels in one section of town until they screamed. Or even boycott one tourist area, such as Phuket or Bangkok.
Dealing with children, just like I said last week.
Just because we meet a Thai and they are in 20s, 30s or even their 80s we think of them as adults with a westerner’s sense of responsibility, truthfulness and long term planning. But remember this is Thailand. In Thailand the most important thing is to have fun and be happy. Long term planning doesn’t seam to apply there. For the most part Thai people seam very happy. However, as we all have found out if they are pushed to far or threatened they can explode on you. But all of this fits a pattern. We think they are adults, but in reality by western standards they are preteens. Again I am no expert but if you stand back and look at their behaviour you will see that they act like a person who is about 10 or 11, by western standards. Not that this is bad for them. As a Thai relating to another Thai, they understand this and act within the constraints of Thai culture and behaviour. As a westerner in Thailand, even if we are there for many years, we still have our western culture that imprinted on us when we were children. So we enter a relationship with a Thai and we are talking in a different cultural language. Problems can occur. We as westerners spend a lot of energy planning for the future, we live for tomorrow. A Thai wants to be happy today, they live for the moment, tomorrow is just an illusion, it does not exist. The basis for this comes both of our cultures pre history. Europeans had to plan for a harsh winter, Thais did not. When you add the Buddhist Philosophy of inpermanence and the Judo / Christian concept of permanence, never changing, you will see the conflict.
So it is a woman thing, not just a Thai thing.
Face, it all amounts to keep your face, but really not that much Thai. I had an American wife who was the same way. She could argue with me in the most vile way and the moment a third person stepped into the picture she was all smiles and politeness in person and I stood there fuming and people thought I was nuts. How could I argue with such a sweet and rational being.
The 6 stages of being a teacher?
Teachers go through stages. Stage 1 is fear and avoidance. They are poor backpackers who start to work for the worst schools with low pay and they can't speak Thai. They are usually young and do not like the high hassle of the bars and the relatively high prices compared to their salaries. Thailand is so interesting and new that they do not need the extra stimulation of the bars. In my case this was 2 years. Stage 2 is when they start to get bored with Thai culture and people and start to look for something else of interest. With better jobs and more confidence they visit bars, usually with a more experienced friend. They will sometimes go out once or twice a week but will and usually go back early and alone. Eventually they will enter stage 3; this is when they are addicted. They explore all the areas and become very confident. Three or four times a week is common. Stage 4 Sex Tourist Stage. Bargirl girlfriends which are usually more economical than going out. They will of course sneak out for a bit of variety. They will normally change girlfriends often because they "go bad" after a few months in the bar trade after they see more money elsewhere. Stage 5 is usually the shop girl phase. A regular girl, usually low class, who replaces the regular bar girl as the guy realises bars girls are mainly crap. The guy is now out of the full on sex tourist stage. Finally we end up with stage 6 The "Licker Stage". The guy is fully experienced with Thai girls and can speak Thai and pick up regular girls easily. He knows what he wants and how to get it. This stage usually goes with a good regular job, better apartment and a good ability to teach. Normal girls are easy to attract. The guy might upgrade his girlfriend to a higher level by improving the one he's with or by completely changing. He will occasionally go out to the bars to meet friends and look around but not play. He might however look for things to play with on the side but the main focus is his girlfriend / new family. It is common for guys to marry in this stage. Throughout these stages there is only one stage where the bars are the main focus. I would therefore draw the conclusion that it is wrong to label the teachers a sex tourists but some losers will take a long time to get out of this phase. I also think that the tourists are the main group to be branded with the sex tourist label. In this group 90% are sex tourists and they do it for 100% of their time here. When observing the bars you cannot see the large numbers of non sex tourist teachers who are sitting at home with their girlfriends or wives. The ones who are out are usually the ones not interested in the shows and more interested in talking to their friends.
Castration, anyone?
Despite all the good warnings on your site, it still amazes me how many mature men who ought to know better end up donating their entire life savings to Thai prostitutes whose main aim is to take the poor sucker to the cleaners. I think that what makes it worse is that the men are often aware of the folly they are committing but become so emotionally involved that they become powerless to do anything about it. With the exception of never going to the Kingdom at all, I fear the only viable alternative to stop this ever happening is to become a eunuch.
The Lumpini riots.
Yesterday's student riots spread much farther than Lumpini Park, as reported by the media. I was in a car leaving the World Trade Centre yesterday when I saw at least one hundred students following a slow moving bus pelting its back window with rocks, sticks and the stolen belongings of unlucky street vendors. The window was smashed, the passengers on the bus were huddled in the front in fear for the safety. To give you an idea of how many students there were, their crowd stretched back from Big C – where I saw the bus – to the klong. There were several police around but they just stood there staring at it all! These students were not doing this for a principle, they're just thugs. All it does is give Thaksin more reasons to crack down on civil liberties and cause Thailand to lose more face internationally. Just another reminder that Thailand is still a third world country (just like LA!) – a depressing thought.

From the rumour mill, I have been informed by a reader that Warblers sold for 12 million baht to a lady called Tommy and Titty Twister was sold for between 2.5 – 3.5 million. The male member of the Soi 4 couple whose questionable practices have been highlighted frequently in this column had told the various investors and partners that he would use the money to pay them back but so far, this hasn't happened. His first court hearing date for the case taken against him by the Swedish gentleman is the first week in September. And remember the story about him not paying his old staff? Well, they were never paid so they left. Even his Mrs. has done a runner

DK Books in Makasan is THE place for all resource books and course books for English teachers. However, the main branch of DK Books, located just up from Pratunam at Makasan, also doubles as the warehouse for DK Books and as such it has always been cluttered and difficult to walk around, making it difficult to browse what's available. Good news at last as the good folks at DK are going to open a new warehouse which will clear out a lot of stock from the Makasan branch and make it much easier to browse. If you are an English teacher and haven't visited this branch yet, do it now. It is a veritable treasure trove of resources.

Some enterprising individual is going around handing out business cards to cab drivers offering them 1,000 baht for any mobile phone that is inadvertently left in their car by a customer. In the past, some friendly cabbies have been known to try and get the phone back to the rightful owner but 1,000 baht is a lot of money for these guys and equates roughly to the profit from around 2 X 12 shifts behind the wheel so don’t be surprised if they take up the generous offer. For me, looking back inside a taxi upon alighting is as much a part of my routine as brushing my teeth. It never hurts to check ­ and it seems that about once every ten or so trips I have actually left something there.

Hollywood 2 in Nana Plaza has re-opened after its one million baht renovations and I must say that it looks very nice. The second carousel is in place and they have knocked out the old shower show area and replaced it with another tier of seating, with mirrors behind it which all contributes towards making the whole bar feel a lot bigger and more spacious. There are some other nice touches like pictures of erotic women on the ceramic tiles deteriorating the bar. They are offering a happy hour there from 7 – 9 PM with drinks 80 baht. Now it is just as well that this bar has re-opened because there is a vicious rumour going around that Hollywood Carousel might be closed. Not for 15 days and not for 30 days. The number 60 has been banded around. 60 days?! What? This would be one way to really kill what has consistently been Nana's most popular bar this year.

When I popped into Nana Plaza this week it was really, really quiet. A member of pour party believed that there is a direct correlation between the amount of nudity in the bars and the number of customers. Lots of nude girls usually results in lots of customers, and vice versa. Well, based on what we saw this week, his theory is spot on. There wasn’t anything on display, and there was a very small number of customers out and about.

Following on from last week's piece about the Lonely Planet Guide to Thailand getting smaller and more expensive, it would seem that the folks at Lonely Planet have a new policy, a new way to make more money. It seems that they have been trimming down the main guide and taking out some of the material and inserting it into their other guides for Thailand. Once upon a time there was this big thick guide to Thailand nut mow, we have four different guides including the standard "Thailand", "Thailand's Islands and Beaches", "Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand", and the LP city guide to Bangkok. Does it mean that we have to buy all four?

While Supergirl in Patpong has been closed for 30 days for having shows the owner has come up with a quick solution. All the staff from Supergirl have been moved downstairs to The Pussy Connection which had been closed for lack of business while the staff from The Pussy Connection had already been moved into Superstar so anyone looking for their teeruk from those bars can find them if they look around a bit. So much for the big crackdown – it took less than a day to move with no loss of business.

First it was Starbucks, then Au Bon Pain and now it is Swensen's who have got in on an the act and joined the others by increasing their prices. While inflation will inevitably result in increased prices, it really annoys me when the misinformed staff try to claim that the price increases are due to a fall in the value of the Thai baht! What?! Against the US dollar at least, the baht has crept just a little stronger recently, a couple of % or so.

Quote of the week comes from a young reader. "I'm 18, I just moved from Australia to Pattaya to live with my dad for a year….I just started a relationship with a bargirl, she seems to be one of the good ones". Good lord Dad, what have you got Junior into?!

And another great quote from another reader "sometimes it's better not to know what's going on over here? When you understand how things really are, it's often not as nice as you thought in Thailand. After all it's the land of illusions."

I heard some interesting stuff this week, including some quite sordid gossip about a scam of major proportion going on at a very popular naughty nightlife spot in Bangkok. Unfortunately, I am unable to bring the story to you. As is so often the case, my efforts to check out its validity were countered with the "print that and we'll sue". Hmmm, that doesn't bother me too much for several reasons, but when their suit fails, then I might have to worry a bit more. I like my knee caps just the way they are, thanks. Yep, while most are very pleasant, there is the odd bar boss around who gets a bit nasty at the thought of something less than complimentary being printed about them true or otherwise. In many ways it is the nature of the industry.

Since writing the opening piece in last week's column about what I described as the irrational and unacceptable behaviour of many Thai women in relationships, I have since become aware of the the mental disease, BPD, or Borderline Personality Disorder. I started reading upon this and discovered website after website after website, and I read and read and read. I hate the idea of internet quacks but the more I read about this, the more it seemed to be not just a fit, but an exact fit, for so many Thai women, that I wondered if I might have inadvertently fallen on to something. It would not surprise me if there was something of an undiscovered epidemic of this amongst Thai women. Believe me, I have come across more than a few – and heard so many stories of many more women who seem to suffer from this disease – or something REMARKABLY similar.

The old Paradise Disco / Rainbow Disco / Classics movie Lounge bar area a few hundred metres down Sukumvit Soi 4 that never really took off has a new guise. Megabreaks, the large American pool hall firm, have just opened up a new branch in that same location. While all of the previous businesses located there didn’t do quite as well as they would have hoped, I bet that Megabreaks will do just fine. That location didn’t work for nightlife locations with customers simply not prepared to go out of the way for just one place, but for snooker and pool, it should do very well.

Ever had a serious night out drinking in Bangkok yet managed to not only get home ok but also somehow miraculously wake up without a hangover? You might put it down to the weather, to the nubile lovely you spent the night with or perhaps even to your ever increasing tolerance of alcohol. But perhaps there is another reason, a more plausible reason? A British publican down in Phuket recently noticed a little trick that many of the beer bars were pulling. When ordering spirits and mixers, they would make the first drink as it should be made, a proper measure poured in first, the mixer poured in second and it all given a good stir. When the drink it served, it tastes just how it should. By the time you get to drinks numbers three, four and five, the way they make the drinks is a little different. The mixer is poured in first and the spirit on top but it is NOT stirred. Upon taking the first gulp, it tastes strong at which point your mind probably goes elsewhere. But you do not notice that the rest is pure coke, soda or lemonade as you are getting a little tiddly, but not really pissed. The net result is that the bars save money on the spirit and you go home without a hangover… So maybe I shouldn’t complain and say rather, that the bars are doing you a favour!

I have previously mentioned the dangers of using the deceivingly named “visa services” and “visa agents” who send your passport on holiday in order to get a new visa. There is a major crackdown taking place right now and if you have any dodgy visa stamps in your passport, it is time to get worried, REALLY WORRIED. As reported on a couple of other websites and as portrayed by a reader who write a recent readers’ submission to this site, Thai Immigration are examining stamps in people's passports, especially people who have been resident in Thailand for a long time, but seemingly exist without work, staying in-country on visa after visa after visa. I have heard from the someone in a privileged position that this crackdown is very real and that Immigration are really serious about it. Embassies are dealing with a LARGE increase in their nationals arrested with these dodgy passport stamps and embassy staff from at least one embassy have been told that Immigration intend to prosecute people found with such stamps which means a charge of forgery, a serious criminal charge in Thailand which usually involves some jail time, a suspended sentence at absolute best. So, if you only listen to one piece of advice today, choose this piece of advice from old Stick ­ whatever you do, do NOT patronize any of the visa services or visa agents. If you do, you are playing with fire, and may well be saying goodbye to Thailand forever! And if you have got some dodgy stamps in your passport from the past, you gonna be sweating the next time you pass through Thai Immigration.

If you are married to a local and living locally, exactly how do you address your parents in law? Within Thai society, parents in law are generally addressed as Mair and Paw, the Thai words for mother and father. However, many foreigners are uncomfortable with calling their in-laws by these titles. So, if you are married and living in-country, just what do you call your parents in law by? Personally, I am quite happy using these titles, but a few of the guys at work, and indeed others that I know, are less comfortable with them.

And for the perverts who go to Cambodia, the latest from over that way is that despite reports that K11 has closed, the police are in fact there to make certain that those punters who visit one of the world’s most seed lanes of debauchery have no guns. They are there to keep the place open in fact. Sharky’s is apparently still best type of girlie bar in Pnom Penh.

Snow White Digital on Phyathai Road directly opposite the mammoth MBK just dropped their prices for printing digital pictures at the standard 6 X 4 size to 5 baht per print. They have a large advertisement on the footpath outside making it easy to find if you are not familiar with the store.

I was talking to my mother in law just this afternoon about the problem that many farangs have when they marry the wrong girl. I told her of the many stories emailed to me of Khun farang paying a huge dowry, generally way more than was appropriate for that particular lady, and how so often the girl did a runner and the family took the money, refusing to return any of it, notwithstanding that their daughter was clearly in the wrong. My mother in law stated that in such cases a trip to the police station and a visit from the police may pay dividends. While she had heard the odd story, she was shocked when I told her just how often this sort of thing happens. So, if your wife has done a runner, don't be afraid to go to the cop shop because if you can show that it was one big con job, the cops might just be on your side. (She didn't say this, but if you told the cops that you would gladly give them a decent cut, I think the odds of them helping you would increase exponentially).

Mrs. Stick's Corner

Each week, Mrs. Stick will answer questions about Thai / farang relationships and general issues that baffle the average Westerner in Thailand. Mrs. Stick is an open-minded Thai lady who is happy to answer your questions. Please send questions for her, via me, at the usual email address. Two or three questions will be chosen each week and answered in the following week's column. The responses are hers and NOT mine although I may attempt to correct her English from time to time. Note 1: I may not necessarily agree with what she says! Note 2: Unfortunately, she doesn't have time to reply to your inquiries via email.

Question 1: I have been with my girl for about 4 months and everything is going smoothly. We both pretty much feel the same for each other and love each others company when time permits. A little background about her, she is a conservative Thai girl with a good career for a company. Very caring and simple. The only thing is that her ex-boyfriend came into place. Its natural to be worried but she always reassures me that he is out of the picture. Her ex keeps on contacting her but she pretty much told him that she is with me. Do I have anything to worry about between those two? They were together for two years but she tells me that she enjoys my company more than him. She goes out with me as often as she can and never did with her ex. I know this sounds easy to answer but I know that Thai culture is different from western. What should I do?

Mrs. Stick says: You should appear with her more often especially in front of him. You should show him that the two of you are together and that the relationship is really strong. If he is not an asshole, he should understand and back off soon. Is it worth rechecking with your girlfriend that she is as keen on you and that she has told him strongly about the new relationship and the strength of that relationship. Are yo sure she has not just said that "there is someone new in my life" and left it at that, perhaps giving the guy hope and keeping him in the background.

Question 2: I'm Korean and I have a Thai girlfriend. I visited Thailand in July for three weeks and travelled with my girlfriend for two weeks. As I expected, she wanted to keep her virginity till marriage and I understood and respected it, not an easy thing though. Her family actually didn't know about the trip though, in the end they knew and I told them that I would marry her next year; not because they knew and I'd compensate in a way but because I really love her. I plan to marry her twice, once in Thailand and the other time in Korea. She seemed to understand it since my parents and friends cannot come, but she told me not to tell her mother about it for they might lose their face. I think foreigners who live in Thailand like you can get married once in Thailand, but those who live live out of Thailand find this hard. My question is: Could her family possibly lose their face if I marry her twice like aforementioned even if my parents can't make it to come to my wedding ceremony?

Mrs. Stick says: I see no problem here. I or my family wouldn't feel that we lost any face at if Stickman's parents couldn't make it to Thailand forth wedding and we had to marry again in New Zealand. Just make sure that your sin sod (bride price – Stick) is enough to keep her mother happy! For me, I was lucky cos I got both!

My head is spinning as I type this and I hate to think how many errors there are in this week's column. I just got back from a couple of days in Korat and I'm knackered. I wanted to finish off the column before going away, but there just wasn't enough time. So if there are any glaring errors in this week's column, I'll fix them tomorrow…

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Dave The Rave, Claymore and The Mad Stockbroker.