Stickman's Weekly Column November 6th, 2005

To Speak Thai, Or Not?


StickmanBangk ok .com


Before moving to Thailand I had worked my way through the excellent Linguaphone course in addition to studying the language at the local Thai temple back home in NZ. I could read and write and I had a vocabulary for probably a few hundred words. So when I arrived in Thailand my Thai was already reasonable.

Right from the outset I wanted to study the language and get to a good level. To me, moving to Thailand was not so much about being in love with Thailand, more about the adventure of living in a foreign land. And so coming from a country where English is the first language and where language study is not really promoted that much, I had always been envious of anyone who could speak two or more languages well.

But there was more to it than that. I felt that not speaking Thai would be a problem and that many things may have been unavailable to me because of such an impediment. I also felt that as a foreigner living in Thailand, failing to learn the language to a reasonable level may have shown a lack of respect.

I'd always imagined that the expats who had lived in Thailand for a long time would speak Thai well, and that anyone who had been here several years or more would be fluent. After all, in my own country, any immigrant from a non-English speaking country is invariably fluent or near fluent in English after a few years.

Early on in my life in Thailand, as I got to meet more and more Westerners, I was surprised at how little Thai they spoke, or how bad it was. In fact I was incredulous that as a recent arrival, my spoken Thai compared favourably.

I started to realise that the ideas I had about the need to speak Thai were largely redundant. More and more Thais speak English than ever before, and they generally speak it to a higher level. This is due to more focus being spent on it at school, with more time dedicated to English language study as well as more and more schools with farang teachers on the staff. The number of English language schools has probably increased fourfold in the last ten years.

In all of the major tourist areas and wherever farangs can be found, you find Thais whose spoken English is at the very least, functional.

When you have folk who have lived here for decades and who speak almost no Thai at all, you quickly realise that if you do not want to learn the Thai language, you don't have to.

A few things happened over time that made me start to question my reasons for learning the language. I would unwittingly tune into conversations around me and would seldom be gratified by the inane gossip I frequently heard.

The average Thai seems to think that if you can speak 10 words or more you are fluent, something many farangs find incredibly frustrating. One meets few Thais who are able to adequately grade their language so as to make it easier for the non-native Thai speaker to understand. Even if you can make yourself understood, you might not be able to understand what is said to you. Speaking some Thai can become very frustrating.

While the average Thai seldom expects farang to speak Thai and most are willing to try out their English, irrespective of how basic it may be, there have been several instances when the ability to communicate to a reasonable level has helped me.

  1. When I was interviewed for my current job many moons ago, I truly believe that I was offered the job because I spoke good Thai! The interview was the usual nonsense you get with Thai employers who were much more concerned about telling me about themselves and the school, than interested in me. At one point I was asked if I could speak Thai to which I replied in the affirmative. After chit chatting for 5 minutes in Thai about all sorts of nonsense, they offered me the job.
  2. I was once questioned by the police over a few hours. (Don't ask, I'll tell the story here one day.) It was all in Thai. Speaking Thai helped no end. First, there were virtually no hiccups with communication and secondly the fact that a foreigner had shown a willingness to learn the language to a reasonable level goes down a treat with the locals.
  3. Communicating with my mother in law who doesn't speak nor read a word of English, the fact that I can speak Thai is of huge benefit. Chatting with her I have learnt so much about life in Thailand, perhaps more than I have learnt from any other single source or person about the country, its people and its culture.
  4. Speaking Thai with street vendors and various service providers ensures that you get not only want you want, but you get it at the real price. You do not need to go through the hassle of trying to negotiate.
  5. Chatting with taxi drivers! They may be a pain in the butt sometimes but you can learn a heap about Thailand from them, and given that many foreigners have a certain affection for Isaan, these guys are your best source of bona fide info about Isaan, the place and the people.
  6. If it is known that you speak good Thai, locals tend to be much friendlier and will often be chatty with you, help you in times of need and present you with all sorts of gifts, which invariably means food!

Patong Harbor View Condominiums

I believe that if you don't have a lot of money, or don't like to spend much, speaking Thai will be of great use to you. The ability to communicate in the local lingo allows you to live more like the locals do i.e. cheaply, if you so desire.

But there is absolutely no doubt that if you do your shopping at Emporium, meet up with friends or associates in the bars and restaurants of the better hotels, frequent some of the more cosmopolitan venues about town, or socialise with educated Thais, there really is little need to have any command of the language whatsoever.

If you want to get close to the lower classes then Thai language skills will make it so much easier. And if you want to listen in to what is going on around you, then obviously you need Thai.

But the truth be told, you do not *need* to speak Thai. And from what I see, fewer and fewer farangs moving to Thailand are even bothering to learn more than the absolute basics.

You can get by without Thai in most parts of the country but should you find yourself out in the countryside at a cattle market, bidding on a buffalo, then the ability to speak Thai will suddenly become very useful indeed.

WHERE IS THIS PICTURE Competition?

The Siam Square BTS station and surroundings.

Somewhere in Bangkok.

Last week's pic shows the area around the Siam BTS station including the national Police HQ, the Novotel Siam Square and the new Paragon Shopping Centre. This week's prize is a 500 baht credit at Tony's Bar in Soi Cowboy. The prize is only available to people in Thailand now – either resident or tourist.

FROM STICKMAN'S EMAIL INBOX

Country boys and city boys.

As an 11-year Thailand expat who first lived in central Bangkok, then suburban Bangkok (Bangkapi and Pathum Thani), and lived a solid year at the in-laws' village house near Nakhon Chaisri where I was the only foreigner within several kilometres, my experience is quite different than stated in your weekly that provincial Thais see foreigners as a walking ATM or try to squeeze money out of them by hook or crook. It is when I travel back to the Bangkok central business district that I'm frequently hit up for extra money and feel like prey. Evidently, central Bangkok is populated with the kinds of people attracted to its money, in contrast to the villages. In contrast, in the Bangkok suburbs and the village, I was very rarely hassled, and more often felt embarrassed to be paying so little, whether it be to restaurants, doctors, policemen, or any other service or goods provider. Clearly dodgy places are an exception everywhere. However, the other exceptions don't make the rule, and we should not overblow particular experiences or over-generalize. It happens everywhere in the world. Periodically travelling to work / socials with other expats is good. However, people are different and there is no one best way. People like myself who grew up in the countryside tend to prefer the countryside, whereas people who grew up in the city gravitate to city centres. There is no need to judge or to justify one's own preferences as "better", as it depends on your personality, values, and interests. Even among Thais, there are a range of opinions along similar lines, but you will find city dwellers tend to have one viewpoint, suburbanites and provincials another. Again, I'm not saying that no suburban and provincial people see me as a walking ATM, but they have been very much the exceptions, not the rule, and I find the society and people out here generally more easy-going than in town, and I don't have my guard up, even though I stand out as a foreigner in these places. This is the genuinely friendly Land of Smiles.

Who are the clones?!

Just an observation whilst on a recent trip to Pattaya. Just what is it with all the young / middle-aged guys with the muscle-bound fully tattooed shaved head look? My previous visit to Pattaya was 4 years ago and I cannot recall seeing so many of these clones running about the place. Most have that "don't mess with me I'm a hard bastard" wannabe look in their eyes. Funny thing is, after 16 years as a copper in Australia I get the feeling most of these guys just want to be part of the latest "in thing"? Certainly doesn't make me shiver in my boots (thongs) but I wonder what the story behind it all is? Maybe all are trying out to play the lead bad guy in Tony Jaa's latest movie? Maybe I'm just getting old(er) & more cynical (a copper-cynical? ha!)

The good old days.

I was stationed in Bangkok, with the US Army, from 1968 – 1971. At 18, from a small town in Texas, I was immediately enthralled with every aspect of Thai life. Our military unit was billeted at the Prince Hotel. But, being 18, I soon found a Thai girlfriend and moved into a klong shack in Bang Na. Her mother, grandmother, 2 sisters, and 2 brothers lived in the adjoining shack. We had one dim light bulb dangling by a wire, and the squat toilet with the large container of water used for flushing and cleaning, and showering. I ate Thai food exclusively from the vendors lining the small streets of Bang Na. Our line of shacks had a 12" black & white TV that was set in the window of one of the small shops. Being the only farang in the area, I had to buy an FM radio from the PX and tune it in to hear the English dialogue from the very few non-Thai shows that everyone watched. Our shack was on short stilts, about 2 feet above the 'swamp'. We used mosquito netting over the windows, and around the bed (a thin pad on a raised wooden platform). We married and had a daughter. My wife's mother immediately took her into her shack to raise. The grandmother was 88 years old, and spent her day squatting in the door of their shack, chewing betel nut. My wife's brothers and sisters were both a joy and a nuisance. Privacy was a rare commodity. I ate what they ate, unidentified meat, drank various beverages, and became more infatuated with Thailand each day. Now, after 40 visits to Thailand, with another planned this week, I still cherish those days of the shack, the swamp, and the countless Thai friends I met. Now, I keep an apartment on Sukhumvit Soi 71. It has all the amenities any farang could want, and it is only 5000 baht a month. But, there are times when I long for a shack over a klong; reminding me of an era of no bar fines, very few tourists, very low prices on everything, no tattoos, no cell phones, no bargirl over 20 years old, and the Bangkok police smiled and waved instead of trying to shake you down for an extra few hundred baht. True, there was no skytrain, no subway, and no farang fast food stores, but it has been a trade-off. I gave up the easy life on the klong, for a 'traditional' life in Bangkok. So, I can easily play the 'devil's advocate' and debate for either lifestyle. But, truth be told, I think I would choose the klong shack…but, my beloved Bang Na is now a paved-over industrial area.

A step away from being gypsies!

I have a few comments regarding the ‘sin sot’ which has been a common subject recently. I understand this may be a tradition in this country but the amounts being paid by many farang fools is just stupid. When you consider the average farang is hooking up with an uneducated Isaan girl from a very poor family, shouldn’t the amount paid should reflect this. What worth is she to the family? If she didn’t marry a farang, what would the family get? It must be like winning the lottery when their daughter hooks a farang. But instead of being thankful of the windfall, they want to up the amount of the winnings! Also, for those who are surprised that there isn’t more ill-feeling from the locals about ‘rich farang’ stealing their women, just remember these girls are one step away from being gypsies which is why the average Thai doesn’t care.

Don't say you love Thailand at a job interview!

In my work position I am responsible for screening resumes of applicants applying for teaching positions and then help to conduct interviews. I know you have touched on this, in one of your letters before and I agree with everything you wrote. Some people have no idea on how to write a resume or how to conduct themselves in an interview.
If any of the said applicants writes on his cover letter "I visited Thailand once and love the people and the culture. I want to come and learn all about Thailand", I throw up and then put the resume in the bin. I might be a bit excessive but that attitude gets up my nose.

"All ye who pass by these gates shall enter the gates of hell, bigger sinners you shall be in the eyes of the good lord than the evil devil's damsels who ply thy trade inside these walls. An appointment with the devil will be yours, nothing is surer. Listen ye sinners, the lord will punish all!" If you had the misfortune to see the bible thumpers who once again stood outside the entrance to Nana Plaza preaching their words, you would have heard something to this effect. I can't imagine what the Thais think of this carry on!

There was some commotion at a recent dance contest in the seaside city of sin. While the contestants were performing at their very best, at least a few of the punters tried to use the camera on their mobile phones to snap pics of the proceedings. Sure, such pictures will never be of very high quality, BUT, they are all the boys in brown need to close a place down. Search hard online and you will find photos of dance contests in the bars from the late '80s, a time when every man and his dog could take his camera AND flash in and shoot away without concern. Those days are long gone. Now the guys with the camera phones may get away with it if they are discreet, but with a full camera set up, forget it. At this particular dance contest, a gentleman who was hiding a camera behind a pillar and beneath a bunch of flowers was not as inconspicuous as he thought. He had taken a number of photos when finally the service staff spotted him alerting the bar security who got hold of him. Well, you'd think he had committed the most heinous of crimes, such was the look on the faces of the security staff. This fellow was marched off the premises and just what happened to him, I do not know. Anyone seen a corpse floating out in Pattaya bay? Seriously, unless you have explicit permission (which is extremely unlikely), you're just about playing Russian roulette by taking photos in bars, especially when there is nudity on display.

Down Pattaya way, expansion of the Walking Street entertainment area promises to increase the number of gogo bars to nearly 60 by the time high season finally blooms. New gogo bars are opening south of Tony’s and eastward off of Walking Street. The lower half of the popular strip already is more active with the addition of Babe Watch (not), Catz (definitely worth a look) and, most recently, Teasers. Teasers, on Beach Road across from Tony’s, launched a soft opening last week. Management plans a grand opening about December 1, once all the kinks are ironed out (presumably operating kinks, but some of the dancers can do with some ironing out as well). Woody, formerly a manager at Classroom II on Soi 1, recently returned to Pattaya to take over Teasers, which offers 45 baht draft all night, as well as good sounds in an attractive setting. Do wait to visit until those kinks have been eliminated. Babe Watch and Catz are located on the small soi south of Tony’s. With several other gogo bars under construction on that soi, previously known for displays of art work for sale, Soi Diamond may be in for some competition.

Speaking of Soi Diamond, it must be said again that Diamond A Gogo continues to outpace the competition. The manager has ensured continuous entertainment – not just a line-up of any available foot shufflers, but an attractive and mostly energetic chorus of young dancers alternating with show-all girls who provide a variety of erotic acts. Draft remains 45 baht all night, with most other beverages as well as lady drinks going for a "much more reasonable than Bangkok" 95 baht. Nearby Carousel Gogo continues to pack them in, featuring a bevy of new dancers complemented by new acts. The friendly club features 45 baht draft. Heavy rains may have put off some from visiting night spots over the weekend, but it appears business has picked up somewhat.

Club Electric Blue, recently recast as a gogo bar, is much more attractive in its current incarnation. It’s not attracting as many customers as some of its competitors on Soi Diamond, but the red décor, innovative remodeling, and attractive dancers are well worth a look. Free popcorn is a nice touch. Again, draft beer is 45 baht and most drinks are 95 baht.

Despite most other areas of Pattaya continuing to hurt for business, new bars are springing up all over town – most notably along the length of Soi Buakhao and along Second Road. In North Pattaya, the new bar complex on Second Road near Soi 4 is attractive but will need of equally attractive ladies if it hopes to bring in customers. Tonight in Naklua, Susi bar hosts a party to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Free food beginning at 8 PM.

I notice that the girls are still not back to the Beach Road in serious numbers. Just how long can this crackdown last? Still in Pattaya, the Apex has put up the prices of its breakfast and dinner buffets, to 110 baht and 180 baht respectively. Still a good deal, that is if you are happy eating what I pretty much see as "fuel". The real cheapy Pattaya buffets are a gourmet's nightmare! Finally, a new branch of 7 Eleven has opened slap bang in the middle of Soi 8 in Pattaya and notwithstanding that there are already branches at the top and bottom of that soi, this branch will no doubt do remarkably well.

In what has to be Bangkok's longest running naughty bar, notwithstanding its change in location from the original spot, the Thermae is now about 50% Japanese on many nights and the vast majority of decent looking ladies look appalled if a farang looks their way!

Hollywood 2 in Nana now has a farang lady manager and she has put some life in the place. Some nice new ladies and a lot of energy in there at the moment.

Halloween shows and parties were held in bars all over the Kingdom this week, but were any as flash as that held at Angelwitch? It was a fantastic Halloween party night in Angelwitch in Nana Plaza, with some special Halloween shows that brought the house down. A lot of fun was had by all. The bar decorations, staff costumes and make-up were very, for want of a better word, "authentic"! The special Halloween shows were simply spectacular. It's great to see that at least one gogo bar in Bangkok still makes a serious effort to entertain their customers.

And speaking of the Nana area, hotel occupancies in the capital have shot up with many places now full. Forget trying to get a place in Soi 4 as a walk in! For the next few months you'll need to book in advance if you want to get a room in any of the hotels in central areas. Nana Plaza has been busy this week, though the rains which refuse to go away have made one or two nights a bit quieter.

The Immigration Department in Pattaya has had a lot of press recently for their shift of office but I have not noticed anything in the press, nor online, about the main Immigration office at Suan Plu in Bangkok which has undergone quite an overhaul. Now when you enter the first thing you notice is a main information booth which you HAVE TO go to. This is staffed by what would appear to be English-speaking university students who are extremely helpful. You explain to them why you are there and they will not only hand you the correct forms, they will also give you a card with your number, which is all done electronically, like a lot of the banks here, and point you to where you need to go. You then go into the main waiting area where you’ll notice the whole place has had more than a lick of new paint, new signs have been erected, there are plants and even new comfortable seating put in place. The whole place looks much better and the experience is that much easier. Some services have been shifted within the building too, such as the 90 day reporting which is now done on the ground floor. All in all, it's a big improvement.

A number of emails came in this week re-iterating that it is not just Pattaya hotels that run multiple tiered pricing that sees Thais pay more than farangs, but this is prevalent in other parts of the country too, including Chiang Mai. I spoke with the head of one of the largest Thailand based online hotel reservations services this week and he told me that some hotels have up to 6 tier pricing which usually has Japanese as the most expensive, Chinese as the cheapest, and the rest of us somewhere in between. The other groups include Westerners, those from the Middle East, Thais, other Asians and one group which surprised me, Eastern Europeans. Apparently they have a reputation for being quite rowdy and disturbing other customers and so the prices they pay reflect this. In addition to this, some hotels will only accept so many of them before they say that the hotel is full, whether it genuinely is or isn't!

Prices at the lower end of the market for things like street food and basic consumer goods seldom move in Thailand, but with fuel prices up 80% over the last three years, it was inevitable that the cost of such things would eventually be hit. I note a number of street vendors have put their prices up for a "standard dish" – could be noodle soup, or fired rice, for example, from 20 to 30 baht. In addition to this, the security guards in my building have been telling me that the cost of eating on the street has gone up in the last few months. This probably means nothing to the average farang, but to many Thais, this is a big deal. 10 baht extra per meal, is potentially 1,000 baht extra per month – and that is just for one person. A family could be harder hit still. With essentially less money in their pocket at the end of the month, I'd expect to see this correlate itself into a potential increase in social problems. Not good.

I used to always think of the food at The Irish Xchange as the quality of The Londoner (pretty damned good) and the prices of Gulliver's (very reasonable). Visiting the Irish Xchange this week, I notice that there have been some hefty price increases. As soon as I saw there was a new menu, I did not need to examine it to know that the prices would have increased. Some of the increases are fair whereas others seem rather steep. The hamburger used to be around 125 baht from memory and is now 250 baht! You used to be able to get Caesars salads in three different sizes ranging from around 75 baht upwards whereas now I only saw one at 260 odd baht. The prices are still fair when compared with other similar establishments, but it is no longer the dining bargain it once was.

Sometimes I find myself surfing various sites, researching things that have little or no relevance to Thailand. This week I was searching through job listings for English teachers in other countries. I had a think about it and thought that if I was to leave Thailand and go and teach somewhere else, where would I go? Italy and Argentina were the two countries that came to mind. There were few listings for Argentina but for Italy, many. And guess what the average salary offered for Italy was? I would have guessed something like 2,500 Euros a month+. Well, that would have been optimistic to say the least! The average seemed to be about 1,000 Euros a month, which to put it in perspective is about 48,500 baht a month. How on earth could you live in a Western country on such a measly amount?! It just goes to show that teachers in Thailand might be paid poorly, but as much as anything, English teaching worldwide is NOT a lucrative career.

Die-hard Jack Daniels fans will know that they reduced the alcohol content from 43% down to 40%, some time back. Fellow Jack Daniels fans, you'll be pleased to know that the duty free story at Don Muang airport still has a few bottles of the 43% version left. Be quick!

Prime Minister Taksin has switched his focus to another social problem and has declared a new war, like the war on drugs and then the one on corruption. The new war is going to target pornography. One of his main targets will be internet sites that provide online gambling and those that "facilitate meetings for sexual purposes". One has to wonder if this could be the end of Bangkokchat.org? And what about other sites like Thailandfriends.com where a good amount of the communication on there is related to Western boys meeting Thai girls. I don't give Bangkokchat very long at all, but the Thailandfriends site should be ok. I wonder if sites like Match.com and AdultFriendFinder.com will be blocked from Thailand in the future?

I've finally given up on the local newspapers and merely glance over the local English language dailies. They just do not seem to have the news that I want to read about and I find it easier to get my news online. Reading a selection of websites from the New Zealand newswires to the Sydney Morning Herald and the BBC, I get all that I need. The local Herald Tribune is pretty good too. Hell, even the likes of the Pattaya Today and Pattaya Mail seem to have more of interest locally to Westerners based here than the national dailies. More than ever, I feel that the national dailies target market is Thai nationals. Still, the supplementary sections are usually good, especially Database on a Wednesday.

So much for thinking the rainy season was over. It has rained three times already today, and last night it rained really heavily. Getting from Asoke to Nana on Sukhumvit in a taxi took almost half an hour and at some intersections, such as the mouth of Soi 8 on to Sukhumvit itself, the water must have been about a foot deep. As I write this paragraph, the very last of the column before it goes online, it is absolutely pissing down outside.

The gentleman who was listed as a missing person in last week's column has apparently turned up, unharmed. Quite a number of people were rather upset as he had never actually been missing per se, but just wanted some time away from everything, that is everyone meaning friends and family.

Ask the Sticks

Mrs. Stick is here to answer questions surrounding anything that confuses you in Thailand, particularly issues of the heart. Please note that for general bargirl related questions, Mr. Stick might answer them. It has to be said that Mrs. Stick is not your stereotypical Thai woman. She is not Buddhist and she is not shy to criticise things about her own country and culture, although having said that, she remains proud to be Thai. Mr. Stick will try and answer the questions which Mrs. Stick is not so sure about. Please do try and limit the length of questions to Mrs. Stick to about 100 words. We get many questions that are entire stories of several hundred words which I'm afraid are just too long to run here.

Question 1: I am seriously thinking about getting married to a Thai woman and bringing her back to the UK, she is aged 35, ex-massage parlour employee (Thailand, Singapore and Macau), ex-bargirl, ex-freelancer, ex-junkie, 7 time jailbird, both parents deceased, Bangkok born, 1/4 Chinese and a Christian by birth (but about as Christian as me!), no children (women's "problems") and never married. From my understanding of sin sot, given her age and background this SHOULD not be on the agenda here – i.e. no cash payments to either her or her grasping relatives. Having said that, I would of course expect to pay for the wedding and any parties that go with it (I am looking forward to my stag do!) – and I would quite probably splash out on a bit of gold for her, on the basis that it is "Bling" to impress her friends rather than sin sot for any grasping relatives. On paper I am of course being completely insane with my choice of wife, as in addition to all the above she is something of a tomboy particularly in attitude (I have had Thai bargirls ask me "She lady boy?"). However she is also extremely honest, even when she was using and I think she would be called "a character" even in Farangland – she is not afraid to call "a spade a spade", however inappropriate this may be and she is about as untypical of a stereotype of a Thai lady as I could aim for. She can't even frigging cook! Cupid has a sense of humour at least! We have not had a good sit down and talk yet about the marriage stuff and practicalities I am figuring on doing this on my next trip – as email and telephone are not quite good enough for all this. Whilst I am not after any advice on the advisability of all this (for obvious reason!), if you could advise whether my thinking on the sin sot is along the right path – and if their is anything else I should be thinking off, particularly on the "Christian" marriage front.

Mrs. Stick says: I do not need to answer this because surely you know the answer. By getting you as her husband, you are already giving her a huge boost in life. Maybe she should be paying you sin sot as some sort of compensation for what she has done and the responsibility you take on board when you take her as your wife! Sorry, I do not want to seem like I am looking down on her, but this is a bizarre situation and her background is colourful to say the least. It would be a rare breed of Thai man who would marry a woman like this. If she was raised by her parents and they are now dead, then this alone would be enough to cancel out the sin sot, forgetting everything else.

Question 2: Recently I was riding as a front seat passenger with my Thai female friend in the back and her brother at the wheel as we drove 2 hours outside of Bangkok. Her brother, the driver, had been smoking weed (smelled it) and had had no sleep the previous night. He risked our lives many times on the trip to and from BKK by dosing off many, many times, swerving-nearly hitting other cars or going off the road (due to lack of sleep). When I asked him if he would prefer if I drive…he adamantly said in Thai "I CAN DO IT FOR SURE!" Only my prayers kept us alive on that trip! How could I have taken control of the situation to prevent our crashing? I felt helpless. (I have neither a Thai drivers license nor international license but I would have driven.) Was he offended that I even asked to drive when he was obviously fighting to stay awake?

Mrs. Stick says: I can't believe that you care about someone else's feelings when your life is at stake! You have every right to protect your life – and that of others. Are we talking about the guy's feelings or your life? If you choose life over feelings then forget about everything else. Sometimes you just need to do what has to be done. You risked your life because you tried to preserve someone else's feelings? This doesn't make any sense to me under any circumstances! Harden up! I think your girlfriend should have known better and she should have said something too. There are times when you have to put yourself first and this was one of them!

Question 3: I work in Thailand and I notice that in the workplace there are a number of young Thai women, mid 20s, sometimes older, who have pictures and pictures of themselves plastered over their desk, computer and even on their mobile phone. In the west we would consider this self-adulation as a form of vanity. Just what is it that possess so many young Thai women to have so many pictures of themselves on display? Hell, the worst offender isn't even good looking!

Mrs. Stick says: I know many farangs are curious about this. I think this is just a Thai thing, or more specifically, a Thai woman thing. If you go to someone's house in Thailand you will see many pictures of the family on display, and they are often taken in a nice studio, posed, with everyone wearing fancy clothes. This is just an extension of that.

While the column usually goes up online every week at around 4:00 PM – the promised deadline is 6:00 PM, it is probably better to check in for it after 8:00 PM. A certain fellow by the name of Grasshopper proof reads it and lets me know all of the errors. These are fixed and the new version of the column goes up around 8:00 PM. The number of errors vary each week, but would average about ten or so a week. I have always chuckled at the number of people who have suggested that an error in the column means I am not up to being an English teacher. The bottom line is that it is never easy proof-reading your own work as you read it as you want to read it, and not as it actually is.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Grasshopper, Mr Write and Khun Leigh.