Stickman's Weekly Column December 11th, 2005

Traditional Thai Families And The Impositions Placed On Daughters



Woman #1 is 35 and quite attractive, not stunning, but certainly pleasant on the eye. She went to university and now has a good, stable job in the countryside and is dedicated to it, although it doesn’t really pay that much.

A couple of years ago I tried to set her up with a farang friend but it didn’t work. Truth be told, it was a big ask. She didn’t have the English skills and he didn’t have the Thai, which always makes it kind of tricky. While they did seem to click, the fact that he lives in New Zealand where he has a very good job and absolutely no plans to leave meant that it was never really likely to work. We tried, we failed, but hey, at least we gave it a go.

But the language barrier was not the biggest obstacle they had to overcome, no, not even close.

As I have got to know her better, I found out that she had a boyfriend she loved very much a few years back, and who she was keen to marry. The guy was not as well educated as her, but he too had a stable job, the sort of job that would never make him rich, but unless he did something stupid, he would never lose his job either. He was honest and hard-working and from what I could tell, he would have made a good family man. Yeah, he wasn’t perfect, but he was stable – and surely being stable is one of the most important characteristics when searching for a life partner?

But her mother didn’t approve of him, he was considered not good enough and he did not have the sort of drive, ambition or even prospects that she wanted in a young man who was interested in marrying one of her daughters. The relationship was essentially curtailed by her mother and even now, many years on, you still see the signs of resentment over it. She seems well aware that she could have been married with a couple of kids by now, but instead finds herself single at 35, living with a well meaning mother who dominates and literally controls her life.

Truth be told, she doesn’t have the strength of character and willingness to take the risk her sister did. The sister, who managed to break away from her mother’s clutches at moved to Bangkok in her late teens where she went to university later met and married a Western guy, that less than 18 months after she had broken up with a long term Thai boyfriend!

Woman #2 has just recently turned 30. She is very feminine and sexy, in a sort of pure and innocent way, I guess because she really is pure and innocent, having never experienced the pleasures of the flesh.

She is well-educated with a Master’s Degree from a local university, completed in a program where all of the lecturers and professors were foreigners. Her English is, as you would expect, excellent, and she has a good understanding of farangs and our ways.

Her job brings her into contact with a number of Western guys and she likes them. I guess she is more curious about them than anything else, but she is petrified at the thought of being caught with a farang by one by her domineering parents. Of Chinese ethnicity, every member of the family has to do exactly what Daddy says, and if they dare to cross Daddy, goodness only knows what would happen. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

She is engaged to a Chinese Thai guy who she openly admits to having no feelings for, but who her parents like very much. Of course, her parents are good friends with his parents. He is the quintessential ugly guy, way overweight, nasty acne scars with thick glasses and greasy hair. His saving grace is that his family has money. Lots of it.

But money means nothing to her. One of the loveliest Thai ladies I have ever met, she pines to experience love, real love, and she knows that many Western guys find her as attractive as she finds them. But she is stuck. She is engaged. The shame that would fall upon both her and her family if she tried to break off or get out of the engagement would be too much to bear. That’ll never happen. She is stuck in what is in all likelihood going to be an awful life with a man she doesn't love.

Woman #3 is very attractive and a close friend once described her as the most attractive Thai woman he had ever laid his eyes on. I wouldn’t go quite that far but she sure is easy on the eyes! She speaks excellent German, having studied it to the highest level at the Goethe Institute. She also studied in Germany itself. Her English is also very good, though not quite as good as her German. She’s well-educated, a graduate of Thammasat University’s foreign languages department.

For a long time she had a German boyfriend and she was truly in love with him, but their relationship was something of a minefield. I would see them out and about together, doing the shopping mall thing and whenever he would try to hold her hand in public, she would politely push it away. She clearly wanted to be close to him but the way that the Thai public looks at single Thai woman embracing a Westerner in public meant there was the potential for great shame to be brought on not just her, but her family, if she was seen to be holding hands with him in public.

The hard word was put on her and she was forced to break it off with the German guy. A shame, as he seemed like a decent guy. She has since got married to a Thai guy, someone who was chosen for her by her parents. What was once a charming, bubbly, energetic Thai girl is now a quiet, miserable married woman. No-one deserves that.

There are hundreds of thousands of Thai women who are largely denied the chance to meet the type of guy they would like to meet, so often a Western guy. And there are thousands of marriage-minded Western guys who would love to meet a decent Thai woman.

Thailand is caught at something of a crossroads. While more and more Thai women are getting involved with foreign men, that does not prevent many families from all but prohibiting their daughters from seeing or being involved with non-Thai gents. Petrified that their family will be looked down on, and their daughter misconstrued as a working girl, it would seem that they are intent on putting the family's reputation ahead of an individual family member's happiness. In Asia, the family comes first.

The constraints of some arguably outdated aspects of traditional life in Thailand are still being imposed on many young Thai women today by their family. It is truly sad that there are a number of really decent Western guys who want to meet a decent Thai woman, and vice versa, when what is actually happening is that many Western guys are ending up with a hardened girl who has been marred by the bar industry and many Thai girls are ending up living their life as a spinster.

The “Thai” in Thailand stands for free. Land of the free. In some ways there is a lot of freedom in Thailand, but if you are a woman born into a family like any of the above, freedom is the last thing you have. Their intentions may be good, but controlling Thai parents had better be careful or they are going to contribute to the creation of a generation of single women who harbour deep resentment for the so called traditional Thai ways and values.

WHERE IS THIS PICTURE Competition?

It was reception at the Nana Hotel.

Easy!

Last week's pic was of the exchange rate board behind reception at the world's most famous naughty tourist hotel, the Nana Hotel! 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

The last line says it all!

20 years married to a Thai and I had never heard of sin sot until I started reading Stickmanbangkok.com. I was married near Lopburi 25 years ago and paid a few baht to the registry office and paid for a party at the family home and then pissed off back to Bangkok for a party that night. It was a good day with no sin sot.

They other side of sin sot…not just farang are burned.

I wish to tell you about my Thai brother in law, the poor guy. A young man of 33 years old, presently employed as a construction worker by trade, but a farmer at heart. In any case, while still living here, up in the north, he one day came and stated that he was to marry. Within the village there was the hustle and bustle of the old ladies and his mother speaking and negotiating a sin sot which was finally agreed to be a mere 4,000 baht. When I saw the girl, I was suspicious, for she was a beautiful girl of about eighteen years of age, with all the right curves, long beautiful hair and a gait that would put Halley Barry to shame. The girl was said to be pure and as I already mentioned, she was a great pleasure to look at. She seemed pleased with the arrangement as was my brother in law and she was very enthusiastic, or so it seemed, that she was marrying into the family. The ceremony took place and after seeing him come out his house, the next morning he seemed to be on top of the world telling me with a smile, that all went well. Within two days she ran away and then within a day or so she and her mother totally disappeared from the village. Moral of the story is: It is not just farang that get stung and those that act in that manner do not discriminate.

A bad "good girl".

I married a so called "good Thai girl". I paid 100,000 baht sin sot. A week before the wedding my fiancée asked me to deposit the sin sot in her checking account, her parents needed the money for the wedding. There was no money displayed at the wedding. I asked my wife about not displaying the money and she said that her mother told all the neighbours the sin sot was twice the amount paid, so the money wasn't displayed. When the marriage ended I found out my wife had never given the sin sot to her family or any other money I gave to my wife for her family. If you're going to give any money to the Thai family, give it personally to the parents.

The sin sot and Muslims.

I married a Thai Muslim. She has two years of college and comes from a loving, but poor family in Songkhla. In Islam, a marriage is a financial arrangement based on a “Nika”, or marriage contract. The dowry goes directly to the bride. The ceremony is not much more than reciting the contract agreement. No reception, no drinking or merry making. It was a serious business deal. I am still waiting on the ownership book (ha!). In our case, I suggested we increase the dowry a bit (hey, we are still in Thailand) with the understanding that the “bit” comes back to me after the wedding to boost the family status in the neighbourhood. It did. My wife decided to use some of her money to pay off the mortgage on her parents home, the balance is in her bank account. According to the Koran, the bride retains the dowry to provide her financial security in the event that her loving husband decides to take a hike. Or another wife. You are right, support of the family after marriage is a separate deal.

Would you have major surgery in Thailand?

I am always a little surprised when I hear of characters who have been in the Kingdom for donkeys years suddenly selling all their assets and returning to Farangland. You never hear the real reasons, but I suspect in most cases it is for medical treatment. The Kingdom is fine for routine stuff like dysentery, dog bites and gunshot wounds, but when it comes to severe mental illness and life-threatening conditions, then a third-world country is no place to be.

Would you trust a pharmacist?

One of the nice things about medical care in Thailand as compared to care in the USA is the ready access to pharmacies. Many of the medicines that are only available by physician's prescription in the USA are available over the counter or by request at the local pharmacy in Thailand. I have also found many of the pharmacists are quite knowledgeable in which medicines are best for the symptoms you have. Several times the same maladies I experienced in Bangkok would have had me running to a doctor in the USA for a prescription and some relief. But a trip to the drug store and a regimen of some brand name or generic pills and I was awarded relief. Warning! I did receive an expectorant from a drug store in Pattaya once that contained codeine in spite of the fact that I told the pharmacist I was allergic. Since then I have tried to use mainly one pharmacy where the lady is more knowledgeable.

Why were the night spots of Bangkok so quiet on Friday night? Knowing I'd be away from Bangkok for the weekend, I ventured out on Friday night and man was it quiet! It felt like a Sunday night, typically the quietest night of the week in the bars. Ok, so it is a long weekend and a lot of locals would have gone away, but I thought that with it being the high season, more people would have been around, but no, it appeared not. Even some of the biggest name gogo bars only had around 20 girls at 10 PM, with no more than a handful already barfined. There were even less customers. Did someone announce that there was a bird flu case or something untoward in the bar areas which kept everyone away?

Down in Phuket, from all accounts there has been something of an invasion of Russians. It would seem that those form the former Eastern bloc countries are making the most of the warmer weather in these parts compared to their freezing cold homelands.

I don't want to get into the AIDS debate as every time I write anything about it I receive a barrage of hate mail saying that it cannot be spread sexually. But I feel that when I hear news about HIV or AIDS locally I am obliged to mention it, if only in the interests of providing information from which people can then make their own decisions. A young-ish Western bar manager who was known for his inability to keep his hands off the ladies in bars he worked in has contracted HIV. To make matters worse, he has passed it on to his wife. I tell you this for informational purposes only. It must be said that condoms are awfully cheap and there are 7 Elevens absolutely everywhere in Thailand…

Rumour has it that Martin, the new owner of the FLB bar in Pattaya, has canned Ben the long time manager. It is unsure if it was Ben's idea to leave, of if he was given something of a helping hand. A new American manager has been appointed, Keith. So we have gone from a British Commonwealth owner / manager team to an all American team – and many punters are picking that there will be a change in the customer base too. One of the assets of the FLB Bar has been the Pattayatalk discussion forum, a forum where many of the bar's regular customers meet in cyberspace. Many long time members of Pattayatalk have moved to a new board and have sworn they'll never set foot in FLB again! Given all of the new bars opening in Pattaya, especially in the Walking Street area, FLB can ill afford to lose existing customers.

"News reports of my death are premature", wrote Mark Twain a century ago. Similarly, reports that high season has finally descended on Pattaya would seem to be equally premature. It seems the crowds of a week ago were an anomaly, vanishing as quickly as they materialised. While many hotels are enjoying near-capacity bookings and Walking Street was awash with pedestrians, the numbers this past week – as well as this weekend – are not reflected in bar patronage. Available ladies would appear to outnumber clientele five to one citywide.

Why? Ricky of Diamond A-Gogo opines, “Foreigners who holiday in December would rather do it at the end of the month, not now. I expect business to pick up in the next week or two. Actually, the weekend before Christmas usually marks the beginning of high season, but this year Christmas falls on a weekend, so with any luck, perhaps it’ll kick off next weekend.” While Diamond is holding its own, thanks to lovely ladies and exotic shows, it still awaits return of the SRO crowds who helped make it the number one attraction on Walking Street over the last year. Helping bring in customers are a number of new dancers – some direct from Patpong – and the availability of 45 baht draft beer.

While it would be something of a generalisation, there does seem to be quite a difference between visitors to Pattaya, and those attracted to the Sukhumvit stretch of Bangkok. In Bangkok, the vast majority of people you overhear in conversation are engaged in English, and a good number of them have a North American accent. In Pattaya, the vast majority seem to be conversing in a language other than English, and many in languages I couldn't even pick, very likely something East European.

The newly opened Club Boeche (pronounced “boo shay”), in the new Covent Garden complex, has picked up steam but few customers. So the novel two-tier gogo bar has brought in veteran manager Woody who immediately lent his charm and experience to spice things up. Woody boosted his staff to include a roster of 75 attractive dancers and 37 waitresses – many of whom are equally attractive. Woody is “ready for high season, but people still don’t know about us. Once word is out, I expect we’ll be very busy.” And well they should be. Featuring a working Jacuzzi replete with playful naked ladies, a working shower, ditto, and a glass floor with pantyless dancing damsels above, as well as a bevy of beauties below and in all directions, Club Boeche has all the makings for success. However, beyond its distant location, the music is a bit loud and drink prices a bit high at 95 baht for draft and 110 for everything else, including lady drinks. Woody, who formerly managed the new Teasers and the old Classroom II, is confident the existing formula will work when high season finally comes to Pattaya.

On that same soi, just south of Tony’s Entertainment Complex, the new Catz and Babe Watch are also slow to catch on. The first is quite narrow, the second too box-like, and both are quite small. Even the once popular Club Electric Blue has seen a sharp decline in numbers. So much so that Andy has elected to temporarily close the upstairs bar and dance area, while opening El Gelato at the entrance to CEB. The new ice cream bar, managed by David, offers Pattaya’s best-tasting Italian ice cream at reasonable prices – starting at just 39 baht.

The dance competition held at Playschool in Nana this past Wednesday night was a huge success. ExpressCashThailand.com was a sponsor and will also be a sponsor at the next 2 dance competitions. ECT orders placed for $300 or more that mention "Stickman Bangkok" in the "Additional Comments / Request" field of the order will have the delivery fee (200 to 400 baht, depending on the chosen delivery method,) given to the recipient. For example, if you send your girl or whomever $300 USD for a direct bank deposit, the normal $5 delivery fee will be waived to the sender and GIVEN as an additional "bonus" to the girl. You can't ask for better than that. Goodbye Western Union, hello Express Cash Thailand!

David, manager of The Londoner, has left as has the gorgeous dishwasher and a few good looking waitresses. Now just where have those lovelies gone?

That monstrosity of a shopping centre next to the Siam BTS station, Siam Paragon, has opened at long last – and its opening has totally screwed up the skytrain for everyone. Huge numbers have been flocking to and from Siam Paragon and the skytrain has been jammed to capacity. I was waiting at Nana station to go further down Sukhumvit and had to wait for 3 totally full trains to come and go before I was able to get on board – and even then it was something of a squeeze. I guess this new shopping centre is going to be immensely popular for the next week or two at least, and so the skytrain will be even busier than usual. When oh when are they going to add more carriages?!

One of the most nerve racking experiences for would be residents of Thailand is the visa application process at Thai embassies and consulates. There's been all sorts of stuff posted online that has scared farangs into thinking that the granting of a visa is a tough process. In the '90s the Thai consulate in Penang, Malaysia, was known as something of a soft touch, an easy place to get a new visa. But then the rumour mill swung into action and all and sundry were saying that it was getting difficult down there, that extra documents were needed and that it was all something of a major ordeal, especially if one had a few visas in their passport already. Now this is all contrary to what people I know who have been down there recently have said. From all accounts, Penang remains an easy consulate to deal with. And if you really want to do it the easy way, you can hire a visa agent who will come to your guesthouse or hotel, collect your passport and application form and take it to the consulate and lodge it on your behalf. The agent will then return to the consulate the next day, collect it and deliver it back to you, all for a very reasonable 50 Ringgit fee, about 500 baht. This means no queuing and no awkward questions to answer! Easy!

Quote of the week comes from a reader. "Giving a Thai girlfriend too much money will make problems for sure. Giving a Thai girlfriend a lot of money can make her a target for very bad people." You've been warned!

A number of hotels in Bangkok charge for internet access, or so they say. What many of the hotels actually do is charge you for the use of the cable needed to connect your laptop to the network port in the room. If you have your own lead (and I bet most people do), you can just plug the computer in and start using it, without paying the often extortionate charges that some hotels charge. Of course there are some hotels that do offer free 'net access. So travel with your own cable (or if you forget, buy one at Panthip Plaza for less than 100 baht).

One VERY interesting thing came through loud and clear in the feedback from readers to last week's article abut the sin sot. A large number of people mentioned how they had married their Thai darling many years ago and how the issue of sin sot had never come up. Some said they had never even hard of sin sot until recent times! This says to me that there has been a change in mentality at some point and that us farangs are being targeted more and more often.

The lights are up in Bangkok to celebrate the holiday season, but they're not nearly as abundant as in previous years. The peak seemed to be in 2003 when there was a quite incredible display of lights in the area around the World Trade Centre, Rajadamri Road, Ploenchit Road and through to Siam Square. This year far less lighting has been erected and what there is seems to be done by private businesses – shopping malls and hotels, rather than by the city itself. You can see lighting at many of the big hotels such as the Sukhothai, the Amari Watergate and the Four Seasons, as well as major shopping centres like All Seasons Place and Amarin Tower. The pick is probably Central Chidlom which looks stunning with a heap of lighting and a large Christmas tree out the front.

Wandering past the yet to be opened Chuwit Park on Sukhumvit, it would seem that they have done a nice job of making it look pretty, but I just wonder if there is a design error? It looks nice, but there is nowhere to sit, no park benches! Just where are people going to sit?!

The BahtBus fundraising day mentioned in previous columns made 302,000 baht for charity. Excellent!

Several months ago the tolls on the Don Meuang tollway were reduced to encourage more people to use it. This was nice, but actually the main benefit was that the toll booth just past the airport heading north was no longer manned and you could just drive straight through it without the need to stop. This was one spot where farangs used to have all sorts of hassles from the cops trying to hit us up for a few baht for some alleged traffic infringement. They cannot do it there anymore! But alas, there are other black spots. The latest spot where the cops are getting money hungry on the expressway is the tollbooth on the Rama 9 section of the expressway, between Din Daeng and Rachadapisek. There always seem to be a heap of money hungry boys in brown there and almost every time I go through that toll plaza, the site of my white skin and long nose gets me pulled over. Still, I have yet to give the coppers there a single baht, though I have had to politely argue the point.

Around the middle of last year, the Thai press ran a high profile story about a rather lovely creature going by the name of Nong Nat. The poor lass was deemed to have been a naughty girl and disgraced Thailand when a porno VCD of her did the rounds. If you didn't see it, believe me, you really missed out! Not much has been heard about Nong Nat recently….that was until I ventured to Korat this weekend. It would appear that Nong Nat features at Speed 2 Disco in downtown Korat and has been performing there since Halloween. Her show, a duet, starts at the ungodly hour of 1:00 AM. And the word about town is just what 5,000 baht gets you…

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: What's the problem with satang coins? I have twice tried to pay my bus fare using satang coins in the total – you know, six baht and two 50 satang pieces. The first time the conductor handed the satang coins back, I thought I had overpaid. But today I tried again and the conductor pushed them into my hand and stared at me like I had handed him a dead cockroach (I wish I had). The rest of the journey he turned around in his seat and stared at me with a truly evil look – did I do something wrong? Aren't satang coins valid tender? Can I only use them in the supermarket? I don't want to upset people, but I don't want to carry satang coins around too – how else can I spend them?

Mr. Stick says: Satang coins are legal tender and I am surprised to hear that they were not accepted on a bus – that is usually one of the few places where they are accepted! Many retailers and vendors will not accept them and that is just the way it is – forget the fact that they are legal tender, some people just do not want them! Supermarkets and buses were the places that used to accept them….but perhaps that is changing?

Question 2: I have finally settled down with a nice Thai girl, not married but we have been together for 14 months now. She has never worked in a bar, is very pleasant and has been to England this summer for 4 months to meet my folks. I only work 7 months of the year now and have 5 months holiday which we spend in Thailand and Malaysia. We spend a lot of time together but I do like to spend a bit of time on my own and sometimes chatting with other Thais. She never objects but always looks a bit sad when I mention I want to go for a walk alone. One thing I miss when we live in Bangkok or Chiang Mai is the banter with the bargirls. My Thai is improving all the time and I really do like buying a girl a drink, chatting about her family, friends and her life in the bar. I only spend a couple of hours away and I do nothing more than have a couple of beers and a chat. I am never too sure if she doesn't really minds or if she is seething inside, but due to the saving face thing she never actually says anything. Other than that we get along fine and she really enjoyed England making friends with the staff of our local Thai restaurant. On the other hand, when in Thailand, apart from my girlfriend I don't have any friends, farang or Thais. Is it ok for a farang to take off on his own to chat to bar girls for a couple of hours or is this a definite no no as far as Thai people are concerned?

Mrs. Stick says: Even though I fully understand your circumstances, I have to tell you that spending a few hours chatting with bargirls on a regular basis is too much for the average Thai girl to accept. Why would you want to socialise with bargirls, women who are there selling sex – and trying to sell it to you, even if they know you are married! A good woman will not want to join her boyfriend or husband in such an environment, even if it just for a very short period of time. I think you are lucky that you have a good-hearted woman who has not said anything about this to you directly. You ought to stop this and find some real friends who you can spend time with when you are in Thailand.

Question 3: I have a 4 month long Isaan girlfriend that does not accept financial contributions from me. As she has gotten to like me more – she has admitted having lied to me on several occasions. She said it was because she doesn't want me to look down on her and wants me to like her. I can understand the motivation but have also discovered more lies not disclosed. I have challenged her on some but she gets a headache and is happier if I don't pursue the truth. 1. It seems that Thai women feel it is OK to lie if they are doing it for a "good reason". Usually that reason means that they have something to gain. Is this a valid observation? 2. Can she become honest and not lie in the future if a solid relationship develops? 3. The "headache" as you mentioned in your last column has reduced me to inane e-mail of little substance. This is not acceptable for me but I will endure it until my next trip. Is it the socio-economic pond I am fishing in that results in finding these types of traits? Of course I have my own thoughts on these issues but would like your Thai eyes to reply.

Mrs. Stick says: I have to say this, even though I don't want to, but the answer is a resounding yes to the first question. I don't know who or what is to blame but yes, a number of Thai women are as you have said. From answering questions in this column for a long time and talking to my husband, it does seem like a lot of Thai women are like this. A lie is a lie, and it cannot be considered acceptable under almost any circumstances. In your situation, how can you expect her to lie only about the little things, and not about the bigger things? There is nothing to guarantee that she will only lie about little things. If the relationship develops then you have to be straight, strong and clear with each other. If she still chooses to lie, then you have a decision to make. If she still chooses to lie, it is obviously her nature and there is probably not anything you can do about it. I don't think poorer women, or women from a poor background are any more likely to lie than women from a wealthy background. Having said all of this, you have to keep in mind that Western and Asian "standards" are not the same, and you might have to make some compromises. I know from my husband that in your part of the world if you lie, that is very, very bad. It is black and white. Here it is a bit different. You need to draw a line and tell her what is acceptable and what is not, and if she crosses the line, well, you know what you need to do.

As the high season reaches its peak, more and more readers of this website are arriving in Thailand, and more and more readers are inviting me out for a drink. It is great that people want to meet up, but I have to admit that I am overwhelmed by the numbers. Between my day job, running this site, and my private life, I just don't have a lot of free time left. I do enjoy meeting readers, but please understand that I have my own life too. I try to make time available, but it is not always easy!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Mr. Write, Bkk Grasshopper and Sunpup.