Stickman's Weekly Column October 8th, 2006

Working With The Thais



Everyday scores of guys fall in love with Thailand resulting in many guys making the decision to move to the country. For some it is easy, simply move on over to Thailand and retire, leading a life of luxury – good food, warm weather and let’s not beat about the bush, lots of female company. But not everyone is ready or able to retire so the big move usually means you've got to work!

Much has been written on this site about holidaying here, getting involved in relationships with the local ladies and the best way to make your hard-earned go further. But what about working here? That’s one aspect of life that doesn’t get nearly as much coverage.

Like most things in Thailand, the work environment on the surface may seem similar to the West, but look a bit more closely and things are quite different.

Thai staff are, for want of a better word, obedient, and will generally do whatever their boss asks them to do. If they are told to stay late – sometimes many hours and without reward – they will. Staff will almost never disagree with their boss, at least to their face, just as they will almost never offer suggestions about how things could be done differently. To do so would result in the boss losing face – and that absolutely must be avoided. It is assumed that the boss knows best – that is why they are the boss, after all! Thai staff lead a very submissive role, doing as they are told, strictly following instructions. To veer away from what they know makes them awfully uncomfortable. (This is one reason why in Thailand you don't get very far if you ask a service provider for something that is not advertised as being available.)

Despite the fact that the workplace can be quite a strict environment with all sorts of rules and stiff penalties, Thai staff largely come and go as they please, often arriving late to work. This may incur a penalty, sometimes very steep, but that doesn’t always motivate them to arrive on time. I have never quite worked out why this is.

One of my first memories of work in Thailand, back in the ‘90s, was the fact that colleagues always seemed to be ill. I thought the dreadful pollution around the school I used to work at may have been a contributing factor to many of the staff members’ frequent absences. But the reason was quite different. By law, employees are allowed to take up to 30 sick days per year with pay. Yes, 30 sick days! I used to get really annoyed at Mrs. Stick in the past and chastised her on what I considered a dreadful work ethic, with her taking on average one sick day a month, pretty much every month. In all fairness she was sick some of the time, but much of the time she just wanted a break from work. It wasn't until later that I realised this was the norm!

If a Thai doesn’t like a job, they generally won’t complain, at least not directly to their boss. They will just leave. In better jobs notice will be given but in lesser jobs, they will just collect their pay at the end of the month and leave, never to return. Maids and cleaners do this all the time – and bargirls are another bunch who leave without notice.

I have often felt that Thais in the workplace are more concerned with keeping their boss happy, than keeping the customer (when they deal with customers, that is) happy. Their ultimate concern seems to make sure that their boss, who often plays a patriarchal or matriarchal role, is content. If their boss is happy then they will be looked after, or so the thinking seems to go.

But what is it like for us? If you’re a Westerner working in a Thai workplace, just how is it? The biggest factor determining how things are is the nationality of the boss. If you have a foreign boss you’ll probably operate in much the same way as you would in the West, but if you have a Thai boss, as is most likely the case, then things will be very different.

Fortunately, most Thai bosses understand that the average Westerner doesn’t adapt to the Thai way in the workplace, and won't respond well to what may be considered the norm locally. This means that the average Westerner is generally given a fairly loose reign. We are often given a set of objectives and are largely allowed to go about our work, attempting to meet those objectives. So long as the objectives are met and no-one is upset along the way, the Westerner’s employment continues and everyone is happy.

You can see evidence of this in schools where Western teachers are hired. Schools often give the Westerner complete freedom to teach not just how they see fit, but what they consider should be covered. So long as the students’ grades are good and the kids’ parents are happy, the Western teacher’s employment continues. It doesn't matter if the material covered was not in any curriculum anywhere!

Part of the difficulty is that the average Thai doesn’t understand Westerners very well (just as the opposite is true) and largely leaves the Western employees to their own devices. This can work very well because they know we don’t tend to like being micro-managed, but it can just as well backfire, because if you give any member of staff too much freedom and they are not entirely honest, then anything is possible.

One common problem is that this type of approach is often flawed through a lack of any checks and balances. A Westerner who quite likes the school and wishes to stay on in employment, simply makes sure all of the kids get high grades. He fudges the marks. Don't laugh, it happens all the time and it is a disgrace to the profession.

The way that Thai staff are treated and the way that farang staff are treated are two entirely different things. Let’s take a look at my place of work. There are more than 20 farang members of staff, and perhaps 150 Thai staff. The Thai staff are often compelled to work late or at the weekend, where the farang staff often wander in late and sneak off early. Weekend work? Forget it, the average farang simply doesn't go! What is most peculiar is that the Thai management are fully aware but never say or do anything about it – so the farang staff exploit it more and more! It's a crazy situation.

Still at my place of employment, a few years back they implemented a policy to overcome staff arriving late and a finger print system was installed where you had to “thumb in” every morning. The farang members of staff simply stopped using it – and the Thai management didn’t say anything about that either!

I often feel sorry for the Thai staff. They see foreigners working alongside them, working less hours (although probably producing the same output) and getting paid much, much more as well as being treated better. They also see us standing up to the bosses and not afraid to use the word "no"! Working at a quicker pace and in a much more efficient manner, Western teachers can finish their work hours before the Thai teachers and with little else to do, will simply disappear – or do their own thing.

This is not unique to teaching. A long-time reader who works in the oil business in Thailand recently told me “work for an oil company and life's a holiday”. Now I am sure he is very good at his job and does everything that is asked of him to a high standard – but his employer obviously doesn’t realise that he has a lot of free time on his hands – and that he could be doing so much more.

Then you get the Westerners who exploit holes in the system. We had an Aussie working with us a few years ago who used to take off one day a week, and thinking about it, there was a Canadian who did the same. Both had real issues with the bottle. They knew that they could take up to 30 days off a year sick, and given that there are only 36 teaching weeks in a school year – perfect!

For a Thai company to throw a Westerner into the mix is a risk, sometimes it is seen as a necessary evil. Thais are incredibly observant and they notice exactly what each person does, what time they arrive, what time they leave, and so on. A not insignificant amount of resentment can build up when they see Westerners on fat salaries working for a shorter period of time, and earning much more. I would go as far to say that for a Thai company it's a very brave move indeed to hire a Westerner.

There are of course many, many good things about working in Thailand. Things generally happen at a leisurely pace and the idea of deadlines and timeliness and the pressure put on employees is nothing like it is in the West. The flipside of this is that you can become lazy.

What I personally like most of all about working in Thailand is the different nationalities you get to work with. My closest colleague comes from Atlanta, Georgia, and believe me, after 7 years working with him there is not much I don’t know about that city. Working with different nationalities brings different ideas to the table and that can only be a good thing.

Workplace banter can get quite risqué in Thailand and you don't have any of the issues of sexual harassment that seem to be a real concern in the West these days. I never cease to be amazed at some of the stuff that is talked about. A petite, innocent female Thai employee eating a banana for breakfast would think nothing about saying “Oooh, it is big, isn’t it” in English and then giggling to herself. A light atmosphere is never a bad thing.

For Thai members of staff, the decorum of civility and harmony is maintained at all cost, though tempers can become frayed when fingers are pointed. You know you have got offside with a Thai member of staff when they stop talking to you. Thais actually aspire to the idea of working in a workplace where they know everyone already. If they could work with their entire family, they would be in heaven.

There is of course a real danger of working in Thailand for a long period of time and quite literally lowering your standards. I am of the belief that if you work here long enough it would have to be difficult to move back to a position in the West. Expectations in the workplace are just so ridiculously low.

Deep down everyone hopes that the skills developed in Thailand, the familiarity with the country, the industry they work in and the culture and language will bode well if they ever return to their homeland, but unless you work in an industry where Thailand is prominent, that's being awfully optimistic.

There is a real lack of on the job training and what I have personally seen has ranged from a complete and utter embarrassment to useless. You've actually got to make a point of developing yourself, and keeping abreast of changes in the industry. I make a point of working closely with one colleague who I have a great deal of respect for, and by bouncing ideas of each other and running lesson plans past one another, we do our best to develop professionally. But not everyone has that opportunity, and even then, we both acknowledge the need for input from another party.

My experience working in Thailand is that things are generally relaxed and fun. If you're not objective driven and are wiling to overlook some fairly questionable practices, you can enjoy yourself. But if you are the result-driven type then working in Thailand could end up being awfully frustrating. I should imagine that in more professional roles, where tolerances tend to be less and standards higher, it could be even more frustrating.

Thailand, while a fun place to work, is not necessarily where one is going to advance their skills, or their career. It's a great place to spend the final few years of one's work life, a great place to work part-time and surely a fantastic place to be on a big expat package. But working here full-time in the prime of your life, hmmm, you've got to think seriously about it.


Where WAS THIS PICTURE taken?

It was the intersection of Ploenchit and Rajadamri.

Where is that?!

Last week's picture was taken from the Erawan Shrine, looking across at the major intersection where Rajadamri Road meets Ploenchit. The first person to tell me where the picture is wins a 500 baht credit at Tony's Bar in Soi Cowboy. The second person to get the prize right gets a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the British Cafe in the Khao Sarn Road area. The third and forth prizes are a 500 baht credit at Sin in Sukhumvit Soi 4. Please remember that we do have a prize provider in Pattaya, my favourite bar in Pattaya, Catz. However, there seem to be few people in Pattaya sending in answers. If no-one from Pattaya gets it this week it may be time to pull that prize. The prizes are only available to people in Thailand now – either residents or tourists, and must be redeemed within 2 weeks. You MUST say that you are in Bangkok and able to claim the prize or I will consider you ineligible. If you have a preference as to which prize you would prefer, do not be shy to let me know! Also, if you are in Pattaya, please let me know so you can be eligible for that prize!

FROM STICKMAN'S EMAIL INBOX

The dangers of free wireless internet.

Just thought you should know and maybe consider posting a warning on your website about insecure wi-fi networks; and make sure your computer is protected if you do insist on connecting to an insecure network. I mean I sit here now in my apartment, and can easily access up to 5 different access points. I haven't paid for the internet in the past 5 months I have been here. I went to that Night Bazaar at Lumpini once with my laptop and could access dozens of access points again. It's only a matter of time until someone starts hacking and keystroke logging and credit cards details and bank details are stolen. That is if it's not going on already. I even saw on the TV the other day about school kids who had built a mini satellite dish to increase the range to pick up wi-fi signals. (I got my girly to translate.) It's one of the fastest growing crimes in the UK, people sat in internet cafes hacking and keystroke logging someone's computer who is only sat 10 feet away from them.

Soi 33, a history lesson.

As to how old Soi 33 is, its current incarnation as a BIG bar area is only about 10 years, maybe, at the most. But I remember as far back as 1988, when I first arrived here, the "artist" bars were all there. But only those bars. Monet, etc. Back then, that was quite far to go – no skytrain – so I never bothered. The soi was not filled with bars and massage parlors then, just those few places and was a rather quiet, pleasant area.

Don't go cheap on the tuna!

I too have recently experienced strange Thai female behaviour, in fact my relationship with my Thai girlfriend nearly went out the window because of…a tin of tuna. Being a poor ajarn, I tend to look for bargains in Tesco Lotus. Last Wednesday I picked up a slightly dented tin of tuna, saving about four baht (yes, I know, cheap Charlie). Brought it home, girlfriend inspected my shopping and decided that I had disgraced her by buying a dented tin, and that because it was dented, the contents were no good (go figure). Now, she tends to have an overly-critical attitude sometimes, so I very pointedly picked up the tin and threw it in the bin. The fallout from this was remarkable. Apparently, by throwing away the tin, I was saying I wanted to throw her away. Floods of tears followed, with suggestions by her that I think she is a bad girl, and the only thing to do was to split up. It was no good explaining to her that it wasn't a symbolic comment on our overall relationship. However we had no sleep that night until I managed to talk her round. So yes, it's true, trying to get into the mind of a Thai woman is probably beyond most of us…

First class taxi driver.

On a recent visit to Bangkok to be with my Thai lady, we caught a taxi to the NZ embassy. After paying the driver the fare and he took off, I realised I had left the file of all my personal papers in his car. This I was very concerned about as I had no idea what company, or driver I had been with. You can imagine the relief I felt when I returned to her home and here they were, been returned to where he picked us up from, a time of at least one hour's travel. I wish I could return my gratitude to this man.

"My daughter has a boyfriend but oh no, she wouldn't be doing that!"

As an adjunct to your main story, I've found country girls, from large families, are not discouraged from boyfriends, but there's an assumption that they're not bonking from their parents. One particular lady commented to her sister lately (when the sister was complaining about a missed period), "Oh don't worry, you cannot be pregnant, you're not married". Naive? Yes. But common place. Certainly talking to Thai (male) friends, they were all having fun in University and even high school (mainly at the local knock shop), and many of the girls are promiscuous too. But it seems the country girls are a little more traditional and it's harder to "turn" them, so to speak. But once the worm has turned…

A victim of the new visa rules.

I am pissed off! I just wasted a day applying for a year visa in Pattaya. I am 35, have lived here for 6 years, married over 4 and have a 3 year-old daughter. I went to Immigration today with all the required paperwork, marriage certificate, daughter's birth certificate, bank books, letter from bank etc. even took the wife and child with me. I have over 1,000,000 baht in the bank and have had for over 3 years, but the problem was, as of yesterday, a new rule, regardless of money in bank and the fact that you are married and have a child, you must show an income of at least 40,000 baht per month to qualify for a year visa, and if this income is from abroad then you must have a letter from your embassy verifying this. Others be warned, the goal posts are now being removed to ridiculous levels.

Never heard of this before.

Here's a question I've been wondering about for a while: When I lived in Thailand, three Thai adult friends were considering whether to change their names. Two of them actually did it. Why is this? Do they think it will improve their lives and make them more attractive? When I went back to Thailand for a visit five years ago, a Thai female acquaintance, who was recently divorced, bought a book written for people who wanted to change their names. I asked her why she wanted to change her name. She said she didn't like it anymore. I thought that was a strange comment coming from a 30 year old woman. I just said her parents gave her name and she should be proud of it. In the west, we're used to actors / actresses, singers and musicians changing their names for professional reasons. But I think most of us would find it a bit strange for a typical adult to want to change their first name. Why do some Thai adults want to change their first names?

For those of you who cannot wait, it's less than two months until the anticipated opening of the Eden Club's new branch in Pattaya. 16 rooms, and it should be open by the start of December, ready for the high season.

There have been some movement of farangs around the bars, but at this stage I cannot mention them. With various shenanigans going on recently, some farang bar managers do not want their names mentioned until their work permit has been processed and is firmly in their hands. Wise.

Just as predicted, Pattaya bars with signs up stating that the use of mobile phones is forbidden are doing absolutely nothing to stop the use of said mobiles. In both Heavens Above and Peppermint such signs exist but in these two bars this past week numerous people were on their mobiles in full view of a number of staff – and no-one did anything.

Following on from Absolute Bar offering Paulaner at 175 baht a pint to celebrate Oktoberfest, New Wave in Soi 7 are now offering the same beer at the same price. Of course both bars have the same owner.

If you do get stuck at the airport, perhaps your baggage goes missing as has happened to thousands or your flight is delayed, it is said that there are heaps of free internet wi-fi spots available, so make sure your battery is charged on your laptop – that's one way to wile away the time.

Directly opposite Angelwitch Pattaya is the recently opened Venus, an air-conditioned beer bar with a couple of chrome poles which promotes itself as a venue playing '70s and '80s music. As a fan of music from that period, I stopped in for a beer on my way to Angelwitch and one beer quickly became four. Frankly, the bar is nothing special nor does it offer anything new, but if you like music from that period, it should appeal. The prices are very reasonable with Tiger draft at 50 baht all night long and ladies drinks a very reasonable 85 baht. They plan to have dancing girls in there soon, but for the time being the chrome poles are vacant.

Club Boesche was raided on Wednesday night and the doors closed for 45 minutes. It would appear someone in a brown uniform doesn't like someone at Boesche because they seem to get raided more often than other bars in the area. But business continued as usual shortly afterwards.

And talking of the Covent Garden complex, the newly re-fitted Babewatch should open as early as next week, giving punters another venue in this increasingly popular bar area.

In what I believe is a new policy, the Marine Disco on Walking Street now has a happy hour where various drinks are available for 80 baht, up until 1 AM. Obviously Marine, which has always been popular later in the evening, is trying to get punters in the door earlier. While 80 baht might hardly sound like a happy hour price, remember standard drinks in there are a lot dearer than most other spots. I couldn't tell you the latest prices as I haven't been in there for ages but I would expect that a bottle of beer typically goes for around 150 baht.

One of the Thai managers of Angelwitch Pattaya has implemented an odd rule whereby service girls are not allowed to sit down at all. Ordinarily the dek serves would sit down for a few minutes now and then – and of course they are often invited to sit down with customers who may buy them a drink so denying them to get off their feet for a short period seems unreasonably harsh. What is interesting is that this came from the Thai manager and not the farang manager.

The rumour mill is going wild about that CCT camera erected at the front of Nana, with the general consensus (actually what the girls are saying) being that it was put there by the Crown Group. A number of the girls have said that the images go back to the office located in Voodoo Bar. What is amusing is the reasons they have come up with about why the camera is there. They all seem to think that it is there to capture images of the girls fighting or girls leaving with customers when a barfine wasn't paid – and they think the bar bosses want to keep an eye on this!

Tourism is picking up in Pattaya. There seemed to be more punters at beer bars along Second Road – up to and including the heavy concentration of such establishments in North Pattaya (between Soi 2 and Soi 5). The unique short-time bars on Soi 6 were bustling, as were the many beer bars that pervade Sois 7 and 8. While not quite reaching high season levels of patronage, hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, shops, etc., all seem to be on the upswing.

Dirty dancing is on tap tonight at Pattaya’s Dollhouse. Beginning about 9PM, the Walking Street gogo bar will feature a dirty dancing contest with 20 or more competitors from several clubs. New owners of Dollhouse are upgrading the once popular club, which already is making a dramatic comeback. Tonight’s event is definitely worth a look.

Secrets Bar and Nightclub (Soi 14 off of Walking Street) will dress its hostesses in sexy bikinis next Saturday (October 14) for its Big Beachwear Event. All are invited to what should be a colourful party featuring a free buffet. Men are asked to wear Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts. Festivities kick off about 8 PM.

Last week I briefly discussed the availability of Beer Lao in Bangkok. I should add that the much sought-after brew is now also available at two popular pubs in Pattaya: Lennie’s hostess bar (Soi Diamond just off of Second Road) and the above mentioned Secrets Bar.

Both Superbaby and Happy in Pattaya have some of the most attractive dancers you could ever hope to see, but they're bars you'll seldom see me in. In fact I had not stepped into either in more than 18 months, mainly because the attitude of staff in there seems to be that their shit doesn't stink. I personally believe this is down to the fact that these two venues both do a roaring trade, the girls do a roaring trade and quite frankly, it all goes to their head. I thought I would give each of these bars another go this week, and dropped by for a drink. Nothing has changed – both bars have many very attractive girls – but many have an appalling attitude. Speak Thai in those bars and they'll think you're the grim reaper. I'll try again in another 18 months.

There are many ways to judge a bar – the music, the girls, the prices of drinks, the atmosphere and one that isn't always talked about, the sound system. My two favorite bars of the moment, Catz and Angelwitch Pattaya, both have really good sound systems. Now compare that with many of the bars which have a mediocre sound system (possibly due to using MP3s?) and you really can hear the difference.

How do you ruin a show in one of the show bars? Easy! While the girls are in the middle of their routine, throw a bunch of ping pong balls at them. That is what happened this week in Angelwitch Pattaya and the beautifully choreographed routine was ruined as the girls completely forgot their moves and started diving over each other in an effort to grab the ping pong balls for which they get a 20 baht return on.

Why oh why do fat guys insist on wandering around the streets of Pattaya without their top on? Now there is nothing wrong with being fat, but there is nothing forgivable about walking around the streets with a big ugly gut hanging out for all to see. And I'm not talking about the Beach Road here, which really is fair play, but around Second Road, or even further "in-land". It is quite frankly, unsightly.


The ultimate Thai dating site with ladies from all over Thailand!

So much for the tourist police being nice and friendly and being there to help tourists. Wandering around Pattaya this week I got the fright of my life when a cop car screeched to a halt right beside me and I was approached by a harried tourist copper who was very concerned at me taking photographs on Central Pattaya Road. "Why you have big camera?" "What you take photo?" "What you do with photo?" Responses in very polite Thai placated him quickly, but you have to wonder what the big deal was all about.

I keep hearing Angelwitch Bangkok and ironing boards in the same sentence. What is that all about?!

There would seem to have been something of a backlash against guys on the popular TF. I am hearing more and more tales of woe, some of them quite novel. At some of the TF parties, guys have been known to do a runner before they pay their bills! Other guys complain at beers priced at 75 baht a pop. While the site no doubt attracts a broad spectrum of punters, there is no shortage of younger guys with little baht in their pocket out for an easy lay. More and more of the girls on the site are talking about cheap farangs.

And with TF not quite the same as it used to be, a number of that crowd is moving over to GooGig which is very nice, but is all in Thai. Still, there are a heap of users on there and for local guys who can read and write Thai, the pickings are said to be very good indeed.

A reader reports doing a visa run to Ban Lem, Cambodia last weekend where he saw they appear to have just built a swanky new border / immigration post, all set up with many windows and channels for the outgoing and incoming visa runners. The Cambodians take a different route. Now why would they spend so much and provide these facilities if a ‘finish the visa run’ scenario was being contemplated?

And still on the subject of visas, it appears as if your passport may be marked when you come in on a 30 day visa exemption stamp. A number may be written in your passport next to 30 day stamps. A reader reports that he did a 30 day visa run this week and noticed that the immigration official had done everything as normal but that he had written the number 1 with a circle around it. It makes me wonder if this means the first of the mooted 3 allowable runs? Has anyone else noticed this in their passport? And another reader, a close friend, reports that when he came through this week the lady at immigration had a green highlighter pen. After stamping his passport, the Immigration officer put a small mark on the stamp using a green highlighter pen. What was this for? I have never heard of this happening before either.

A month or so back a former advertiser to this site who sold HIV test kits advertised his business for sale. A reader agreed to buy it, but since then the deal fell through. The business is now available again. It includes a stock of test kits, the website, existing advertisements around Bangkok and a SIM card for a mobile that was used previously. It also includes free advertising on a very high profile site for Westerners in Thailand. Interested parties should contact: [email protected]. The price is low and the cashflow is very good!

One of the most popular expat hangouts, the Irish Xchange, has some interesting positions available – Restaurant / Pub Manager & Assistant Manager. Applicants require a minimum of 3 years' management experience within the hospitality / food & beverage industry, with experience in all aspects of day to day restaurant operations. Interested candidates are invited to send a current CV & photograph to: The Irish Xchange, 1/5-6 Soi Convent, Silom, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500 or email: [email protected] or telephone (+66) 081 4240135. You can find more about them at their website – Irishxchange.

For some time now I have been highlighting in this column the dangers of using computers in internet cafes with keyloggers being a real problem here in Thailand. There is a very easy way to defeat keyloggers. Go to R oboform. Their portable program called RoboForm2Go can be set to contain all your passwords encrypted on a USB device. You can make backups of the database to other USB devices or to hard drives. RoboForm2Go remembers what website you are, offers to save that login and the password associated with it meaning you do not type in anything and so the keystroke recorders do not catch anything.

If you're really missing Thailand, check out this guy's videos which can all be viewed online. A lot of material for Pattaya lovers there. Soon I wonder what you won't be able to find on the internet!

It's good to see in this report from Time magazine that Cambodia is cracking down on the icky stuff.

This article from the New York Times is about the coup in Thailand and tourism. This fine newspaper seems to have a reporter or two who are into Thailand, for it gains more articles than its insignificance would rate.

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. 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 live with my girlfriend. It is her house and of course she has family living here, her older bro, his wife and 2 sons – 7 & 13 and her own 5 year old and the 2 of us. I want to get our own place. She said early on in our relationship that she would "follow me anywhere". Now she seems very happy with the status quo (I pay all the bills) and now says she wants to stay here. Should I just move out and rent a place nearer where I want to be and see if she follows? I feel somewhat guilty at wanting to break up the family, but this is not for me. If you recommend I talk it over with her, HOW? If we can't work it out do I just pack and go?

Mrs. Stick says: She is your girlfriend. She is not your wife. If she was your wife then maybe things might be a little different, but you're not married. I know that foreigners do not usually like to live together in a situation like this but for Thai people it is normal. Even if you were married, your wife might still want to live like this. Talk with her and see exactly what she wants. If what you want is two different things, then you may have to re-consider the situation.

Question 2: My Thai wife and I have been married for almost 5 years and every thing seems to be OK. We have been supporting her mother and father with a small, but adequate monthly payment and built a new home (in my wife’s name) for them to live in. Recently I learned that her brother has been most uncomplimentary about me and has in fact lobbied my wife against me. I assume he is upset that more money is not being sent (what we send is more than 2 times what her father made as a tailor when he was working (he is too old to work now). Now my question is should I upbraid him by reminding him how much we have given to the family, as I would to a man here, or should I react differently?

Mrs. Stick says: This is a very difficult situation because we do not know exactly what the brother is saying, or why he is saying it. Have you done anything which might make him justified in saying what he is saying? Think carefully about that. It would not be a good idea for you to show your feelings to the brother about what he has said. Tell your wife how you feel about it and let her deal with it. She will know the best, most effective way to handle it. If you were to openly criticise the brother or express your feelings about what he has said it will make things even worse.

Question 3: I have noticed that many lady-bar are reluctant to talk money when they are making a sex transaction. "I go with you" is all they say, and they don't seem to bother to name a price. Even the following morning, if asked how much, they might again answer "up to you". Is it a real embarrassment or shame to talk about money for such a trade? I have yet to understand this.

Mr. Stick says: I'll answer this one as the Mrs. really doesn't have a clue about this sort of thing. Generally speaking the gogo girls will name you a price if you ask them, as will many freelancers but girls in other places, particularly Pattaya beer bars, will not name a price. It might be that it is a quiet time of year and they don't want to scare you off with a high price, or it might be that they expect that you know what the standard price range is and will pay them accordingly. Remember, the prices in Pattaya beer bars have been constant for a very long time. As a guide – and I admit I am WAY out of date on this, I believe that the rates these days are generally in the range 1,000 – 1,500 / 2,000 – 2,500 for Bangkok gogo girls, and 1,000 / 2,000 for Pattaya gogo girls, the two prices being short time and long time. Pattaya beer bar girls remain on the old 500 / 1,000 pricing structure, as far as I know. Again, let me re-iterate that these prices may be wrong. When a girl says up to you, she expects you to pay within the acceptable range. I remember many years ago a fellow I knew was told "up to you" by a girl and he ended up giving her 90 baht. Yes, you read that right, NINETY baht. What an a-hole.

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Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick


Thanks go out to Bangkok Grasshopper and Mr. Write.