Stickman's Weekly Column May 25th, 2008

Is This Love?


The joyous feeling of falling in love, true love, is not something we feel often. That feeling of intense happiness and the warm, fuzzy glow that shrouds everything around us and everything we do, making even the most mundane tasks pleasant, is a feeling we strive for.

When we’re in love we see the world as a great place, we see but good in those around us and we have the confidence to deal with whatever life throws at us. When we’re truly in love, our partner is always there for us, will always do right by us, will love us for the way we are and not what they want us to be – and will never make unreasonable or demanding requests of us. When we’re in love, most everything happening around us is irrelevant. We're genuinely, truly happy because we're in love!

Love is that feeling of silent, private euphoria that that puts a positive spin on everything and helps us to overcome all of life’s challenges. That’s my take on the Western notion of love.

But what of love in Thailand?

A Thai woman loves her family and a Thai woman is supposed to love her husband. She may love her long-time boyfriend. When a family member is in trouble or God forbid, passes away, a Thai woman cries, but when her boyfriend or husband declares that he is about to leave she may scream, yell and become uncontrollably angry. Why is there such a marked difference in her response? Is this love?

It seems to me that the Western concept of love and the Thai concept of love are very, very different. Do the Thais have the same notions of love as we Westerners? How does our concept of love differ to theirs? Is the saying "love will conquer all" valid in Thailand?

Love, in a perfect world, really can conquer most things. Whatever should arise in your relationship and whatever challenge the two of you face, love should be able to overcome it, should it not? If you truly love someone, your feelings for your partner are so strong that unless they have betrayed you and dedicated or given their love to someone else, surely whatever arises can be overcome. That’s the theory. The reality can be a little different…

Thais are brought up rather differently to Westerners. Thai kids are allowed much less freedom (don't be fooled by the sight of kids running riot in their neighbourhood or even public places like on the skytrain and in restaurants) and there is a degree of indoctrination in their upbringing. Certain concepts – Thai concepts – as well as cultural rules and accepted norms are drummed into Thai kids from a very young age. Some of these concepts concern the relationships and bonds between the different family members and their importance. These bonds are sacred and cannot be broken. The family must always come first. That is the family of birth.

One of the beautiful things about love is that it is unconditional. Apart from absolute betrayal, true love should enable partners to overcome whatever life throws at them. Arguments and even major rows should be nothing more than speed bumps in life’s journey if the couple truly loves one another.

But is this an ideal that may not apply to Thais, or may contravene what has been drummed into the populace from a very young age? If there is a conflict of interest between the foreign husband and the Thai family, how will the Thai wife feel? Where will her loyalty be? Not a comfortable situation for her, but one she will inevitably face.

In addition to the idea of the family unit being the centre of each family member's universe, Thai culture places expectations on each and every Thai. Irrespective of their background and their station in life, Thais are judged, and while they may be subject to different criteria depending on their particular station in life, there will always be certain expectations.

A Thai woman romantically involved with a foreign man has the ultimate opportunity to raise her status. I can’t help but feel that this has become distorted to the point where Thai women from some sectors of society involved with a foreign man will be looked down on if she has not managed to take advantage of him to advance herself and her family – where onlookers will feel her loyalty should be. Clearly this is not love, at least not the Western concept of love.

It is as if there is this cultural expectation and acceptance of the idea that she will benefit significantly from him. Failure to do so may see her viewed as a failure. These societal expectations from some quarters can hamper the chance of true love flourishing as she strives to be accepted by her peers. It might not be that she has to take advantage of her hubby per se, but he should be there to help not just her, but her family – and this needs to be visible. Most import that.

Of course it's admirable that a foreign man may assist his Thai wife’s less well-off family, but to what extent? Many Thai women, particularly those from less privileged backgrounds, put out their hand at every opportunity in an attempt to facilitate the flow of money or valuables from her husband to her family, often to the point that it causes much difficulty in her own marriage, perhaps through ill feeling and emotional damage on the part of her husband, or perhaps through resulting financial troubles.

The vast majority of Thai women put their mother, father, siblings, children from a previous relationship and maybe even more distant relatives ahead of their foreign husband in the list of importance. This is quite difficult for a foreign husband to accept when he is devoted to her with both his heart and his wallet. And that is to say nothing of the idea that in the West our partner and our children would usually come first, followed by our parents and so on.

The demands some Thai women place on their foreign husband isn’t just enough to rock the marriage, the mere fact that the demands took place in the first place defies the idea that love even exists! Is this a loving relationship? I put it to you that it is not!

Where it starts to get twisted is that our romantic notions of love and doing the best for our partner can actually be used against us. How many times have you heard a foreigner complaining about his wife, relaying that she had said something along the lines of “If you love me then this would not be a problem” or “If you love me you will give me xxxxx baht or buy me a xxxxx.” Many women exploit what they perceive as the ultimate Western weakness! It's so often manipulated – and once finely tuned it becomes an ingrained strategy as she always ends up getting what she wants, be it for the good of the marriage or not.

Thai women are judicious of their use of the word 'love' with Thais, but liberal of its use with foreigners. That should say something.

Unfortunately they simply don’t see that what they are doing is highly manipulative and a Thai wife may genuinely believe that the failure or refusal of her husband to provide what she considers a very simple request reflects badly on her. It is one horribly vicious circle.

The bottom line is that, sadly, many Thai women truly believe that love equates to…money! The idea that if you truly love her then you will give in to her constant whims, a cycle that once started is almost impossible to end. The usual way of breaking it is the ending of the relationship.

Unfortunately the idea that love is all about money is re-enforced in so many ways that it has become ingrained. Challenging the concept is a battle of huge proportions.

Is this any different to the West? Of course the same exists in some countries, and if readers' emails and friends' stories are anything to go by, American women rival their Thai sisters' love affair of the folding stuff. The idea that love equals money is far from being exclusive to Thailand.

At the end of the day, the constraints, and perhaps more succinctly, the expectations of the local culture can crush the notion of love, that is true love, in Thailand. Seeking genuine happiness – the main byproduct of genuine love – is not high in the list of objectives of some local women. It is, sadly, much more important that they are seen to be a successful person in the eyes of their peers – and that means the visible accumulation of money or items of value (property, car, gold etc.). Thais, like many Asians, tend to be much more pragmatic about marriage and the Western notion of true love does not seem to be something they necessarily strive for.

It is a shame that the low self-esteem and the resulting perceived necessity to show off some form of wealth means there are some who will never experience true love. They may say they are in love and they may declare their love for you, but is it really love, at least what is considered love elsewhere? And if she doesn't, or isn't able to truly love you, will you be able to experience the personal euphoria of true love yourself?

Where was this picture taken?


Please don't let anyone tell you Stickman is a site for naughty boys. Last week's picture was taken of the entrance way to Angelwitch in Pattaya and only two people got it right! If Stickman readers couldn't recognise one of the biggest and most popular naughty bars in Pattaya, how can we be termed naughty boys? We're the wholesome bunch and the rest are the perverts! This week's picture was taken outside of Bangkok. The first person to email me with the correct location of the picture wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the British Fish And Chips restaurant. The second person to get it right wins a free jug of margarita, valued at 840 baht from Charley Brown's, a popular Tex-Mex restaurant, offering authentic cuisine and delicious margaritas. Charley Brown's is located in the small sub-soi off Sukhumvit Soi 11.

Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. The Charley Brown's prize MUST be claimed within 7 days. Prizes are not transferable. Prize winners cannot claim more than one prize per month.

FROM STICK MARK II'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick Mark II.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.

EMAIL OF THE WEEK Undesirable creatures at the Nana.

I've stayed at Nana Hotel on many previous occasions, and it must be praised for good food, reasonable prices and an excellent location close to the action. My recent visit and stay at Nana most probably was my last. This was the first time I noticed cockroaches in my room which was located on the third floor. I saw one, two, three, several roaches when up and doing what men do at night, and even more in the morning. I found one in my luggage bag, and that was it for me. Before going on a tour early in the morning, I talked to the night manager (it was really early in the morning) and to the lady in the reception, and they suggested I get a room higher up, to which I agreed so I packed my stuff ready to be moved. Well, when returning from a trip around three in the afternoon, there were of course new people on duty and they knew nothing of my new room. I re-iterated that I wanted a new room, and the lady working at reception desk was rather negative. I insisted on a new room and she asked me to come back in an hour. Back an hour later, and she was totally uninterested in solving my problem. So I went out again, to a travel agent further down the soi, and booked a room in another hotel. Went back to the receptionist with the attitude problem and told her that I was checking out and that they were losing a customer. She couldn't care less. I would recommend pest control be called in to fight the cockroach problem, because they do have a serious problem. It also bothers me that the kitchen to their popular buffet and restaurant on the ground floor is quite possibly also infested. And perhaps a smiling course for the receptionist would help. Conclusion: I am not even considering Nana Hotel for my next visit to BKK.

* I have to add something here. The cockroach problem is very real and the restaurant staff are also completely disinterested. I had a cockroach leap out of my salad there about 3 months backStick.

Hotel blues, again.

I went to eat breakfast at the Emerald at Rachada. I told them I was not staying at the hotel so I would pay for it. I was treated like a criminal, had 2 waiters watch me, presumably so that I didn't leave without paying and they handed me the bill while I was still eating! I'm not even getting upset about it anymore. I told them off in Thai and they really felt ashamed I guess, cos they blushed. Speaking Thai makes it easier here, cos then they realise that you're a human being, not an ATM.

The benefits of learning a language.

I noticed a couple of emails in your recent column raising the question of why learn Thai when, amongst other things, it is not spoken outside of the country. Surely it is a challenge and extremely satisfying when you can communicate to someone in a foreign language. Personally I have tried to learn to read and write the language but failed. Attending classes after a day's work proved a little too much. However I did improve my vocabulary which has helped and my understanding of what my Thai colleagues are saying has dramatically improved even if I can't respond in Thai. There are many languages that are not widely spoken outside of that country. The point is making the effort where you live and work to learn, as a minimum, some basic phrases and courtesies. I suspect the authors of those emails are either ignorant or are just frustrated that they cannot communicate as well as a lot of farang residents here. The easiest excuse is then to say "there's no point learning it'. As a Brit and somewhat lacking in the field of languages I have a lot of respect for people who have made the effort and can speak a foreign language, in whatever country. By the way have you ever come across a Thai person in another country and said "hello" or "how are you" in Thai. It makes their day judging by the expression on their face. That's a good enough reason to learn Thai.

TLL is not for everyone.

Enough's enough, I dropped out of ThaiLoveLinks. It just felt like a cumbersome, painstaking method of having a 'bargirl' conversation. What your name, where you come from, how long you stay in Thailand et al. The first day I had 25 messages – some without photos and some with photos I wish I'd never seen. It's a humbling experience. You often get a feeling of your own attractiveness by what type of girls give you the eye and flirt with you. I felt thoroughly demoralised when I saw the type of girls who believed they were suitable to date me. I know how that sounds, but when a 42 year-old 60 kg Thai woman with cigarette-pack-photo teeth hits on you, it kind of ruins your day.

Exceptional rudeness and ignorance.

I have recently moved to Thailand with my family and I'm feeling like I haven't made a great move. My family is happy and I've secured a pretty good job but the attitude of my fellow farangs is really pissing me off. I really have never come across such exceptional rudeness and ignorance. The number of times that these people have walked past me in the building in a situation where it is almost impossible to not acknowledge someone is unbelievable. It must be said that I have no real desire to make friends with these people but it does make the blood boil a little when you acknowledge someone and they blank you. I just wonder why they have to be like this. Judging from their appearance on the way to work, they are certainly not high flyers and some of their tattooed girlfriends leave a lot to be desired. My wife suggested that perhaps they are like dogs that have marked their territory and see a new good looking guy as a threat. One often listens to disgruntled westerners complaining about western societies and the bad attitude of the women there. Could these be some of the same people who are walking around the building with their nose in the air. To be fair to the guys, the farang women in the building seem to be just as bad. Luckily, I've met a few good people on my nights out and built some good friendships. I'm just very disappointed with the situation in my own apartment building which I never would have envisaged.

It ain't racism.

In response to the many farangs to view Thais as "racist", could they possibly be confusing classism with racism? Everyone knows that Thailand is an extremely class-conscious society. Just observe how hi-so and middle class Thais treat members of the working class. Farangs are not exempt. Thais can tell the class background of farangs – from the way they dress, they way they behave, the way they speak, the way they live (and with whom), and the way they party. And, let's face it, a large portion of the farang population in Thailand is not what one would term "classy". In fact, they dress, behave, etc., in a far more lowly manner than the lowest class Thais. It ain't racism, guys.


Will the Rainbow bars' girls' infatuation with Japanese guys diminish after the brutal murder of Biw, a dancer from Rainbow 2, by a Japanese man on Friday? This jealous, possessive freak followed her into Nana Condo where, some time after they had entered, a fight broke out. From all accounts he went crazy, smashing her face repeatedly, strangling her and apparently breaking her neck, killing her. He then attempted to fly from the balcony of the condo directly back to Japan but fell to the ground, killing himself instantly. These girls have awful lives, but what an absolutely awful way to go. What sort of fall out will follow this tragedy? Are Japanese guys going to suffer, both at the hands of the girls, as well as be on the receiving end of comments from Western customers – as has already started. There was much talk about the Japanese on Friday night in Nana Plaza with many girls revealing that while the Japanese pay well, the girls are treated MUCH WORSE by the Japanese than they are by Western customers, with many Japanese guys known for slapping the girls. This incident might even see a crackdown of some sort by the Lumpini Police Department because this incident has hit the big time, making the front page of Thai Rath, the most widely read Thai language newspaper. It should be noted that the Japanese who venture to the farang bar areas are not the salarymen of old and many are NOT the well-mannered Japanese you used to see, but younger guys who seemingly have no idea of how to treat a woman.

The re-opening of the Big Mango is just around the corner, the exact date to be announced very, very soon. The newer, bigger, better Mango will be located in a sub soi off Sukhumvit soi 4, just a little further down from Nana Plaza. A big party is planned for the re-opening so keep an eye out for confirmation of the date.

The Russian invasion continues in Pattaya with more and more signs erected around town in Russian. At the bus station, on the songtaews, in restaurants, in some gogo bars, all over really. Russian might not become the second language in Pattaya in a hurry, but it is clear evidence of the increasing numbers choosing to holiday in Pattaya. That said, there aren't that many Ruskies in town at the moment, at least not compared to a few months ago.

Raw Hide in Soi Cowboy has upped the price of beer to 130 baht and lady drinks are now up to 110 baht.

A girl who worked at Fannies and now works at "The Oasis Bar 2" at Trendy Condo on Sukhumvit soi 13 has been handing out flyers advertising this new bar. Reasonable drinks prices are on offer with beer at 60 baht and whiskey at 80 baht from noon through until 8:00 pm. The flyer also states that they have a pool competition on the first Saturday of the month. I wonder how owners of units in this new condo feel about the bar?!

Baby Dolls in Pattaya is getting reports for all sorts of extremely racy shows.

Cat's Place in the area behind Day Night Hotel in Pattaya is a newish gogo bar that should be of particular interest to those who like tall maidens with deep voices. It's a little hard to find and the closest landmark would be the quaint French restaurant, Bordeaux. It is perhaps 25 metres away. Just don't drink too much before you go to Cat's Place or you might wake up to a shock the next morning.

There's a really cracking line up of pretty ladies in Polo on Walking Street, a great collection some of the prettiest ladies I've seen in any bar in quite some time. The atmosphere is less pleasing. The venue specifically targets tourists and most of the audience – I say audience as opposed to customers – are short term tourists, often from other countries in the region. Beers aren't cheap at 140 baht apiece, a most un-Pattaya like price, but this is one venue I would definitely bring visitors from out of town to – the ladies are very pretty and the shows a little different to what you see elsewhere. Just don't be shy to shoo the girls away when they try and hit you up for a tip after the shows – and have the audacity to sneer and hiss if you dare give anything less than 100 baht.

And the aggression in Polo is not limited to the dancers. One member of the male wait staff was most displeased at my choice not to leave a tip. Having cleared the tray of the coins, he stood right next to me and eye-balled me for 60 seconds, the buffalo somehow thinking that that might influence me – or scare me – into leaving a gratuity. Dreadful stand over tactics it must be said. Observing the goings on, I couldn't help but notice staff harassing customers for larger tips – and I can see why they do it – because most caved in and coughed up more, 20 baht all too often becoming 100 baht. Don't give in to this nonsense!

May is one of the quietest months of the year for tourism and in Pattaya this week many decent name bars were really hurting, with few customers around. The big, big name bars, those which have successfully built up a brand name, that would be the likes of Happy and Peppermint, were doing as well as ever, packed with a seat hard to come by. But the next tier of bars – and I am talking many excellent bars here, were REALLY hurting. It's a similar story in Bangkok. Baccarra is carrying Cowboy and up the road Angelwitch and Rainbow 4 are booming every night, while some neighbouring bars must be struggling to pay the bills.

When there is a raid in a gogo bar these days, it's funny to notice that not only do any naked girls jump off the stage and make a mad dash for the changing room but the service stuff jump into life, hurriedly retrieving all of the ashtrays and try to (usually unsuccessfully) convince customers to put out their lit cigarettes.

For the naughty boys, the chasm between Bangkok and Pattaya prices continues to widen. As rain falls become more frequent, the planes arrive with fewer tourists and locals choose to stay home and avoid the traffic. Less customers means many girls will experience financial pressures. In Pattaya, where prices are lower to start with, and where it is more of a tourist-driven economy, many girls will accept less, but in Bangkok the girls still ask ridiculous prices and sometimes get it from moneyed expats or guys just passing through, only in town for a day or two and often with the attitude "I'm going to have a good time whatever it costs". While Bangkok may not be pricing itself out of the market, the naughty boys actually participating are more likely to be wearers of a suit, than say, someone who stands in front of a blackboard.

Following on from last week's musing about record journey times from Bangkok to Pattaya and vice versa, one fellow I know – and whose word I accept – did Pattaya to Silom Road in a mere hour and 10 minutes. 220 km/h was seen and he reports that not many want to ride in his car these days!

It seems that 90 day reporting at the main Immigration bureau at Suan Plu is taking even longer now than it did in the past. It was reported in this column a few months back that those reporting were experiencing delays and lengthy waiting times. Frustratingly, the waiting times seem to be getting longer and longer. Try three hours this week, simply to confirm your address to the authorities! Let's add in an optimistic 30 minutes to get there, and 30 minutes to get back from wherever you came from and you're up to 4 hours, that is half of a workday, simply to confirm where you live! This bureaucratic madness is burdensome for those who try to play by the rules and it's easy to see why there are a number who simply don't bother to ever do the 90 day reporting – and from all accounts they seldom have a problem!

Some offices of the Immigration department have a better (reader: easier) reputation than others so to circumvent dealing with difficult offices and officers, some enterprising foreigners would lodge their application to stay in the Kingdom at a department of the Immigration department in an adjacent, or perhaps even distant province. The Immigration department no longer allows this and applications for extension to stay must be lodged with the office of the immigration department in the province where you reside. It could be interesting if there is no Immigration department office in your province – I can just imagine the run around you can be sent on!

Is that a red light camera at the Sathorn / Chongnonsee intersection? Or is it a camera to record drivers using their mobiles phones while driving? While I applaud the crackdown on the use of mobile phones while driving, it has to be said that there are far worse driving habits they should also crack down on.

I know readers get irritated when I dwell on the negative side of the bar scene, but sometimes I just can't help myself. I really do feel sad when I see or speak with girls in the naughty bars who have obviously just got off the bus. They're so scared, look lost and I often wish they would have courage to get back on the bus and go back to the safety and support of their family home in the village. But this pales in comparison with the heart-wrenching scene I witnessed last week. Myself and a friend had just come out of Raw Hide to discover the heavens had opened. We perched there at the entrance to Raw Hide, watching the torrential rainfall and the FA Cup Final on a screen outside the bar opposite. And then we noticed her. Ambling up and down Soi Cowboy, the sole figure, moving restlessly but without direction, a little girl of no more than 5 years old carrying a bunch of red roses. There to sell them to foreign tourists, she knew, no doubt from experience, she would be abused, possibly even beaten, if she didn't sell them all. But the heavens had opened and it was teeming down and there was no-one walking up and down the soi. Not a soul to approach to sell the roses to, so heavy was the rain. I have seen some heart-wrenching sights in Thailand but this one will stay with me for a long time. Needless to say, the mother that allows her child to do that is 1,000 times more a whore than any girl who works on Cowboy.

Is there a correlation between the number of sexual partners you have in Thailand and the ability to speak Thai? I am referring here to guys who have not studied the language formally, but still manage to speak it well enough. Yeah, I know this sounds crazy, but I have noticed that those guys who have clocked up a lot of girls (or boys, for that matter) seem to speak the language well, whether the girls were pay for play or more legitimate pick ups seems irrelevant.

It looks like I jinxed it. After the dollar had made some progress against the baht, my comments to that effect have been followed by the once mighty greenback tanking again.

An active business partner is sought for a busy language school on Silom Road who is willing to invest 2.5 million baht and contribute towards the workload. Most generously, a work permit is provided. Contact Jason at 087-047-6077 or e-mail [email protected] if you're interested.

I'll take the credit for this week's quote of the week. While sitting in Baccarra with a pal and chatting with a sweety earlier this week, I came out with "The brains don't match the looks."

The British constabulary enjoys an enviable reputation around the world as perhaps the world's best and most honest police force. This ex-plod would seem to go against the grain.

Last week I wrote about ThaiLoveLinks and this week someone was robbed by a girl he met on the ultra popular dating site.

For those of you who read Thai, here is the Thai Rath's (top selling Thai newspaper) report of the dreadful affair by that Japanese man in Soi Nana. The poor lass's picture can be seen inset.

Ask Mrs. Stick

After being precariously close to ending up on the scrap heap, readers have resumed sending in questions for Mrs. Stick. She is happy to answer any questions regarding inter-racial relationships as well as cultural peculiarities that may be confusing or baffling you. She *needs* your questions if her section of the column is to remain!

Question 1: I know you’re not an attorney, but I think you might be able to handle a legal question: what are the legal ages in Thailand for entering bars (and nightclubs), for buying alcohol, and for consensual sex?

Mr. Stick says: I can answer this question. The legal ages are as follows:
To enter bars and nightclubs as a customer: 20.
To work in a bar or nightclub: 18.
To buy alcohol: 18.
To have consensual sex: 15 (with parents' permission), or 18 (without parents' permission).

Question 2: My question is about the differences in the way Thai and Westerners raise their children. I don't know if my wife's methods are typically Thai or if she is all on her own but as I see it she has conditional love for our children where as I have unconditional love. My wife will withdraw her love if the children do not do what she asks. She will say to our 4 year old daughter, "mummy will not love you if you continue to misbehave" and "if you do what mummy says I will love you" and "keep mummy happy and I will love you". I have told my wife that I am very unhappy with what she says and that I think it is wrong and psychologically damaging. She says that she wants to be in control of the children's lives until they are married and that she does not want them to be wayward western teenagers that do not respect their parents. So do Thais typically raise their children with conditional love? I also expect that my wife's love for me is conditional on being a good provider etc.

Mrs. Stick says: We were very poor when I was young and we lived in very small army housing on an army base. Mum and Dad always treated us better than they treated themselves. They did everything for us. Even when our family had little money, we were given sweets and treats. We knew the rules and we behaved but we were never threatened like this. Never. Mum and Dad loved us and they never ever said anything like your wife says. We knew and we still know now that even if we do something bad or wrong that we will be loved. The love from our parents is unconditional and our love for them is unconditional. I never heard words like that from Thai parents before. Not once. It is not normal for Thai parents and I think it is your wife's style. She should not say it is Thai style because I tell you it is not!

Mr. Stick says: I may not be a parent but I think your wife's choice of words is highly questionable and could potentially re-enforce a really bad message. Put an end to this nonsense she is saying. Make it known that what she is saying is totally unacceptable! I know a lot of guys are not sure what is normal in Thailand and so give their partner some leeway, not wanting to potentially say something that goes against their partner's cultural beliefs, but what she is saying is, in my opinion, really fxxxed up.

This site is changing a little bit, not in terms of its appearance, but its structure. That means that the location of the parts of the site may change in the directory structure. If you have bookmarked certain pages on the site you may find some links invalid. What this means is that if you want to find a certain page on the site, you should enter through the front door, meaning the main StickmanBangkok.com index page. The names of other pages and sub-index pages may change and you might see a page not found error if you try and enter in a side door.



Your Bangkok commentator,
Very happy with today's opening piece. I like it a lot. 9.5/10
Stick