Stickman's Weekly Column November 16th, 2008

Thai Bosses Disappoint Me


Thai staff aren't shy to speak out about Western managers and how they find the direct task-orientated approach of Western managers to be too direct. Many a Thai employee prefers the comfort and familiarity of a Thai boss. But what about Thai bosses? What are they like? If you're a Westerner working in Thailand the odds are that your boss is Thai…

As I have written before, Thailand can be a fun place to work. The Thai concept of sanuk (fun and enjoying everything you do) is an integral feature of most Thai workplaces and with things generally remaining light and relaxed, most people enjoy working in Thailand. Add with the political correctness nonsense that mars the fun factor in the West absent, the Thai workplace is even better.

But it's not all fun and games in the Thai workplace. While your colleagues tend to be nice, pleasant and can be much fun to work with, I have found Thai bosses to be a bit of a nightmare. From unscrupulous practices and outright lies to taking extreme liberties with their employees' private time and asking for things they have no right to, Thai bosses make a pretty good fist of ruining the workplace experience.

Before I get into the meat of the article, it would perhaps help to understand my personal employment background. For much of my life I have worked in a position where I have been the boss, either in charge of my own venture or employed by someone else but in charge of a team. With experience being the boss I believe I have some ideas about management. My personal philosophy has always been to hire the best people, treat them well and reward them accordingly. As an employee, I respond very well to a good manager but very badly to someone who perhaps shouldn't hold me in such a position. The purest in me comes out in the work environment.

The liberties Thai bosses take with their underlings are perturbing. Perhaps the most common way this manifests itself is the idea that members of staff should not go home before their boss, something I find to be an odious concept. Imagine hard-working Noi from the countryside, mid 20s and a couple of years out of university and trying hard to work herself up the corporate ladder. She has enough to worry about as it is, living a distance from the office and battling traffic to reach the office and return to her sanctuary 6 days a week. She's got pressure to send a chunk of her hard-earned home every month. To make matters worse, while her contract stipulates that the work day is 8 AM – 5 PM, her boss seldom leaves before 7:30 PM – and so she is as good as compelled to remain in the office until he (or she) has left, whether she has anything to do or otherwise! To leave early would be an insult to the boss and cause them to lose face – and that is the last thing any Thai wants. For 6 days a week – yes, the 6 day week is the norm for many, she feels like she's on a conveyer belt between work and home. Those extra 2½ hours she stays at work a day, that is 15 hours per week, can be the difference between a happy life or something else…

Sometimes it feels like it is open season on farangs in the workplace too. At my second job in Thailand, I was asked by my employer for my passport. It was explained that it was needed for the work permit application. I gave it to him. Come the end of the day my passport hadn't been returned and the boss had disappeared so I hunted down his right hand man, the chief admin guy, the fellow who I knew was responsible for work permit applications. He told me that my passport was locked in the safe but he would not return it to me. What the fxxk?! Why not? He explained that the school held everyone's passport and returned it to them on the completion of their contract.

What if I want to go for a weekend away from Thailand? What if there is an emergency at home and I had to jump on the next plane to NZ? What if a cop stops me and demands to see my passport to check my visa status? Incredibly, I was told that I could "apply" to the boss to have my passport returned early.

It was the one time when I have physically threatened a Thai. After ascertaining that he did indeed have the code to the safe, he was told in no uncertain terms that his pretty boy looks would be replaced by something all together different if I did not have my passport back in 60 seconds. While I stuck it out with that employer for a while I never did get a work permit and that ultimately resulted in my decision to leave. I suddenly knew how Phillipinas and others from poor countries feel in places like Saudi Arabia where such is the norm.

At another job the foreign members of staff were often asked to do extra work outside of the school. This was extra duties outside of our contract and off the school premises. The idea was that the foreign teachers would be sent outside the school to help less privileged Thai kids by doing "voluntary teaching". This would earn the employer kudos. We were willing to help out and agreed but before we knew it the program expanded and we were being asked to come in at the weekend, gratis. Now I am not against putting in some extra hours but there needs to be some sort of reward or recognition for the extra work. Simply expecting someone to give up their own time without some sort of reward doesn't fly with me. Suddenly it was turned around on us and if we didn't partake then our future employment was not be guaranteed. It was never openly spelled out like that but the inference was clear.

It was around that time that I began to see the attitude prevalent with many Thai employers that simply by employing and paying you on time the agreed amount every month that you owe them, not just to provide the services for which you are contracted, but for whatever they wish you to do. It's almost like you belong to them, like some sort of slave to be exploited in any way they feel. Of course employees should be adaptable and willing to put in some extra hours from time to time, but when the extras become the norm and you're merely an underling on the treadmill to nowhere, it becomes exploitation.

Another thing that annoys me about most Thai bosses is their utter ignorance of what is going on around them, mistaking activity for achievement. Many seem to have no idea what their staff are doing. With many older Thais in complete ignorance of computers, if they see their staff banging away at the keyboard they presume they are busy, when in fact they're being chatted up by handsome Stickman readers in online chat!

The concept of on the job training is largely unknown and for new recruits it can be a case of sink or swim. Simply explaining what someone is required to do and just as importantly, why it should be done that particular way, are entirely foreign concepts to a Thai manager.

There's no concept of developing staff so that they can operate more efficiently and / or do more for the company as well as develop as people. Keep them dumb so they cannot get a job elsewhere seems to be the strategy. Dumb down those who aren't that clever to begin with. It's all rather sad.

Factionalism becomes a problem and seldom does a Thai boss try to knock workplace politics on the head. In fact workplace politics thrive and often stem from the bosses themselves.

Of course so much of the problem goes back to the appointment of the boss who is invariably appointed due to his or her age. Ranging from semi-suitable to totally unsuitable, what hope do those further down the ladder have of learning anything from their boss? And with the world changing at a rapid pace, I would question the wisdom of appointing an old school Thai to manage modern day employees.

So many Thai bosses use the culture to their advantage. As the boss it is they who calls the shots but they get a double whammy with Thai culture dictating that a younger member of staff must defer to the older, and by definition wiser. Young, well-educated Thais, especially those with exposure to other ways – often Western ways – of doing things, can find older Thai managers infuriatingly frustrating to work for.

It goes without saying that Thai bosses don't have an open door policy as you would generally find in the West. Merely making a suggestion to a Thai boss would immediately cause them to lose face – and if they were to adopt what was suggested would exacerbate the situation further. The culture gets in the way of management, at least the Western concept of management. In Thailand and to a Thai boss, face is more important than getting the job done or making the best decision. I guess one of the main differences is that where Western managers seem to be more task-oriented, Thai managers are often more relationship-oriented. Of course everyone is different. It's easy for a Western member of staff to feel that a Thai boss wants employees to make a show of interest, but never actually comment on anything!

Another funny thing I have witnessed with Thai bosses is gross favouritism with staff. Food plays a large part in the workplace. When a member of staff goes away to another province at the weekend, or possibly overseas, there is an expectation that they will bring back some regional snacks to share with their colleagues. It's a nice custom of working in a Thai office. But the way the Thai boss handles this can be humorous. I have seen some bosses exit their office and make a point of giving food items to their favourites, and not to others. How small-minded is this?!

Fortunately the problem of dodgy Thai bosses is not that widespread for Westerners working in Thailand. Highly paid foreigners often have a great deal of autonomy with many reporting to another foreigner or even to an office abroad – meaning limited liaison with a Thai boss. Those who suffer worst tend to be the usual suspects, teachers and others at the bottom of the expat ladder.

As I see it the biggest issue of all that a Thai boss has managing Western subordinates is that all of the benefits a Thai employee expects from a Thai boss are largely redundant to a Westerner. Small treats, a reference, a boost to their reputation working in a name company and a wing of protection have value to Thai employees but mean somewhere between precious little and nothing to the average Westerner. What is important to us, as an employee, is rather different to what is important for a Thai member of staff.

The cultural divide explains the peculiar requests and unusual management style of a typical Thai boss. It's never easy to know quite what to make of them. I always found the best philosophy was simply to agree to do whatever they said or requested – and when I was in doubt or against it, just never do it. That's what the Thais do and as crazy as it sounds, it works!

Fortunately most foreigners do not suffer the same crap from their bosses that some Thais do. We tend to stick up for ourselves and are much less willing to accept nonsense. Just the fact that we are a foreigner employed in Thailand – which supposedly means that we are hired for the special skills we bring not easily found in country – so the Thai employer is much more wary of how we are managed. And Thais know that foreigners bite when pushed too far whereas there's not much chance a young Thai will stand up to the Thai pooyai.

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken towards the bottom of Silom Road, underneath the expressway. Only one person got it right. The readers' responses to last week's picture were HOPELESS! This week's isn't that hard – I am sure that if you look closely you'll get it! 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. The third prize is offered by ThailandFriends.com, an online dating community that boasts over 50,000 members, hosts live events in and around Thailand and allows basic members to send 5 messages a day for free. The prize offered is one month premium membership which adds more to the ThailandFriends' experience with unlimited messaging, detailed member searches, 24 profile pictures, and a whole lot more.

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. The ThailandFriends prize must be claimed within one week.

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

EMAIL OF THE WEEK – Thai service standards, vintage 2008.

I definitely see the decline in service by Thai wait staff and it's not limited to the bars. Recently, my wife and I were unable to get the attention of any waitress, short of leaving our booth to find someone. Can you imagine having to find someone to present you a bill and accept payment? I know it's difficult on them, considering there was only one other table occupied, and maybe only eight staff members on hand. At another restaurant not long ago, we were never even asked if we would like something to drink. What was most aggravating, though, was the last time I had to wait for my order at Mr. Donut, while not one but three workers stood behind the counter debating who should answer a ringing mobile phone, as they passed it amongst themselves and chatted about the person calling. If, heaven forbid, you say something about the service, they proceed to shoot you dirty looks as they say ugly things about you right in front of you. And then there is the issue of tipping. A taxi driver recently assumed, after a very short fare, that we intended to give him a 30 baht tip, as he made no effort to provide change.

Who wants to be an English teacher?

The latest high expectation of foreign teachers…my friends have been asked to give up their three day holiday (December 4 – 6) to go teach an English camp. Not only are they certain that the students haven't had enough English during their regular school calendar, that they're dying to give the school even more money for more English, but they think that the foreign teachers want to do it for, get this, NO MONEY. When asked what incentive there was for the teachers to volunteer their holiday time for this, they were told that they would be fed at no charge. Isn't that mighty white of them? And you haven't even heard the best part yet. I know you've heard people who have the feeling that English teachers are little more than babysitters, but they're actually requesting that the teachers SLEEP in the same hotel rooms as the children. Can you imagine this happening in any first world country in this day and age? Amazing Thailand…

Taking the 'low risk' option.

Once again you put your finger on the problem: Thais scam and cheat farangs because that's where the money is and they can do it with impunity. The bar girl that scammed your buddy with the 1,000 baht counterfeit note could not wait to let you see her dancing in the bar during your next visit, showing you that she's still up to no good. (By the way, well done recovering your friend's two legal 500s). Your November 9 lead story clearly illustrates two fundamental Thai character flaws – greed and fear. The dancer wanted to rip off farangs but backed off when confronted with Thai style justice like calling in the phu yai to help. Of course the Thais (ok, some not all) are equal opportunity scammers and will happily rip each other off if a low risk opportunity presents its self. Unfortunately most farangs must appear to be low risk. I don't mean to sound moralistic, just realistic. If I were a Thai which fork in the road would I take? The corrupt, power grabbing rich road on the left or the honest, hard working – and poverty bound – road to the right? Makes me wonder…


Thai dating at ThaiFriendly.com

Despite what some may proclaim, everything is NOT fine!

Don't pay any notice to the rose-coloured glasses brigade who insist that Thailand is the greatest place on earth. Report honestly on what you see, hear and do – that's why I enjoy the column so much – even if I don't partake in the bar scene! If I wanted the "everything's fine" reporting you seem to be getting pressure to do, I'd just read Thaiwheezer.

From the rich, to the poor.

Spoke to my wife yesterday. Her family lives in a farming village about an hour outside of Korat. She told me that 5 tractors and one car had been stolen in local villages in the past few weeks and everyone is worried as a loss such as this can destroy a family financially. My father-in-law parks his tractor in the house at night for safe keeping. As the number of farang visitors, "potential crime victims" drop, Thai criminals are having to resort to robbing their own countrymen of their meagre possessions.

The wrong place at the wrong time.

I found the story on counterfeit currency interesting. It's situations like that where the Kingdom can turn bad very quickly for a tourist. Even accidentally passing some bad baht would be certain to yield a monkey house experience. I have been thinking about these random potential situations lately…like having a bargirl in your car, getting stopped, girl turns out to be a yaba tablet mule. Random, but wow it could mess things up! Especially with the economy the way it is and the brownies (cops) looking to rip off farang even more than usual.

The problem of Thai women getting home late at night.

We live in Pakkred which is in Nonthaburi and our local AUA is at Muang Thong Thani. There must be English language providers closer to home than Lumpini Park. There is also always public transport to get home on up to 11:00 PM (not the fastest way or the most comfortable but it's there, it's cheap, and we use it all the time). Having said that, I acknowledge the taxi problem. My wife's sister won't use one late at night for the same reason the guy outlines. Can the wife make a regular arrangement with a taxi driver or firm she trusts? Another option is to talk to her husband on her mobile (or pretending to) as she flags down a taxi and continue the conversation in the cab, making a point of answering (loudly) questions such as "What's the number of the cab?" (to be found on the inside back door handle). She can always explain (in Thai) that her husband is making sure she is safe.

Has the worm turned? Bars were noticeably busier this past week with many more customers than there were say, even two weeks ago. To reiterate the apparent increase in customer numbers, some bar owners confirmed for me that their take this past week has been well up on what it was last week. November is considered the start of the high season – it's when the hotels put their prices up and when the weather improves markedly – and while it is still too early to tell just how high the high season will be, tourist numbers *have* picked up. Yippee!

Bar owners have been pulling their hair out (those that have some, at least) and enduring endless frustrations at the late notice given as to whether they could open for business this weekend. This is one aspect of running a bar that we customers just don't see. The early word was that all bars nationwide would be closed and so chances are that a goodly percentage of every bar's staff bought bus tickets to Isaan to go and visit their family. Remember, many bargirls are mothers and don't get to spend much time with their kids. So if the bars were to later find out that it was ok to open it would be with a less than full complement of staff. On top of that are all the various holidaymaking gogo type customers who have taken time out of their Thai holiday to escape the 3 day closure with a side trip to Angeles City or Cambodia. It really was a big mess. I won't even begin to describe which bar areas were open and which weren't, suffice to say that tonight Pattaya bars are expected to be open, Patpong bars are open and those searching hard enough might even find a brew in Cowboy or Nana, if they look hard.

There were many punters who apparently don't read Stickman or Dave the Rave wandering up the mostly dark Soi Cowboy looking for open bars. The only place open for business was Old Dutch which had a fair crowd. The most amazing thing was the total absence of bargirls. Usually there are a few floating around when the bars are closed because many live above the bars. But there were absolutely none at all in the early evening. Many had taken the chance to head upcountry and others went to the royal funeral to pay their final respects. This however was apparently the chance some bar owners were waiting for. Taking advantage of the down time, aesthetic surgeons were called in to several bars for a much needed facelift. Long Gun by far took the lead with no less than 20 Thai surgeons equipped with skill saws and hammers. Let's hope they fix the seats. Suzie Wong's was also under the knife along with Shark bar. The work in Shark bar seemed minor and looked more like water damage repair. When it rains, there is a very rude leak directly over the toilet bowl if you choose to sit there when nature calls. There was also some minor work being done to Déjà Vu.

Out front of Long Gun. Looking into Suzy Wong's

Oh, just heard that Soi Cowboy should be open tonight. Should be.

For future reference, in Bangkok the Biergarten in soi 7 was doing a roaring trade and with a customer to lady ratio of 5 : 1 so the dragons clocked up a few records no doubt. And in Pattaya the Wonderful bars on Second Road were open – and were packed! I won't say what these two bars have got in common…because I am sure you can guess!

I have always said that the pool of Thai women from which farangs choose is very, very small. The same girls keep popping up over and over again… A Dutch undercover crime journalist has been chasing a 21-year old Dutch gangster named Joran Van der Sloot. Van der Sloot was recorded on hidden cameras as saying that he had something to do with the disappearance of American Natalee Holloway who went missing in the Dutch Antilles 3 years back. Van der Sloot appears to have got away with it – there wasn't sufficient proof to show that he had any involvement. The Dutch reporter refused to give up and tracked Van der Sloot to….you guessed it, Bangkok! It is now alleged that this worst of all Dutch exports is attempting to sell and smuggle Thai women out of Thailand to work in Dutch brothels. The Dutch reporter tricked Van der Sloot again with a fake setup deal. No girls were exchanged but there was a deal and Van der Sloot received and accepted money for attending a meeting which may not be enough to satisfy a Dutch court, but it sure is enough to pique the interests of the boys in brown who take a very dim view of anything that comes under the headline of people trafficking. This undercover setup was broadcast on Dutch TV to 3 million viewers. The first leak in newspapers was Friday before last when "De Telegraaf" reported the activities of Van der Sloot in Bangkok and the work of his nemesis, the undercover reporter. Apparently the Thai police has asked the Dutch for the undercover footage even though there was no need to do so for it was all over the net already. Van der Sloot did not wait for the cops to arrest him at his Bangkok residence and has apparently fled to Ko Samui. Doing his best to sound like some sort of Mafioso type, he has threatened to send a Thai mercenary death squad to Europe to deal with the reporter. Yeah, right. What a tosser! Apparently the Dutch authorities have translated the footage of Joran Van der Sloot and sent it to Bangkok and the Thai police are now looking for witnesses. It is not clear if Van der Sloot will be arrested and it also not clear whether he is still in Thailand. Whether Joran Van der Sloot has smuggled any girls out of Thailand yet or not also remains unknown but it is clear that he intended to do so. There is clear evidence that he was planning such a crime which is probably enough for an extended stay in the Bangkok Hilton. He had fake business cards printed which he presented to bargirls purporting that he was a businessman operating a model agency in Bangkok with connections with Europe. The girls would be transferred to Amsterdam to "dance" in clubs – at least that is what he told the girls. Van der Sloot would charge European customers 10,000 Euros per girl. He also said to the customer that the girls would work in a brothel for as little as 300 Euros per month. Remember the story titled " Sponsorship Doesn't Work" from July? Well, the girl in the video talking with Van der Sloot was the same girl I tracked in that story… She gets around, doesn't she! Here's the clip on CNN and another video report with slightly clearer footage from ABC.

Queen's Castle 1 in Patpong is closed for renovation and all the staff can be found in Queen's Castle 2 for the time being.

The so called flagships of the King's Group of Bars – King's Castles I, II and Camelot Castle could also do with a major renovation. They are a total disgrace and look like they haven't had a lick of paint or any sort of improvement or maintenance in a couple of decades. These bars feel like an indoor version of a Pattaya beer bar with neon on the roof and walls. They even have the same crap sound systems as Pattaya beer bars! In Patpong this past week for my once every three months or so visit, I once again realised there are few reasons to visit this most decrepit bar area. I hate to say it, but Patpong seems to be getting worse – at least the gogos on the main Patpong soi.

Perhaps the only bar worth visiting is Club Electric Blue which really feels like a transplant straight out of Cowboy – not a bad thing. A good sound system, pretty girls and unlike the rest of Patpong, it's actually lively. Oh, and if you're a drinker they have a liquid buffet on offer. 1,000 baht gets you two hours' unlimited drinking. That's a pretty good deal.

Another thing that sucked the big one in Patpong was the smoking situation. Smoking is allowed and there were smokers in every bar we went. It's almost as if the smokers know that Patpong is a smoking friendly zone and they have all congregated there.

Speaking of bad sound systems, Magic Table's sound system is in desperate need of an upgrade.

It would appear that men, women and dogs are all welcome at the Queen Victoria on Sukhumvit's soi 23. No, I don't mean dog as in the derogatory term for ugly women, but as in the canine variety. Readers have been quick to let me know that this past week at least one aged customer brought his dogs in. Interesting niche of the market the Queen Victoria is aiming for…

What was known as the Down Under Bar in Sukhumvit soi 23 is now called Bradman's Sports Bistro. Cool name. I wonder what the Don would have thought of a bar a stone's throw from Soi Cowboy being named after him? If he's the typical Aussie I bet he was, he would have loved it!

Sheba's is a good bet early in the evening. Not only do they have a decent happy hour with 70 baht prices through until 9 PM, it is to a full parade and a full display, if you know what I mean. No other bar seems to offer the same level of entertainment at the Cheap Charlie hour.

The Thermae is back to closing at 2 AM so if you fancy mingling with men from all over Asia and fancy entering a silly bidding war for the right to spend some time with a rice farmer's daughter then Thermae would be the place for you. Apparently Soi 7's Biergarten is also open through until 2 AM although I wonder quite how busy it is at that hour. Afternoon and early evening are generally the busiest times in soi 7.

Make a note next to Thursday, 27 November 2008 from 2 – 4 PM in your diary if you're a Barrett fan. Local personality and renowned author Dean Barrett will be signing copies of "Identity Theft" at the Texas Lone Star Saloon which is in Washington Square, Sukhumvit Soi 22 and as a sweetener there'll be a free Thanksgiving lunch served at 3 PM. Identity Theft and other favourites from Dean will be on sale at less than retail prices. And the homely Lone Star ladies will be in attendance too!

Flowers to Thailand are proving to be quite the sleuths. The Thailand-based florist which caters to Western men sending flowers and other romantic what not to their Thai love provide receipts to prove someone sent flowers to their darling which they tell me can be useful for teeruk's visa application to Farangland. It shows they have been in a relationship for a period of time. Some clever guys ask that the delivery of flowers NOT be accompanied by a message so the guy can see if the girl is being faithful or not i.e. does she contact the guy to say thank you – if they don't know which of their boyfriends sent the flowers! Also pictures can be taken of the lady when she receives the flowers so it can be seen if she's wearing her engagement ring etc. All very clever, it must be said! (If the investigation business ever picks up and an assistant is needed you guys will be hearing from me…)

It's still not difficult per se, but it is getting a little bit more difficult to photograph Thai people out and about. Long-term readers know that I like nothing more than strolling around the city with a camera around my neck, firing off shot after shot. Bangkok and in fact the whole country is a photographer's dream. It used to be that Thai people would literally jump into the frame of a stranger taking a photo but things are changing. Some will turn away, some will ask you not to take a shot – all of which are fair enough – and the latest trend has it that they will ask for money. It's just another of the many changes I notice in the Kingdom…

I am hearing good things about The Olde Bell British pub in Chiang Mai. I haven't had a chance to check it out myself but people tell me their Sunday roast is great and they have a bunch of ales on draft from the Motherland including John Smith's, Strongbow and Guinness.

I am told that 2 year work permits are available now – the limit used to be one year – and presumably with them comes a 2 year visa. That means less trips to the Labour Department and Immigration which can't be a bad thing.

For locals with a Subway sandwich bonus card, you should note that the scheme will soon end with no more stickers being given out after November 30th. Cards with free sandwiches owing will only be honoured up until 30 December.

Times really are tough. A reader reports that in Pattaya this past week he was down at the beach just reading a book, enjoying the sunshine and minding his own business when along came a farang in his 50's collecting plastic bottles. The reader was asked if he had finished with his water bottle which was given to the foreign scavenger. Boy oh boy, you would not want to get to that stage… The recycling centres here pay absolute peanuts for bottles and what not. This guy must be really desperate if he has fallen to that level. On one hand you have to feel sorry for him but on the other hand how the hell would anyone with any pride or self-esteem allow themselves to get into that position in the first place? Hard times are here for sure.

I am officially a snob. A reader chastised me for failing to mention that all over Bangkok many of the red buses are operating for FREE for a period of six months. The blue text on white background signs on the front of some red buses state that riding on them is free. It's not the sort of thing I mention because I would not dream of waiting for a bus to save a few baht. While admittedly I did use the buses a little in the early days, those days are well and truly behind me. And yes, I am a snob because when I see a foreigner, especially someone who is obviously a local and not a backpacker or budget tourist, I can't help but wonder what he hell they're doing! The buses are uncomfortable and slow – not a good combination!

For readers able to read the Thai script, Thai Rath reports that a 37 year old Brit hanged himself in a hotel room in Sukhumvit soi 26 last week.

The BBC featured an article about internet pimps in Thailand.

The crisis in Thailand exposes a class struggle, again from the BBC.

Former Prime Minister Taksin has divorced his wife Pokémon, ooops, I mean Pojoman, in what most believe is a commercial decision to protect family assets.

Ask Mrs. Stick

Mrs. Stick is happy to answer any questions regarding inter-racial relationships as well as cultural peculiarities that may be confusing or baffling you.

Question 1: In the UK my rule of thumb is that a guy is best looking for a woman maybe 2 – 4 years younger than he is. I am 53. However, in Thailand I seem only to come across interest in women who are in their 20s. And despite how they might entice me – they so do – I often and ultimately do find them to be immature. Do you think that at my age I'll only find – we'd only find – true happiness in Thailand if I try and meet a women aged about 50?

Mrs. Stick says: There are many Thai women around your age who would like to meet a nice man from England but I think they are not confident with foreign men. I also think that English might be a problem too because they are not young and unless they studied English at university it might be hard to communicate with them. I don't know where you can meet women aged around 50. But your age is not a problem and you do not have to think only about women the same age as you. If you are clean and dress nicely and are fun then your age is not a problem and you can find a nice lady younger than you who will be happy with you. Many younger women are mature so take your time to find the right lady.

Mr. Stick says: Let me give a plug to Thai Professional Introductions here which is owned and run by an Englishman about the same age as you. TPI are an advertiser of this site and checking out their site I see they have 150+ women on their books aged over 40. You might want to check them out.

Question 2: I decided not to go to my wife's village near Udon Thani during Songkran of this year much to her displeasure. I really couldn't be bothered with the traffic, the high risk of having a serious accident on the roads, the endless drenching and being the token farang in the village. Actually it was the latter that put me off. It turns out that she was quite pleased I didn't go in the end. The Thai guys hit the beer, whisky and anything else that alters the mind to the extent that they wandered around being a nuisance and fighting for the entire five day period. This was something she would have been ashamed of. Personally I really don't like being near Thai guys when they are drinking, especially when they are in groups. I just get the feeling that things are about to get out of control for no reason. As a Thai do you feel nervous about such situations?

Mrs. Stick says: When we were young Mum wouldn't let us go outside at Songkran time. We had to stay inside because it was dangerous for Thai women to be outside. You know that some people are drunk and they try to disguise throwing water and other things at us but grab us in a sexual way. It's disgusting. This is in the city and I think in the countryside like your wife's village it would be much worse. I don't like it at all. Sometimes I have a night out with my friends. We always go to upscale bars like hotel bars and well-known and popular and expensive bars. There are no problems at these places when people get drunk. If we go to cheaper places there are often problems and as a group of girls it can be hard for us.

Question 3: My wife and I have been married for 2 years. We met online. We have a happy marriage but there is a bone of contention that is slowly driving a wedge between us. My wife is insistent that we do not reveal to friends or relatives where or how we met. We met online and she is ashamed of it. I keep telling her that she has nothing to be ashamed of and it does not matter where we met. We are a married couple in love. It's not like we met in a bar. Do online relationships carry a negative stigma in Thai society? Many of my farang friends met their Thai girlfriend this way too! I don't see what the problem is. Can you please give me some advice?

Mrs. Stick says: I know how your wife feels. I think for young people it is ok to say that you met online but for older people they do not really understand the Internet and relationships that started in cyber world. How many Thai people aged over 40 or 45 can you see using the Internet? Not many. Anyone over that age probably is not a regular Internet user or maybe they never used it in their life. They do not understand it. You know that there have been many reports about dating online and rape and other problems so many older Thai people don't really understand it and actually as soon as they hear "internet dating" they think it is bad! Your wife is just trying to protect your reputations, both yours and hers! Please try to understand that maybe she lies, but she is doing it for a good reason. I think where you met is not important because it is the past. Try and be happy now. I think you must understand that your wife has a good intention, even if you don't see it. Please don't argue with her about this point because I think she is jut trying to do what is best for you and her.

In recent columns there has been much coverage of various scams and deceptive practices perpetrated by locals against Western visitors and residents. In all fairness, these problems are not directed exclusively at Westerners. I heard a classic, yet scarcely believable story when I was listening to the local talk radio station. A taxi driver phoned in and described how he had been cheated by a passenger. The driver explained that he wears a beautiful gold ring and a passenger was rather taken by it. The passenger wanted to buy it and started with an offer of 1,000 baht that went all the way up to 10,000 baht. The driver explained that he had no intention of selling it as he had had it for 30 years and it was a prized possession. Cheekily, the passenger asked if he could try it on just for a moment and the driver begrudgingly, and foolishly, agreed. The traffic was heavy and the taxi found itself caught in a traffic jam. The passenger seized the moment and leapt out of the cab and legged it! The driver said that the passenger was much younger and he didn't have a hope of catching him. Not only did the driver get cheated of the fare, he also lost his prized ring! They cheat their own much more than they cheat us….although we do make for a nice, soft victim in many of their eyes!



Your Bangkok commentator,
6/10 – the opening piece was rushed but the rest is ok.
Stick