During a chat this week over Thai and Western relationships the question was pondered as to why so many don’t make it and fall by the wayside. The question continued to what are some tips for a successful long-term Thai/Western marriage or relationship?
This got me thinking so much that I thought I must turn this in to a post and try to add a bit of light to it, if I possibly could.
The internet is well documented with Thai/Western cross cultural relationship stories. I find more often than not it will place the problems or blame firmly at the door of one side or the other, usually depending whether you are Thai or Western.
When you read or hear about some of the problems within Thai/Western cross cultural relationships it usually trots out as part of its mantra. ”My Western or farang boyfriend/husband does not understand me” or ”my Thai girlfriend/wife is being so un-reasonable” , or why does one or the other do this or that.. More often than not we have a habit of assuming the stories that we hear to be the general rule.
We have a habit of stereo-typing each other by saying incorrectly that Thais are like this” or ”Farangs are like that” . Assumption is usually made from either…..
- You heard this from someone (or a few people)
- You read it somewhere (or in a few places)
- Or you have had experience of this ( just the one experience perhaps)
Each relationship is totally unique and although as nationals of our countries we carry traits of our own nation, we are in fact totally our own person. I like the word assume as it associates nicely (Ass – U-Me) you make an ass out of U and me by assuming and generalising. So each separate relationship deserves to be conducted on its own merit.
So what are some tips that could possibly help in the quest for a successful long-term relationship/Marriage between a Thai and a Westerner
First of all I believe it is tougher as not only do you have to battle with the normal problems that exist in any marriage/relationship, but then with the cultural aspect of the relationship as well.
For me the key to most of it as in life relates to learning and education. The learning begins right at the start of your relationship when you have just met.
- Taking Your Time
At the beginning taking your time getting to know each other is essential. I know it can be difficult if it’s a holiday romance or something and you have to return home to your country to work. I feel though it is far better to go back three or four times with periods of time in between than get married within the first month or something like that. First of all if the relationship is surviving the distance apart and the periods of time you are away from each other, then something is good with it. Secondly there maybe a bit more money spent on plane flights etc, but far cheaper than a divorce shortly down the road. Surely taking your time is good I mean what’s the rush.
- Personality and Personal Experience
So much is made of culture, but once you get past the culture it really is down to an individual’s personality. I would go one further, a big part of how we are shaped is down to personality and own personal experiences. Getting to know each other over a longer period of time will also show up things in each others personality, things you may like and not like, things you can tolerate or not tolerate. It is again a bit late further down the marriage road to discover these things. Not only late, but expensive.
- Learn about each others culture
This is where the generalisation tends to come in to play and here is probably as far as most get in their analysis. So what is it that we know about Thailand off the top of our heads in a random quick fire list.
Thais greet each other with a polite Wai, they smile often, they take pride in their appearance, they enjoy eating, engaging in small talk, visiting and making friends, temple life. Family life is massively important, taking care of the parents a must and very superstitious. They also believe in taking responsibility for their own destiny and making merit. Now that barely scratches the surface, but it is a start.
Now lets move on to the Westerners. However if there is one word that I always struggle with it is ”farang”. The word is basically a term applied to westerner or someone of caucasian origin it includes Europeans, Americans, Canadians and Australians. The reason I struggle is that when the Thais talk about farang it indicates the whole lot that I have just mentioned above. I know for a fact that having visited half of Europe, America, Canada and Australia there are many differences between us all. Yes we do have a lot of banter together, but there are certainly differences.
This is I think a plus and a minus for the Thai people. Us westerners have a hard enough job figuring out the different Thais from different regions. Goodness knows how the Thais feel trying to figure out the whole of the western world that are visiting them. Yes it must be confusing at times.
I am not going to run the generalisation rule over our western cousins, even having visited most of them. So with me being English I will stick to England for now.
So what would a Thai person have heard or know about the English. In the old days and I have heard many Thais say this, that they like the English because they are gentlemen. There are of course still a few gentlemen left, but mostly that has given way now to the drunken bare-chested lout that if he does not have a couple of stomach pump outs during the weekend through alcohol over indulgence, has had a dull weekend. Actually that statement should not only be associated with the male, but with the female as well.
Aside from those there is still fish and chips, waiting in line patiently (queuing), complaining about the weather, complaining about most things ,the love of football , road rage, a good sense of humour, pale, white and pasty through a lack of sunshine and having a cup of tea when things don’t go to plan. There is of course plenty more to the English but that gets the ball rolling oh sorry I forgot to add coronation street and East Enders.
Now off the top of my head I have just generalised about Thais and English people in a rather tongue in cheek manner, but this is the normal route that people take. Once you get beyond these stereo-typical cultural starters you can really delve in and start to discover the real culture of each others country. I would say learning about each others culture and history a very major contribution to make. A lot about the why (somebody may do something) can possibly be found in the culture.
- Define this further and learn about the areas they were born and grew up in
Now you’re getting to the crux of the matter, its like an internet search. You have searched hotels in Thailand, but now you define it by searching for cheap hotels in Thailand. The culture of the area your partner was born and grew up in is another major key point in the jig-saw puzzle.
The North-East of Thailand or Isan อีสาน in Thai is so different from the North of Thailand and those both so different from the South of Thailand etc. The regions have a culture all of their own.
If you take just one region The North-East of Thailand. The main economic activity is Agriculture, but they do have a hard time with the land being so dry and hot. They have their own language, a dialect of the Lao language, but Thai is spoken by mostly every one. Isan culture is influenced by Lao and they have much in common with the country Laos. Folk music is loved known as morlam หมอลำม, Thai Boxing known as Muay Thai มวยไทย, cock-fighting, delicious sticky rice and som tam ส้มตำ Papaya salad. These are just a few of the things about the North Eastern people. There is far more than this of course.
The same also applies to the other regions of Thailand. In the UK of course the various counties all have their various traditions, accents and much banter and mickey taking between everyone. I know they do in the various states, cities and towns of Australia, New Zealand, U.S.A and Canada as well.
Defining and learning about a partners regional culture or the area they are from will start to make the ”why” (they may do something) possibly even clearer.
Part Two to follow shortly.
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Recommended Books On Cross Cultural Relationships And Thai Courtship
Thailand Fever full of cultural secrets that are key to successful Thai/Western relationships. In Thai and English, so you and your partner can read it.
Sex Talk a brilliant book full of answers to questions on Thai courtship, romance and full of language and culture. A simply fantastic book.