Trevor: Relationships between Thai women and foreign men is not something that is new and probably stretches back to the 1960’s and 1970’s during the Vietnam war. It is often said that Isaan women (that is women from the north-east of Thailand) pursue foreign husbands the most and that the foreigner has an eye for the isaan lady.
During the Vietnam war the Americans had quite a few bases in the North- East of Thailand area, and outside of the ”love for sale arrangements” there were soldiers and local girls falling in love in the normal fashion. It actually meant that Isaan women were the first Thai women to have foreign husbands. Besides the north-east area the capital Bangkok was also a stop off place for R&R during the Vietnam war.
Thirty or forty years ago in a more conservative Thailand, relationships or even marriages to a foreigner would have been viewed negatively. The lady would have been stereo-typed with various negative labels, causing her to think twice about an alliance with a foreigner, of course this attitude was to change later.
Continued interview with Khun Keown
Trevor: These days it appears that more and more Thai women are turning to foreign men, when seeking a husband. Why do you think this is?
Keown: Most people will instantly say that it is for financial reasons. Economic security certainly comes in to the minds of some, but the most important reason I believe is to be respected and treated properly.
Foreign men tend to treat women better than Thai men, that is why for the past few years the women prefer foreigners. My niece was living with her Thai man for the last 4 years, but she recently ended it. She was dissatisfied with him mistreating her and with his constant womanising. Very few Thai men treat women with respect and usually have more than one girlfriend. This is the reason my niece has asked my sister to find her a foreign man.
The beautiful Elephant
Trevor: An old proverb in Thailand says chaay chaang thaaw naa, ying chaang thaaw lang (ชายช้างเท้าหน้า หญิงช้างเท้าหลัง) basically meaning that men are the front legs of the Elephant and women are the hind legs of the Elephant. Is this old traditional way, starting to change?
Trevor: I have heard this often and always taken it with a pinch of salt as Surely not all Thai men are that bad.
Keown: Ok, if you think I am being over critical of them, then perhaps you should seek the opinion of other Thai women also. I can tell you that just in my family alone is enough heart ache for a book to be written on the subject. Yes, of course there must be some good Thai men, but from my experiences, other female family members and women that I know, I have yet to meet any.
Both of my brother-in-laws are drunks and womanisers. You will find as well that many Thai men will have a mistress, a minor-wife (mia noy เมียน้อย). Unfortunately for me and my family, my father lived this way, he had one mistress after another and they also had children by him. I actually had three half brothers, two of which I never knew and one that lived with us. My Mother was good to the child , loved and protected him as her own, but he was given hell by the rest of us.
In my opinion it needs to change. A Thai man should treat a woman equally and respect her. The Minor-wife concept should stop, unless the wife is happy for her husband to have that.
Another point is, if the girl ends up pregnant by the Thai man, in many cases she will be bringing up the child on her own. It is very rare for them to take responsibility. A lot of the time you will find a foreign man looking after the Thai man’s child through the Thai woman’s marriage to the foreigner. Generally the foreign man does not mind to take on the responsibility.
Trevor: Thanks for that advice Keown and I just tested it out. I have just asked my Thai wife her views on having a minor-wife. She did not say anything, but gave a long hard stare towards the sharp knife drawer and pointed to an ornament of a duck. Strange that.
Trevor: It sounds all one way traffic in favour of the man. What about women can they have another sweet heart.
Keown: No, women are not suppose to have any other men outside of their husband or partner. Anyway It would be extremely rare for a man to agree that his wife or partner could see another man or even men. The only time you will find this occurring is from a woman who does not operate a normal job i.e. ”has love for sale”.
In mainstream Thai life a woman from a normal working class family would be too embarrassed to even talk about seeing other men, let alone do it. The decision-making for a woman is always based around the family, we take our responsibilities seriously which is part of family customs.
Customs and traditions run deep
Trevor: So what took you from Thailand over to the UK.
Keown: Goodness me, now you are going back a long way. I was 17 years of age at the time and had just began my work experience with a tour company in Bangkok. My boss was an English woman who had lived and worked in Bangkok for quite sometime. I loved the job and enjoyed to be in and around Europeans practising my English language.
The job also gave me a way to make my family proud, I wanted my mother to be proud of me. I adored my mother dearly, most of us do. Mother and father are number one in our lives and although my father’s behaviour was not always to my liking, I did not hold it against him.
My boss liked me and was always so kind and helpful to me. We talked a lot, but most of the girls in the office did not communicate with her much as they were too shy and scared to speak English. Not me though, I was close to my boss and we treated each other more like friends really. My boss had a son who visited from England on occasions and I could tell that he had taken a liking to me.
Trevor: I can see that you were a confident lady even at an early age and nothing much frightened you, but how could you tell that her son liked you after only seeing him briefly. Did he tell you this or is that woman’s intuition.
Keown: I could tell he liked me, the very first time that we met.
A woman’s intuition
Trevor: That’s a special power. I wish I could have had that vital skill when younger. It would have saved my wandering down endless blind alley ways that’s for certain. If only I could bottle and sale that magic potion. So was there romance in the air then.
Keown: Anyway her son returned to Thailand for a three-week period he was only 22 years old, cute, sweet, very polite the perfect English gentleman. For three weeks we had so much fun together eating out, night clubs and the beaches, I really liked him a lot. He returned to England at the end of the three-week period, but promised to visit me again. Whilst in England he wrote to me every week and phoned every day, he was so romantic and impressed me greatly.
His mother told me that he had completely fallen for me and he made a further two visits in a short space of time. After this he asked me to visit England. I thought it was the chance for a perfect combination that of visiting him and enrolment on an English language course. With the help of my boss in a paper work sense and the help of my sister in a financial sense I went to England. I returned to Thailand and went back to England two times during the experimental process, before Nic declared his love for me and I moved to England.
Trevor: Am I right to assume that it was a happy ever after scenario from that point, as you are still in England today.
No, things changed very quickly and the romance of our relationship was never really re-discovered and I felt totally on my own in a strange land.
Trevor: We will save that for the next instalment. Adapting to England, life in England and the culture and of course relationships.
Trevor: Did you ever take your then boyfriend to meet your family back home in the north-east. If you did were you allowed to spend time completely alone together or was there no chance of that.
Keown: Yes I did, I remember it well. My father did not accept my western boyfriend at all, I felt sorry for my boyfriend. Can you imagine the poor lad was in his early 20’s and my dad did not even say hello or look at him to begin with. I was nervous as I anticipated this situation. It got more embarrassing when finally my father began firing all these questions at him via me about his life and work.
Time together alone, that is a laugh. He was not allowed to be in the same room as me at any time and we were only there for one night, because of my dad’s attitude towards him. My father did not believe he could look after me, believing he was far too young. The second time we went back was literally for the wedding, but we only had a small wedding as Dad preferred to keep it quiet, he did not want to show this off. He was not very happy about it and his attitude towards my husband did not improve. Mum was not too keen to start with, but warmed to him at the wedding. However you are talking about a long time ago. Things are far more accepted nowadays.
A Thai lady may bring her friend on the date as well
Trevor: Fathers are like that Keown, my daughters refuse to bring their boyfriends anywhere near me, just in case question time kicks off. They claim that I have seen off three already.
Trevor: However perhaps courtship rituals in Thailand and the UK were not so unlike all those years ago. I remember my father telling me that his mother used to sit in the middle of him and my mother on the sofa every night, when they were courting. The only time she left the sofa was to change the radio channel (as she had no television back then) or to make a cup of tea and apparently she left the door open even then, so that she could keep an eye on them.
Trevor: I tell you though the first date I went on with a Thai lady as a young and single lad was a massive surprise. I had a fantastic plan, lunch, a movie you know how it goes. I stood waiting for her where we had said, I was dressed to kill with my best aftershave on and then she appeared. Not only did she appear, but so did her two sisters and a couple of other friends, good grief that was an expensive date and I couldn’t get a word in with her as one of her friends ran the show. Needless to say the relationship didn’t have legs. That used to happen a lot that a date would turn up with a friend. I know you have strong views about today’s courtship methods, especially in the west and we will hear about that in the next instalment also.
Sex Talk (In search of love and romance) by Kaewmala
Gain massive insights into the courtship rituals and modern dating culture of Thailand. Insights in here that you won’t find anywhere else. Erotic, romantic and over 900 Thai words and phrases as well to learn, a must read.
The Cultural Detective by Christopher G. Moore
If it’s Thai culture that you are seeking to learn about, then look no further than the foreign master on Thai culture. This book is packed with essays on perspectives on crime fiction writing to of course a mass of clues and insights to solving those cultural Thai mysteries. Another great read.
Heart Talk by Christopher G. Moore
If you buy sex talk by Kaewmala be sure to buy heart talk by Christopher G. Moore and visa versa. Heart Talk is the clever navigation to say I love you in so many ways using the word ”jai” or heart (ใจ). These words are essential and every day Thai words and all nicely organised and ready to read in Heart Talk.
Thailand Fever by Chris Pirazzi and Vitida Vasant
With everything in this book both in English and Thai there are no excuses for anyone. You really want to know how the Thai mind works in your relationship and you can be darn sure the Thai is trying to work out your western ways. Read in your language then pass to your partner to read in their’s and begin to close the gap as they say.
Brilliant Thai Forum
Entertaining, friendly and very imfomative on subjects Thai. Come along and meet a welcoming crowd of Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, Americans, Brits, Thais and others and be in the know.
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