The subject today is based around Thai women who leave Thailand to move abroad, (in this case the UK) to be with their foreign husbands and adapting to the new way of life. How easy is it to obtain some of the comforts of home, possible problems that maybe encountered in relationships and the general change in culture. Too big a subject to nail here of course, but here are a few insights in part 3 of the interview with Khun Keown.
What did you think of England when you first arrived and did it take you long to adapt to the life change?
My first impressions of England were not great at all, it was winter, freezing every day and dark early. For the first 6 months I cried often, I missed my parents and my environment and just wanted to go home. However I had come this far, so I made myself mentally strong to try to adjust to my new life.
My husband took two weeks off work to try to help me settle in and did all he could to make me feel as comfortable as possible. I was introduced to one person after another who I did not know and did not understand as they spoke one hundred miles an hour at me. Mostly I noticed that everyone looked so serious it was hard to see a smile, I thought it must be to do with the weather.
Most of all though I missed my mother (who was the main person in my life) and the whole family connection of my brothers and sisters. I was very young when I got married and then had to adapt to a totally new culture and environment. I love and was used to the basic way of life, I enjoy planting, growing vegetables, looking at beautiful flowers, animals/nature, helping and being with the family. I had now arrived in the middle of an over crowded concrete jungle called London and I felt totally over whelmed and unhappy.
Winter arrival in England a real culture shock
You found London to be an over crowded concrete jungle, but you spent a proportion of time in Bangkok working. Did you not see Bangkok in the same light?
Yes I did, I actually hate Bangkok. Too many people, too many cars and full of concrete and pollution. London was the same, but the difference being it was cleaner and had better quality houses, however that still did not impress me. No, give me the simple life in a natural environment with cleaner and fresher air any day.
Bangkok so crowded
What did you do when your husband went back to work?
I cleaned the house every day, oh my god that house was spotless. I just cleaned the house and cried, I felt so lonely and like the wrong piece in a jig saw puzzle. I would have given anything to go back home, but my husband was unaware I felt like this each day. When he arrived home from work I would put my smile on.
What about Thai food, were you able to get hold of ingredients?
This was a big problem and like looking for gold dust back then. There was only one Thai supermarket in London and the ingredients were so expensive to buy. The problem then was that my husband did not earn enough money to let me have Thai food every day and I can tell you that was torture.
Torture without Thai food
What about acquiring Thai food in England nowadays?
Nowadays of course it is no problem. You can get everything from the specialist Thai shops and oriental super markets. You can even get a lot of the basic ingredients from the normal English super markets and not so expensive.
Now I can have my Thai food, no problems
What have you found have been the main problems that you have either experienced or heard about regarding relationships with Western men, especially in this case English men.
One of the first problems was that of who controls the family finances. When I was growing up, my mother was always in charge of the family finances, she would go to my Dad’s place of employment at the end of the month to collect my father’s salary. Dad would ask for a bit of money back for cigarettes and other expenses, but he was fine as he always got his occupational perks from clients.
I was mostly familiar with the woman controlling the finances in Thailand, but my husband said it does not work like that here and after heavy debate he ran the finances. He thought I was trying to control him by me running the finances and giving him a bit of money here and there.
It did not work either way actually as he would give me enough money to buy food and would take me to the shops if there were other things I needed. I was not at all comfortable with this and decided I wanted to go to work and earn my own money.
Secondly for me it was the lack of understanding of my strong family bond. I loved him, but my love for the family comes above any man. I wanted him to love and care for my family the same as I do , but he could not understand that and it caused no end of rows.
Thirdly, but probably the biggest factor is misunderstandings in communication. Understanding of each others culture, habits, personality combined with of course language.
Independent with own money thanks
Apart from the problems involved in your own relationship did you manage to successfully resolve them? If not why do you think that was.?
My first marriage ended after 5 years, I am afraid it was more through a lack of understanding and the fact that we were very different individuals more than anything else. I was very young and a bit on the wild side and my ex husband was very ambitious and wanted to be the best at his job.
My ex husband was neat, tidy, organised, very polite and never swore and was educated in a Catholic boarding school for boys. I was a loving family orientated Isaan girl with a bad temper, can you imagine how that combination worked. There was not a lot in common and besides that my English still needed major surgery.
He became more and more devoted to the job working all hours for money and power, but I felt neglected. I got a job in a chemist and an evening job in a supermarket and started making friends at work. Life became a bit of a big social life for me as after work I would go to the pub with my new friends. I was never allowed to let my hair down under my Dad’s roof in Thailand, no chance and was used to everything being done for me in the general family way, but England had taught me how to be independent. I had my own money, own friends and he was married to his work.
He was not happy with me going to the pub and I was not happy with 24/7 working lifestyle he had, so he thought a baby would be the answer. I agreed and we had a baby girl, but it was not long before things went down hill again. I got left with looking after the baby all the time and he would be in his office until midnight.
I walked out and went home for a while and it was so much easier as all the family helped to look after the baby, we shared the work load of the whole house. I was still quite young and had no idea about looking after children.
To cut a long story short although I went back and tried again the marriage ended after 5 years. I had another relationship later on which produced my son, but the relationship did not last and I spent quite a lot of the time alone in England and totally independent and preferred it that way.
I am not married now, but just have my boyfriend and am very happy with that arrangement.
What do you think of courtship rituals of today?
In the north-east of Thailand whilst growing up I was used to a courting couple seeing each other under the watchful eye of the family until they got married. It could be that they would see each other for years and years, but there was no physical contact. As I am in the UK most of the time now my observations are obviously here. It has never ceased to amaze me in the night clubs and pubs over here, whereby eye contact between a male and a female is made, a bit of chat commences before they leave and jump into bed together.
Sometimes I feel like the westerner is obsessed by sex with no shame either for nudity in public places. On returning home in the early days I saw a few western women arrested by the Thai police for removing their tops on the beach, whilst the Thai men just stood around staring at them. In England when I first came I could not understand how couples stood on street corners kissing, I just couldn’t look, it was too embarrassing. In my opinion sex without love and commitment is not right and I don’t agree with that mindset at all.
I know things are changing all the time and that applies to Thailand as well, but please don’t judge Thai courtship on the areas where tourists tread.
How have you learned to adapt to England over the years?
Yes, I have learned to adapt to life in England and I do like quite a lot of things here. I like the fact that I am free to work where ever I choose and that the people in the work place are really great. I think being treated with fairness and equality is high on my list of values and in Britain I have found a place where that certainly happens.
Here I can train to do any number of jobs, but in Thailand it’s all about the qualifications. I find people easier to work with here than the Thais, I know that does not sound very good, but I am happier to work with British people.
I spent 14 years living in London and found people were not so friendly, in fact I went to a wedding very recently, where my boyfriend and I were placed at a table with people we didn’t know and the people at the table treated us as if we didn’t exist. I found that very rude. However travel out a bit and people are much better, especially up north.
I love the British summer time, even if it does still rain. I still find it better than the sapping heat of Thailand. I love summer and Autumn in England and I am totally addicted to English Tea. I always take lots of Tea back with me when I visit Thailand, but I am not so impressed with the western food though as it’s too fattening.
Do you think England is where you will remain forever?
No way, I certainly won’t be retiring here if that is what you mean. I will return to live in Thailand before if I can, but certainly by retirement. I would only return to the UK to visit my son if he chooses to live here. I hope he chooses to live in Thailand as well and marries a Thai girl although it will be up to him, where he wants to live and who he wants to marry.
Dreaming of home
What advice would you give other Thai ladies who were thinking of marrying and moving to England or moving to any where outside of Thailand come to that matter?
Now after much experience I think the most important thing is to do your research about everything and ask plenty of questions. I was very young when I moved from Thailand to the UK and just went with the flow and with my husband. The sort of things you should be asking are questions like …..
- What sort of life can I expect
- What will I do, when my husband is at work all day. What will I be expected to do.
- Am I allowed to work and if I am , what sort of work can I do.
- Am I going to be happy with this man, yes of course the first few months will be fun and exciting, but what about when the honeymoon period is over.
- What about children
- If you have children from a previous relationship, will I be able to bring the children with me
- There are so many things to look in to and you can’t know everything, but don’t come thinking that the streets are paved with gold. It takes much hard work and adapting to make a success of it all and the grass is not always greener.
- You will have no family here and need to have someone in some way to turn to if it all goes wrong
- For those planning on a life in the UK, get a copy of the very excellent – The life in the UK test handbook by Saengduean Thompson and Andrew Thompson (it includes the official study materials together with their Thai translations) http://www.amazon.com/dp/0956573800/?tag=www.engagingthailandtips.wordpress.com-20
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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