I have always been intrigued and curious with cross-cultural relationships and especially Thai / Western relationships. One minute you are on the sweetest of journeys and I mean sweeter than anything you could imagine and the next all hell can break loose over the smallest of things. When I say problems can arise over the smallest of things, I believe that’s exactly the problem. More often than not I have found that what the Westerner see’s as a small and trivial matter is a very important matter to the Thai and what appears unimportant to the Thai is of vital importance to the Westerner. Books could be written on this subject and of course already have.
In an Internet cafe in the Lumpini area, Bangkok khun Lalisa (ลลิสา) chatted with her Italian sweetheart who was somewhere in Milan, Italy. The chats took place online daily for about 18 months and they even met once when he visited Bangkok. You see she was sure that he saw her as a friend, but what was certain was that she saw him as more. After each chat session and depending on how the chat session had gone khun Lalisa would write in her journal either a love letter to him or an inscription of frustration at his ways. So what the hell has any of this got to do with me you ask?
A great place to eat near the internet cafe
The Internet Cafe Of Love
On my last visit to Bangkok I was staying in the Lumpini area and used my usual excellent Internet cafe to keep up to scratch with my business affairs back in the UK. I had used the cafe on many previous visits and knew the owner a little bit via introduction from a mutual friend 3 years ago. The owner is a very astute business woman by the name of Khun Mintra and not only does she run the Internet cafe, but is also a love matchmaker who uses traditional methods complete with astrology. I believe the system works in the way that you can build your own profile and do your own searching on the machines at the front or go through to the consulting world, matchmaking and Zodiac skills and secret data base of Khun Mintra’s office at the back. Those who longed for love immediately and could pay the premium rate fees chose the latter. The love matching skills of Khun Mintra were well sought after, but that’s a story for another day.
Whenever I returned to the cafe after long periods back in the UK, Khun Mintra always welcomed me back and complimented me on my Thai language use. she called them skills, but I always preferred the word ”use” as I never felt I was good enough to have the word skill associated with my Thai language. Whenever I was in the cafe the girls would usually ask for help with English words that they did not know the meaning of and I was happy to help out now and again in the mornings, before carrying on with the other activities for the day. I did have to put my own time limits on this though or they would have had me stay all day. To be honest I quite enjoyed it and surrounded by fine-looking Thai ladies between approximately 25 – 45 years old was always a pleasure and never a chore. If you get my drift.
Lumpini Park, Bangkok
Meeting Khun Lalisa
Anyway on one occasion a lady of about 35 years old asked me for some help for giving equivalent English word for the Thai words she had written. It turned out to be a fair few words. She said they were her thoughts written in to her journal about her secret love in Italy. Her plan was to translate her thoughts in to English so that she could eventually write about her experiences for the Thai and Western markets. I can assure you that this took a few mornings work, but finally with her kind permission these are just a few of Khun Lalisa’ frustrations of Thai / Western relationship issues.
I have written only the first line from the translated love letters and concentrated more on a few of the complications within a Thai / Western relationship for the sake of this post being really long.
The Business Area Of Silom, Bangkok
Dear Diary (of Khun Lalisa) Entry 1
My love you are skilled and so informed in many subjects of the world, but you know nothing about the subject that I secretly love you.
My heart loves him, but our thinking and way of lives are so far apart. I love him, but I can never understand him or he understand me. Besides you know, there are so many things that annoy me about my farang honey. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just infatuation. Sometimes I wonder if my love should always remain in my diary as I am just not lucky in love.
He never understands why I must give money and take care of my family. He never understands why I must work hard every day and that includes Sunday’s. These are topics that cause so many problems between us. He will tell me in his usual manner that in Europe on Sunday’s they take care of health and people don’t work. It is a day of rest. He told me that only people who are employed in the restaurant and retail industry work on Sunday’s in Europe. He said I only live my life for work hard and nothing else. This method he refers to being similar to the Chinese style. This makes me so angry I mean what does he really know about my life. I tried to explain to him that I have to work hard in order to take care of my Mother and Father.
My parents have been so ill. My mum was sick with bad kidney problems and my Dad had a lung disease. It broke my heart to see them like this as I loved them so much. It makes me angry, because my secret love has never spent a minute with me when I lived with my parents. He never saw how well my parents looked after me whilst I was growing up or how many sacrifices they made for me. He was not there. He tells me that in his country the family situation is similar with that of the Thai way. If that is correct then why doesn’t he show more respect and gratitude towards my situation.
Yes it’s true I have spent a lot of money on my family, but I earn it all by myself through my hard work. Not once have I ever asked or talked about money with him. Not once. Anyway, he is so protective over his money. It makes me wonder just what type of women he was involved with in relationships before or is it just his manner or culture. I want to laugh, but I cannot as too angry. But of course I still love him.
Cross Cultural Relationships
Dear Diary Entry 2
My love I hope you are well. There is no need to ever feel lonely as you always have me.
Today my secret love has given me a headache in the form of constantly going on about health. Firstly, he recommends I use olive oil for cooking as it’s good for health. Sometimes when people know you are Thai they instantly think that you like to cook. Of course Thailand is famous for delicious food and that is why I prefer to eat it rather than cook it, we can’t all be chefs you know. Anyway he recommends that I learn to cook from my family. You know in the way of recipes handed down from generation to generation. The next complaint was that he doesn’t like how I always buy food from the roadside and said it’s not good for my health. The main subject of the day was that he doesn’t like that when I get sick I do not go to visit the Doctor. He said you always go to buy the medicine at the pharmacy yourself and this makes him angry a little bit. I told him that my reason is simple. If I go to the Doctor I must pay more money. In my opinion this is one of the big differences between Thais and farangs and leads him to think that the Thai does not care about health.But of course I still love him.
Dear Diary Entry 3
My love, everything is still the same here and nothing in my life seems to change. One thing that’s for sure never changes is my feelings for you I still love and miss you.
Today My secret love and I did not get on exceptionally well. I think I annoyed him. I must admit I annoyed him on purpose, because he did not respect my style. He talks all the time about wanting to see me in sexy clothes and complains that I am over dressed in my polo shirt and jeans.He said in a very Sarcastic manner ” if we were to go to the beach together then I suppose you would wear polo shirt and jeans .. Right?
I replied that not only would I wear polo shirt and jeans, but I would wear a jacket as well because I don’t want the sun to touch my skin. I agree it might be going a bit far, but I wanted to antagonise him. I don’t know who he thinks he is. The clothes I wear always depend on the circumstances, but of course I would not wear sexy bikini in public.This is one of the differences between the Thai and Farang. Having said that Thai culture is changing and I cannot say that Thais don’t do not dress sexy to show the public. Maybe not Thai culture now as such, but it’s still Lalisa culture. Why do farang like to see women in sexy clothes all the time. Our opinions are so different and sometimes I don’t know why I love him, but I do.
Dear Diary Entry 4
Today I was tearful. I was thinking how I love you, but how we never seem to understand each other. Maybe I wish that you could read my messages.
I was wondering how long it would take to get to the farang man’s favourite subject …. Sex. It appears the main nature of most farang men is to like sex and fine it is a natural act of human beings. However according to Lalisa culture it does not mean that I can just have sex with any man whether it’s natural or not. I can never subscribe to the way of ” Friend For Sex ” If I am to have sex, it will be in the way of making love from being in love and not making sex.In my opinion sex is for love. Maybe I think too much, but I am not a man’s toy. If my feelings tell me that a man is not serious about the relationship and he just wants to play, then I cannot make love with him. If he does not have the same feelings that I have, if he does not have the same heart that I have then making love with him will mean nothing and he must get away from me. Sometimes he causes my love for him to diminish.
I found the reading of Khun Lalisa’s diary extracts intriguing, but I found it hard to understand just why she did not tell the man of her love for him. I understood they had different mindsets, but was it not worth telling him of her feelings and then trying to iron these differences of opinion out. I told her that they sounded like an old married couple already and was she sure that he had no idea of her feelings for him. The nature of their conversations spoke more of romantic relationship overtones than friendship and I urged her to let him know her feelings for him. The final reply from Khun Lalisa made me understand her edginess.
Khun Lalisa’s Final Fears
Another factor is that I don’t really know whether he is already involved in a relationship or not. He told me that he is not in a relationship as he has been separated from his wife for 4 years, but he is still not divorced.The reason he say’s that he is not divorced is because he must use a lot of money to divorce and he does not have that much money. He tells me he is a single man and still does not have a new girlfriend or wife. To be honest though I don’t believe him. You are a man and can you tell me that he can live as a single man with no wife or girlfriend for 4 years. Yes, I love him, but that must remain my secret as my doubts about his feelings and trustworthiness are plenty. I have had pain in my life from a relationship before. It was a relationship and story that I never want to go through again as it broke my heart and I broke his. No, this time it must remain my secret.
It certainly left me wondering just what the details of Khun Lalisa’s first love story were.
No Happy Ending
I was pleased to hear from Khun Lalisa about a month ago and wondered how the events had unfolded, but Unfortunately this tale has no happy ending. Khun Lalisa said that she had lost both of her loving parents to illness and had began to trust her Italian sweet heart less and less. As time went on her infatuation with him and love for him started to diminish and finally it faded away.
Khun Lalisa still looking for love
I have to admit to having always found the tag of Westerner or Farang (foreigner) very vague. The culture of Italy in this case is very much different to my own English culture. In Australia, New Zealand, America, Canada and all of Europe and anywhere else around the world, each culture is unique. Not only that of course, but sub-cultures exist within a country. You will find that southerners and northerners differ in England. The Californian folk nothing like a New Yorker and the southern Thais vastly different from the northern Thais. This mantra could more than likely be trotted out in most countries I should imagine, we all have slight differences. The combination of culture, personality and one’s own life experiences is the mixture that creates the person. Within cross-cultural relationships this all makes for a powerful, often intriguing and sometimes explosive mixture. As the Thais may say… Same, same but different.
It would be interesting to know on both sides of the equation both Thai and Foreign how you have successfully dealt with your own cross – cultural differences like the topics mentioned by Khun Lalisa. I mean successfully found answers for together. I am not looking for any offensive or bitter responses resulting from failed relationships.
Recommended Article: Asian Women As Wife Trophy Material by Christopher G. Moore
A superb essay by Christopher G. Moore which might well give an inclination as to why some difficulties can occur in cross-cultural relationships. Be aware if you are a man as this essay could well end painfully.
Heart Talk by Christopher G. Moore
The complete navigation of feelings using the all important one word ‘ Jai ‘ Heart & Mind. This book will give you insights and a massive head start in to the language of how Thais translate emotions.
For those living in the UK, get the book here
For those living outside the UK, get the book here