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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

An easy wife, the cultural question.

This is a picture my friend took for me in Thailand.

Somewhere over the rainbow, blue birds fly. If blue birds fly over the rainbow, why, oh why can't I?

More and more western men are looking to other countries in order to find their bride. Their other half, their soul mate. I will not endeavour at this time to get into the reasons why this seems to be the case, but more as to what they can expect.

I have seen for myself many times while walking down Shukimvit RD in Thailand the western man (Called Farang) by the Thais, walking hand in hand with a Thai girl. Most times, the Thai girl is much younger than the Farang and quite good looking. Almost across the board, the guy is older than her, many times much older. Many of these guys are bald or balding, wearing glasses and have a pot belly. It's not a sight that we often see here in the states and from what my western friends from other countries tell me, not there either. A very good looking Thai girl pining over a middle aged and not quite Brad Pitt looking guy. Why?

The answer is culture. In many non westernized countries, the value of something or someone can be quite different. I have asked my Thai female friends what they thought about an older guy with a very young looking Thai girl and they all answered similarly. They told me that they don't center in on whether a guy is good looking or not or even his age. They tend to focus more on who the guy is and is he a good provider for his family. Almost everything centers around family in Thailand.

Coming from a western perspective myself, where looks seem a lot more important, I was a little confused with this answer by these ladies and did a little reading and research. One of the books I read was, "Thailand fever" by Chris Pirazzi and Vitida Vasant. A couple of things that I liked about this book were that it was written by a Westerner and a Thai. I also liked that it was written in Thai and English so that the understanding would be more accurate for both the man and woman.

Sure enough, one of the first things that I read was that Thai woman look more towards security (Can the man provide well for his family), while looks had a low priority. So, this can be a good thing for the western guy, right? Well maybe.

If one doesn't understand what "family" means to a Thai, then one can get very confused and a relationship can end quite easily. You see, the western child is brought up to succeed, with the parents help, then leave the nest. Even when the parents are retired they are there for support of the child well into adulthood. Have you ever heard your Mom or Dad say, "No matter how old you are, you'll still be my baby"? This is the social mindset we are raised with. Now let's look at the Thai family structure.

There is no social security in Thailand like there is in many other countries, nor pensions for that matter, so the children take care of the parents when the parents are too old or sick to work anymore. Fair enough, but what does this have to do with the westerner who wants to marry a Thai lady? Well, let's say that you married a Thai lady and now live in the USA. You work and say she works also. Although the odds are very good that when you come home from work, she will have food already cooked for you and will serve it to you as well, even though she worked that day also, she probably is also sending, if not all of her money, a good portion of it back to Thailand. Remember her parents? She certainly does and feels a strong cultural duty to fend for them.

We all know what it takes for a couple to save to buy a house for themselves (and children if they have any) and we look at this as our family. We are building a future for our family. Well, the Thai lady agrees with that, but still sends money back home like clockwork. Oh, there's more.

Back home in Thailand, one of her little brothers has started school and needs certain things that her family back home can not afford to buy. The family will look to the Thai married lady for money. They have no qualms in asking and she has no qualms in giving more, even if it's the money you put in the bank! It's natural for a Thai to do this, culture.

Thais oftentimes have extended families, but you may not know that, not for years or maybe never. Their first or second cousins are living with their parents back home. They are brothers and sisters of your wife. On some occasions, there are friends that live with the family that you are told are brothers, sisters, aunts or uncles also. It normal for Thais to do this, culture.

You may feel that you are responsible for the finances of a "brother" that got into a motor bike accident who can't pay the hospital bills. In Thai culture, you probably are.

There are some big differences between these two cultures and unfortunately, just the financial duty part of this one difference can be enough to end a marriage. There are many more cultural differences to be looked into by a cross cultural couple before becoming serious. I can probably write a book on the differences, but many have done that already and I'll leave it to those that may want to consider this kind of relationship to do the research.

Here are a few more that I may touch on in future articles, but for now I'll just mention.

Thai woman can be very jealous.
A dowry is expected to be paid to the woman's parents.
Privacy is different to Thais than westerners.
Thais adjusting badly in a western culture.
Thais don't always show their emotions.

These are just a handful of many more, so I hope you see why it is important to get the proper information. It's more than just that Thai ladies love to cook for you, clean for you and take care of you in general. Or that you get to marry a very beautiful woman, which is true. It's more about are you ready to make major changes in your life for the woman you love and her family? And let's not forget, she will be making major changes as well. Culture!

"I like people who refuse to speak until they are ready to speak."
Lillian Hellman


  1. This is a really interesting post. I've read a little about this subject, but the contemporary "mail order bride" is still shrouded in mystery--even, I think, for quite a few of the men who choose to court her!

    I would add that the wealthy older gentleman/beautiful young girl pairing is by no means restricted to expat Thailand or to mail order brides in general. One need look no further than our own New York, NY to see balding, overweight investment bankers with aspiring models on their arms. These relationships are based on currency, just as mail order marriages are. The difference is that American gold diggers don't generally pass the lion's share of the money back to momma and poppa and a brood of siblings.

    Thanks for illuminating the darker side of what may seem like an attractive option for disenchanted American men. It reminds us that there is no relationships that's all give and no take.

  2. I find it even more interesting that the majority of expat, vacationer or (cringe) mail-order-bride seeker doesn't take the proper time to learn the in's and out's of what this relationship will mean in their lives.

    I agree that I've seen this also in Manhattan a number of times, although far fewer times away from the business districts in any borough. Yes, it's ramped in the bigger cities (say in Thailand), but also in the rural areas because of the acceptance level as compared to say American culture.

    Gee, I didn't realize that I illuminated the darker side of these types of relationship. Thanks for pointing that out. I should probably also say that there are these types of relationships that have and do work out quite beautifully.

    Maybe when we do open our minds to sincerity, there will be less darker stories?

    Thanks Elsie, glad you enjoyed it.


Thanks so much for your comment and input! :)

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