On being a Western woman in Thailand
By BKK Blue
It is not always easy being a Western woman in Thailand, I know: I’ve been here for over 10 years. On this Bangkok Diaries website alone, the amount of slander and hate-talk directed at Western women is a good representation of the larger anti-Western women dynamics in the country. In addition, I have seen innumerable Western women being broken as their relationship and family tears apart. It is a fact that very few Western couples can survive several years in the Land of Smiles.
Upon arriving in Thailand, many Western men become like small boys in a candy shop, realizing they can afford all the prettiest sweets on the shelf. Oh the excitement of it all! And the predictable happens. Husband is walking along the Bangkok streets, perhaps after an argument with his wife, perhaps not. Chances are he will rapidly cross paths with a gogo bar, or a smiling Thai girl who will apply all her charm to seduce him. Many Thai girls know what they are doing in this area. Indeed, they can even make an obese Farang believe that he looked like the ideal hybrid of Brad Pitt and Robbie Williams as he blared out “My Way” on the karaoke. If the said Farang has sufficiently low self-awareness and sufficiently inflated ego, and a few drinks in him, it will work every time!
Generally speaking, Thai women are trained to always look pretty, talk softly and relentlessly work on their ‘Wife Curriculum Vitae’ from birth. This includes demonstrating your ability to artfully arrange cookies on the platter, and to spoon-feed living creatures of any age. From an early age, many Thai women are made to believe that their beauty is their biggest asset for reaching success, as my years teaching kindergarten in Bangkok have led me to notice. In brief, Thai women receive a very different education than that of your average modern Western woman.
Western women, growing up after the feminist revolution, have been taught that they need to be strong and tough to reach success. We have learned to play in the boys’ court and by the boys’ rules. We have proven that we can also play the ‘Competition for Power’ game including in the political and economic arenas. And Western feminist courage and thought have in fact benefited men and women the world over. The International Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has allowed for the increased protection of Thai women in their homes, workplaces, and public arena since 1985.
The point is: Western women have much to be proud of, and they mustn’t apologize for who they are. In Thailand, a Western woman will be made to feel worthless and small. Maybe her ‘Wife CV’ isn’t as good her Thai neighbour’s is. Maybe, after giving birth to 2-3 children, her waistline will be more like her husband’s than a young Thai lady’s. Farang men will constantly denigrate us as arrogant, bitchy, ugly, worthless human beings. Such Farang men clearly have major issues: a sense of entitlement (to sex and dinner, for example), a heightened sense of self-worth (“I am better than my ugly wife”), and a loathing for Western women. Generally, this is accompanied by despise for Thai men, something shared by their Thai wife (“I am better than Thai men”).
In the face of such hate, I sometimes feel so sad, scared, almost crazy. But, there is no need to despair! Western women in Thailand can find a great deal of compassion and companionship from each other. Thai men also have something to offer. Most young Western women have experienced being pursued, if not stalked, by Thai men. A Thai boyfriend will take care of you in a very different way to Western men. Thais have a lot of qualities to offer, such as a devotion to their parents and families, which is too often lacking in Western men. A successful relationship between a Western woman and Thai man is possible: I know of one that has lasted for over 30 years.
Western women and Thai women have a lot to learn from each other. Beyond learning to cook Tom Ka Gai, your Thai female neighbour can probably teach you a lot about taking it easy *jai yen*, or the importance of regular selfless acts *kreng jai*. Upon request, many Western women like me can also give crash-courses on how to be strong, arrogant and bitchy: necessary traits for any woman wanting to make it to top in a man’s world – think Nancy Pelosi, Empress Wu Zetian, Queen Victoria, Margaret Thatcher or Gloria Arroyo. The right to vote, the right to contraception and abortion, weren’t won by sweet-lipped women.
Times are changing: increasingly, Asian women are joining in the quest for gender equality. Thai women’s opportunities will continue to broaden, and they will no longer be as inclined to prostitute themselves, or accept balding Farangs as the most desirable husband. Whether such Farang-Thai partnerships are ‘bad’ or ‘good’ is not my concern. But my 10 years in Thailand have shown that many Farang men will ultimately be disappointed by their Thai partner. Farang men will whine and bitch about ‘how difficult it is to have an interesting conversation with her’, ‘she’s not as docile as I thought’, etc. These Farangs will often end up estranged or despised by their own children and extended family back in their country. In Thailand, a Western woman may lose her husband. But we keep our children’s love and respect. So let’s not lose our self-confidence and compassion. Our ex-husbands may need some in the future.