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My girlfriend stole my car!
Dear Emma,
I bought a car a few months ago, with cash and signed what I thought were the ownership papers. They were all in Thai so my girlfriend at the time translated and told me that it was going into my name. Well imagine my surprise when, after we broke up, she shows up at my door with the local cop and drives off in my new car!
I took the documents to a translator and found out that I was signing away my rights to the car and that it was in her name!
I can’t believe I was so stupid and don’t believe I can get the car back. I do plan on going to a lawyer to see if there is anything I can do since the seller did know I was buying the car but I just have a feeling I have not only lost my girlfriend but my car and a whole lot of money.
So, to everyone out there, never sign anything you can’t read or understand. Even if it takes a few extra days don’t mind that, take it to a lawyer or some professional translator and have it translated into English (or whatever language you feel most comfortable reading) and know exactly what it is that you are signing.
If I had spent the extra few thousand baht to verify the contract I would not be out of hundreds of thousands of baht. I trusted someone I shouldn’t have and fooled myself into thinking everything was going to be okay. Call me another one of those starry eyed fools who does something stupid in Thailand that I would never do at home but I can tell you now, I will never do that again!
Thanks for helping spread the word,
Foolish no more

Dear Foolish,
Many foreigners that come to Thailand come down with this particular disease; somehow common sense checks out and impulsive and poor decision making steps in. Emma is very sorry to hear that you learned such an expensive lesson and appreciates that you have been willing to let people know of your experience so that they may perhaps avoid it too but Emma is not hopeful. These stories are not new and she has heard them repeated in endless variations over the years she has lived in Chiang Mai so whilst your warnings are admirable Emma suspects that most will dismiss them and say “yes but it will not happen to me”.
Until, of course, it happens to them and then they blame all Thai women or even all Thai people as if somehow it is the nation’s fault they allowed themselves to be conned and forgot to pack their common sense in their suitcase when they came to Thailand.
Emma does dearly hope that you don’t fall into this trap as well, assuming that all Thais are bad because you had a bad experience. But she also hopes that you don’t also fall into the same trap again thinking it was just one bad apple and that everyone else is wonderful. Some people are, some people are not. One needs to use a single rule of thumb when considering decisions; “Would I do this in my home country?”
If the answer is “yes I would buy a car without knowing what is in the contract” then by all means go ahead but if not then, as you suggest, get it translated and find out what is being signed.

My girlfriend is much younger than me, what do Thai people think?
Dear Emma,
I am much older than my girlfriend, she is Thai. In fact, I am a couple years older than her father. They seem to like me well enough and treat me in a very friendly way. However, sometimes when we go out I see Thai people looking at us. I don’t speak any Thai, honestly I don’t see why I should, it is quite difficult and my girlfriend takes care of things for me. But I don’t understand what they say to each other so am not sure if people think its good or bad. My friends at the bar tell me that Thai people think there is nothing wrong with older men dating younger women and that I shouldn’t worry about it.
But sometimes, I do wonder. What do you think Emma, is everything fine as the guys say or should I worry?
Older guy

Dear Older,
Whilst there are certainly women who do like older men and certainly Thai people who do not care, you are being misinformed to believe that all Thai women like older men or that all Thai people think there is nothing wrong. Like every country, Thailand is made up of individuals and whilst it is certainly possible to make some basic generalizations due to culture and custom, this is not one of them.
In fact, were one to do some research one would find that young Thai girls tend to date and marry young Thai men. A recent study shows that the average age of Thai females is now 24 whilst the average age for Thai males in their first marriage is 27. This three year gap belies the notion that most Thai women are chasing after much older men.
As for what your girlfriend’s parents think of your relationship, or as to what others around you think well Emma suggests you ignore your friends at the bar and learn some Thai. You will find that you gain far more respect when speaking Thai and able to take care of yourself then when being dependent on your girlfriend to do everything for you.
It is not that difficult and it seems you have the time to sing up for formal classes. Emma has heard good things about the YMCA. You should give that a try and learn a bit more about the country you have chosen to make your home.