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Heart to Heart with Hillary


Dear Hillary,
I enjoy reading your column, but I don’t understand why you regularly chastise men for giving their Thai girlfriend/wife a monthly allowance.  You say this makes her “mia chow” (rented wife) and creates a master/servant relationship.

I come from Australia and it is traditional for the man to be the breadwinner and to provide for his wife and children.  This means that he pays the household expenses and gives money to his wife for food and the children’s needs.

The average Australian household does not have a maid.  The wife, even if she has a job as well, does the housework, the cooking and shopping, the laundry and takes care of the children.  If the wife does not work, it is expected by tradition that she takes care of those things.  This does not make her a “rented wife”.  She is doing her share in a marriage partnership.  This does not make him the “master” and her a “servant”.  If her husband expects her to quit her job he gives her money to pay for those things she would have been able to buy for herself.

In Thailand he will naturally want to provide for his live-in Thai wife/girlfriend.  As wages are so low in Thailand, he prefers to give her money to live on rather than have her work long hours for low pay.  If she works in a bar, he would rather she quit her job and he compensates her for lost earnings.  He understands that she has an obligation to provide for her parents as there is no social welfare here.  In return for providing for her and her family, it is natural that he expects her to contribute to the relationship by keeping the house clean, buying food and cooking.

You seem to advise foreign men not to give their Thai wife/girlfriend any money as it demeans her and the relationship.  You say he should hire a maid instead.  I don’t understand your philosophy.
Average Aussie Male

Dear Average Aussie Male,
You are missing the point my Petal, and I must say I feel sorry for all those hard working women in Australia.  No wonder you average Aussie males get the male chauvinist title (I left off “pig”, please note).  You say that it is expected that “The wife, even is she has a job as well, does the housework, the cooking and shopping, the laundry and takes care of the children.  If the wife does not work, it is expected by tradition that she takes care of those things.  This does not make her a “rented wife”.  She is doing her share in a marriage partnership.”  And what I ask is the average Aussie male doing in this idyllic marriage partnership?  I don’t read anything about sharing some domestic duties.  “Here’s a few bucks, love.  What’s for dinner?  Not ready?  You are a lazy cow.  I give you enough money to have hot cooked food on the table when I come home, so smarten your act up, Sheila.”

So in Australia, the man goes to work and gives his wife enough money to keep the household running (to his satisfaction).  No indication that this “partnership” allows both partners to dip into a joint “partnership” account.  No, she has no such rights, according to you.  I am glad I don’t live in Australia.

Now let’s deal with the Thai wife situation.  If he does not trust his wife to run a joint account with him, this is not a true partnership.  A “salary” that she can have each month makes her his “servant”, and not an equal partner in a marriage partnership.  He can withhold the monthly “salary” and she is powerless and financially dependent upon her Average Aussie Male (or US, or European, or UK, fill in any nationality you want).  Good marriages are based on trust.  If you don’t trust the woman to handle a joint account, then hire a maid who gets a salary to “do the housework, the cooking and shopping, the laundry and take care of the children.”  Understand now, Petal?

Dear Hillary,
I have to attend many meetings a week, and people come in and place their hand-phones on the table and we then begin a series of jangling rings.  Do you think this is rude, or is this an accepted way of doing business over here?  I would like to suggest that just as we used to do in the wild west where they checked their hand-guns at the door, that everyone check their hand-phones at the door instead.  It is my responsibility to run most of these meetings.  Do you think I should insist that they turn their phones off?
Gerard with the Gripes

Dear Gripey Gerard,
Unfortunately in Thailand it is usually thought that the more phone calls you get, the more important you are.  If you really ARE incredibly important, then you have two, or even three, phones as well.  I agree with you that at important meetings where decisions have to be made, then turn them off!  You turn them off at the movies, after all!  A polite request should be enough.

Dear Hillary,
What do you do about wandering wives?  It seems to me that Thai women are all worried about the man playing up, but they are just as likely to be having a little something on the side.  How many times have you been told about some chap’s Thai GF having a Thai BF on the side?  I can think of lots.  We have a phrase ‘What’s sauce for the goose is good for the gander’, and I don’t think the Thai women really understand this.  Or am I wrong?

Dear Shaun,
Why does anyone have a little fling?  Forget about men and women, Thais or foreigners, it is in human nature.  Usually this happens when there is something lacking in the partnership, but just as often it is just to add a little ‘spice’ to life, and Thai women do like their ‘spice’, don’t they!

I get the feeling from your email that you have suspicions that your Thai wife (or GF) is wandering.  I don’t believe there is much gained by having her followed, but there is more to gain by looking at yourself and how you contribute to the partnership, and I don’t mean financially.  Too many farangs seem to think that if they pay their GF money each month, that means they have done everything necessary, and don’t need to do any more.  If you are looking for a maid to sleep with, then that’s what you’ll get, but if you are looking for a life’s partner you must stop thinking about “wages”.

“Sauce for the goose is good for the gander”?  Garlic and pepper is nice, but even a Panang may suit.

Dear Hillary,
The other evening my husband of 20 years called me a bitch with no provocation from me at all, so I decided to teach him a lesson, and made him sleep in the spare room that night.  He just laughs and shrugs it off when I ask him about it.  This has now been going on for a few weeks.  I am really thinking of leaving.  What is your opinion, Hillary?
Extremely Annoyed

Dear Extremely Annoyed,

Perhaps if you bark at him again you will get the answer.

Dear Hillary,
After many, many great holidays in your beautiful country I have decided to come and retire there.  I think somewhere in the north might suit me as it is not so hot as down the southern end.  Could you advise me on the possibilities of purchase of a suitable abode, and how do I get the requisite visas to stay there with you?  I always read your column and enjoy the advice given out so succinctly.

Sir Francis

Dear Sir Francis,
Don’t come the ducks and drakes with me Petal.  Do you honestly think that Hillary can represent the Thai Immigration office and give you visa advice?  And you certainly wouldn’t be staying with me, Sir Franky, no matter what kind of visa you have, so you can get that out of your head for a start.  Mind you, if you’re arriving with a topped up credit card in your wallet, I can certainly help you run it through a couple of ATM’s.  Of course you can buy a suitable abode, as you put it, but that is the province of the real estate agents, not Agony Aunts.  Give me a call after you’ve settled in and the champagne is on ice.

Dear Hillary,
You have probably heard this hundreds of times and may be able to help me in this problem I have.  On a trip to Thailand I fell in love with a most beautiful girl from a bar and against all the advice given by “old hands” I gave her money to set her up in a house, which had to be in her name as it could not be done in mine.  I felt we had the makings of a perfect match and she was so attentive to me I could not believe my luck.  I had to do everything quickly as I was only here for two weeks.  At the first opportunity to return for a quick trip I went to surprise her and found out that she was living in my house with some Swedish guy and had been for some time!  Should I ask her to return the money?  Or ask him to return the money?  I feel totally cheated and I think it will be some time before I fall in love again, especially with a Thai girl.
Charlie the Chump

Dear Charlie the Chump,
You must really stop and take this opportunity to decide just who cheated who, here.  You were here for three weeks and bought some girl you did not really know, a house?  Is this reasonable behavior?  Is this rational behavior?  You threw your money away, my Petal.  She did not rob you - you robbed yourself.  Next time, think twice, or in your case, think two hundred times.  Perhaps you might even listen to the old hands too.  Sorry, Charlie, but you had it coming.

Dear Hillary,
I’m having a few problems with the out-laws.  The relatives of my Thai GF of many months have come to town for what I thought was a holiday.  It now comes out that they are having a house built in the sticks somewhere, and have sold their old house, so they’ve got nowhere to stay and have just taken over my place.  There’s five of them all told, the parents, a younger brother and two younger sisters.  Nobody can give me a straight answer as to how long it will be before they move in to their new house.  My condo has only got one bedroom and it is bursting at the seams.  What should I do?  She’s a nice girl, but this is getting a bit rich.

Dear Mal,
You certainly do have a problem, don’t you, Petal.  You see, it is the duty of the children to look after the parents, and as your girl is the eldest, she is supposed to be the number one helper.  I think it is time you sat down with her to discuss this.  As she is just a GF of a few months, it is not her condo to say who lives in it.  You are really being put upon here.  Surely there are uncles or aunts still living in the village and they can all bunk in there.  You need to put your foot down, Mal, before they shove you out of the nest!

Dear Hillary,
I like a drink, who doesn’t, but my fan likes a drink even more.  She’s getting into the hard stuff during the day while I’m in the office, and is definitely tipsy by the time I come home.  When I look forward to a home cooked meal, she’s too tired (or too tipsy), but really too far gone to take out to a restaurant, so now I go by myself.  I’m getting pretty p’d off with this but what can I do?  We’ve been together over six years, but the last two years it has been getting worse.  She won’t admit that she’s drinking so much either, and gets angry if I show her empty bottles.  What is the next step, Hillary?  Divorce?

Dear James,
This is a medical problem, James, not an Agony Aunt problem.  You must be getting near the end of your tether mentioning divorce as an option, but I believe it is the final step, not the next step.  You have to sit down with her and tell her what you feel.  Try to get her to go to a doctor - if she’s drinking as much as you suggest then some blood tests might back this up.  However, if she won’t go, then you’re stuck I’m afraid.  Chronic drinking is a problem, and not just with the Thai people.  Farangs can also have just as big a problem.  Since you have been together for six years, I think you should take on the responsibility of trying to help her, but put a time limit on it, or you will end up being dragged down as well.  You have already admitted that you like a drink too!

Dear Hillary,
As my computer was down, I used my husband’s lap top which he had left at home between trips.  I clicked on his ‘favorites’ and was taken aback by the number of porn sites he has been visiting.  Is this something I should worry about?  Or has he tired of me (we have been married for 14 years)?  He has been lusting after all these women dressed in lingerie and stockings, and I don’t even possess a pair of stockings in retaliation.  My girlfriends said to just ignore it, all males like to fantasize and I should do nothing.  I don’t know if they mean that, or have they got designs on my husband?  This does upset me.  What do you think I should do?  I am worrying myself sick over it.

Dear Maree,
The first piece of advice I have for you is to stop snooping in your husband’s lap top.  You may be married, but everyone, including spouses, is entitled to some privacy.  The second piece of advice I am giving you is to stop discussing your private lives with your girlfriends.  After all, how do you know that some of them haven’t got the lingerie and stockings ready to go?

The reason there is so much porn available, and thousands of sites, is because your husband, and people like him, need some kind of outlet, or respite from the stresses of today’s living.  For most men, it is just a fantasy, as your girlfriends said, but having said all that, if he is spending much of his salary on these sites, which can happen, let me tell you, Petal, then this viewing of porn has become an addiction, which may require some sexual counseling.  Check the credit card entries, this may give you some idea of the perceived problem or otherwise, but be aware any entries from these sites will not state “Porno Pix Pty”.

Dear Hillary,
I noticed there was a letter a couple of weeks ago from some chap who had gotten divorced in Europe where he was complaining about losing everything, “… divorce meant a nearly financial ruin in case the man had a good income and property and so on.  Plus the money you had to pay for the children.  You had to share what you both own (house car) and you had to pay your ex-wife too because she had to take care the children and could not work.”

The same goes for men divorcing in Australia and I believe in America.  You can see why the pre-nup agreements started coming in.  As the guy wrote, “Moaners and groaners crying for the loss of 2 million Thai baht?  Peanuts!”  Like most things in Thailand, there is a price to it, but nothing like it is in the western world.  And yes, I’ve been divorced too.

Dear Johnson,
I can see you are still bitter about it too.  Unfortunately, every marriage break-up has a price, both emotionally and financially, and there is no “Wisdom of Solomon” rule book to make it simple and cheap.  Unfortunately, Petal, the answer is to not rush into marriage, even though divorce is cheaper here.  Remember that decisions made in haste are repented at leisure.

Dear Hillary,
I was in at the Mail last week and saw an (may I say it) “elderly” lady sitting at a desk in the back of the office.  Was that you?  Like lots of people here, I’ve been dying to meet you and see what you look like.  Did I get it right?  And is your hair done with a blue rinse?

Dear Jacob,
You must be pulling my leg, Petal.  Is Hillary a member of the ‘blue rinse set’?  No, I do not use a blue rinse, though sometimes my salon lady will add a little black to the final rinse.  No, I do not have an office desk at the back of the ground floor, though some days it is tiring going up all those steps to my attic at the top of the building.  (I must ask the editor to install a lift!)

Dear Hillary,
One of my good friends here is enjoying himself just a little too much.  Too much hooch and too much Hula hoops with the ladies.  He is 52 years old and I don’t think he’s going to make it through to 53.  How can I get him to see reason, or even just slow down a bit?  I don’t want to have to send him home to his wife in Australia in a wooden box.

Dear Wilson,
Hula hoops?  That’s a new one on me, Petal.  I thought that hula hoops were those large circular rings you wobble round your tummy to get slim.  At least your friend will have good muscle tone.  And his wife wants him on a wooden box?  Are they that short of firewood in Australia?

Dear Hillary,
I am sure you’ve heard it all before, but I think I am being ripped off.  My girlfriend (Thai) has recently started to ask me for more money than she normally gets for housekeeping and the monthly wage I give her.  It was just a few hundred baht here and there to start with, but now she needs thousands at a time.  When I ask her why she needs the extra she gets sulky and when I really push her for an answer the best I get is “for family - you farang no understand.”  Hillary, is there something here that I should understand, or what?  I am getting very tired of the continual cash hand-outs.

Dear ATM Andy,
It sounds like there is lots you don’t understand.  “Family” is important to a Thai and is one of the strongest bonds for the individual.  Family keeps them together, family gets them over problems of all types, financial and otherwise.  It is very similar to the Chinese borrowing system - but there is always pay-back time.  Your girlfriend may be returning money borrowed from before - in that time in her life B.A. - before Andy.  She may also be helping her brother/mother/father/cousin/buffalo (delete that which is not applicable) out of a jam.  And on the other hand, she may be gambling with it, another very common Thai pastime.  You really have to start communicating better with your girlfriend, Petal, if you want to know where the money goes.  Do this in a non-threatening way, then you will find out where the money goes.  If it ends up in sulkiness or accusations, then it is time to review the entire relationship and handle the housekeeping yourself.  I also worry about relationships where the “girlfriend/wife” is paid a “wage” each month.  For what, Andy?  For staying with you, putting up with you, or what.  We call that having a “mia chow” (rented wife), and a master and servant relationship will always fail, in my experience.  Thai women may look meek and mild, but they’re not.  They most certainly are not, and when pushed will bite back.  That is something else you have to understand, Andy.