Heart to Heart
I need your help. I have to choose between two gorgeous girls here. Both
of them are real lookers, so there’s nothing to choose from there. Both
come from up-country, so that’s the same. Both of them are quite happy with
the salary I give them each month and don’t ask for more. I have known them
both for just over three months and they are both about 22 years old. Both
want to move in with me and I am having a problem keeping it so they don’t
know about each other. I don’t want to use “eeny meeny miney moh” to
choose. Give me some test so I can choose the best one. I am sure that one
of these two girls is the one for me.
Goodness me, Petal. Just who do you think I am? Clairvoyant? You give me
some sketchy details saying they are both beautiful, come from Isaan
probably and you are giving them both a “salary”. Do they have nice
temperaments? Do they help little old ladies across the road? Do they have
strong religious beliefs (which might not fit with yours)? What are their
families like? Have you met their family and are you accepted by them (and
they accepted by you)? There are some of the adult questions you should be
asking, but you are not. I suspect you are either very young or very
immature, or both. My advice is to keep going with the two of them and live
with them both. You’ll soon see who rules the roost. The one with the most
feathers left. Lots of luck.
We haven’t been here very long, and my husband’s work gives us an allowance
for a maid. That’s something I had dreamed of having all my life, and now
here it was. Unfortunately, it has been nothing like the fairy tale I
thought it would be. More of a nightmare. She came recommended by another
expat family, who said they were going to do without a maid, and so we could
have her. The first week was wonderful as she cleaned and dusted, washed
and ironed. The second week she slowed down a lot and by the third week,
the unwashed clothes were starting to mount up, so much so that I had to
take it to a local laundry. Now after three months, she just sits around
and watches TV while holding a whisk broom. All the clothes go to the
laundry. My husband says I have to deal with it as he is at work all day.
I’ve started going out all day as well, as I feel like choking the woman.
What is one supposed to do under these circumstances? I can’t grin and bear
it any longer.
You were caught right from the start, weren’t you, Petal. Why would any
foreign family get rid of a good maid? The only time good maids pass
between families is when one family is leaving and the other is coming in to
replace the other. Your group could not wait to get this maid to move on.
So what do you do? You have to be strong, and if she is not working as she
is supposed to, then you will have to dispense with her (non-existent)
services. Dismissal! Your husband, who will be looked upon as the head of
the household, by the maid, has to be involved too. You have one other
choice - you can explain to her what you expect her to do (as she did in the
first week) and say that if she cannot do this, then you will be forced to
sack her. Give her two weeks to smarten up, and if she doesn’t, then give
her a month’s salary and say goodbye to the money and the maid! This one is
probably the best and saves face all round, an important factor to remember
How is the chocolates and champers appeal going? Anyone ever drop the loot
off? I have been tempted, just so that I can see you in the flesh, but I’m
only in Thailand a couple of times a year, and I don’t remember until I’m on
the plane going back home again. Maybe next time. Biggest problem is
getting the champagne through customs at the Middle East stop-over. I can
buy it in London OK, but then it gets taken off me.
What can I do to jog your memory, my Petal? I can understand the problems
with duty free goods, but I am worth paying full price for, surely?
Especially since you wish to see me “in the flesh” as you put it. However,
it will take several bottles of bubbly for me to show much more than a
well-turned ankle. Chocolates are even easier, Robert, and in fact you can
get those at our bigger shopping centers. You don’t have to worry about
duty free/customs at all. But please, do try and find some nice Belgian
chocolates, and not a Mars bar.
Dear Khun Hillary,
I like very much to meet good falang man and take care he. My fren say good
falang not come Pattaya any more. Where go? Can give phone to me?
Thank you for your letter, and your English is quite good. You don’t say
much about yourself, but I think you are a good girl trying hard, and I know
it is hard to find a good man (farang or even Thai). Don’t believe your
friend that there are no good men in Pattaya, and I am sure you will bump
into a good one some day. If you bump into two, then you can send one to
I have met what I am sure is the girl of my dreams. She’s gorgeous, lives
at home and comes from a good family. I am going to ask her out to dinner.
Where do you recommend? I’m not sure if she eats western food. I want to
make a good impression as this will be the first date.
Just how did you meet this paragon of virtue? Lives at home, from a good
family, presumably doesn’t work (or need to work) and you want to invite her
to dinner. Listen Petal, I think you are so far out of your league here
that you have no chance. How do you know if she only eats seaweed? What
restaurant are you going to pick then? (Probably one by the sea would be a
good start;-)) How old are you Jerome? Are you sure your Mummy and Daddy
will let you out after dark? On the other hand, you may be trying to be
funny here, but in actual fact, all you are is “trying”.
I’m probably not the first to ask this, but why do Thai women sit sideways
on motorcycles? When did it start? Have they always done this? You would
never see anything like this in England, so it really blows me away every
You seem to have your eyes open here, but you must have had them closed in
the UK. Go to any horsey event and you will see women riding side-saddle.
Even the Queen of England rides side-saddle for the trooping of the color.
However, getting back to your question regarding riding side-saddle here, it
is for the sake of decency, young man. How can a woman in a long skirt, or
even more in a short skirt, look polite and decorous with the hem hitched up
above the hips, and legs hanging down each side of motorcycle (or horse or
elephant)? Thai women have had wrap skirts for years and rode buffaloes
side-saddle, long before the motorcycle arrived in the villages.
Would you prefer it if we gazetted
laws like those in Montana’s State laws, “No passenger shall be carried in a
position that will interfere with the operation of the motorcycle or
quadricycle or the view of the operator.” And again, “No person operating a
motorcycle or quadricycle shall carry any packages, bundles, or articles
which would interfere with the operation of said vehicle in a safe and
prudent manner.” Those two laws would bring the local motorcycle community
to a grinding halt. No small child in front of the rider, and a side-saddle
passenger or two on behind and no shopping bags hanging from the rear vision
mirrors. The streets would be empty, Petal!
What is the situation when you split from a live-in girlfriend? Does she
have any legal rights to your property, cars, houses and such. I’ve been
with this girl for about a year, and I said it’s time to change, so she’s
already got the hand out and wants the house and the car. Hand them over,
or tough it out? What is your advice?
You are asking the wrong person, Petal. This is Hillary, with heart
medicine for those injured in love, not a lawyer specializing in marital
problems (though in your case it might be ‘martial’ problems). Foreigners
cannot own houses in Thailand in their own names, so many just put the house
in the girlfriend’s name, which is not such a smart move if there is a
break-up. If the piece of paper says it is hers, she is then legally
entitled to it. Same goes with cars and other big ticket items. Since you
went into the relationship, apparently knowing there would be a time to move
on (“time to change” you wrote), then you should have been clever enough to
protect your interests. See a lawyer.
Last week you had a British chap who was being bled dry by his Thai wife and
her family with their respective hands out. You did not seem too hopeful
that the situation could be saved. What is the reason for this?
Once anyone has had a money tree growing in the garden, the beneficiaries
are never pleased if the tree is chopped down. In fact, they can get quite
aggressive when they see an innocent person walking by with an axe. The
British chap was also a pensioner, and usually those sorts of people past
retirement age are looking for an easy life, not one of aggravation.
However, you are better off out of a bad situation, and he definitely so.
I wonder if there are any saps out there that actually send you chocolates
and bubbly? Surely they know that “Hillary” isn’t a real person.
Dear Just Wondering,
Wonder no more, Petal, just look at the letter below yours. Best you look
over your shoulder too, he’s not called “Big D” for nothing. And he does
send chocolates, and the real Hillary, the one typing this, enjoyed them
A belated Valentine’s Day greeting to you. I enjoy reading your weekly
column. I hope you enjoy the chocolates I sent you!
Big D USA
Dear Big D,
You have always been the one to restore my faith in mankind. You have never
forgotten me, even though we are like ships that pass in the night. I
certainly did enjoy them, but took a photo so that I can always remember
(until the next time)! And if you bump into a chap called “Just Wondering”,
give him a piece of my mind.
I wanted a hair cut so I went to my usual barbers the other day, to find it
was closed. This was something new to me, so I drove around to see the next
one, and it was closed as well. Asking around with my friends, I was told
that all barbers close on Wensdays (sic) and it was a Wensday (sic)
that I was looking at. Can you tell me why they all want to shut on that
day? I had to spend the rest of the afternoon in the pub instead. Is it a
goverment (sic) rule or what? Just sign me Hairy Harry.
Dear Hairy Harry,
Aren’t you lucky, it was just the Bar-ber that was closed, and not the
Bar-beer! Your friends were correct, the barbers close on Wednesday (write
out the correct spelling 100 times, Petal). It is not a government (write
this one out 100 times as well) rule, but comes from the fact that we
consider it to be bad luck to cut your hair on a Wednesday, so the clever
barbers may as well close, rather than spread the bad luck. It is something
like the old religious edict of “no meat on Fridays” overseas, which gave
the butchers a holiday as well.
I was told many years ago that you shouldn’t let your wife’s family come to
stay with you, even just for a few days, as it always ends up for weeks or
months. I thought I was lucky because it never happened to me. Relatives
might stay one or two nights, but that was it. Recently things have changed
a lot now with her brother and her cousin and her mother all staying in the
house with us. They all stay in the one room which I think is a bit
unhealthy, and they’ve been here for three months and there’s no sign of
them leaving. They are quiet and do help around the house and garden, but
this wasn’t what I really expected. I asked my wife about it but she just
says it’s OK and they’ll be going soon after they brother and cousin have
got jobs and mother is just having a holiday. Well I wish I could have
three month holidays. What’s the next move, Hillary? Enough’s enough,
surely. I have a close family in the UK, but they wouldn’t come and stay
Horace the House Husband
Dear Horace the House Husband,
You are now starting to see a little of what Thai society is all about, my
Petal. Family reigns supreme, and it is usual for them all to sleep in the
same room. It’s not unhealthy. It is Thai. When you got married, you
joined a Thai family, much more than your wife joining your UK family.
After all, you married a Thai lady and chose to live in Thailand. You would
have to expect that Thai culture will be dominant. You can try voicing your
reluctance to have them there, but be prepared for difficulties. This is
your wife’s immediate family. You can always try to find them jobs - in a
far away city. Lots of luck!
It is always amazing the way questions are couched on your page. Rather Shy
(April 6th) does seem a bit disadvantaged being shy while, as you suggest,
he was in a bar. Rather Shy seems to dislike being asked direct questions
and you reply that he is lucky that anyone is interested enough to even ask
questions. Anyway I have to take an opposing view to your response on this
one. I accept that many girls are doing a social fact find but I don’t
agree that the formula is correct and therefore to be tolerated. So far so
good. So a girl sees a boy and dives in asking questions. We all know the
format and it is probably as tedious for the girl as the customer. Already
she is in dominant mode: she wants me in the bar, to sit down, to place an
order, and surrender to questions... I have changed the routine and, so long
as the girl understands enough, suggest to her immediately following the
initial “What's your name?” that she should give me something before she
asks for something. This is always funny as the moment is always of total
non understanding and confusion. However, by the time she realizes that
offering her name before asking mine is an even deal and much more
acceptable we have become the best of friends. As soon as the fun starts
girl realizes I am interested in her, her name, her family, her money, etc.,
and I am just as happy to reciprocate or trade information; photos on both
sides come out, pictures of husbands and wives, children, pets, etc., always
still ending up with “you pay bar fine?”
Now I never answer the first question.
If the girl doesn’t understand my trade she is not, in my mind, ready yet,
or, to return to your statement not interested enough.
Dear Not Desperate,
Well, aren’t you the cocksure one! I honestly can’t see that the difference
in the approach has any merit to it, especially when, as you report, the
ending is the same with a request for the bar fine to be paid. However, I
can see that you are one of those people who like to dominate, so it is
obviously more satisfying from your point of view, my Petal. However, you
should realize the more astute workers behind the bar would have already
seen through your attempt to dominate the cultural exchange and you are
liable to end up drinking on your own, though probably feeling very
self-satisfied. Beside yourself even, probably your favorite position?
I’m in a bit of a spot here, as it seems that my wife’s Thai family believes
in ‘give and take’ with them doing all the taking, while I do all the
giving. The association has been mutually beneficial, with me enjoying her
company and the attentiveness for which Thai women are so famous. I am from
the UK and I know what I left back in the home country. I was a widower,
and certainly had no mutually beneficial relationships, and not much likely
to find one either. When I came here, I just couldn’t believe my luck. All
these attentive young women who seemed to enjoy my company. It seems that
the famous Thai attentiveness comes at a price. You get nothing for nothing
but these women here make you forget this. They think they deserve a free
ride in life, but nothing in life is free, is it? It certainly isn’t free
for me. I can see myself being cleaned out in the next few months, and the
British pension stays the same while the cost of living goes up. What’s
your recommendation Hillary? Go under or cut and run while I can?
While the Thai society expects that the husband “gives” everything to the
wife for her family, that is not your idea of the relationship, is it,
Petal? As you say, you want a more equal ‘give and take’. Your thoughts
and feelings are not being met here. You are in a relationship involving
your Thai wife and himself. This does not mean that you have to forget your
own roots and ideas. What you and your Thai wife have to do is to work out
between you what you, as a couple, want to do. This is not a one-sided
arrangement as you would appear to be having at present. George, you should
have learned all about this side of Thai life before entering into a fixed
relationship. However, all is not lost. The very first thing you have to
do is to sit down with your wife and discuss the family finances, and by
“family” I mean you and she. You have a fixed income as a British
pensioner, and between the pair of you work out how much is put aside for
your living expenses as a couple, and then you will see what you can afford
to give to your wife’s Thai family. If you cannot come to an agreement, I’d
be on the next bus out of town.