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Heart to Heart with Hillary


Dear Hillary,
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.

Dear Undecided,
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.

Dear Hillary,
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.

Dear Desperate,
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 in Thailand.

Dear Hillary,
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.

Dear Robert,
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?

Dear Lek,
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 me!

Dear Hillary,
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.

Dear Jerome,
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”.

Dear Hillary,
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 time.

Dear Sam,
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!

Dear Hillary,
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?

Dear Jack,
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.

Dear Hillary,
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?

Dear Jeremy,
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.

Dear Hillary,
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.
Just Wondering

Big D’s chocolate affair.

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 very much.

Dear Hillary,
A belated Valentine’s Day greeting to you.  I enjoy reading your weekly column.  I hope you enjoy the chocolates I sent you!

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.

Dear Hillary,
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.

Dear Hillary,
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 forever.
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!

Dear Hillary,
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.
Not Desperate

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?

Dear Hillary,
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?

Dear George,
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.