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Riding "Pegs Up"

During the past few years that I’ve been living in Thailand, I’ve managed to find myself involved in a few romantic relationships. Some of these have lasted months, and some only days. I’ve figured out that in order to determine if I’m currently in a relationship, one needs only to look at the rear pegs of my motorbike. If the pegs are down, I have someone riding with me on a regular basis. If the pegs are up, I’m a “wolf pack of one,” stalking the streets of Chiang Mai on my Honda scooter.

I’m certainly no relationship expert (ask any of my exes), and this blog is written from my own personal experience, so I apologize to the ladies in advance. There are plenty of reasons why these romances tend to be short in duration. The main one is I’m in no hurry to give up my single lifestyle. Unlike many people I know, I don’t mind spending time alone. I am rarely lonely, and if I feel the need for face-to-face human contact, I can drive to the Rainbow Bar (see last blog), where everybody knows my name (cue Cheers theme song). I would have to meet someone with whom I am very comfortable to allow her to move her toothbrush into my bathroom on a long-term basis. There are many obstacles to overcome to get to that level of comfort and familiarity.

One obstacle is the language barrier. I’m ashamed to say that my proficiency in Thai should be much higher than it is at this point, and while most people here speak English at some level, there are still misunderstandings galore trying to communicate as a couple. Even communicating with a partner who speaks the same language can be difficult at times, imagine not being able to explain what you meant after the unintentional damage is done.

Another obstacle is cultural differences. Thailand is a culture where “saving face” is important. Most people will never say anything which may be construed as insulting, even if it means not telling the whole truth. Thais aren’t always good at accepting responsibility for anything that will cause them embarrassment, or to lose face. Forget trying to play the blame game. Arguing is a futile endeavor here. It’s impossible to win an argument when your partner refuses to accept responsibility, even if he or she knows they were wrong from the start.

One major cultural difference is the way Thais relate to their families. If you take on a girlfriend, congratulations! You also accept the responsibility to take care of her kid, out-of-work brother, mother, father, and grandmother. In Thailand, there is no Social Security. Even when a Thai woman has a baby (often out of wedlock), she has to go to the city to make money to send home. Her parents stay on the farm and raise the child while she sends home the money to keep the kid in school and to feed the family. When you enter a relationship with a Thai woman, you are expected to do your part as well. Hopefully, the family’s water buffalo is a hearty beast and won’t die any time soon.

There are many positive aspects to having a Thai partner as well. Once you are part of the family, you will be treated with respect (most of the time). If you grow old, and you have spent your life married to a Thai person, she and her family will look after you until you pass on. Thai people don’t stick their elders in old-folks homes.

If you come to Thailand looking for a partner because you believe Thai women (Asian women in general) are submissive and will become your domestic servant, think again! These women are as strong willed as any woman I’ve met in the U.S. It’s true women here tend to lean toward more traditional, domestic roles in a relationship, but that doesn’t mean she will put up with any nonsense or disrespect. If you aren’t pulling your weight, you’ll hear about it.

I decided to offer my opinions on this particular subject, because I know there are western men who consider moving to Thailand, or maybe another country, because they want to find a loving wife to dote on them and treat them like a king. They may have had some bad relationship experiences living in western countries, and have decided western women are the problem. They often get here and find they have many of the same challenges as they would in their own countries. I’m not saying it’s impossible to meet the woman of your dreams here, and in my experience, it’s easy to meet and talk to Thai women. I’m just saying if you have problems with this part of your life where you are, changing locations probably isn’t going to make a difference. Before you leave your home in search of the perfect romance, I hope you understand from what I’ve written, it may not turn out exactly as you think.

As for me, I’m not really looking for a forever girlfriend right now, and unless I meet someone who fits into my life very well, I will probably keeping finding myself in short-term relationships. That’s okay with me. For now, it’s pegs up!