Fly on The Wall
In February 2002, I wrote a piece titled Frustrated Women, interviewing three of my friends who felt that Chiang Mai was not the place to find love and who bemoaned the fact that they had to go home if they wanted to get married and have children. Something they’ve (mostly) since succeeded at.
I decided to get current on the singles dating scene and invited six friends to my house to get some dirt on their sex lives. Naturally their names have been changed, but after enough bottles of Chardonnay to penetrate the most sealed of lips (and have me weeping at the forlorn and empty shelves in my wine fridge), the girls weren’t shy in sharing their opinions on men, sex and life in Chiang Mai. Obviously these are very personal opinions, but I thought that since we haven’t featured many stories on women expats, you may be interested in being a fly on the wall for the evening.
It was an interesting group, five of whom were successful career women and one a recent graduate. There’s Nathalie from Nepal, 30ish, who grew up in Sweden and considers herself western, outspoken Rebecca from Oz, late 30s, and subject of my 2002 Frustrated Women interview, who serendipitously returned the day before to Chiang Mai after a four year hiatus, international jetsetter and businesswoman Pilar, 38, from Spain, naughty party girl Ada from Brazil 27, Canadian Suzanne, 26, who grew up in Bangkok and speaks Thai like a native and 28 year old Caroline from New Zealand who lives a quiet life in Pai.
Sex, Babies and Tying the Knot
“It’s easy to get laid here,” started Ada.
Right, let’s get straight into it then.
“The problem’s love,” Rebecca said with a wistful sigh that was echoed into five glasses of wine.
“As a single woman, you don’t come to Chiang Mai and expect to find love,” said Rebecca authoritatively. “If it happens, great. But you can’t expect it.”
“I actually find it really liberating to be away from home,” piped up Caroline, “there I get pressure from family and friends to settle down, find a man and have babies. It’s not what I want and because I’m here, I can set my own agendas.” The murmur of agreement rose into a crescendo.
“Yeah, that race to the alter, the depressing and cynical dating scene, the competition and pressure…poof! All gone the moment you step off the plane,” Nathalie agreed.
“When I first came to Asia people asked me how long I’d be here because they assumed that I’d go home to have children. They’d never ask a man that. What’s that about!” complained Nathalie.
“The difference between usand many men is that we don’t come here for the honey. We come here for our own reasons, not to find a partner,” said Rebecca, at which point Pilar added, “I really do feel that single women who move half way across the world to a country as culturally different as this are strong women, we share a core strength.”
“And we know the men here don’t like strong women,” Rebecca said with finality. But before we got any further into the male bashing, I asked them what they thought of the talent around here.
Mama’s and Rasta Boys
“I am only into Asian men, have never been with a white guy, so it’s obviously great here,” said a smug Suzanne, who had enjoyed her share of local lads. “I stand out here, which I love, and I’m noticed when I go out and about, not like when I’m back at home and look just like everyone else. The biggest problem with me and Thai men is that they’re mama’s boys. They like to be pampered and mummied and you either have to step into the mamma role or train them…and we all know how hard that is. And NEVER come between a Thai man and his mother, he will always listen to the mother, not you.”
“Asian men are definitely beautiful,” said Pilar thoughtfully, “but I also like western men and there aren’t many eligible and available.”
“There are plenty of tourist totties if you want a fling, and the Rasta boys, like Bali boys, seem to be scratching a few itches, but for me, and 1 think for most of US, getting it isn’t enough, we look for more and have to at least like the bloke, a criteria which many men don’t seem to have,” said Rebecca.
“For me, the brain is the sexiest muscle,” announced Pilar who admits that she is turned on by power. “Whenever I arrive in London or Amsterdam airports, I just start panting at all those sexy men in suits, such eye candy!”
“Good point!” said Nathalie. “The men here just don’t bother to present themselves anymore. Life here is too easy.”
“Which brings me to an important point,” interjected Rebecca. “My theory is that men in the west have been faced with feminism for decades now and it’s sort of turned the table on them. They are judged quite ruthlessly by women. They have to try really hard to please usand have to perform to impress us. Here they can be an underachiever and still impress.”
“You hear it all the time,” agreed Caroline. “‘You sexy man’, or ‘you big handsome’ flung at the most obscene looking men. This is great for them; western women don’t say things like that. Of course the men love it. It’s so rare for them to hear these comments that they become susceptible to them.”
“Let’s face it,” she continued, “even back home, many men aren’t into the type A personality, the strong and clever women. Here there are even fewer, there’s nothing wrong with it, they have just decided to look for other qualities in a women.”
Hooked on Hookers
“Then there’s the prostitute issue,” said someone, followed by an ominous silence.
“Look, I don’t want to be judgmental,” said Suzanne, “but the man who has made that life choice isn’t someone I would ever be interested in.”
“That’s a nice way of saying it,” giggled Ada.”Sex is never 100% safe STDs are definitely not sexy.”
“My issue with prostitution isn’t any of that,” said Caroline. “Men cannot be forced to go to prostitutes, but women can be forced into prostitution and that’s my beef with the industry.”
“Then there’s infidelity,” Ada piped up. “In our culture to tell a lie is simply wrong, truth is crucial in relationships, in Thailand a white lie can be acceptable, lines get blurred here and I don’t like blurred.”
“It’s funny that,” added Suzanne, “in the west jealousy — another very Thai trait in women — is a sign of insecurity, but here it’s a sign of love.”
“Many expat men here accuse US of being jealous of Thai women,” added Pilar. “The truth is that I’ve never considered myself in competition with a Thai woman. Of course, Thai women are beautiful, they are slim when many of us aren’t, they appear pliant versus our tougher exteriors and their skins are porcelain smooth when ours get wrinkly, but it has never entered my head that I am in competition with Thai women. We are different, that’s all.”
“Must admit that it gets tough being judged here,” mused Rebecca. “I used to get comments all the time from work colleagues about my looks, behaviour, and love life (or lack of).”
“But don’t forget that we judge by our own cultural standards as well,” added Ada, “admit it, when you see Thai men wearing shower caps and hair bands like they do here, you think they’re effeminate and not manly. But that’s just your cultural prejudice.”
“Basically it’s not easy finding a relationship as a single expat woman here,” concluded Nathalie. “But that isn’t the point. That’s not why we’re here. If we want sex we can get it, but relationships are hard to come by. That’s OK, I have a great, active life here with loads of friends, oddly mostly gay, and I feel safer than I’ve ever felt anywhere, Mr. Right isn’t on the agenda right now.”
“Wouldn’t kick him out of bed if he turned up though!” mumbled someone. And so the chatter continued…