Don’t flirt with the maid

April 27th, 2010

Asian Maid Cosplay

I read something on the Bangkok Post Forums that was kind of interesting. A foreigner wrote that he bought a condo in Bangkok and was trying to be friendly with his neighbors and condo staff when the condo manager told him there were complaints from other owners about him talking with the maids. He wrote on the forum to try to figure out why other owners were complaining about him.

There are a bunch of commenters giving their opinions. Many of the comments are similar to this one where it was explained that:
1. they think you could be sexually harassing the maid
2. seducing their maid (Thai people have the image that many westerners just come to Thailand to find wife)
3. country girls are easily attracted to westerners to get quick cash and an easy life (they fear their maid will leave them)

I thought about it and I have to agree that it is probably something like that. I would add a number four:
4. they worry that their maid will one day become your wife so will be elevated to owner status same as them

This comes from the reputation of foreign men in Thailand, that they will date and even marry the lowest class girls. I’m not talking about maids and other labor workers; I don’t look down on them at all for their work, only for their bad behavior (which is very common). The reputation comes from the foreign men marrying bar girls. I’ve posted about this several times before, talked about the large number of couples where the woman is a former bar girl, entire villages of these couples, and the tens of thousands that live in provinces like Udorn Thani. When you look at the estimates of the number of these couples and compare to the total number of foreign men living in Thailand you conclude that 90% of foreign men living in Thailand are married to prostitutes. I didn’t make up the numbers and have nothing to do with the facts of the situation but that is just how it is. So that’s why Thai people have a low opinion when they see a foreign man with a girl who looks like she could be a bar girl. Again, not my fault so don’t get mad at me (I always have some readers get angry when I am just reporting the news).

So in the case of this man on the forum, the Thai owners may be afraid that the man will end up marrying one of the maids and move her in next door to them. Next thing will be her friends visiting. Then the Thai owners have some friends over and they see what they assume is a bunch of bar girls living next door.

BTW, if the maid looked like the one in that photo there would be no issue.


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32 Responses to “Don’t flirt with the maid”

  1. bart Says:

    “90% of foreign men living in Thailand are married to prostitutes”???

    At least you should say: “90% of MARRIED foreign men living in Thailand are married to prostitutes”. Lots are single. Oh and I doubt the number has any background.

  2. Jaded Says:

    I agree. But I suspect their is a strong racial element to this discrimination also.
    I went to dinner in a Thai middle class restaurant in Rangsit with two Thai sisters and their Isarn mother last weekend. Chinese middle class people sailed past us in the line cutting us dead. And the service when we eventually sat down was awful of course. The interesting thing is that both sisters have have been educated at international schools and abroad, have two higher degrees and are well mannered, well spoken people. They, and their mother, are short and dark though and this is sufficient grounds for them to be socially excluded by the largely Thai Chinese middle class. Its been said before but its worth saying it again. The Red’s adoption of the term “Prai” reminds me of the black civil rights people seizing on the term ‘nigger”.
    Its been my experience that even dark skinned shorter members of the Thai aristocracy, people who are the grand children or great grandchildren of kings, will experience this racially determined Chinese-Thai discrimination unless the bigots are aware of the person’s background. I saw a well known writer and aristocrat receive this treatment recently on Sukhumvit road. He was the only Thai in the company of farangs and the arsehole Thai Chinese staff jumped to the conclusion that instead of him being highly educated, raised in a palace and a confidant of royalty, and a well known accomplished writer and artist, he was some sort of low paid servant to be condescended to. The greedy Chinese-Thai “owners” you refer to have no ethical values beyond those based on appearances or their own narrow family interests so we should not be surprised at their reaction to foreign people who show respect regardless of the person’s social status. Its no coincidence that Abhisit cultivates a milky white appearance. Mr Privilege’s smug smile as he disdainfully dismisses the democratic will of dirty dark colored people expresses the hidden racist logic of Thailand’s elite owner class. When I see white skin on a local in this country I see yet another brainwashed fascist wannabe.
    I know your site is basically promoting these values but even a half serious comment like this one is saying something interesting about how insecure the elitists of Thailand really are. It must be current events that are challenging your normal blithe disregard for ethical standards. Keep up the unconventional thinking. You may even start to wonder about the impact of the kind of values you are promoting on this site! No-one, not even a Thai Chinese elitist, wants to live in shit. Eventually, even the most selfish fascist bigots have to recognize that the general welfare of the community is impacting on their own lives too and promoting slavery in a society without a safety net is a risky business for everyone involved…

  3. AsianSweetheart Says:

    The 90% number is based on the number of marriage registrations in Udorn Thani and neighboring provinces as reported on the TV show last year that investigated it. Those numbers were compared to the total number of non-imm O visas (retirement and supporting family type visas) and permanent residents (a very small number). It doesn’t include foreigners who are in Thailand on non-imm B (business) or tourist visas doing visa runs. It’s still only an estimate because they didn’t have numbers from other provinces, just guessing, but the number of couples in those Isaan provinces is quite large, and the percentage in places like Pattaya and Phuket is most likely more than 90%. So there is a pretty strong basis for the number and it is for all foreign men, not just married.

  4. AsianSweetheart Says:

    I think that’s pretty accurate. There is another part that you left out, is what are those country people really like? Are they just simple country people who are victims of the white class? I live with them now since I live in Isaan. They come and work for me sometimes. They come from all over Isaan. I buy from them at their shops in the villages. I must say that after I get to know them there are very few I respect. 90% of them, yes at least that much, are lazy, stupid or dishonest, usually a combination of at least two of those things. Maybe that sounds bigoted but it is my first hand experience so it is not being a bigot it is actual experience.

    Most of the men are drunks – like I need a fence built, they come and work for a couple of days and then want an advance, then disappear for two or three days and when I go to the village to find them they are too drunk or hung over to work. This happens time after time. There is one carpenter in the village that is a good guy. He worked for me for almost a year, every day came to work, never missed a day from being drunk. He has one of the nicer houses in the village, sent his daughter to college in Bangkok, does pretty well because he is a good honest sober worker. One man in the village like that.

    My family agreed to share the cost of a housekeeper and gardener so I have had so many couples come and go, one excuse after another – ex that they lied about they have to go back to, kid they kept hidden that needs to be taken care of, lazy and hiding in the garden smoking instead of working, leave the day after payday without saying anything, the stories and excuses never end. In the last five years I have had only two good workers and they were not Thai they were from Myanmar. I try not to hire Thai people now. Everyone of my friends and family have had the same kind of experiences.

    I can’t say if the fair skinnned people of Bangkok are better because they aren’t working for me, although when I was working in the TV production companies I never saw this kind of behavior. But if 90% of the workers from Isaan are like this then you can see why the people of Bangkok look down on them. I don’t look down on them but I also don’t trust them or expect anything better from them. If they do better then I am pleasantly surprised.

  5. John C Says:

    I won’t dive into the issue over the 90% number… But, as you should know, just because you see it on Thai TV or read it in the Thai newspapers, doesn’t make it true… Journalism here is neither an art nor science….

    Having said that, I think you probably should have said, or would have been more accurate to say, 90% are married to “EX-protitutes” — unless you think either a) someone who’s done that for their work deserves to carry the title the rest of their lives or b) the ladies once married are all continuing to sell themselves for sex after they are married.

  6. AsianSweetheart Says:

    They interviewed the director of the amphoe in Udorn Thani and he gave the numbers. Seems like you don’t need fancy journalism to do that, came straight from the person who manages those things. Maybe he was really just an actor and they made up the whole thing for TV…yeah, right.

    Sure, they aren’t prostitutes any more but getting married doesn’t change the character of the person, still the same kind of person

  7. ThatGuy Says:

    “Sure, they aren’t prostitutes any more but getting married doesn’t change the character of the person, still the same kind of person”

    I typically love your site and enjoy your comments. But your linking of character to profession is laughable at best. I definitely lost a bit of respect for you with that one.

  8. AsianSweetheart Says:

    You think a person being a prostitute doesn’t say so much about their character? I can’t think of many things that are a stronger sign of a person’s character.

    I guess I shouldn’t comment on this subject because it makes a lot of people mad.

  9. ThatGuy Says:

    Not everyone has the same set of options in life. Hopefully your situation will never dictate the testing of your character. But I guess the lack of empathy and quickness to prejudge already says enough.

  10. Debacle Says:

    @ AS – I think you SHOULD comment on this. I’ve only traveled in the kingdom, so my experience is far less many people who post here, not to mention yours. The one thing I will say is that it’s a particularly strong taboo in the US and Europe to judge people by skin color. That has more to do with our own colonial and slave-based past than anything else, it doesn’t make us any less bigoted, it’s just something that really rings alarm bells for us.

  11. Vasha Says:

    This should be of no surprise. Caste and class are in many ways observable. While being snubbed is unpleasant; it is preferable to the violence that occurs in some other cultures over these status issues.
    This occurs in almost all cultures. I have met high class call girls who have the mannerisms of upper class women. Compare that to your home town hottie and you will get the “pretty Woman” effect.
    The Euro group needs to be reminded that it was after the crusades that the “tall dark and handsome” (for men) appeared in the West!
    You can take a person out of the Ghetto but cannot get the Ghetto out of the person.

  12. John Says:

    I disagree with you, but I still want to read your comments. Hopefully, you don’t think less of those who don’t agree.

    I think it’s too much of generalization – I do agree that some retired prostitutes would make poor neighbors. But I’ve lived in enough different situations to believe that a lot of people make poor neighbors.

  13. Seth Says:

    we’re all whores to some extent….so he who is without sin…

  14. William Says:

    I like what you say AS.. I agree with you. I lived in a small village in Northern Lopburi province and at least 90% of the Thai men there were drunk every time they could find 20 baht for some of that clear booze. forgot the name. And I think about the 90% of farangs married to prostitutes. I have one farang friend out of 12 who is not married to a former bar girl. The other 11 are. Pretty sad…

  15. AsianSweetheart Says:

    lao khao “white liquor”, pure alcohol, cheapest way to get the whole village drunk. I think it causes brain damage quite quickly.

  16. AsianSweetheart Says:

    John, I welcome people who disagree, good for discussion and can learn, too.

  17. Slunky Says:

    Two things at play here. The most important being that most of the view points in the comments appear to be made by “westerners”. To view asian culture through western eyes does not make for a complete picture. There are very few western parallels in asian society in countries like Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, China, Japan, etc. The current generation in Thailand is certainly stepping out of traditions now, but 30 years old and older still revere the old ways. One of the old ways included a married man taking a second wife, who might be of lower caste, (quietly acknowledged, not lied about and hidden, nor just a friend with benefits) . There is no equivalent in western society, polygamists included (many second wives living under the same roof). A lot of asian men, like most men; love the idea of the good girl/bad girl relationship. They just don’t head off to western countries to marry a whore. They find it in Wife #1 and wife #2
    Secondly; western men come from countries where monogamy is preached and legislated. If they are divorced or separated, and land in a place like Thailand; they are easily tricked into thinking that they have found girls here, who are good girl/bad girl rolled into one. They just seem to never quite grip the nuances of how they’re Madonna/Whore is viewed by the rest of the Thai nationality. Even if it is just the maid and not a bar girl, they wonder why western men would want to flaunt them by making them Wife #1
    That farangs are miffed about the perception that they are rich and dumb just shows everyone how much westerners lack any real insight into asian culture

  18. Jaded Says:

    Its quite a thread of comments now isn’t it?
    I’d like to point out something very simple. You are living in Isarn surrounded by people that you obviously don’t respect. I would therefor have to say that you are thoroughly alienated from your local community. However you do try to employ people to do work or to be your servants. I am betting you don’t want to pay them much as you are living in Isarn and workers should be cheap? So not only are you alienated from the population but you are also engaged (it would seem from your comments mostly unsuccessfully) in exploiting the locals that you don’t respect. This is really the classic colonial mentality and speaks directly to the condition I have repeatedly observed in Thailand. The Thai Chinese business class are essentially relating to the rest of the population as colonial occupiers. I wonder what people would say if an European from a former colonial empire was to remark that these shiftless natives are lazy and always getting drunk?
    It was very interesting reading your replies to the various comments. My personal favorite is when you alluded to your preference to employ people from Burma as servants… People who are in desperate circumstances and denied basic civil rights make perfect house slaves don’t they?
    It would be hard to disagree with the comment about your total lack of empathy. Your mercenary attitudes were already very evident in this site of course but its interesting to see someone condemn themselves out of their own mouth.

  19. 1808 Says:

    At least half of my foreign male friends living in Thailand who are married were married long before they arrived in Thailand. In most cases they aren’t even married to a Thai. So, aside from whether or not 90% is a reasonably accurate estimate, perhaps you should say: “90% of foreign men living in Thailand who are married to Thais are married to ex-prostitutes”. Apologies for “beating a dead horse”.

  20. John C. Says:

    Ms. AS, you’re getting a bit crazed here…

    #1… Your original post talks about the idea “that 90% of foreign men living in Thailand are married to prostitutes.”

    Well, if that idea is somehow based on an extrapolation of numbers based on people in Udon Thani, I hardly think anyone can base a conclusion on all farangs in Thailand based on whatever numbers may exist in UT… Thailand is too big with too many farang compared to whatever may be the case in UT…

    #2… Then of course, while I know the U.S. has its Census, I wasn’t aware that Thailand had its own Census that enables local officials to keep track of whether a woman has worked as a prostitute or not… Is that something that gets checked on your Thai ID card? Do they issue a special color card for ex-whores??? Does the local government guy keep his own Rolodex list??? Really, Ms. AS, think about what you’re writing…

    #3.. Implicit in what you wrote would be the notion that at least 90% of all farang living in Thailand are married, if 90% of all of them are married with (ex) prostitutes. Well, I can pretty well assure you, the percentage of married men among farang living in Thailand is nowhere close to 90%.

    I’m no fan of prostitutes. I don’t frequent them. And I’m married to a Thai woman who has never come close to anything in that world. But on this subject and report, you’ve really taken a dive on the deep end…

  21. AsianSweetheart Says:

    All this stuff about me, getting too long and complicated to respond. I don’t get the “colonial” thing and all that stuff, or why you would call my housekeeper, gardener and carpenter “slaves” – they come and ask for work, then they either earn my respect or disrespect – most of the time disrespect for their own bad behaviors.

    My family is from Isaan, everyone except me was born near Ubon, worked on a small rice farm, saved some money to move to Bangkok and open a small restaurant. Everyone worked and helped each other, and grew up just fine doing respectable jobs. I’m a city girl because I grew up in Bangkok but all my relatives are Isaan. So what does that mean? Am I part of the white city class that is taking advantage of the dark country class? Or that I’m really baan nawk trying to be Bangkok hiso – that’s what a commenter once said and he said he could tell by looking at how my toes spread that I grew up working on the farm. Omg, seriously, some of these things said about me are so off.

    I respect people who are respectable, like my Isaan relatives, some of the local villagers (my carpenter and his brother), the nice hill tribe girl (my “house slave”) who worked at our house for a year and saved enough money to remodel her mother’s home near Chiang Rai. People with bad behavior = no respect.

    The numbers about foreign men and bar girls are estimates but based on the actual numbers of visas and marriage registrations. So people don’t want to believe it, ok. Maybe it isn’t 90%, take your guess, but for sure it is a large percent and the whole point is that it explains a lot why Thai people have this idea about foreign men.

    Ok, this is enough for me already because this story isn’t about me, it’s about a man in Bangkok who is trying to understand his situation. I’m just pointing out maybe it is based on things that really happen in Thailand. I think it’s time to go back to posting the fun stuff. Remember, this blog is about the other 40% and from all these comments it reminds me why I don’t post very often about this subject. Now I need to get a good mood again so I can post my usual stuff.

  22. Jaded Says:

    “…they come and ask for work, then they either earn my respect or disrespect – most of the time disrespect for their own bad behaviors”.
    “I respect people who are respectable…”
    Ever wonder whether the locals respect you?

  23. Debacle Says:

    @ AS – I realize you’re not interested in the conversation, but want to clarify something. I wasn’t referring to you or Thais as being ‘colonial’ or having slaves. I was saying that for a few hundred years European and Americans exploited dark-skinned people, either as colonies or in the American case actual property slaves. Because of this there is a strong cultural aversion for many people even talking about skin color. When I explain to Americans that there is a strong cultural preference for lighter skin in Thailand they instantly assume it’s racism of some kind. I explain it’s more like the American preference for being tall, and that sometimes works.

    Anyway, just didn’t want you to think I was insulting you in your own home, which I’m far too polite to do.

  24. AsianSweetheart Says:

    Jaded, you can keep trying to insult me but asking if I care what people I don’t respect think, um, that’s not clever or interesting or on topic.

    Actually, talking about me is off topic for this blog, so I’m going to get back on topic.

  25. Paul Says:

    Well, you ssure opened a can of worms here. I would like to comment on the earlier comments about the chinese-white middle class and the ruling elite.
    Thailand has only been a democracy for the last 80 years. It reminds me very much of England victorian times when the rich were in power and the middle and low classes had no real say in anything. You say the workers are sometimes lazy etc., and I don’t disagree, but when the minimum wage is 180 baht a day it doesn’t inspire people to work hard. The present elite want to keep prices down and the local economy as it is so that they can keep the masses where they want them. Until Thailand institutes a basic welfare system and allows more foreign investment things will not change. The leaders of the red shirts are no better, they’re just p***ed because they lost the election and can’t get their hands into the honeypot anymore. The current government has a cabinet of which 6 went to Cambridge university in England. 5 of those have degrees in politics and philosophy. That doesn’t really look good for Thailands financial future. As a class example you could use the Wai. It is done at different levels depending on what level the person is that you are doing it to. I have no problem with the basic concept but it will cause problems with future generations who will be influenced by other cultures. As a final thought, virtually every country in the world that has got rid of it’s ruling elite and changed to a democracy has at some stage had a civil war. Watch out!

  26. RETURN RANT Says:

    I would like to add that I think the post was controversial, perhaps deliberately so, but always likely to offend the other 40% who don’t favour prostitutes (in any country). AS, you should leave these kind of posts to the other blogs where foreigners enjoy chatting about bar girls and other such like. Why would you introduce it to your blog and lower the standard. If you aren’t actually talkign about it, it generally means it doesn’t exist in your world. I don’t find myself discussing prostitutes at all, because that world doesn’t influence my life. I do like looking at pretty girls in your postings though. My trying to make generalisations, you will always upset a large number of people who don’t fall within a category. you should look at why you wanted to make a generalisation – does it make you feel more comfortable, thinking that ‘foreigners’ are 90% the same – is that ‘safer’? I can tell you that almost every time I respond to a question in Thailand in Thai, I can see people surprised that I as a foreigner can speak Thai. Maybe that is because there are a lot more tourists than residents in Thailand. I do wonder what most Thai’s think about ‘foreign residents’ as opposed to ‘tourists’ or whether the distinction is made, or whether actually anybody cares. By learning to speak Thai, and learning about Thai people, I have learnt that not all Thai people are the same, far from it, and that you should treat people on a case by case basis, trying not to make assumptions. My driver is a family man, looks after his family, gets paid overtime, and never complains. Another driver I had tried to take additional monies wherever he could, was late, and drove badly. I do not stigmatise drivers with bad behaviour simply because of a bad experience. Any bad thoughts, anger or discontent circulated by reference to foreigners will generate karma which will eventually come back to the pepertrator of the bad thought and expression. I suggest we start to think selectively about the nice things foreigners do in Thailand: employ Thais; generate monies for the country; pay taxes; attract foreign investment; contribute to charities; spread knowledge of international practices; share cultural differences to create appreciation of diversity; form friendships; marry Thai nationals and contribute to greater cultural diversity in the region – the list goes on and on. Focussing on foreigners who ‘marry prostitutes’ is a bit easy, and a bit weak, and more than a bit lazy. It is easy to spot (mostly).

    I salute AS with her continued to committment to spreading the joy of natural beauty; good humour and entertaining content.

    Over and Out.

  27. Wentworth Says:

    In the main middle class / upper Thais are vapid, vain, xenophobic and completely racist and are only interested in their status and the status quo.
    Asian sweetheart points out if the maid was beautiful there would be no issue, see the subtext. Of course she only looks down on such people for their “bad behaviour”. It would be funny if Thailand wasn’t a joke. Basically Thailand is a nation of bullies, in every quarter the strong prey on the weak. If you are weak you better learn to be subservient or you will be crushed, know your place and keep quiet. Ignorant westerners don’t know the rules so sadly they stuff up and converse with the servants or marry bargirls, they are to be pitied rather than despised.

  28. AsianSweetheart Says:

    You sound angry. Thailand is actually a wonderful place full of wonderful people, at least that’s my experience.

  29. marke Says:

    You may all be reading too much into this. My wife found the same thing in Singapore, with people asking her not to talk to their maids.

    They simply want these people (their maids) to remain silently in the background. They are not really planning so far ahead as to worry about an upstart as a neighbor. I also believe some of them fear that creation of links may result in reports of mistreatment. My wife talked to one girl who was locked in all day (behind a steel front door grill) while the family was at work, and only ever went out in their company. (…and after a few hellos as we passed, she then stopped responding at all, apparently following orders).

    There is a lot wrong with all this, but some, such as AS, will never recognize it nor acknowledge the role that luck and good fortune have played in their own lives.

  30. AsianSweetheart Says:

    Another weird comment towards me. I know I am very fortunate. I also know where my good fortune comes from and it isn’t about luck.

  31. wentworth Says:

    Marke you are correct the treatment of maids by their fellow Asians throughout the region is a disgrace.
    AS I’m not angry but I have noticed of late there are a lot of angry people about in Thailand.

  32. Paul Says:

    Stumbled upon your site today and found the topic and comments interesting. Looking forward to read the rest of your work/hobby. Let not the detractors get you down. Be yourself and thanks for writing.

    Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. Thomas Jefferson

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