Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Dispelling the illusions they have about you!

With the divorce rate soaring in the US, and women becoming less and less friendly by the minute all over the Western world, SE Asia looms for many a Western man as the last great hope on Earth offering every bloke a woman of his dreams regardless of his age, weight, looks or any other such superficial attributes. As long as he is kind and friendly and respectful and understanding ( a euphemism for someone willing to help when needed- which is very often- ), he will find a beautiful young creature that will promise to make him happy for the rest of his life.
Any foreign man who arrives in the SE Asia will probably find a girlfriend within a week, and she will be so gorgeous that he will hardly believe what such great reality can be his. There is no way on earth that a 40, 50, 60 something guy would be able to find an incredibly beautiful model-quality young woman like that back home unless he was a famous actor or president or something like that. “God bless the SE Asia!”, the man will exclaim! “There is no other place like it on the face of the Earth!”
So, what’s the catch? Well, there are a few and the most important is the delusion your SE Asian gf/wife has about you. SE Asians are by and large educated, but not too informed. In the minds of a majority of them, several myths persist, perpetuated by popular rumors and mistaken beliefs that are very hard to budge. If you do not run into such beliefs when in the Philippines, consider yourself lucky. Many of my friends, as well as myself, have experienced them, heard them and had to confront them. Hopefully, you will not have to, but in case you might, here they are:
1) Our area is the poorest area in the world. Consequently every foreigner is richer than an average SE Asian. A foreign bf/husband is therefore rich by birthright.
This is utter BS. Stack up all the 200 odd countries of the world, and the countries in SE Asia will be somewhere in the middle. It is a middle income, middle class area. Sure, there are poor people there, but by and large, things are cheap, and most folks can have three meals a day. The cities have so many cars that the traffic is absolute murder. No donkeys, bicycles or buffaloes on the streets. Skyscrapers and big banks are everywhere. Want to see a poor country? Go to Bangladesh and Pakistan. These are poor. Go to many places in Africa and India. Go to Delhi, and then, go back to any SE Asian capital. It will seem like Tokyo by comparison. Go to parts of Eastern Europe and see poor people shivering in the snow. Even go to poor parts of the US where people do not have electricity and many go hungry. However, most SE Asian girls are not aware of these things. In their minds, just because you are from abroad, you are rich because every place in the world is richer than where they are. And that mean, you have enough money to pay for everything.
2) One dollar = say 34 baht. Therefore, you are 34 times richer, and your salary is 34 times bigger.
Yup, that is what some of them think. Well, then one baht is worth 206 Indonesian Rupiahs. Does that mean that say Thais are 206 times richer than Indonesians? Again, this topic would be very hard to discuss since, most people, unless they are super duper educated would not know anything about how the exchange rate works. They do not understand that 1 : 34 does not mean that now you have a buying power that is 34 times greater. I guess, a lecture on the exchange rate vs. what the money can actually buy is in order when you meet your SE Asian sweetheart.
3) Everyone Abroad Gets Paid in US Dollars, and is Rich!
When I was overcharged for a massage- my Thai g.f. was charged B100 and I was charged B300- I asked them why they were doing that. They said it was based on the exchange rate for the dollar (I was lucky they did not hike it to B3400). When I told them that I did not get paid in dollars, but in Riyals, there was a blank stare, and the person turned her back on me. Foreign countries usually begin and end with America and are somehow controlled by America. Therefore, all foreigners get paid in US dollars and are, therefore, rich.
If it is any consolation to you, do not feel singled out for racial or ethnic reasons, because if it is a Thai who is working overseas, they will be approached in the same way and thought of as rich, as well.
Once SE Asians are employed abroad, exorbitant requests for help start pouring in by “hapless” friends or relatives for all reasons imaginable. A sister is giving birth, a brother had a nervous breakdown, a cousin needs to buy uniforms for school. You are now working abroad, so your salary is in dollars, isn’t it? And isn’t the dollar the highest currency in the world ( it is the Kuwaiti Dinar, by the way) and you are now so rich that you could buy the Moon if you wanted. Never mind that you are now a parking lot attendant in the UK and you barely have enough money to pay your bills and buy food, never mind that you are a nurse mistreated by Middle Eastern employers and often not even paid her salary; never mind that you are a domestic helper in HK cleaning toilets, insulted and humiliated daily. You are now rich, pay up, don’t be such a tightwad. Your friends and relatives need you. If you refuse, sobs and wails start coming in, with threats of suicide and descriptions of how people are going to turn into beggars and prostitutes if you don’t send money right away. If that does not help, they say it is only a loan. Of course, it will never be repaid, but that is beside the point. Find any SE Asian who is working abroad and he will share those same stories with you. But the ones that ask them for help are Equal Opportunity ‘helpees’ and they will try and get money from foreigners and foreign based SE Asians without any discrimination in the least.
When you have a SE Asian gf or wife, and are either living abroad or in her country, often people will beat a path to your door and ask money from both you and her. She is now with a person from abroad, therefore, she has a house stacked with dollars up to the ceiling. What is a few thousand pesos to her?
And guess what happens when you give or loan money? They will come for more and more money ( without repaying the firts loan). How to deal with it? Well, do what the locals do- tell them that you have a sick uncle that needs money for an operation and you just sent him some. Tell them that your mother needs to repair a roof, and you just sent her some. If that does not help, give them a small amount and tell them that it is all you have got, because you have just sent home $200,000 for your brother’s college tuition. Tell them to come back next time and repeat the procedure several times until they give up.
The sad thing in many cases is that because SE Asia is a non-confrontational society by nature of its culture, you can expect little help from your wife/g.f. when you are assaulted with requests for financial assistance. Unless the girl is well traveled with international experience, she will probably share the same illusion about you as well, and just sit there grinning and saying nothing when they ask you for money again and again. So, train her from the beginning to be on your side and educate her in financial planning and financial ‘defense’. Tell her that she is your ally in the war against money grubbing people around you. However, in case it is her own relatives who are there to take you for a ride, you will have a conflict of interests on your hands from which many a separation has ensued. Be careful and play it by ear. No bespoke solution exists for cases like that. Just remember that being angry does not solve anything in that culture.
One truth that repeatedly makes itself obvious to you even in a very friendly and affable country like Thailand, is that no one seriously gives a hoot about you and no one will help you just like it is the case in most places around the world. What you are guaranteed, though, is that your financial power will enable you to live a much better lifestyle there than back home. For your US dollars, that is.
4) A life after meeting a foreign bf or husband will be an endless bed of roses for a young SE Asian girls (and her family) ,and the future will be so bright that dark sunglasses are in order.

Many SE Asian girls post on the Internet and nurture a dream of meeting a nice American guy ( all white people are Americans), falling in love, having beautiful mixed children with whiter skin and higher noses, and being financially well provided after they get married to him. As with love everywhere, it is mostly selfish. It is about how their lives will improve because of your contribution to them. Many are also dreaming for leaving their “poorest country in the world” for America, the land where streets are paved with gold, and where every person has a million dollars in the bank as a birth gift from the government, where salaries are also one million dollars a month, and where they will live in a stately mansion in sunny Hollywood with a fleet of Rolls Royces and ten servants running around the house catering to their every whim. And guess who the owner of the mansion is? On the street paved with gold? It is you, my foreign man. That is why , when you arrive, big smiles greet you, and the lady thinks that finally she has hit a big jack pot. How monstrously naïve! The family prepares for a big celebration of your arrival, you go to dinner that she invites her friends to and you pay for it (Don’t you have a lake at home filled with golden dollars that never run out? Doesn’t your government give you everything just for being alive? )
Sometimes, a smiling young lady is hanging there as a carrot at the end of a stick, a bait to suck you into a poor family that needs support. In SE Asia, there is still a custom whereby children are expected to help their parents and grandparents. Getting a rich American husband will, in their minds, afford them the opportunity to solve the family’s financial woes, once and for all, for generations to come. Enter you, Mr. Lonely Santa Clause.

Oh, do not get me wrong, you will get a faithful and lovely wife and gf with excellent manners and beauty to boot, but boy, will she be naïve as far as your economic status goes! And will she be totally clueless about how hard life is in your country with sky high prices, stifling taxes, grueling hard work, poverty and inequality, racism, social isolation and a host of other ills that she had no ideas existed. They have been watching shows on TV about the rich Orange County families and they know how life in America is. They would like to take part in it. Americans (and Brits, Canadians, all Westerners- they are all Americans, anyway) are the richest humans to ever walk the face of the earth. Being joined to one through marriage will change their lives forever. Americans are generous, romantic, faithful, strikingly handsome, friendly, loving and super duper wealthy. Thank Hollywood for that. You are Tom Cruise, you are Bruce Willis, you are Robert Redford. Yeah, right.
So, how do you deal with it? Well, you will need to provide a long series of lectures and hold “seminars “ with your potential girlfriend/wife, and the people close to her as the audience. You will have to lay your cards on the table and explain things to her that she never knew. Because, if you don’t , a lot of nasty surprises and a separation may be the result. You can also lose your shirt. Not because of the malice of these people, but because of their very naïve ,unrealistic and inflated perceptions of you.
You will need to refute their fundamental and insidious delusions and show them how the world really is. Here are the things you will need to cover:
1) Life abroad is not a bed of roses. Life in America is very hard. You work like a dog , and can get fired for trivial reasons. People are stressed out for the most part. Medical costs are the highest in the world. Quote some prices. Show some numbers- your salary vs. the expenses, taxes, etc.
2) Show her some pictures of bums in America, the Tent City in California, the foreclosures, the South Bronx. Show her how the other half there lives. Show her the homeless shelters. Prepare a good lecture about the good and the bad aspects of life in the West so that she has a realistic view of the whole thing.
3) Show her pictures of how fat some people are and that not every woman is a Baywatch model.
4) Show her the Wikipedia Income Per Capita charts per country to demonstrate to her that hers is not the poorest country in the world- it will be smack in the middle of the chart; and explain to her the Purchasing Power Parity principle- i . e how much money can the citizens’ own money buy within the economy of the country vs. the absolute conversions of incomes from currency to currency. And , for heaven’s sake, explain to her that 34 baht to the dollar does not mean that you make 34 times more money.
5) Incidentally, also, explain to her that Americans are not “a race”, and there is no such thing as a “pure American”. That Americans can be black, white, yellow, brown with all kinds of names and religions and they can speak all kinds of languages and be born in many countries. Even educated SE Asians still harbor the illusion that an American is a tall, blue eyed John Smith born I the USA that and everyone else is not. I have met college educated SE Asian people who would tell me that a Joe Gonzales from Texas was not an American, but a John Schmidt from Colorado was a real American.
6) Show her the document called Perceived Corruption Index by Transparency International ( Google it) to put an end to her ingrained illusion about the hers being the most corrupt country on earth, and that her motherland is not only not the poorest in the world, but it is also pretty average when it comes to corruption. Boy, will her illusions be shattered.
7) Show her divorce statistics in the US and explain that most divorces are initiated by women and not by American men as she will most often think because she has been taught that ‘ foreigners’ ( meaning men) love to get divorced. Remind her that it was ‘foreigners’ such as the French, the Spanish and the Italians who brought the no-divorce concept into the world.
8) Explain to her the advantages of living in her motherland such as close family ties, friendly people, availability of cheap products that everyone can afford, general freedom and non-interference of authorities in private lives of citizens, how you can drink beer in front of your house, sing songs without neighbors calling the police, start small businesses on a shoe string, get good education without going into debt for the rest of your life and things like that.
9) Tell her that the reason Americans do not send money every month to mom and dad is not because they are selfish bastards, but because they believe that people should be independent, plus the government also has various pension plans as well as Medicare and Medicaid, and most parents would not like to receive money from their children, anyway.
10) Tell her that the differences in social mores between your culture and hers are not always due to culture, but to the level of development between two countries- hers becoming an industrial society that still preserves rural traditions of communality ,whereas the US has moved out of the industrial era and into the service and information age. Americans one hundred years ago also had huge families with sons working on the farm and helping mom and dad, but no more.
There are other things that will come up in your discussion with her and other SE Asian people, but, by and large, none of the topics described above have ever been taught to the majority of the population there even on the college level. Most people still wallow in the lack of knowledge related to these matters. It is your ‘responsibility’ to explain those things to your gf/wife and the people around her. If you do not, you will be positioning yourself for years of misunderstandings, false expectations and conflicts.


Cal said...

Can I ask what your (ever-abbreviated, please!) life story is? You have a lot of interesting perspectives and I'm very curious how you came to have such a global background. I have found myself spending in an increasing amount of time in foreign countries (particularly Asia) and expect that this will likely continue and I guess I feel like I'm walking into things you've already been through.


Truthfulinsights said...

I simply worked as an ESL teacher in various countries as I got sick and tired of sitting in the same place all the time. Plus I hit 30 and got divorced. So, I decided to travel and pursue happiness.

Anonymous said...

You'd find the same situation in most Asian and Latin American countries, especially the "poor" ones. The gf/wife will expect you to support everybody in her family including distant relatives.

Essentially you are a meal ticket!

But most American (white) husbands are meal tickets anyway so it's your decision to be a meal ticket for a white, militant, ugly and bossy woman with her kids or to be one for a submissive, beautiful non-white woman with hundreds of relatives.

Anonymous said...

you are the most intelligent person I ever came across so far. In What country were you born? and what ethnic background you came from?

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