Expat wives' biggest fear in south-east Asia? Hubby running off with a bargirl

As an American friend here in Singapore remarked to me the other day: “There's a certain kind of man who, after years of being ugly, suddenly is not when he comes to Asia.  He’s flocked by young women and realises they had him all wrong back at home, it must have been the harsh overhead lights of his office.  In this bar in Bangkok, hey, he’s Prince Charming.”

The expat man as a chick magnet?It may be a cliché, but it’s one that worries many expat wives out here.  Horror stories of so-and-so’s hubby running off with the Filipina maid, or a Vietnamese cutie / Thai bargirl he met on a business trip are rife at expat coffee mornings.

My friend’s remark was prompted by a story she was relating of a male acquaintance of hers, a high-earning senior executive at an international company. He dumped his wife to marry a woman who had called out to him from a kiosk in Bangkok. Fran said the temptress had diamond studs in her  gold-capped front teeth.

I started hearing such stories soon after my arrival as an expat in the flesh pots of the east. Soon, disaster befell one of my neighbours, a British woman married to a hotshot businessman – they had four children.

After he bolted, I saw photos of him in his youth, and he wasn’t bad looking then. But by now he was fat and balding; the brutal truth was he was unattractive, except possibly still to his wife, and not a catch, except financially. He travelled regularly to Thailand. While I was still stumbling over as-yet-unpacked boxes, he came home and announced he was leaving her for a girl who worked in some Bangkok watering hole he’d visited.

I expect you’re thinking: so what? Could happen anywhere. You can’t command love. Four kids? Of course he left! A middle-aged wife and mother can expect to be dumped wherever she lives, and if expat wives are paranoid, that’s their problem.

And you’re right.  But at least wives in the West can generally assume that if some strumpet nicks their man, then she leaves herself open to social censure. Whereas in poorer parts of Asia the strumpet’s mum is likely to be grateful she’s guaranteed the family an income, at least for the duration, and her friends will hope to emulate her in winning themselves a walking wallet. 

Now I expect you’re thinking I’m way too cynical, that I’m vilely painting Asian women as scammers. No, I’m not that horrible. I agree with Warren Olson that gold-digging has its reasons. Warren worked for many years as a private investigator in Thailand. He investigated large-scale, organised love scams of all sorts, often exploiting the internet to extort money from men in the West using Thai dating sites, or targeting sex tourists, whom I’m sure we can all agree deserve exactly what they get.

He told of his experiences in two books, Confessions of a Bangkok Private Eye, and Thai Private Eye. Warren told me Thai girls targeting expat men is not so much about scamming, as about cultural differences. “It’s about the strong Thai attitude of a girl looking to do the best she can for her family, by marrying up or into wealth; i.e. a farang, or foreigner. These girls know they have done wrong by Buddhist teachings  - allowing most haveworked in the night trade -  but they feel they can redeem themselves a little by at least providing for their families through marrying or having a relationship with a British guy.”

It should be said that expat wives are not the only ones who worry.  Expat men themselves occasionally complain that they’ve in effect been scammed by love entrepreneurs – usually after  the relationship has fallen apart. 

But a man who wishes to be known only as “Stick”, founder of the Stickman Bangkok website, (stickmanbangkok. com) makes a fair point. His website provides information to expats about life in Thailand, including advice for men contemplating or already involved in relationships with Thai women.

He says: “If a Thai woman asks an expat for money and he gives it to her, is that a scam?  That is what happens in so many of these cases.  A guy agrees to give money to his girlfriend each week or month or however often.  Then when the relationship fails he says he was scammed.  Is it a scam if someone asks you for something and you willingly give it? 

"Even in those relationships where he supports her well and she sleeps around or looks for a guy who will support her to a greater extent, I am not sure I would use the word scam. I would call it a fair exchange.”

Published: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/education-and-family/expat-wives-biggest-fear-in-south-east-asia-hubby-running-off-wi/

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