By Erwin (from Lamphun)
I had been curious about North Thailand girls for some time and, after moving up to Lamphun, I took the opportunity to get to know one. After casually browsing through some online profiles one day, I was thrilled to connect with a lady called June; we exchanged messages and introducing ourselves.
I had been in Thailand for about a month and was studying the language. She grew up in Lamphun (just south of Chiang Mai) where she still lived, and worked at a tourist office. We tentatively decided to meet up sometime in the near future. A few days later I popped in at June's work unannounced. She seemed friendly, and after chatting for a few minutes, she suggested we meet up for drinks after her shift ended.
So, later that night I strolled over to her part of town, a bit nervous, but mostly excited to be on a first date. We played some pool and talked a bit - June told me she had had no idea who I was when I came by her work because she was talking to a few other people online as well. We laughed about that and had a nice time, but certainly didn't “connect” on any deep level as far as I could tell. In fact, at times, there were awkward silences that were somewhat uncomfortable.
Apparently, flowing conversation isn't a must for North Thailand girls because June wasn't bothered at all by the silences. She asked if I wanted to meet up the next night, and over the next two weeks we did some variation of that first date nearly every night.
The third or fourth night we went out I tried to kiss her, but she backed away and told me somewhat cryptically that she didn't want to be hurt by another man. The next night however we were kissing outside a bar; and by the end of those two weeks we had agreed to give seeing each other exclusively a try.
I've heard on numerous occasions that amongst all the different Thai girls, North Thailand girls move relationships along particularly quickly, and things tend to get serious fast. Upon first arriving in Thailand, somebody told me that if you kiss a girl it’s assumed you're in a relationship with them. I also heard an amusing story about a 20 year old British kid who slept with his masseuse and, before he knew it, was not only going out with her but also helping out in her father's restaurant. So I shouldn't have been too surprised when things with June started progressing rapidly.
She was a smart girl, spoke and wrote nearly perfect English and was
both hard working and entrepreneurial. She bought honey and tea
wholesale from Bangkok and resold it at the Sunday market every week,
and worked every other day from 12-9pm at the tourist office. June and
her mother were close, and I got the impression that it was a fairly
traditional household. I wasn't supposed to be affectionate with her
while around her mom, and when sleeping over at my place, she'd have to
lie and say she was staying with a friend. “Mom wouldn't be able to
accept that I was sleeping with a Falang,” she told me.
I had quit my job in California and moved to Lamphun on a college friend's suggestion. My expenses were kept to a bare minimum because I wasn't working at the time: small simple apartment for less than $100 per month, cheap food, no air conditioning. I got around the city on foot or by Song Taew. For June, it seemed money was something that had to be worried about, but not to the point where she couldn't go out and have a couple beers, or “splurge” on a 200 baht Italian dinner once in a while. In that sense, we were both pretty much on the same page when it came to what we were comfortable spending.
One thing that took June by surprise when we first started going out, and maybe even intrigued her was the fact that I never bought her anything. She told me on a few occasions that she hated guys that just tried to appease her – yes men that would do anything she wanted, buy her stuff etc. just to please her, so I was certainly something new.
She even told me at one point that I was the first guy she had ever
been in a relationship with not for money – wealth is a characteristic
I've been told more than a few North Thailand girls are looking for in a
man, or for looks – she put it rather bluntly: “I don't think you're
handsome” or something along those lines. Apparently her ex-boyfriend
had money, and the other people she had been seeing before me were
strictly physical relationships.
About a month or so into our relationship June invited me to come with her to Malaysia. She had been sent there for two weeks work, and had a hotel room that was being paid for by her employer. I could stay with her for free, and see a new country, which sounded good to me. One week in the same hotel room sounded sufficient though: “You might not even like me anymore after sharing a hotel room for a week, let alone two” I told her when she asked that I stay for the length of her trip.
The week together in Malaysia was fun, but it was like pressing the fast forward button on the seriousness of the relationship, and it may have been a little too much for me. At dinner one evening she asked why I liked her. Being a clueless, out-of-touch with my feelings male, I didn't have a great answer and so I just rebutted with the same question. “I like the person who I am when I'm with you” she told me. “I feel comfortable with you, and you accept me.”
This raised a question for me: I really liked June, but how did being with her change my personality? For one, many of my relationships are centred around humour. I love to laugh, and enjoy making other people laugh. But despite the fact that June's English, for all intents and purposes, was nearly perfect, the language barrier was still enough that she didn't understand any of my ‘Seinfeld’ type humour. Irony and sarcasm were lost on her. This fact truly did change my personality; additionally, June had a whole set of problems that personally, as an American coming from a reasonably well off background, weren't necessarily an issue for me or for any of the girls I had been with in the past. June’s problems, be them financial, cultural, or whatever, at times I found weighed on me, and were more than I bargained for.
This wasn't what ended our relationship, but it was something I thought about, and something that was present for me while we were together. Of course there are always language and cultural barriers when in any sort of relationship with somebody from a different place, and North Thailand girls are no different. In many ways June seemed so westernized, often while we texted it felt as if I could have easily been texting any girl back in California, but the little things can make a large difference.
She brought some clothes over to my apartment, which was fine, as she only slept over a couple times a week. But she also talked about how much she really liked me, and going out long-term. These are, perhaps, things that a normal person would hope the girl he was going out with would talk about. However, it scared me.
Until June, I had never had a real girlfriend. My time in college was filled with one night stands, or “friends with benefits” types of relationships that always just sort of fizzled out before they got serious, and that was fine with me.
So, when June started talking long-term, saying that she wanted to come out to California, and assuming that we would stay together after I went back to the states (I was going back for family reasons in April, but was planning on returning after a few months), I started thinking that perhaps I had made a mistake. On the other hand, as my American friend pointed out, it’s pretty natural to form an emotional attachment to your partner, no matter the culture. But with all the variables, this commitment was still scary.
I think maybe June sensed that I was slowly starting to drift – to distance myself. It was nothing overt, but I'm assuming girls are perceptive about these things. One day I cancelled our dinner because I wanted to hang out with a friend who was moving back to California. That same night, I asked that she not sleep over in order to get some work done. After that text, June called me and said she was breaking up with me. She felt that she liked me much more than I liked her, and that made her feel weak. I didn't protest much, although I got the feeling she was looking for me to reassure her that this wasn't the case.
I would have happily remained with her over the next couple months, but in my mind I felt like the right thing to do was to let the relationship end. I was going home, and didn't want to stay with June after I left. There was no point in leading her on. So we broke up that night.
She said she did not want to be friends, or to keep in touch when I asked. “That's not my style, I don't do that” she said. She felt the last two months had been a complete waste of time, especially if I had known all along that we would separate after I left the country. And just like that, we were no longer a part of each other's lives.
Knowing that relationships with North Thailand girls have a penchant for turning serious quickly, and knowing my issues with commitment, looking back now I wish I had been more clear about my intentions. In the US, it seems to me that a relationship is usually on the relaxed side until otherwise agreed upon, at which point the couple can take things to a more serious level. Here, it seems things are the opposite. Seriousness is assumed, and one must articulate early on if they want to keep things relaxed.
June is an awesome girl, and I wish her the best. It saddened me that we couldn't keep in touch or remain friends, but apparently that's the culture of North Thailand girls. And now I know to be more communicative early on in my relationships with Thai women.
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