Despite the fact that I am married to an Asian woman I cannot honestly include myself in the enlightened group just yet.
When I returned to England a couple of years back, I met an acquaintance who had lived in Thailand for about the same length of time that I lived in Korea and was engaged to a Thai woman.
When I first learned of this and saw them together I must admit that I found myself in a state of suspicion about their relationship. They were of roughly the same age and seemed to suit each other but I was making wild assumptions about them without knowing anything about them, I was being grossly unfair.
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Stereotypes are not often without any glimmer of truth, however, and a recent trip to Thailand taught me precisely why it is present.
In Bangkok, there was about a 50/50 split of some rather dodgy looking couples – as in old ugly men with young Thai girls – and couples of roughly the same age that seemed entirely natural.
In Pattaya, on the other hand, nothing was normal-looking; it was simply weird looking older guys, sporting grey pony-tails and fat stomachs with skimpily dressed young Thai girls everywhere you looked.
This is a powerful picture that not only sears deep into your psyche but it is also something that is a fit subject for jokes between friends over a few beers because, after all, it does look horrendous and quite ridiculous.
The image of the aging, beer bellied, creepy-looking guy with a petit, pretty, and young Thai girl is so engrained onto the brain that I notice a few things are forgotten when people enter into dialogue with a mixed race couple of White and Asian decent (White man and Asian women). ’ I can’t ever recall asking anyone this question or having it asked to me about ex-girlfriends of White-British ethnicity.
I have experienced this countless times personally, much to my annoyance. My relationship could even become a fit subject for jokes in a way that would be taken with genuine offence with a conventional white-white (or in fact almost any other combination, including black and white) couple.
Other stereotypes make their way into conversation as well and I have had all sorts of questions that regularly turn into assumptions before I can answer them properly. Friends, of course, start to do this in good spirit after a while, but others regularly do not and expect you to take such jokes in good heart.
What do you think when you see a white Western man with an Asian woman?
Perhaps if I asked you this question whilst hand in hand with my Korean wife your response might be something like, ‘Nothing different to any other couple.’ I would love to believe that this is honestly true, however, my experiences since being with my wife do not reinforce this nice idea.
Not even talking about the racists and the truly ignorant, our relationship is still viewed with suspicion in many people’s eyes.
I suspect they just cannot get past the idea of slimy old men with young Thai brides.