Date Culture

Dating customs, intercultural dating, interracial dating, worldwide romance!

Get flowers by post for your loved one for any occasion.

Throw shoes at George W. Bush, get offered a wife

20th December 2008

Reported in the December 19th Calgary Sun

CAIRO — An Egyptian man said he was offering his 20-year-old daughter in marriage to Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi, who threw his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush in Baghdad on Sunday. The daughter, Amal Saad Gumaa, said she agreed with the idea. “This is something that would honour me. I would like to live in Iraq, especially if I were attached to this hero,” she said.

I’m not sure that this represents a cultural theme or not. Does anyone?

Posted in Egypt, Marriage / Divorce | Comments Off on Throw shoes at George W. Bush, get offered a wife

Online dating is US popular culture

26th August 2008

If popular culture is defined by mass media as Wikipedia claims, than an investigation of US movies and how the subject of online dating is portrayed ought to reveal something about online dating in American pop culture.

Online dating sites all have a terms or service that must be agreed to and one of the universal requirements is that you only place ads for yourself. Certainly, this is the case with all of the US dating sites I have investigated.

However in some recent Hollywood movies we see the rules being broken. Because I Said So (2007) is an interesting one because it features a mother placing on online ad interviewing men on behalf of her daughter.

In Must Love Dogs (2005) Carol places an ad for her sister, Sarah. This film explores some of the fears modern society has when it comes to online dating – as Sarah goes to meet her first date, she finds her father waiting. The next several dates also go poorly until she meets Jake.

Interestingly, Jake was pushed into meeting Sarah (someone else arranged the date). Their first meeting is awkward for several reasons (including that they both feel awkward for having met online). Eventually, Jake and Sarah do end up together, but at the end of the movie they say that they met at a dog park (rather than an internet dating site).

These two movies portray online dating as an accepted part of US culture. They acknowledge that many people feel apprehensive about online dating (thus the need for outside help) but ultimately US pop culture is showing us online dating success stories. Even the failures (for example in Must Love Dogs a teenage boy mistakes Dolly’s 61 years old for 16 and shows up at her house proclaiming his love) are seen as comic moments rather than serious hardships.

Posted in TV and Movies | Comments Off on Online dating is US popular culture

Can we learn something about dating in LA from a TV show?

16th June 2008

Brad Garrett on a relaity TV dating show…

I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t have much faith in a TV show trying to show us something real about dating culture.

Posted in America | Comments Off on Can we learn something about dating in LA from a TV show?

More Korean men experiencing intercultural marriages

27th April 2008

I just read about international marriages in Korea, particularly between Korean men and women from Vietnam, China, the Philippines, Mongolia, Thailand, Russia, Uzbekistan.

In my Korean language class, offered free by the government, there are 7 housewives, me, and a Canadian man. 2 of the women come from the Philippines, 3 are from Vietnam, 1 is from Uzbekistan, and 1 is from Kazakhstan.

In some rural towns in Korea, where population decline is a problem, the local government helps pay for men to fo on marriage tours because the women they bring back and the babies they will produce help the town.

There is some controversy over how the women are sometimes treated by their Korean husbands.

Posted in Korea, Marriage / Divorce | Comments Off on More Korean men experiencing intercultural marriages

Study on Successful Cross-national Couples

17th June 2007

If you or anyone you know is in a cross-national couple and if you/they can answer “yes” to all of the questions noted below, I invite you/them to participate in this study:

– Can you read and understand the English language?
– Can you write your answers in one of the following languages: English, French, Spanish, or Portuguese?
– Are you over 18?
– Are you and your current partner of different countries of origin?
– Have you been living together full-time for at least one year?
– Do you consider yourself to be in a mutually satisfying, stable, long-term, “successful” relationship?
– Are you interested in anonymously sharing your experiences in order to help others understand the challenges and the joys that you have encountered in your relationship?
– Are you willing to dedicate about 30 minutes to participate?
– Can you guarantee that both members of your couple will participate in the study, each answering his/her own identical yet confidential questionnaire?

Please note: Non-US-nationals, unmarried, and same-sex couples are especially encouraged to participate, as there exists little data on these populations.

Close Date: Participant questionnaires will be accepted from now until June 25, 2007. The earlier they are submitted the better!

Just click on the link below or cut and paste the link into your browser to learn more information about the study and to get started:

Posted in Lifestyles | Comments Off on Study on Successful Cross-national Couples

Dirty dancing in American high schools

22nd September 2006

American high schools (and middle schools as well) routinely have school dances (typically one each month), including some evry important ones like Homecoming and the prom.

Recently some schools have been cancelling the dances because students are “freak dancing” or “grinding” where the female dancer’s buttocks press against the male dancer’s groin.

People in some cultures find it interesting that American public schools even have dances for the students. In Korea, for example, students don’t have school dances. It appears that because of their desire for sexual contact during school dances, many American students will no longer have school dances.

Posted in America | Comments Off on Dirty dancing in American high schools

The Sleeping Dictionary

6th August 2006

Jessica Alba plays a half  Iban / half British woman, while Hugh Dancy plays a young Englishman. The two fall in love but their respective cultures will not allow them to marry. It’s interesting how many movies about intercultural relationships explore the ‘forbidden love’ angle as The Sleeping Dictionary Does. Interesting cultural differences between the two lovers are not mcuh of an issue.

The setting of Sarawak, Malaysia in 1937 and the British Colonialists is not entirely accurate but the story is compelling. In addition, Jessica Alba is not from anywhere near Borneo but some suspension of disbelief is needed for any film. My only real complaint is the extended sex scene which seems fairly pointless after the first minute or so.

This movie never hit the theaters but The Sleeping Dictionary did winning four DVD Exclusive Awards in 2003: Best Actress Jessica Alba, Best Cinematography by Martin Fuhrer, Best Supporting Actor Bob Hoskins, and Best Supporting Actress Brenda Blethyn.

Posted in TV and Movies | Comments Off on The Sleeping Dictionary

American man trying to rekindle relationship with Korean American ex-girlfriend

10th May 2006

Here’s an interesting thread from a football message board. As far as I can tell, all the participants are male.

Doug: Before I begin I need to give all of the background facts because this is a very complicated situation. It’s best to start with my last girlfriend. I started dating my previous girlfriend my sophomore year of high school up to the summer before I left for college. She was a year behind so I decided to spend that year in San Antonio going to UTSA after which I would transfer to Texas.

Well as fate would have it we broke up about two weeks before class started and obviously I was very hurt since it was my first breakup. Now every single one of my good friends left San Antonio and I am a shy person so I basically was completely alone while I was dealing with this breakup. I ended up staying home all the time except for class and I found ways to keep myself from going crazy by playing games online. It eventually got to the point where I did not even want to go out anymore and was content with where I was.

In November I met my last girlfriend whom I dated for two and a half years. I was still in the mindset of staying home all the time and having a girlfriend made it that much easier for me. As time went on, this problem became worse and worse. I stopped caring about just about everything including school. It got to the point where this last semester I would not go out even if my girlfriend was throwing a party. I went out maybe once a week and that would be for dinner with my girlfriend, lets call her S. So obviously S could not take it and she broke up with my in April.

Now even though I was in this state, I did always treat S well. I would spoil her and do almost everything I could to make her happy, except go out. I would also like to remind you that she is from a Korean family where tradition if important. For example they really want her to marry a Korean if possible and she isn’t to have sex before she is married. Well the second part did not happen LOL.

So we broke up and for me I hit rock bottom. Even though it was about a month and a half ago, I have completely changed my life around and started doing all the things I used to do like work out, party, read, never watch TV, and all of that.

Now this is where the problem starts. Last Saturday S called so that we could exchange some of the stuff we still had of each others like she had my camera and I had her sunglasses and key. When we started talking she was obviously sad about something. I talked to her about it and she was telling me she was having guy problems. For example, she had/has a crush on this guy named Lee and they went to a formal a while ago. After the formal they were in the car and he said something like, “I’m sorry I’m taking this so slow” meaning the relationship. S then says, “That’s ok I like where we are.” meaning it is ok that they are taking it slow but he took it another way and hasn’t talked to her since.
She also has another guy she has been talking to for about a week and she has a crush on him as well as he likes her. The problem there is he has a girlfriend up in Dallas and they were talking about getting married so obviously she is trying to back out. The point is she was sad about her situation.

After we talked about this I wanted to make her feel better so I went over to her place to exchange the stuff and we started talking about how we’ve been. I convince her to come to my apartment because since she left I changed a lot of things and I wanted her opinion. She was telling me how stressed she was so I started giving her a massage and things went from there as in we ended up having sex.

Afterwards she kept saying how she could not be with me again because she went through so much when we were together and after we broke up. I understood that because when we broke up she told me that if we were ever to get back together it would have to take a long time because she needed to see that I am not the same person I was when we dated which I am not.

So afterwards we talk more and I tell her that I’m looking for a church and she invited me to go to a Korean church with her on Sunday which did not end up happening because we both were up late at different parties. Then I tell her that if she wanted I will go dancing with her and she invited me to go with her next Saturday after her last final.

So I drove her home afterwards and we ended up doing our own thing. I saw her again on Sunday night when a friend of mine gave me some brownies from his work and I thought S would enjoy them as a study break so I brought them over to her at the university. Then on Monday I wanted to give her a nice meal so I cooked her favorite meal at her house and made a very romantic setting.

Now my question is, what should I be doing? I obviously still care for her a lot and want her back but I do not want to be so aggressive that I push her away. What kind of balance should I be looking for? I also think it’s important to know that when we did break up she told me that because of the type of person I was she did not love me anymore, but obviously we would not have hooked up on Saturday if there weren’t any feelings left.

As for me, I have made the changes in my life to not revert back to who I was. I have gone out almost every night with friends since the break up, starting working out again, as well as I have become more motivated then ever to be a doctor. All of this was started by the breakup but it is not because of the breakup. I actually took the breakup really well and really did not feel really hurt except for my ego. This all came about after seeing her on Saturday.

Thanks for reading through and please feel free to share your thoughts. I can use all the advice I can get right now.

BTW – I did talk to all of my friends but they have never been in a situation like this before.

The replies were pretty interesting with some suggesting total honesty, some suggesting more sex, and some suggesting that the ex-girlfriend was nothing but trouble.

Don: Get her drunk, take her home, and nail her. Friend-type awkwardness will be replaced by a whole new breed of awkwardness.

John: If she is already viewing you as a “friend” and talking to you about other dudes, you are probably already past the point of no return, where you have little to no shot with her. Start dating other women and make sure she’s knows about them, that’s your best shot.

Peter: Very simple: Put your best foot forward and if she likes what she sees, she’ll give it another chance. If not, it was never meant to be. It’s easy to say but hard to do but that is usually the bottom line in any relationship. Good luck amigo

Clams: Dude, stop being such a sap and forget about this rocky relationship, because it sounds like it will never work. You’re her beackup plan….stupid! Deal with it get over it and get out there and party. These are supposed to be the best years of your life….stop wasting your freakin time pining away after your high school sweetheart. Reality check…..helllooooooo….SNAP OUT OF IT!!!!!

Mighty: You are already back in there. Just keep doing what you are doing. Go out somewhere with her at least twice a week and do other things with friends and casually mention some of those things to show you are over that hermit stage. Find a way to bring out that you are working harder with your goal of being a doctor. And most importantly keep banging it out.

Life: Be careful. I mean the real question is what do you want – having your cake and eating it too is not the answer. If you want to go out with her, then follow through on that path. If you want to be freinds, then you can’t sleep with her – it is okay for dudes, but for most women (regardless of what they say), they get attached once they sleep with someone.

It sounds to me that this relationships is comfortable and you are still looking for something else when you go with her. You are more motivated for your career and your buddies when not going out with her. I just think you are not ready for a serious relationship and if you were, then you wouldn’t be having all of these questions. Last point – you can only go to the “freind who happens to be a sleeping buddy” well so many times – take it from me – it will eventually blow up on you and create resentment.

Lawyer: Here is the deal, you can’t worry about “staying friends” with girls you “like”. Its contrary to what most people think, but becoming “friends” with a girl is NOT A GOOD WAY TO BOINK HER. Becoming “friendly” with a girl can be a nice step towards that, since you demonstrate that you are interesting, funny, and charming. But once you get to the “sharing feelings” stage, it’s too late to be the “friend”. I don’t want to say you can NEVER segue from friend to boinker, but its rare and generally fails. That said, if you really want to give it a try, give it a try. Tell her you think you’re the right guy for her, and invite her out to a nice restaurant. But you can’t be worried about screwing up your friendship in that case. In fact, your friendship is already screwed up (you want to boink her) so you’re better off putting that out in the open.

J: you could just tell her how you feel. Explain that when you were dating you were going through a rough patch. Tell her you have since straightened yourself out and now realize what a good thing you passed on. Tell her you owe it to yourselves to give it another try. Being straight forward is the best way to go about these things.

Don: Just keep nailing her as much as you can. This is obviously not going to work out in the long run. So try to do some dirty stuff with her. Try to do the types of things that you would not want to do with your future wife.

Jimmy: If your going to be girlfriend/boyfriend that’s fine. Being friends, with former girlfriends is not good. I went down that road a few years ago and looking back, the best thing that happened for me was her moving away.

SEC: John is right. She’ll string you along as long as it takes because she is a girl that desperately needs attention. Some women are like that, they constantly need people around them fawning over them. Move on, find yourself another MaryJane Rottencrotch and S will be all over you like stink on a monkey. The more nice things you do for her and the more devoted you get the less she will do in return. She will do just enough to keep you guessing and more importantly keep you around.

Hassan: Strong advice. This gal is acting confused. What she SAYS means little. She did hook up with you. So what I would do if I was you: go out, meet other girls, and ignore her. Wait for her to call you next. You are squarely plan B right now. Quite frankly, its disrespectful of her to bring up other guys she likes. She also knows she’s got you in her back pocket. The only way to change all that is to send her the signal you are not going to put up with it. And, DON’T discuss other guys with her.

SEC said it best. Its a classic string along, nice gestures will accomplish the exact OPPOSITE of what you want to do.

John: Bingo. What a woman SAYS means nothing. Her ACTIONS are the proof. Sleeping with you, unfortunately, is another act of confusion on her part. STOP being overly nice to this girl, it rarely ever brings a man what he wants with a woman. She’s going to give you the boot as soon as she finds the next guy, and he will be along soon.

Hassan: And finally, having been there myself, this girl does not sound worthy of your attention. Anyone who strings you along is pretty self-centered, seems like that may be the case here. Once you break up, no friendship. And a decent girl won’t break up with you then keep trying to get your attention afterwards.
Blue: Her parents want her to marry a Korean. Even if things work out (marriage), they won’t work out. Plus, you report she has already had other guy problems, you are soon to be another guy problem. You are obviously young, time to move on.

Posted in America | Comments Off on American man trying to rekindle relationship with Korean American ex-girlfriend

An American man needs help buying an engagement ring for his Filipino girlfriend

18th April 2006

Here’s an interesting conversation from an online message board. An American man is getting ready to ask his Filipino girlfriend to marry him and needs advice about what kind of diamond ring he should buy. In America, we call this an engagement ring.

 This conversation shows some interesting aspects of American culture and how Americans perceive Filipino culture. 

Matt: I need some advice on finding an engagement ring. I know absolutely nothing about rings and she seems to have VERY definitive tastes. We have watched several TV shows/movies where a woman receives an engagement ring and my girlfriend says, “Yuk, that ring is so ugly.” Meanwhile I have absolutely no idea why and am terrified of getting a ring that she hates.

I can’t ask her for advice beforehand as she kills me on my lack of spontaneity on gifts since I usually just ask her what she wants.

Dave: talk to her best friend or sister.

Matt: I thought about that. I think her best friend in DC might be a good one to ask for advice…

Paul: Yeah, see what her sister and or best friend got and go a little bigger.

Matt: I know jack about styles or even jewelers… Any help would be appreciated.

Paul: Maybe ask her mother.

Rob: Ask her in round about ways and not at the same time what kind of cut on the diamond she would like. For example would she like a princess or emerald cut. Then you need to ask about the setting. Does she prefer platinum, gold or white gold? Personally, I would go with the platinum. The spontaneous part is when you decide to give it to her. Look, you are going to invest some serious coin in a ring. Its better to get her what she wants if you can afford it, because the consequences are worse if you get her a ring she does not like. It’s better to listen to her complain about too little spontaneity than to buy a ring she doesn’t like.

John: First…congrats. Second…why hasn’t she felt obliged to give you something that demonstrates her desired commitment? This one-sided sexist crap drives me nuts.
In the increasing woman’s world we live in, I think it is high time that we get the engagement gift. After all, isn’t getting our avowed monogamy enough?
Women, can’t live with them, pass the beer nuts.

Jason: Get zirconia. What is she gonna do, appraise it? Take the savings with you on your bachelor party trip to Vegas.

Matt: Thank Rob. Good advice. I have no clue how I am gonna ask her… heard lots of “sweet and thoughtful” stories about how guys popped the question… I like the beer nuts idea, but it might get me in trouble.
Guess I would love to just surprise her with something great. If I ask her, she will be expecting it. Ideally, I wanna get her something soon… She just turned 30 which is like 92 in most Asian cultures, so her parents are really giving her a hard time.

John: Avoid trendy settings. The size and quality of the stone you choose will depend on your budget, but the one thing I would do is avoid trendy cuts and especially trendy settings. Think timeless, something she will not want to replace when it goes out of style in 5 years. Do your research and avoid places like Tiffany’s where you’ll pay a very very big premium for the pretty little Tiffany blue boxes.

Rob: I proposed on a beach in Thailand. She dug it big time. Then we spent 3 months trying on diamond rings because there were, apparently, occlusions in the stone I had picked. Ya, good times.
Matt: I am looking for simple yet elegant.

Jason: A rule of thumb is three months salary…

Aaron: I bet you change your oil every 3000 miles, too. 3 months? Please.

Ian: I don’t think I followed the formula myself when I got engaged. My wife wasn’t picky about the ring, she was happy to be getting me. (gulp)

Chris: That 2 or 3 months salary rule is just a lot of marketing BS made up by DeBeers about 15 years ago. It is not a standard, just what a company that owns a majority share of the diamond market is telling you to spend.

Alan: my best advice would be don’t plan on doing anything expensive again for a while.. When I proposed to my wife, (girlfriend of 5 years). I was this close..(fingers about a half a centimeter apart) from buying a new Chrysler 300 C. I bought the ring instead. She is very happy. And I’m still waiting on the Chrysler. Happy wife, happy life. Good luck.

Danny: I had to laugh at your Asian line about 30 being like 92. Same boat here, my girlfriend is Filipino… Lets just say I can relate to you ;). Good luck.

Matt: My girl is Filipino as well… Spent Christmas in Manila and New Year’s in Boracay… Can’t tell you how many marriage questions we fielded… It was pretty comical how forward people were about their opinions on our wedding date.
Peter: Spend just one evening watching a jewelry channel (with her) where they auction the stuff. Saturday night there is a higher end show out of California (Fine Art Treasures) that will give you a real good idea about value. You will see that what is appraised at $20,000 can be had for 1/10th the price via these shows. Retail stinks. However, you could go shopping with her to get an idea of what she likes as far as cuts, style, solitaire, round or little diamonds. Is she simple, fancy, etc.? Once you get that idea then go online at a reputable place or go to the shopping channels for deals. Remember to get her ring size (from her mom).

Posted in America, Philippines | 2 Comments »

Thai marriage and wedding ceremony experience

4th April 2006

On November 21, 2004 I married my Thai sweetheart, Nat. Despite our cultural differences, I am an American who grew up in the South; we found it easy to be with each other. We were both older though she was 15 years my junior. She had never married. I was divorced with an adult daughter and grandchildren. She is Buddhist. I am Catholic though not practicing. I am Caucasian. She is Asian. We are both vegetarian though for different reasons. I had spent almost a year in Thailand in 2001-2. I knew a little about her culture.  She had never traveled outside Thailand.

We met online, a taboo which is a fast fading in Thailand. The vegetarian diet was our initial common interest. We soon found that despite the differences in our religion and culture we had common ground on a variety of issues. We both like children. She was a language teacher in an elementary school and would often use a portion of her small salary to buy meals for poor children who had no lunch. When I practiced homecare nursing I would buy food for needy clients who had none. While a certain level of material possessions are desirable, we can both be happy with a modest existence. She taught me about Buddhism. I taught her about Catholicism. While we still have our own beliefs, we respect the beliefs of the other.

Being separated half a world apart during the early phase of our romance was probably good.  It allowed us time to know one another. We sent emails and talked using a phone card several times a week. I finally met Nat for the first time in April 2004 during the Thai Buddhist Songkran Festival. On this trip she was not allowed to meet me at the airport in Bangkok. Since my flight got in at midnight local time it would be another day before I would finally see her in person. I arrived in Chiang Mai the next afternoon. It was the beginning of Songkran.

 Songkran marks the Thai Buddhist New Year. A national holiday, Songkran is probably the world’s biggest water fight. For several days most of the country stops work. During the heat of the day merry makers throughout the country throw water at one another. The water symbolizes the washing away of bad luck. There are private ceremonies at home where children pour saffron water over the hands of their elders. We followed tradition and performed the ceremony for her mother and grandmother.

During the next two weeks we were inseparable. We toured Chiang Mai. I made videos of the Songkran parade and the old city walls. We visited the OTOP market where I admired the wood carvings and other crafts sold by the local merchants. We also visited several temples including the beautiful temple on the mountain overlooking Chiang Mai. It was there I finally had the nerve to ask her mother for permission to marry. Her mother agreed if I agreed to follow Thai marriage tradition.

In most of Thailand, the groom is expected to give dowry money to the bride’s parents. In my wife’s case her father was deceased and it was Nat’s mother and one of her older brothers I negotiated with. After the ceremony, the bride’s parents usually but not always give half the money back to the newly wed couple. The groom is also expected to buy gold jewelry for the bride. It’s not just one ring set but rings, a bracelet, necklace and ear rings. They must be of nearly pure gold. The gold of my wedding band is much softer than the alloyed gold in the US because of this degree of purity.

After the two weeks had ended I returned to my home in Florida. On the return trip Nat was allowed to accompany me to Bangkok to see me off. But, we had to bring an older relative to act as chaperone.  Even though Nat was in her mid thirties at the time, the relative was required. She gave me a tearful goodbye and I returned to the US.

For the next several months we talked daily by telephone. Phone cards are truly a wonderful invention! As the date approached I had the nervous flutters one would expect of someone going half way around the world to marry into a different culture. The flight across the Pacific was uneventful. This time Nat was allowed to meet me when the plane arrived at midnight. But again, we had the chaperone.

When we arrived in Chiang Mai the next day I met relatives who had begun arriving from several provinces and Malaysia. Unfortunately my father was in poor health and my parents were unable to attend. A relative from Malaysia acted as the family spokesman. She spoke flawless English. My wife is of Chinese ancestry and I discovered additional requirements that had not been mentioned previously. It from our Malaysian relative I would learn of the additional requirements. I was to buy a new suit, new shoes. I was told if we were to buy a house I would need to buy new furniture. It was quite a shopping list. Since we were renting I had to buy linens, a new rice cooker and new dishes.  I was grilled about our plans and my fitness as a husband. At times it felt like the Spanish inquisition.

When the day of the wedding arrived we went to a temple early in the morning with gifts of food for the monks. Later that day we went to Holy House, the temple of the Maitreya Buddhist sect of which Nat and her mother are members. Maitreya Buddha is usually known in the west as Happy Buddha. It was there the first ceremony was performed. This ceremony was in Chinese. The physical activity, the kneeling, standing and kneeling again in rapid succession was physically taxing since I was not used to the ceremony.  After this we returned to my Nat’s mother’s home.

In the early afternoon we went to this beautiful antique Thai building. In the evening it was a restaurant. The next two ceremonies would take place at this location. The building must have been an old meeting house. It was massive. It was originally in another location. They disassembled it, moved it into Chiang Mai and rebuilt it in the present location. It was made of hand hewn teak. Some of the boards of the second floor were eighteen inches wide. Teak logs two feet in diameter formed the frame. The roof was made of tile. The tiles were laid like shingles though they were not attached by fasteners. I dressed in a Thai costume that was provided by the owner of the restaurant.

At the appointed time I was escorted to a 1939 Morris convertible parked nearby. One of my wife’s relatives and her Canadian husband were escorted to pony drawn coach. They would follow me in the procession. The crowd of guests gathered and the procession began. Cries from the guests who would accompany me to the building pierced the air. Two of the women in the parade carried symbolic plants; sugarcane and a small banana tree. Our parade noisily made its way a half block to the building with the crowd crying out and small gongs crashing as we proceeded.

Upon arrival I was to climb the stairs and find my future wife. Two young children held a silk cord at the bottom of the stairs. Two more were at the top. In order to pass I was obliged to give each child a red envelope containing 100 Thai Baht or about two dollars fifty cents.  I crossed the large room of the second floor, met my future wife and escorted her to the area where the first ceremony would be held.

After the guests had climbed the stairs and were seated, a traditional northern Thai ceremony began. The room where this ceremony was held was ornately decorated. Four full size ceramic elephant tusks were on either side of what I called the altar. There were dozens of bouquets of fresh flowers. Nat and I knelt on the floor. Her mother was seated in front of us. The owner of the restaurant acted as the leader of the ceremony. He was also in costume began the ceremony.  The ceremony started with the leader speaking in Thai to the guests. I must confess I didn’t understand a word he said. Following his opening remarks, two women began negotiations with the women holding the sugarcane and banana plant. The sugarcane was meant to provide luck for a happy marriage. The banana plant was for fertility. The negotiations were carried on as if it were a serious affair. I had to pay after the negotiations were complete.

After a bargain had been struck for the plants, I was to present my future mother-in-law with the dowry. The currency had been taken from the bank a day earlier. It was in small bills to make it appear to be a fabulous fortune. Sometimes Thai families will add their own savings to the pile to impress the guests. The money and the gold jewelry were placed in separate bowls adorned with flowers for presentation to Nat’s mother.

It was at this point in the ceremony I made my first mistake. I stood and presented my mother-in-law with the dowry. I was supposed to approach on my knees. The guests ignored my lack of cultural knowledge and the ceremony continued. The bowls containing the dowry were returned to me. I nervously took  Nat’s wedding band from the bowl and tried to place it on her finger. It didn’t want to go. After what seemed like an eternity, actually less than five seconds, it slipped on her finger. My wife then put my wedding band on my left ring finger. She didn’t have as much trouble.

I again approached my mother-in-law who was seated in front of me.  This time I did it right, on my knees. She presented me with a sword. In ancient times the sword was used by a man to defend his wife and family. The sword presentation symbolized my duty to protect my wife. The next event wasn’t a reenactment of an ancient ceremony. Photographs were taken of my wife and me with relatives and guests. The entire process took several minutes.

We moved to another location in the building for the Chiang Mai ceremony. Before the late middle 1700s Siam consisted of several separate kingdoms in much the same way as Britain once did. Chiang Mai was one of those kingdoms.  These kingdoms were unified by King Taksin the Great into the Kingdom of Siam. Siam would later become known as Thailand.  “Thai” means free.

The Chiang Mai ceremony began with my mother-in-law tying a silk cord around my right wrist. She did the same thing to my wife. At the time she did this she blessed for our future happiness. Our grandmother repeated the tying of a silk cord around our wrists. We then moved behind the altar. The leader passed a long silk cord that was connected to a flower arrangement across the altar placing it between he thumb and forefinger of our praying hands.

We remained in this position for what sometimes seemed like an hour. A Thai women sang a song she ad-libbed telling the story of our relationship. I didn’t understand what she said at the time but I could tell she was good at this. She sang about me coming from far across the ocean to marry my wife. She told the story of my wife’s birth and a mother’s love as she raised her child. I looked at my wife. Tears were streaming down her face. Mom and Grandma were crying too as were most of the Women. Just before the song ended the leader took the long silk cord from our hands. Then guests came forward two by two to tie silk cords around our wrists and give us their blessing.

When the last guest has completed tying the silk cord, we moved to the floor. My wife and I were given a ceramic bottle containing water. We poured this water into another ceramic vessel in the shape of a boat.  My wife tells me this is to ask forgiveness for our sins in the past life and he present. After the boat shaped container was moved away, we began what can be best described as the Thai version of the husband and wife feeding each other cake. There was a tray of different confections and small plate of garlic. Each of these confections had symbolized a different aspect of our future life together. The garlic was supposed to be an aphrodisiac. Nat did not take the garlic because her religion’s dietary laws forbid it.

Next we moved to another room. In this room was an antique canopy bed. Nat and I kneeled in the center of the bed. The guests then wished us luck and happiness. There was another round of picture taking and then we left for the reception below. We were led by a creature that can be best described as the body of a goat and the head of a cow with deer antlers. The Burmese Hill Tribe girl who was employed as a caregiver for grandma became excited when she saw the creature. It was from her culture’s mythology. She told us his name which I no longer remember and was delighted to see he was part of our ceremony.  The actors who operated this creature were very talented. He could even wag his tail. He was also very good at taking twenty baht bank notes in his mouth and swallowing them with a loud clack, clack, clack. How the actors could remain in the cramped position needed to operate the creature is beyond me.

The guests were seated for the reception dinner and floor show. When Nat and I had eaten, we made rounds to every table. Each guest was presented with a copy of a book about our wedding. This book is somewhat similar to a program that guests might receive at a church. Some guests presented us with red envelopes containing money. In Thailand money gifts in red envelopes are usually given in lieu of wedding presents. A relative accompanied us carrying the box with the wedding books. Another carried a large silver bowl to collect the red envelopes.

The reception floor show lasted several hours. We were treated to Thai dancing, a traditional knife dance and acts from Thai history and culture. At the end of the show my Nat and I waited by the exit to thank the guests for their attendance and see them off.

At the end of the evening one of my wife’s cousins drove us to our apartment. He assisted us in moving my wife’s clothing into our new home. Before he left, he did something that made me feel, despite the differences in our religion and culture, I was accepted. He reached for my hand, looked me in the eyes and warmly said in fluent English, “You have married a wonderful girl. I want you to know you are now our family too.”

Posted in America, Marriage / Divorce, Thailand | 1 Comment »