Introduction of Today’s Guest on Thai Women Living Abroad
I am lucky to have the opportunity to interview today’s guest Khun Naan Madamthai. She is a lady that’s well-known on the circuit for giving her help and advice to Thai ladies that move abroad. Khun Naan herself was born and raised in the district of Mukdahan in the north-east of Thailand and didn’t actually move with her husband to Amsterdam in the Netherlands until a bit later in life. Today, Khun Naan gives us her views from the inside on life in Amsterdam.
Introducing Khun Naan MadamThai
All Photographs on this post are taken by or courtesy of Khun Naan MadamThai
How did you come to live in The Netherlands and what first took you there? Where do you live in The Netherlands and how long have you lived there?
I got married with a man from The Netherlands, therefore moved there permanently at the end of 2009. We moved to the centre – right in the heart of Amsterdam.
Could you tell us a bit about where you were born and raised in Thailand, and what life was like there as a child growing up?
I am from the district of Mukdahan and we are descendants of farmers, but we were not poor, because my father and mother were very hard-working people. In Mukdahan, 40 or 50 years ago we only had one elementary school with one exam, but I wanted to study and work in the Government service. I moved to live with my relatives as they lived near a school where I could study at an improved level.
What work do you now do in The Netherlands?
I am a housewife in the Netherlands, because at age 50 years old, it’s not easy to start something new. In Thailand, I worked as a nurse in the Government service for 26 years before arriving in the Netherlands. Further more, I only studied the language to the point of passing the exam required under Dutch law. I did some work in the Netherlands, but it was either as a volunteer or for contentment rather than receiving an income.
Can you speak Dutch. Is the language and communication a problem? Did / do you find Dutch difficult to learn? Do you speak any other languages?
I can speak Dutch, but not proficiently, because if you are not out there in the community speaking the language and your husband does not speak Dutch with you, then you are down to just watching the television. Then we are almost unable to learn conversation or practice in everyday life. In our house we use English together. The Dutch language is really difficult, it’s totally different from Thai or English and when you study it, you almost choke as well. The words are really extreme. These are words that you use in everyday life and some coincide with words that are not very polite in Thai. For example, words like Hoi, Dag, Daag, translate as greetings in Holland and are therefore normal in everyday life. I couldn’t actually bring myself to speak theses impolite Thai sounding words for a year. Pronunciation in itself is a big subject and I went and studied pronunciation alone for one year.
When you live in Thailand as a Thai , you can do anything and you feel great, almost perfect. When you go to live overseas at an older age in your life there are some things that you can’t do. You find it’s not so easy to totally adapt and you can lose pride and confidence in yourself on occasions. It’s not easy at all. On the other hand, it’s good that I don’t have an obligation to provide as my husband is a psychiatrist, he supports me very well. I therefore have happiness living overseas and carrying out my support work in the community.
How difficult was it adjusting to life and the culture of The Netherlands after growing up and living in Thailand? What were the most difficult things to adjust to? What were the main differences coming from Thailand and how long before you really became adjusted to life in The Netherlands?
I moved abroad at the age of 50 years old with my mind having been full of Thai customs and traditions for a long time. Adapting to a new country is perhaps different for younger people who move overseas, they can adapt easier or certainly more easily than older people. For me, the customs were different, the culture was different and the language was difficult. For instance; Thai people will be horrified and dry their mouths if they accidentally spit when they talk, but the Dutch will have saliva in their mouths when they speak and this was different enough already. In general there’s a massive contrast between the Dutch culture and the Thai.
For example, our offspring call us in sequence of the family. They call father, mother, uncle, aunt – from elder sister of parents, aunt from younger sister of mother and aunt from younger sister of father. In The Netherlands, when they want to call someone they call them by name only. It’s not like that in Thailand, we don’t call only by the name. For example, whether it’s the daughter of Khun Tawan or the son-in-law of Khun Tawan , they will merely call him by just the name ” Tawan ” and not call him father. Thais show big respect to older people, but in The Netherlands they treat more senior people the same as friends.
Regarding helping each other, it’s generally not that different from Thai people at all. If we prepare ourselves and accept that we have moved abroad then adjusting is not too troublesome.
Is there a big Thai community in Amsterdam? Are you in contact with many Thai women as friends and do they tend to stick together? Do they all seem to adapt well to life in Amsterdam / The Netherlands? What in your view are the main problems that they encounter?
There are a lot of Thai people in Amsterdam and they create business in the region also by way of lots of restaurants, bars and nightclubs. I have a few Thai friends here, but not that many. The friends I have are young friends from the school where we learn the Dutch language together, and a couple of other Thai friends outside of that. This is mainly due to me being a little bit older and the forming of new friendships becoming a bit more difficult. There’s also the problem of me living right in the centre of the City, it’s busy and people come and go all the time. If you are visiting my area by car then you’ve got to pay the parking charge of 4 Euros per hour. No, to be honest, contacting over the internet is far easier and you don’t have to waste money either, you can consult together, it’s far easier than meeting up.
Most Thai people who work here are limited to such work as cleaning jobs, working in a restaurant or massage work. Just lately though I’ve seen a big increase with Thai people working in the Sushi restaurants and outlets. Sushi has grown in popularity. You ask whether they are happy and live contentedly, but it’s a broad question. Things are so expensive and everybody must help each other, it’s a struggle to make a living in fact, both, husband and wife must combine efforts to make a living. If the husband is the only earner then it’s possible to be virtually penniless. Furthermore, if relatives in Thailand need money urgently as well, then it can be a really unfortunate situation. The tax here is really expensive and people have lots of living expenses until hardly any money remains at all. Finding money here is not easy at all. It’s easier if you have friends that can perhaps get you work where they are working or if not maybe recommend you to places that need employees. This way, you have a better chance of finding work, but I repeat, it’s not easy.
This is a massive generalisation, but what are the Dutch people like? What do they enjoy doing and what’s the personality of the Dutch?
The Netherlands, translates as the low lands with only approximately half of its land exceeding one metre above sea level. It rains almost everyday so people therefore stay in their houses most of the time, completely shut away.
When visiting each other, you must have an appointment and you must be punctual as well. They are very strict on time here so don’t be late for appointments.
As it rains most of the time here, the people obviously crave the sun. When they see the sun almost everybody will come out for a chance to get a sun tan. This is something that everyone desires and if they have a bit of time and money, they will go out and drink coffee in the coffee shops and bars and eat outside of the house. It also gives them a chance to chat and catch up with friends whilst of course, watching the people go by. Free time is really reserved for a vacation in a different location and showing that you have the means to take a vacation in a different location.
The Netherlands is a small country but the population is made up of people from all over the world, in fact people from more than 154 different countries, so there are vast ranges of culture. It’s a combination of cultures in the Netherlands and those cultures all mix in together. However a genuine Dutch person is generous and kind, this includes both men and women. In general, this is not different from Thai people. In fact all of the people who have moved here permanently, for example Arabic people, Thai people or Europeans also follow the Dutch example of generosity and being of a good disposition, the same.
What is the cost of living like in Amsterdam / The Netherlands? Which in your opinion are the expensive things and which are the things of good value?
When I first moved to the Netherlands I thought everything was expensive here as I was comparing the euro to the baht. However, after living here for quite a while I realised that it was not that expensive in comparison to other European countries. Amsterdam is a location for people moving abroad, therefore we have Turkish people, Italian people who move here to live and they bring consumer products to sell also. It means there is every type of restaurant at your disposal and for me, not far from home at all. The Thai restaurants are expensive. When we want to eat Thai food, we make our own and of course, it tastes good as well. By doing this we don’t have a problem with expensive Thai food. To be honest Thai food is more expensive than the other foreign foods that are here. Something else that’s expensive is staying in hotels in Amsterdam, it’s basically because Amsterdam is a big tourist location. Amsterdam is a popular tourist location for Thais, Asians in general, Americans and Europeans.
Could you give me three things that in your opinion are great about living in Amsterdam? Could you then give me three things that are not so good about living in Amsterdam?
Amsterdam is a capital city that’s not really that big, it has many canals and many beautiful buildings. It’s a tourist place that you can visit to the extent of 3 days and will almost have completed everything. This accounts for many tourists visiting here. In fact, there are more tourists here than people who actually live here.
On the Good Side
For me, this is a good city, because it was the opening of a new chapter in life for me. It gave me an opportunity to see different style architecture, experience different culture and learn new things in life. My location is incredibly convenient, I am able to come and go by myself on foot and my husband doesn’t have to worry about me. If I need to go a bit further out then I can use the electric train. It’s very convenient and has food available as well. Clothes are not excessively expensive either, if you go and buy in the market. The goods are priced lower, but the quality is still good and you can shop to your preference.
Because I moved to Amsterdam at 50 years of age, I didn’t take up employment. However, the money that my husband provided was more than enough for us to design life the way we want and with happiness. For people who are currently still available for work, there’s a lot of opportunities here to find work. More opportunities in Amsterdam than in a lot of other cities.
The Not so Good
On the not so good side of things, I would say that it’s because we stay close to the National Museums. It’s constantly congested with visitors and there are bicycles everywhere. They encourage and promote the use of bicycles here continuously. The road is divided into a part for pedestrians, a part for motorists and a part for cyclists.
People that are visiting Amsterdam should always remember to check if the route they are walking on allows cyclists or not. If it does allow cyclists, then I would say don’t take that route. Cyclists are very fast and it’s easy to collide with one whilst on foot. Instead of having a fun visit to Amsterdam, you might end up in an accident instead. Just to let you know that cyclists are the privileged form of traffic here. I’m constantly very careful of cyclists here and I suggest you take the same care.
On the other side of the matter, if you are a visitor to Amsterdam and want to try your hand at cycling then you should also take care. Besides the safety factor, there’s the unevenness of Amsterdam, it’s up and down all the way.
For us to go touring around it’s fun, convenient and safe, but there are tourists everywhere. There are so many people out walking and you must beware of something else as well. Don’t become absent-minded with your property. Pick pockets operate, so take care of your bag and belongings at all times when out and about, especially in crowded areas.
What would you say were the main problems in a Thai woman / foreign man romantic relationship? Are there any similar problems or misunderstandings that relationships have? I’m talking more to do with cultural differences really.
I think that the Dutch are certainly romantic. On occasions they will appear with flowers or bring you a gift. They will hold hands, kiss and cuddle in public, all natural activities of lovers. If people like sweet romance then I’d say that the Dutch are certainly romantic. The biggest difference is that the Thai will speak in an indirect way and try to be careful of your feelings, and the Dutch speak direct and frank. However, if husband and wife learn to understand and adapt to each others ways and customs, then they won’t have a problem with romance. Each country has good people and bad people, people romantic and unromantic all mixed in together. I suggest you search and carefully select the suitable lover for you.
(เพื่อสาวไทยที่มีแฟนต่างชาติจะได้ปรึกษาปัญหาช่วยเหลือกันเบื้องต้น – สมาคมเมียฝรั่ง )
Some Thai women think that moving to America or Europe means a better life instantly. What advice would you give Thai women that were thinking of living in America? What would you advise them to beware of? Could you give me 3 things for them to think about before moving overseas?
Good life? If you mean to have a rich man as a husband, a maid that serves you and a husband who gives you 100,000 baht a month, then that exists only in a novel or a dream.
It doesn’t matter if you live in Thailand or you live overseas, you must work then you will receive money. The cost of living abroad is very expensive inclusive with all the various taxes that you have to pay. The taxes are so high that at the end of it all, you just about have enough to make ends meet from month to month. However, If we move with our husbands and both the husband and the wife work, then we will have a satisfactory amount of money to live on. Sometimes though, household bills and large financial obligations force us to work so hard, and this can occasionally lead to splitting up and divorce. It’s here that the misunderstanding of each others culture and ways can play a big part.
To start with the work that we get is likely to be employment in labour jobs only, such as cleaning, massage and working in a restaurant. This is the same for Cambodian women and women from Myanmar that enter Thailand to work. At first they only get labour jobs for several years, but if we learn the language, learn an additional profession and develop ourselves, then our working life can improve. It can be difficult in the working world as I hear some people say that you have to beware of other foreigners who are industrious, hard-working and want to become leaders. They develop themselves to an extent whereby companies will of course choose to employ these people. It’s not that they don’t see value from you, but the for the most part its the problem of language and communication for Thai women that move abroad.
Advice for Thai women that move abroad in order would be; first get a good grip on the language, speak as much as possible and don’t be shy to speak the language. Study the language continuously. I would give the first 5 years of your new life in a new country over to learning everything you possibly can. This is the learning stage, but you must continuously work hard at it. Therefore we must choose a well matched partner that we can talk together with and reach successful solutions to problems with. You need to have a plan for your life and what you want to do.
Don’t conceal your problems or create problems as it can end in splitting up and divorce. Everybody when they move abroad dreams of having work, having money to spend, having a loving family, having money to go traveling and return and visit relatives. Where ever you move abroad to, you must work together in order to achieve these things. Work for the purpose of earning money, work in order to be occupied, work to be free of stress and tension and according to our status in order for our future and our happiness.
I moved to the Netherlands at close to 50 years old. The thing that made me most proud of myself was to work in the Netherlands helping the Thai community. I have seen a lot of problems with Thai ladies that are married to Dutch men.
The sort of problems that I came across mostly were misunderstandings involving language and culture, not having any work to do, having very little money for themselves and not having any money to send home to the family. Furthermore, during the adapting period of time spent in the new country, sometimes the total love that they had for each other had diminished and they were now tired of each other.
I think before you go overseas you should prepare, get ready to go. Learn about each others food, study a skill before you actually go and live overseas, and that way you will have something you can do when you get there. For those that have a Dutch husband you should study the customs and traditions of the country and get a deeper understanding of the Dutch mindset. You should also learn how to use the money and create a budget for your lives and stick to. Learning the language to as good a degree as possible will give you more opportunities in employment. It’s important to stand on your own two feet as much as possible. When you have problems don’t enter into silence, talk to your husband and let them understand you.
Another important thing is before you agree to become a wife and move overseas, you should first go on a trial period to your proposed location. Get to know your surroundings and familiarise yourself with the area. Enough of a trial period in ordinary everyday life will also give you an idea of your lovers character. A vacation whirlwind romance is one thing, life together forever is completely another thing.
The first year of your stay overseas can be the toughest and can bring up many small problems. You will probably miss home, you may want to return home and some ladies actually do return home.
There’s no gold to just casually dig up overseas the same as there’s no gold to dig up in Thailand either. However, if you fight, battle and are hard-working, you can create a future. Here, you must never focus on where is the society that you came from and how high is your education. When you live abroad, you start from the first step again. Just be patient, learn to adapt and don’t give up. Develop yourself, learn all about your surroundings … your success depends on you.
My final piece of advice is certainly come, but when you arrive, then you must fight. Don’t get discouraged and return home empty-handed. Make a study between people in general and Thai people who are married and living overseas.
Further Information about Khun Naan Madamthai
ข้อมูลถัดไปเกี่ยวกับ Khun Naan Madamthai ซึ่งเธออาจให้ความช่วยเหลือคุณได้ครับ และช่องยูทูปสำหรับคนที่สนใจ เรียนรู้การแชทในเวปเดทติ้งต่างๆ ทุกงานเป็นงานอาสาไ่ม่มีรายได้ – Madam Thai
Thai DUtchkeuken – ชุมชนคนไทยในเฟสบุค
เกี่ยวกับการ stichtingsajaam, Khun Naan Madamthai เป็นอาสาสมัครที่สมาคมสยามด้วย สมาคมสยาม ให้คำปรึกษาและประสานงานกับคนไทยในเนเธอร์แลนด์ด้านกฏหมายฟรี
Stichting Sajaam – เว็บไซต์
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