Assumptions about interracial relationships
“Wow, your boyfriend must earn a lot to buy you that bag,” or “Your family must be so proud of your partner”.
When I confided with other friends with Caucasian partners, I was told it was “normal” and expected as we were seen as mia farang. Directly translated, it meant “wife of a Caucasian”, but it also implies that the mia’s partner has somehow elevated her status.
We’re always reminded that there will be people who misunderstand you and that their comments aren’t worth internalising; however, it’s difficult to let generalisations go through one ear and out the other when they are not only baseless but offensive.
Senator Tammy Duckworth and I at the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington DC’s National Day event
Growing up in an international school and around embassies, where interracial relationships were the norm, I never even considered the notion that someone’s race was an indicator of their relationship dynamic.
It was when I moved to the United States for university that I started noticing these perceptions in play – at the age of 19 I learnt about the term ‘yellow fever’. Another memorable moment was when a roommate explained to me that I shouldn’t be excited about dates telling me they ‘appreciate Asian culture’, because that just translated to ‘Asian women’.
Truly, it was jarring, but I didn’t exactly understand how deeply rooted it went until one of my previous partners told me that I looked like the perfect ‘China doll’, told other people that I was ‘like a geisha’ and would publicly ask if my family spoke English.
Something me and other friends have experienced is being asked if our products are “fake”, for absolutely no reason other than our ethnicities.
Thailand is considered a developing country, where agriculture is the largest contributor to our economy: we’re one of the largest exporters of rice in the world. Because of indicators like rice production and attractions like elephant sanctuaries, it’s almost understandable that some foreigners assume Thailand is a completely rural nation where people have low income.
To this day, my favorite remark from a local has to be “Oh, I want one of those *points to Jonathan*, where did you get it?”
What I couldn’t comprehend, though, was why some Thais assumed the same about their fellow nationals – to the point where it’s common to assume our lifestyles are funded by our Caucasian partners.
From my observation, it’s a commonly held notion that farang, or Caucasians, are heroes who can sweep Asian women off their feet and out of poverty; which seems to be rooted in ideas that date all the way back to the era of colonisation centuries ago. Additionally, Thailand didn’t even experience colonisation, making the norm’s roots even more confusing.
Me and my dog’s reaction to comments people made about Jonathan “raising” us: keeping a roof over our head and teaching us how to speak English
To my surprise, however, there are actually professional relationship coaches who guarantee Thai women can be with their dream farang.
Blanket generalisations about Thais
Due to the fact that there are certain factors that feed into stereotypes, we can’t exactly hold people’s beliefs against them. However, we can – and should – certainly point out that notions do not apply to a country’s entire female population.
The first time this happened, I held my tongue until someone exclaimed that his friend was “trapped” and “scammed” into taking care of a Thai woman who “got herself pregnant.” I mentioned that it takes two people to conceive a child, and was met with a sharp rebuttal from a Thai woman across the table, “Yes, but Thai women do this all the time, you know?”
No, I didn’t know.
I discussed this with my mother, who told me about the times strangers had mistaken her for simply being someone’s ‘wife’ – and not a diplomat – at embassy functions.
The comments don’t just happen when Jonathan is around, either. Something I was once told was “you’re so lucky, make sure you hold onto him and be careful that he’ll leave you for another mia farang.” To me, this hinted at his possible infidelity due to my inability to fit the description of mia farang like it was a bad thing.
Love is love
My relationship with Jonathan is based on so many factors – trust, respect and mutual obsession with BTS – but none of those things involve race or finances. It’s the same for other peoples’ relationships, so this Valentine’s Day it’s important to celebrate love for what it is – a feeling of admiration for another person, not their possessions or their race.
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