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Sun 30 Apr 2017
Interview with a Mother
Written by Panrit "Gor" Daoruang   
Monday, 26 February 2007 19:27

For my third interview, I was happy to chat with Gaby, an Englishwoman who has been married to a Thai man for nearly 30 years. She has four lovely children (well, the daughter I met is very cute). Most of her children are now studying abroad.

PANRIT: What is your name and where do you come from?

GABY: Gaby Hoontrakul, and I come from England.

PANRIT: How long have you been in Thailand?

GABY: Nearly 28 years - I came here one week after I got married.

PANRIT: Where did you meet your Thai husband?

GABY: I met him in England, while he was studying there.

PANRIT: What did you know about Thailand before you came here?

GABY: Geography was never one of my strong points at school, so I didn't really know much about Thailand, when I first met my husband. This was a long time ago, during the late 60's so I think I tended to think of Thailand as being close to Vietnam - the Vietnam War was still going on then. And of course, I'd seen "The King and I", the musical version, and that was about the extent of my knowledge of Thailand. By the time I actually came here on a visit, I knew a great deal more.

PANRIT: After you came here, did you see a big difference between "The King and I" and the real Thailand?

GABY: Yes, certainly …but I expected to! After all, the story was set a long time ago and was a pretty, pretty musical, not a documentary. I knew anyway that Bangkok was a big modern city, and was expecting big buildings …although I don't think anything could have prepared me for the traffic! I was very thrilled to go and visit The Grand Palace, and the Emerald Buddha Temple though.

PANRIT: What do you think about Thai culture?

GABY: Well, it's like anything else in life …some things you like, others you don't! When you come to live in a country that has a different culture to the one you grew up in, you have to try and understand the differences and adapt to them to the best of your ability. I think the most important thing to remember is respect. Have respect for other people and their beliefs, even if they are not the same as yours.

PANRIT: Have you got used to Thai culture?

GABY: Yes, I think so. I think I will always be essentially European in many of my attitudes, but I have also absorbed a lot of Asian wisdom along the way.

PANRIT: How many children do you have?

GABY: I have four children, two girls and two boys.

PANRIT: Do you speak Thai or English to your children?

GABY: I speak English with the children … I think it's better that they pick up good English from me, rather than bad Thai with an English accent!! I also speak English with my husband.

PANRIT: So, if you are speaking English with your family all the time, did you get a chance to learn Thai?

GABY: Yes, I speak English with my family all the time, but I had to speak Thai quite a lot when I was working. However, since I have stopped going to work, my Thai isn't as fluent as it used to be.

PANRIT: You are a mother of a pretty girl, so, what do you think about relationship between boys and girls in Thailand? Will you let her go out on a date or kissing or holding hands in public?

GABY: I think the relationship between boys and girls in Thailand has undergone a lot of change in the last few years. I find the double standard rather hard to deal with … it's fine for boys to do pretty much whatever they want, but girls are very restricted. As regards whether I would let my daughters go out on dates, a lot would depend on their age at the time, and your definition of a "date", though I have to say I see absolutely nothing wrong with holding hands. When I first came here, girls and boys never held hands …. But I often saw boys holding hands, and that seemed very odd to me!!!!

PANRIT: How old do you think it is OK for a girl to go out alone on a date to the cinema?

GABY: That would depend a great deal on the maturity of the girl, and how well I knew the boy she was planning to go out with. Also whether the proposed trip was in the daytime or evening.

PANRIT: My first girlfriend was 12 when I first started chatting with her on the telephone. We had to keep it a secret from her parents. If your daughter was my girlfriend would you have let us chat on the phone if she was only 12?

GABY: Again, I suppose it depends on how you define the "girlfriend/boyfriend" thing. I think 12 is much too young to have a boyfriend …it's an age at which you should be making lots of friends, of both sexes. My younger daughter was at a co-ed school and she had friends who were boys as well as girls. I think it would be fair to say here that keeping secrets from your parents is a major mistake. They only want what is best for you, and it's better to discuss things openly rather than sneak behind their backs.

PANRIT: Do you think your decisions on this subject are different to other Thai families?

GABY: Yes, probably. I feel very blessed that so far I've had a wonderful relationship with all of my children. I've tried to bring them up to be independent and able to think for themselves, and form their own opinions. They know that they can talk to me about anything …and I do mean anything! I've seen in quite a lot of Thai families that the children have a somewhat different relationship with their parents, perhaps a little more formal. I remember when my older daughter was young, she had to write something about me for Mother's Day. One of the things she wrote was that I was like her best friend …and the teacher made her do it again. She said that you have to look up to your mother, not treat her like a friend. Perhaps that's the difference. I'm probably not as strict as most Thai parents about certain things, but I will NOT tolerate any sort of lying or sneaking around behind my back, lack of respect or rudeness.

PANRIT: Do you have any problem living in Thailand?

GABY: No major problems. Everywhere you live has its good and bad points. For me, the heat, pollution and bad traffic are a little annoying.

PANRIT: Do you miss your home country?

GABY: Sometimes. I grew up in England, and it will always have a special place in my heart.

PANRIT: Many thanks for talking with me.