Friday, 23 April 2010

"I Want to Marry a Farang"

As many people who visited Thailand or are staying here will know, farang is the Thai word for a foreigner usually of European ancestry. For Isan being moneywise one of the the poorest area's in Thailand, the word farang is almost equivalent to rich people.
Marrying a farang, means for many women here a steady source of income and a secured future.
So far nothing new, women have been doing that for centuries, all over the world.
Different from the Western world, in major parts of Asia, part of the income goes to the parents and family, who will, following tradition, benefit as well.
The accompanying photo shows what foreign money can do for the people here.
There's a popular Isan song translated in English titled; "I Want a Farang husband" and the lyrics roughly go like this: "I want a farang husband, I don't care if he's from Switzerland, Germany or America. I don't care if he's young or old, I want to cover my body in gold", etc. etc.
Since the above song is somehow not available anymore Youtube, here's another link called "Where is my farang?"
In 2000, researchers believed at least 15,000 Isan women married foreign men, sometimes they are being called Cinderella's, because they found their 'white' prince.
(For more info see my page about Isan Demographics.)
Keeping this in mind, there's something special about the village of Baan Jarn, Ban Jarn or Banjan not far from Roi-Et City. According to a BBC article in 2004, Baan Jarn had 540 households, of which at least 100 have a foreign son-in-law. According to an anonymous source of the 330 women living there, 84 married a farang, which would mean 25% or in other words; one-fourth of Baan Jarn female population opted for transnational marriage, 166 times higher than the Isan average of 0.15% or 50 times higher than my own estimate of 0.5%. According to the BBC article, the husbands are almost invariably living in Switzerland together with their Thai wife, which gave Baan Jarn the nick name "Swiss Village". There are different stories about how it all started. According to some there was a poor woman called Mae Nang who had two children and struggled to survive. So she moved to Pattaya to generate a better income, where she met a Swiss man, married and moved to Switzerland. Hearing enthusiastic stories about a remote land of 'gold' and 'honey', part of her female family and friends followed her example and a more 'profitable' paddy field substitute was being discovered, resulting in a female exodus of Baan Jarn.
Baan Jarn parents usually are very happy when their daughters coming home with a Swiss, and through the years the Swiss Franc has proven to be very stable indeed. The women usually live with their husband and family in Switzerland and usually return once a year to attend the Songkran festival, the Thai New Year, occasionally accompanied by their husbands. Some couples chose to live in Roi Et province after retirement.
Foreigners are not allowed to own land here, but are allowed to own real estate. Unlike any other village in Isan, Baan Jarn is full of luxerious villas given to family and/or used a second house. Whether or not the story of Mea Nang is true, Baan Jarn has certainly prospered.

See also: Thaimarried.blogspot.com, Wiki/IsanWiki/FarangWiki/Demographics_of_Thailand, Bangkok Post, 1-4-2008

4 comments:

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  3. Here's your song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Utf-BmP7gQ

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