A European man found there was a still a lot to learn about his Thai wife after they moved to their dream home in Belgium.
There are many opinions and articles written about the importance of culture to a Thai woman particularly one who is the Thai wife of a foreigner. This
story helps to illustrate how to a Thai woman, the culture is a living real thing even thousands of miles away in a European country such as Belgium.
The Thai people appear to have some form of affinity or understanding of ghosts - but one that is also associated with a feeling of unease. While there
appears to be an irrational fear of the supernatural among the Thais, there is also a sense of acceptance of their existence, and an ability to handle any
contact with the spirits as though it were a natural occurrence, rather than a supernatural one.
Our story concerns Thai woman who moved to Belgium with her European husband, a university professor. Like most Europeans, he had an ambivalent
view of ghosts though was largely sceptical. Prior to making the move, he (let's call him Antoine) and his wife Kitty travelled round the area close to his new
place of work searching for a suitable home. Antoine soon found that Kitty was quite particular as to the type of home she wanted - his Thai wife had to
keep face in the Thai way, and finding a place that met her approval was difficult.
Thai wife rejects swimming pool to save face
Even a fabulous home in the sun with a swimming pool was unsuitable, because no self-respecting Thai woman would need to lounge by a pool making
her skin darker. Eventually, they came across a house that she approved: a modernist angular structure with massive rooms. The large rooms gave his Thai
wife a sense of self respect and she could gladly have visitors to see her new home. This was a manifestation of the 'face' that Thai women must have
when displaying their new status to others. Thai women in relationships or Thai wives will often go to great lengths to preserve this face to others outside the
marriage. In the new open Western society, it is now fashionable to dismiss such concerns but to a Thai woman this is very important.
What consequently happened has been confirmed by those involved? It is a modern true ghost story that westerners would almost impossible to believe,
but which to Thais was perfectly believable. To paraphrase a long story, the house was huge: the living room alone was large enough that Antoine and his
Thai wife played tennis in it until it was furnished. However, the couple and their three year
old daughter, Katie, soon settled in.
After about six months, Antoine was working in the living room when he suddenly felt very cold, even though the radiator was still hot. He then felt the
presence of somebody behind him. He looked, but saw nothing. He realized it was unlikely to be one of his family, because Thais do not like the dark or quite
places - likely due to their awareness of the existence of ghosts.
He dismissed the feeling, but a few evenings later the same feeling returned. He checked the mirror in front of him, but could see nothing. He decided to
light the living room fire - he had a large fireplace in the centre of the room. It had not been used because Thais are very wary of fires in their home, and
this was an alien concept to his Thai wife. However, he persuaded her that it should be lit, in spite of her fears of the house burning down.
In spite of this, he still felt a chill, and the saw the shadow of a young girl looking into the living room from the top of the stairs. He tried to ignore it, and it
appeared to him several times more before the first year was up and the Belgian landlord was due to visit to reassess the rent. However, he did not come,
and his Thai wife continued to be delighted with the house. She loved showing her friends round it, and inviting them to visit. She felt she had a lot of 'face'
because of the size and the number of rooms.
For Thai women, Thai culture is real and living
The second year came and went, with the apparition appearing to Antoine several times late at night. Then his Thai wifeThai wife came to him appearing somewhat apprehensive. It appears that she had been hearing their daughter Katie
speaking to somebody in her bedroom, yet when Kitty entered there was nobody there. She was apparently chatting to herself.
When asked who she was speaking to she responded that is was with the little girl that lives here. The description Katie gave was the same as the girl
Antoine saw. Apparently Antoine and Katie had seen the same girl for over two years, and never mentioned her to anybody else. Antoine then informed his
Thai wife of his experiences and was astonished when she informed him that she had spoken to the girl a long time ago and gave her permission to remain as
long as she caused no bother - 'But I can ask her to leave if you wish' she said.
Antoine agreed that it would be best, so his wife performed a Thai ceremony herself. She used banana leaves, incense, candles and some form of white
liquid, the nature of which Antoine was unsure but appeared similar to a liquid that Thais use at Songkhran, their New Year festival. She then filled a bowl with candies and fruit and made a garland of flower, over which she
sprinkled the white liquid. After a few prayers and blessings, the incense sticks were lit and Antoine, Kitty and Katie sat in a circle with their hands held
together in bow known as a wai. Then his Thai wife called on the girl.
Kitty told the little girl it was time for her to leave, and after three evenings of doing this, the girl was seen no longer. Antoine, his Thai wife and daughter
lived in the house a further two years without any recurrence of this amazing manifestation.
After two years, the family met the landlord's daughter who listened to their story. Apparently, the landlord's youngest daughter had fallen from the top of
the stairs and died. When Kitty described to the girl what they had seen, they appeared to be the same person. The little girl's mother had died about the
same time as the ceremony, and so perhaps the two had finally been reunited.
Thai people very sensitive to spirits
This story describes the affinity or understanding the Thai people have with the spirits, and it was certainly true that Antoine's Thai wife was in no way
upset by her sighting of the girl. In fact, not only was she not upset, but she spoke to the spirit and gave permission for her to remain. In many ways, the Thai
people are different to use here in the west, but that difference seems largely connected with a special affinity with nature, and also with the
However the story also demonstrates the Thai's need for 'face', in the way that Antoine's Thai
wife had to live in a large house, irrespective of the trappings that came with smaller homes elsewhere. The large house with many large rooms took
precedence over a smaller house with a large sun-soaked swimming pool.
This attitude towards ghosts and spirits seems to be a universal one throughout Thailand, and so does the sense of face. Thai society has a nervous
unease about spirits and there always seems to be something lurking in the darkness, or just over the doorway waiting to come in. Superstition is ingrained in
their nature, and many of the important decisions in their lives are made on auspicious dates or when the signs are favourable.
Believe in it or not, the story above demonstrates that not all may be what it seems, and that Thais may indeed have a sixth sense that we westerners