Happy Birthday! Or rather สุขสันต์วันเกิด (Suk san wan gert) is the Thai phrase for today, on my GF's birthday. At a little over 30 she isn't too fussed, as for some mad reason Thai women think they are old at 25+.
The lead up to today didn't go too smoothly because I purposely left things until the last minute. Birthdays don't seem that much of a big deal here, so I thought I'd pop down the road and find a card and cake the day before. More fool me.
There wasn't a Clinton Cards or Birthdays in sight, and my local 7/11 doesn't stock cards. I went everywhere within a 2-mile radius, hell I even tried the post office. This got me to thinking, do Thais generally not give cards? In fact, I have been here 3 years+ and I haven't seen a birthday card exchange hands, except for the one I gave her ladyship last year.
So I trundled back to the big Tesco at Phram 9, grabbed a cake and then went to an independently run celebrations shop at the back of the store. I managed to pick up a suitably “narak” (lovely, cute, etc) card. Her ladyship was pleased with the cake and candles, and praised me for braving the rain to get a cake for her birthday.
The good boyfriend routine doesn't stop there either; I have booked us off to Chiang Mai on Saturday to browse the markets and see a friend – special Nok Air deal for Christmas shoppers…Shhhh! 🙂
All that aside, amidst her smiles, I get the feeling I am more excited about her birthday than she is. So, I pursued a line of questioning on the subject of birthdays. As it turns out, she did have parties as a child, and did get presents, albeit not in excess like us spoiled UK kids. She said that many Thais don't fuss too much over birthdays after adolescence, and that she didn't expect to hear from family today…What?!
This was somewhat strange for me because birthdays are always a big deal back home, and I hadn't really taken notice of any family interaction around her birthday last year. She also said that at her workplace it is commonplace for people not to mention their birthday, because then that person is obliged to buy beer for the security and maintenance guys, and sweets and Thai food for the office ladies. Being a medium-sized hotel there is a big staff, which could mean a solid 3,000 Baht splash.
I did know that in Thailand the birthday boy/girl pays to entertain friends, as opposed to back home where everyone else picks up the tab, but today all seems like a bit of an anti-climax – more so for me than her.
I played some silly happy birthday renditions on YouTube to liven things up, and she was chuffed to blow out the candles on the cake, but in complete contrast to previous GFs, she really doesn't expect a present or a fuss.
This is all very humble and lovely, but I feel a bit sad that she is just taking this in her stride as another day. Don't get me wrong, she is greatful for the birthday wishes and is smiling as always, but I am left wondering; am I just a big kid? Yet on a deeper level I wonder whether my perception of what a girl wants for her birthday has been distorted by past experiences, where weeks of planning and the burden of trying to make the day as happy as possible makes for a big climax, or anti-climax depending on her approval.
It's food for thought, yet paradoxically, the lack of pressure on me to buy something nice or book a fancy restaurant actually makes me want to make the day more exciting for her. Whatever. I'm quids in compared with previous relationships!