We sat down at one of those blue plastic topped flimsy street tables on the front of the outdoor restaurant and the waitress came straight to us, as they always do, and asked what we want with a blue 'stolen from the bookies' type biro in one hand leaning it onto the tear-off rough paper notepad that always constitutes the table order, and waited. And waited. And as usual I couldn't make up my mind what I wanted and the girlfriend and daughter had already fired out theirs in the way Thais do without you even noticing. Either of them always ask me what I am going to have before entering a restaurant. Whilst we are in the car, or sometimes before leaving home, in that tone of voice that suggests they are seeking ideas because they don't know what they are having until they look at the menu either. And yet every time I ask, "What are you having?" both will always say, "I already order". But this time I didn't ask and as I was browsing down the laminated menu and back up and back down again I smirked thinking to myself 'You need the patience of a saint to be a Bangkok waitress'.
I mean think about it, she has to wait, the good old fashioned way, on a table until you order. You change your mind three times and you know you don't want her to leave because the moment she does your brain will make the decision on which dish you really fancy right now and don't want to wait for it. And I am one of the good guys. She is propositioned by farang three or four times a day who have only got the sudden urge because they fantasise about the little white pinafore and short pale blue dress. Then after a mere five minutes she arrives at your table with something akin to warmed through puddle water in a bowl that supposedly constitutes soup. Or a bowl of hot water with miniscule green and red bits floating round in it and I have lost count how many times I could hear an American or Aussie accent complaining to her about it. We Brits don't complain. Then again I have never felt the urge to want to complain in a Thai restaurant with one exception in Lat Krabang Road and even then I knew they would know it was below my acceptable standard because we hadn't eaten it.
My other half used to work in a Thai restaurant in the UK. That's how we met. And I didn't know how bad it was until we started dating and I used to pick her up after work. Sometimes I would turn up early and eat there or they would run over because of a large or late party. Oh how I used to shake my head in disbelief at the male rutting antics. Oh how I never started a fight in there I'll never know. Stupid drunken buffoon women complaining about the food and the service after they have got the bill. So pitifully obvious they were just hankering for a discount. And they always got it, and I always wanted to slap them for it. And then they would leave my girlfriend a fifty pence tip. Then there were the men from the office with too much booze in them who would hold her hand while they ordered or paid the bill and one night I huffed in shock as a middle-age grey haired chap slapped her on the backside. A jaw dropping moment that made me react, leaping out of my chair, and the manager came running over to me and asked me to let him deal with it. 2008 and fifty something male thinks it is ok to slap a woman he doesn't know on the arse. She told me after work that those sort of men have been to Thailand and think it is ok because she is in service. They're Thai, you can treat them how you would in Thailand. But oh, the definitive zenith, had to be the chap who groped her boob as she leant in to pick up the used dinner plates.
It gets excused with 'oh it's the beer talking'. Utter nonsense that does not darn the inexcusable loutish behaviour. I despise people like this and didn't see how abhorrent they are until I saw they behave like this in Thailand as well. Lager Louts? We Brits know how to behave abominably no matter who or where we are. And do you know where you will find the best and worst behaviour in Thailand? The best behaved are in Pattaya. The worst are at the 'Full Moon Party'. But for some reason when you go to a Bangkok restaurant you find the office staff led by David Brent behaving badly. Then again you see them in Hong Kong, Singapore, and now Prague, which has become the new lads night out.
But this poor waitress was going to England in the new year and I asked if she had her visa yet. She didn't and she already knew about the new 'a1 English' test. A test that was designed for migrating skilled workers. A test that is being introduced because there are too many immigrants who do not have a reasonable grasp of English. And how many of these immigrants are from Thailand? Well none actually. Because Thai immigrants come to Britain as a spouse or girlfriend or to join their family or last but not least, to work as a Thai chef. Analysing it further you conclude that the worker has to take the literacy test so it doesn't apply to him. Wives and girlfriends have to take the 'Life in the UK' test. Actually they still have to take it so they have to speak English to be able to take the test. So what is this English test for?
I am so going to get lambasted by the 'PC Brigade' for saying this but the truth is the test has been brought in not for immigration management reasons but because of religion causing the Rights Activists to assume that women are being forcibly married and forcibly kept in the house as a slave because they cannot speak English. But the truth is the majority of non-English speaking peoples of England are of two types. Yes, only two types. They are eastern European migrant workers and wives of Islamic fundamentalists. The first group are legally entitled to migrate across Europe to the UK and get a NI number and work full time without ever being able to speak a word of English and we don't really want them because despite busy bodies proving they are beneficial to our economy, they are not. They have jobs while we have unemployed. They have tax credits and Child Benefits while we have higher Income Tax. They drive illegally and burgle houses while we have enough of those already. If the government tried to introduce the test for those EU members, and they really are the vast majority, Britain would be breaking the law. Congratulations to whoever let the EU introduce that one and impose it upon us. The next group are the 'tied to the kitchen sink' Muslim women who can be excused the test on several grounds. 1) Their husband is a business man and has assets exceeding 100k. 2) They are coming to the UK for business purposes and have an income in excess of 60k per annum. 3) Their husband did not have to take either the life in the UK or the a1 test and she is therefore discriminated against on the grounds of equality. Or 4) She can pay a levee to the government to be excused the test. That sort of means all the non-English speaking people of Britain will remain the same and the emigrating 'no Engleesh' will keep coming here. So I find myself asking the question again, "What the hell is this English test for?"
The answer is unalarmingly obvious. It is yet another political manoeuvre to make it look as though they are doing something about immigration of which most people, including those who are immigrants, are pissed off about it. It is the old story of 'same old, same old' where they introduce another hurdle and worry the fiancée close to a nervous breakdown as is the case in three emails I have received over Christmas asking me about it. Talk about alarm bells ringing but stay calm folks. The test is ridiculously easy for the average Thai girl who you met while on holiday. I'm sure you know what I mean by that but they hate being reminded of where they met you. But that line of work means they have learned enough English to be able to pass the test and here's a suggestion that will surely get me car-bombed, make all the Muslim extremist prospective arranged marriage under 21 wives go and work in Pattaya for two years before they are allowed to apply for a visa to the UK. Or actually do something like introduce this test for everyone instead of providing more work for your mates living overseas who own 'thai legal' and 'visa international' who can now charge a British citizen 120 quid to test his girlfriend for English.
Finances has always been used by the British Government to regulate immigration because ministerial advisors tell them what to introduce. But these advisors are completely detached from reality. There is a minimum bank balance or income for entry. There is income source means testing and fees that do not match the amount of administration required. Job creation and surplus to requirement intermediaries all of which are intended to control immigration so we only allow people types we do not already have to cross our borders. In other words we keep out the riff-raff and undesirables. Oh, no we don't, they come into the country illegally and there is no control or management nor do we make any money out of it. The reality is that what you have to pay to bring your girlfriend to Britain offsets the cost of policing and management of illegal immigrants and if someone is incapable of passing this a1 English test they will also come here illegally and I'll tell you how easy it is. Anyone in Thailand can obtain a transit visa with stop-over from the Irish Embassy because it has no restrictions. At Dublin International you can hire a car and drive to Belfast unchecked and then catch a ferry to Liverpool where you will easily find lots of new friends who are also illegals or you can use public transport unabated to go to whichever town takes your fancy. Instead of bringing in the compulsory ID card, they gave us an English test. Instead of making English lessons in the UK compulsory, they give you something extra to worry about. They wanted to stop traditional Muslims from trapping women in the house, so they test Thai women for their English. A country where English is compulsory in school. A country that attracts male tourists who do not speak a word of Thai so it would be reasonable to claim the Thai girl speaks English.
This is without doubt the most pointless and unproductive piece of legislation in immigration history. It is about as purposeful as the introduction of the VFS Global office in Bangkok whose job it is to destroy your application and ensure its failure. Honestly, I have tried to conjure up scenarios where this test would be beneficial to the UK community or the applicant and I cannot. Here are ones I tried:
• Thai chef - he works in a kitchen in a Thai restaurant. His resume should include Thai cookery, Thai language, and a Hygiene Certificate. He doesn't need to speak English.**
• Waitress - She is not entitled to a work permit because the job can be done by a Lithuanian who doesn't have to take the English test.
• Legal Translator - Must be qualified to degree level in English and with a qualification is not required to take the English test.
• Thai business owners are not required to take the test. Neither are under 18's or vulnerable and senior citizens nor any dependants. Education visitors and students are exempt because they have already studied English at a higher level and so are workers required by 'special needs' such as carers and nannies.
**Someone asked the burning question on a Politics TV show and the answer was 'the test is to ensure an immigrant can use English in the community'. I couldn't stop laughing but sadly these people are our leaders. This test is to make sure an oil worker from Korea doesn't fit the wrong size valve on an offshore BP oil rig where English is the main language - and that failed on Ocean Mariner. In fact the only group this test fits is the group it was designed for and the only group it is being forced unnecessarily upon is the Thai bride or wife - who incidentally, can probably pass the test so please, whoever is in charge of this useless piece of legal shenanigan, tell me what this test is supposed to achieve because you sure aren't testing those who cannot, and probably never will, learn to speak English.
Of course, in the meantime you still have to arrange this test so I have put together a few bits to point you in the right
direction. Test your girlfriend/devoted wife of god knows how many years by telling her to download the following and
try it before you book an appointment for her test.
• Part three is a written test and isn't required for spouse visas: PTEG_Written_PracticeTest1_LevelA1_V1_26May10.pdf
• She must score 66% PTEG_ScoreGuide.pdf
You can also get more information on how to obtain a visa and links to a1 testing at anachak/visas.php and good luck to you. Personally I don't see it as a hinderance, just a bloody nuisance with our Government ripping yet another 120 quid out of your pocket with zero benefit to the UK either culturally or financially.