Looking for Love

Looking for Love: A Rough Guide to Finding The Right Thai Woman for Western Men

I wrote this article in 2009. I had qualms about writing it but decided to do it anyway, and the reaction has been more positive than not–many have told me that it is helpful to them (mostly men from Western countries seeking love and romance with Thai women, who are not very familiar with the Thai culture).

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I wonder if I’ll regret this article as soon as I put it out there for the world to see. But having read too many articles that give distorted and misleading pictures of Thai women, I figured whatever mistakes I’d make couldn’t do more harm to Thai women but might help a few foreign men. So why the heck not.

There are many foreign men out there looking to have a romantic relationship with a Thai woman. Whatever their reason for targeting my fellow country women, the truth remains that they need more accurate information. And why not from a Thai woman? I don’t know everything about Thai women but I believe I fare pretty well compared to the many self-proclaimed experts out there taking unrestrained liberty to spew out all kinds of things about us.

I know that my very own sketches of Thai women will not be complete or picture perfect but they are intended to be quick and easy to digest. I admit, they are still stereotypical.

When looking for a mate especially in a foreign culture about which you may know little, it helps to ask yourself:

What kind of woman is good for me?

This is common sense, but you’d be surprised how many men have neglected to do this before jumping headfirst into the unfamiliar romantic territory (judging from the evidence of the many crashes and shipwrecks that foreign men have suffered—more than a few are still picking up the pieces).

So, if you are seriously looking for a good Thai woman for partnership in life, you may already have your own criteria for her, but figuring out what a woman is really like and what her hopes and dreams are isn’t an easy feat when you don’t speak her language and have little idea about her culture. For what it’s worth, my Thai Women Matrix (below) summarizes what I believe are important considerations that a foreign man might have in choosing a (Thai) mate.

Needless to say, not all Thai women are the same and the 5 different groups of Thai women don’t represent every Thai woman. However, these categories are probably diverse enough to roughly represent the vast majority of Thai women. I don’t claim that my personal understanding of the situation of each group of Thai women is perfect but I hope it is close enough to give a good idea about Thai women’s different situations and give an initial clue for a foreign suitor what he might reasonably expect from a woman in each different category. Some people will surely find things to disagree with or things that are contrary to their experience, but such is a downside of generalization.

It is important to remember that though placed snugly in the color-coded boxes, the women are not identical copies of a few moulds. Each living, breathing woman has her own history, experience and situation and her own hopes and fears, wants and needs, that her suitor needs to find out if he is serious about building a nest with her. Such information can only come from spending enough face-time with each other for a good duration.

Are Thai women really that different from any other women?

For those who might believe that Thai women is a kind of different female species who would give them something different that Western women won’t, you may do well to think really carefully about this. Women, whether they are American, French, Swedish, Thai, or Zimbabwean, fundamentally want more or less the same things in relationship: love, affection, a certain amount of respect, empathy, and a sense of safety, stability and well-being.

Sure, different cultures may socialize women to form different behaviors and expectations but these cultural differences may not mean as big a difference as some might think. Thai women may be “more feminine” because we are smaller in size, tend to be pleasing and attentive to men’s needs, and have certain mannerisms—all the things that men yearning for a traditional set-up find appealing. But it would be a mistake to take these superficialities for substance or expect that these nice things will be enough to sustain a relationship long term. Also money can’t buy love in Thailand—just as it can’t anywhere else. It might buy companionship and compliance in a kind of exchange. Many Thai women who are actively seeking foreigners to marry often, though not always, have material well-being in mind. There’s nothing wrong with that, if you’re willing to give it to her for whatever she is willing to give in return—it might turn out to be love or a highly satisfactory companionship, if you are lucky. What is important is that you have realistic expectations and not walk into such a relationship with blind romanticism, cultural ignorance and false assumptions. Many men have done this and not to good results. (Read my blog “Thai Women and the Question of Money.”)

There are of course plenty of Thai women who look for love in a true and meaningful companionship who may be open to a cross-cultural relationship, but these women tend not put themselves out there to be picked from a lineup. They are harder to find and approach especially if you don’t live in Thailand (well, actually, even when you live in Thailand—foreign male expats complain that they can’t get Thai women with “real class”). The truth is foreign men can’t find Thai women of “quality” or “real class” not because there aren’t enough of them around but classy women tend to go for classy men and the old stigma of Thai women with foreign men was until recently holding them back from entering such a relationship.

Now that the attitude has changed quite a bit and the old stigma is wearing off, foreign men will have a lot less problem attracting a broader range of Thai women, including the “classy” ones. The question becomes, like in choosing a mate anywhere else, does the man have what it takes to attract a woman he desires and/or is he able or willing to give what she is looking for. Women who can afford to be choosy will likely be choosy. You might find it interesting that more and more educated professional Thai women stay single either by chance or by choice (over 40% of Thai women of marriageable age in Bangkok and over 30% nationwide are unmarried).

Now about you, the man

I realize that there are men of different nationalities and characteristics seeking a Thai mate, including various types of the male suitor would make the matrix too complicated. I chose an educated middle-class man as the ‘anchor’ for no other reason than that I can relate best to such a character. If that’s not you, my apology, but I hope the information given is still useful.

Choosing a mate is a very personal choice. Each man has a prerogative to choose his own woman (and live with the consequences of his own choice). But let me just say that the fact that a beautiful young woman is willing to get into a relationship with you doesn’t mean that she is the best choice, as many a foreign loveseekers have found out sometimes too late. A man would be wise to keep his wits about.

Additional information and explanations are given after the matrix. You can also check out the stories/perspectives page for more discussions and analyses on Thai-farang relationships.

Good luck in your search.

Cheers,
Kaewmala (24 June 2009)

The Thai Women Matrix 

the_thai_women_matrix

Additional Information and Explanations

A. On Thai society, different Groups of Thai women & class differences

1) Despite its modern appearance, Thai society is still very much a traditional society at heart. Social class and hierarchy remain at play in social and interpersonal relationships. The lines dividing social classes may have become blurred, but people of different classes still move in different circles and those from the higher and lower rungs of society rarely mix. Some social circles may overlap but interactions across classes don’t usually extend beyond work and business into intimate personal relationships (save secret sexual liaisons usually between rich sugar daddies and poor but young and beautiful women). For a foreign man entering Thai society through marriage, this means, whichever class you enter (with your Thai wife/GF), your exposure to the Thai social life is likely to be limited to that circle, unless you live/work in Thailand and have other (Thai) friends to expose you to other circles. (In all of them you will most likely remain an outsider).

2) You are likely to meet more women of Chinese descent in the educated class than in the less educated class. The less educated tend to come from indigenous and less economically advantaged ethnic backgrounds, though this doesn’t mean that the educated middle- or upper-class are overwhelmingly Thai-Chinese. It is just that a significant proportion of Thai-Chinese are doing better than other groups (rivaling the old aristocratic Siamese elites). Notwithstanding strong nationalistic sentiment and the widely held belief in one ‘Thainess’ among many Thais, Thai society has always been ethnically diverse: Siamese & Mon in Bangkok and the central region, Lao & Khmer in the northeast (or Isaan), Khon Muang and many hill tribes in the north (or Lanna), Malay Muslims in the south, Chinese, Indian and other smaller groups all over. It is hard—and unhelpful really—to try to figure out who’s more “Thai” than others. Many Thais today are of mixed heritage and people from all regions and ethnic backgrounds can be found in Bangkok and big cities.

3) Different ethnic and family backgrounds could mean different expectations and codes of conduct for women—for example, urban middle-class Thai women with a traditional or Thai-Chinese upbringing are likely to be more conservative (socially and sexually) compared to women from a working class or rural background. This is largely because the idea of female (sexual) purity and ‘proper’ behavior are much more emphasized among the urban middle-class and Chinese-Thai families. Indigenous Siamese societies (before the import of Victorian sexual mores in the 19th and 20th centuries and Chinese influence) were much less demanding of female chastity. But real changes in attitudes (towards the puritanical – for women only) have taken roots in the Thai upper class and middle class (although the younger generations of all classes today are anything but puritanical). This is complicated and can be confusing, but whenever in doubt, remember that in Thailand, the differences in class and social status (high vs. low) and backgrounds (urban vs. rural, educated vs. not) are always lurking somewhere in an explanation.

4) In my view, Thai women from both the lower class and the higher class have equally been misrepresented and stereotyped negatively and positively. The internet is a favorite outlet of unhappy foreign men to vent about their failed relationship with Thai women. Bargirls often get a bad rap as ‘lying’ and ‘cheating,’ and well-to-do Thai women as ‘bitchy,’ ‘greedy’, ‘Chinese’, etc. There is a tendency, among Western men, to romanticize poorer Thai women as more ‘genuine’—perhaps it’s human nature to root for the underdog. The ‘upperdog’ is often resented and thought of as somehow less ‘real’, as in possessing less of that ‘Thai feminine’ trademark (whatever that is). Self-confidence in poorer women would be ‘real’ and ‘refreshing’ but the same in richer women would be ‘unThai-like’ or ‘too westernized.’ Of course, what’s ‘desirable’ is in the eyes of the beholder and perceptions and prejudices are not easy to do away with. However, it is unhelpful to assume that a woman from one group or another must be like this or that, because it all comes down to each individual.

5) The general characteristics of each group of Thai women I provide in the matrix give only a general indication of what you might expect from a woman belonging to a particular group. You can blame me for a generalization, I plead guilty, but it goes without saying that there will always be some women who won’t fit the general description of her group. I bet everyone who’s reading this believes that you are unique, and wouldn’t subject yourself to stereotypes. The same thing applies to each of the Thai women, who in the final analysis are different individuals with different motivations and aspirations.

B. On the considerations

These are the considerations that I myself think are important. You may not find some or many of them important or even relevant. It goes without saying that it is entirely up to you to take or disregard any consideration. (I am not forcing this on anybody.)

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Read more: “Thai Women and the Question of Money”

Check out my book: “Sex Talk: In Search of Love and Romance”

5 responses to “Looking for Love

  1. Pingback: Ask Kaewmala | Thai Woman Talks - Language, Society, Politics & Love·

  2. Yes. That’s right. Thai women are the most stunning women on this planet. There are no ugly Thai women, you know? I mean, Thai women are thin and small. OK, some Western guys complain about too skinny Thai ladies but they are beautiful. What else do you need from a girl?

  3. Kaewmala, thank you so much for your very valuable insights. I know a bit of a Thai culture and I think your matrix is the most concise and informative piece of information on Thai ladies I have ever come across. No need to be defensive at all. There is more information in your article than 6 months of reading Stickman and Thai Visa. It is an awful blight on the Thai education system; I’ve met so many University educated ladies where very little is going on under the bonnet, if you get my drift. Again well done.

  4. Interesting chart. I must chime in with the perspective of a well-educated, independently successful, better-than-average looking male, who has had no shortage of beautiful girlfriends back in the West:

    You have defined a set of criteria that “ramp upwards” towards wealth and sophistication. Women from the lower levels of Thai social strata perform poorly with your criteria and women from the high-end perform better.

    But your criteria are not my criteria, and I dare say — they not the criteria of most men looking for ladies in Thailand.

    Let’s add a few rows to your table, shall we?

    How about:

    11. Expectations

    As most refugees from dysfunctional Western relationships will tell you, the most unattractive quality in a mate (male or female) is a preconceived set of expectations. These run rampant in the West and are likely the primary cause of disappointment in relationships. Western women (despite professing an ideology of equality) all hope to marry up, despite their career successes. Female pilots do not marry male flight attendants. Female doctors do not date male nurses. So much for equality. The result is a massive generation of disappointed western women, who (I will pull no punches) project a powerful aura of disappointment. Nothing can be more unattractive to men. I speak for most men I know: Being with a woman who has “settled” for you is a profoundly less attractive option to being single forever. Women at the lower end of Thai society have few expectations. Women at the higher end closely match women in the West. +1 for poor Thai girls. -1 for educated Thai girls.

    12. Gender roles

    Gender roles are a “bad word” in the West. Women have abolished the concept of female-roles in most Western societies — at least in their minds. Men of course, still bear the responsibility of repairing things, cleaning the car, using power-tools, shopping for hardware and doing “manly” things in 90% of relationships. Women on the other hand have typically managed to subtract those tasks from the total equation and are now graciously willing to “split” the remaining 50% of chores. Don’t you dare ask a Western woman (or an educated Thai woman) if she “can cook”. A poor Thai girl from the countryside on the other hand will proudly show off her abilities in the kitchen as a mark of honor and pride. And it’s not just about cooking. It’s an overall responsibility for the home, family and emotional stability of the unit. Consider this: Divorce rates in the West (where gender roles have been abolished) are stratospheric. +1 for poor Thai girls. -1 for educated Thai girls.

    13. Looks

    Looks matter. Let’s face it. A forty-plus, not-so-hot, fat, bald, middle-earning male from some god-awful “city” like Hull can score a pretty, young girl from Buriram without much effort. Now, on your chart above you rank “education” and “cultural similarity” as important criteria. Frankly, this is a humorously female view of the world. Let’s be clear: Those things pale in comparison to a great pair of legs. Am I an intellectual-lightweight for saying that? Not at all. I’m what you call “male”. I get my intellectual stimulus from books, music, films, art and old friends. To be clear: The notion that men look for “intellectual stimulus” from their wives is a somewhat hilarious notion preached to adolescent girls by their feminist mothers. It is a pleasant female mythology (Actually, there is a sorry-subset of men who listened to those same mothers and who do look for intellectual wives …just because they were told to. To each his own). In this man’s opinion, intellectual capacity is a ridiculously overweighted criterion in a wife. Sorry, if that seems insulting. It is not intended to be. Give me a good heart and a nice smile any day over a woman who knows what EBITDA is. +1 for poor Thai girls. -1 for educated Thai girls.

    14. Cultural differences

    You cite this as a negative. I would simply cite this as a positive. Cultural differences are enjoyable to me, and to most men who look for women in Thailand. Educated Thai women are quite Western and not nearly as interesting. +1 for poor Thai girls. -1 for educated Thai girls.

    I could go on… but you get the point.

    You probably think I’m a monster. Or perhaps a sterotypical member of something called the “patriarchy”. But no.. just a good-natured man who knows what he wants. And it’s not wealth, sophistication or social status. It’s a warm demeanor and a simple-ness that gives me peace of mind.

    Love your blog btw.

  5. Thank you so very much for this article and for your website, Kaewmala. For the last 3 months I have been in a “just friends” relationship with a young lady from Roi Et province, exchanging private messages on a forum that she and I can only read. Although they can be quite flirty, we discuss many other things about our lives and I find her interests different but interesting, as she seems to find mine. We do have a few things in common and that is what drew us together at first. With Christmas approaching, it was on this very day that it occurred to me that I would want to send her a gift of money. At no time during our little chats had she ever mentioned such a thing and indeed seems to do alright for herself. She is 24 years old while I am 53 and at first I was uncomfortable with the age difference. Frankly, just typing it here makes me feel a little “Skeezy”, but I did not start our conversation looking to hook up with her, just to talk to someone interesting from a different land than mine. With her encouragement, I began reading more about the tumultuous yet amazing history of Thailand and in my research I fell into “Stickman” territory, which scared the crap out of me. Immediately I began to wonder if my lovely pen-pal were playing me for a sucker, hooking me in and setting me up to be her “Sugar Daddy”. I am ashamed of myself for such uncharitable thoughts about my friend and voice them only to show that such suspicious, unworthy attitudes can be cultivated in some cynical hearts.

    I then found your website by Google search and I pray more people looking for a relationship with a Thai finds this. You offer such an honest and unique insight into a part of the human experience and Thailand culture that is at once so similar yet also so dissimilar from American culture. I am currently reading everything here with great interest and hope that it will improve my overall ability to shape my relationship with my Roi Et friend.

    Back to my original idea of gifting her with money as a token of my esteem for her, I rather think I will not. I don’t want to insult her or to bring our association to some level of materialism. Right now, with all due deference to “J” above, our level of communication is strictly intellectual. We have exchanged only a general description of ourselves, but no photographs and no voice contact. We just enjoy telling each other about the things going on in our lives, our opinions of our respective governments, our entertaining trips and experiences.

    Ms Kaewmala, I thoroughly appreciate your cooler, more rational approach to a Farang/Thai relationship and credit you with calming down my unfounded trepidations about my friend having some sinister, ulterior motive. I won’t mention any of this to her, as I am certain it would hurt her feelings and it is an embarrassing flaw of my own character that I am reluctant to share.

    I’ll keep reading!

    Red from Texas

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