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).
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.
Kaewmala (24 June 2009)
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.)