Spirit of Thailand

Spirit of Thailand

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Relationships in Thailand part 2

Why are there so many relationships between Western men and Thai women? Why hardly any Thai men and western women? What do Thai women see in those men and why do so many men fly half way across the world to find a bride in Thailand?

We discussed some aspects of those relationships in my first article. Here we are going to get very personal. Why do so many Thai women want a relationship with a foreigner?

Of course not all of them do, but in my many years in Thailand I have heard the same statement from countless women: “I am looking for an American (or western) boyfriend”.

Many times I have even been asked if I can help make a connection. If you have a hard time believing this, just look at one of the many Thai dating sites and read the ads by Thai women.

No Cinderellas in Thailand, or the invisible caste system

What is the reason that so many Thai women prefer westerners over Thai men? Let’s look at Thai society. There is a class system in place which is not visible to the outside observer unlike the caste system in India.

In the West we have our beloved Cinderella story. The rich and powerful prince finds a dirt poor but beautiful girl and carries her away on his mighty steed and they marry and live happily everafter.

There is no Cinderella syndrom in Thailand. Traditionally people marry within their “caste”, meaning a similar level of economic means and family status.

Parents have the last word in the decision and few children will marry without their parent’s approval. Relationships between very unequal partners are not condoned and do not happen often.

Thais are extremely status conscious, where someone comes from, how much money one has, what connections one has, what status the family has, what level of education one has.

This is even expressed in the way people refer to each other and greet each other. The hidden class system is embedded in the Thai language.

The westerner can be the chance of a lifetime

So what does this mean for a Thai woman from a lower socio-economic background? If she is poor she will have almost no chance of marrying a rich man. She will remain in the same economic situation for her entire life.

No rich prince will ride into town and rescue her from her lowly life – unless he is a Westerner. He does not care how poor she is, what status her family has, what color her skin is, what her education is etc. If she is a nice person with a good heart, ideally even good looking, that is enough.

For the poor Thai women this might be her only chance to break out from her social and economic condition, improve her life, travel or even live abroad.

It is also an opportunity to help support her family through the financial aid of her western man. The relationship gives her more freedom, higher status, new opportunities, and a better life.

A high percentage of women in cross-cultural relationships come from Isaan, a region in Thailand near Laos which is economically less developed with fewer opportunities, less jobs, and a mostly agricultural base.

Age is not an issue in Thai/western relationships

Let’s look at the relationship from the perspective of the man. In western countries most relationships happen between people who are in a similar age group. In other words it is not common in the west to find couples who are 20 or 30 years apart in age.

However this is not an issue in Thailand. An older western man has very little chance of finding a beautiful girlfriend or wife in his own country who is half his age unless he is very rich and famous.

In Thailand this is no problem at all. Most women who are looking for a relationship with a westerner do not place so much importance on the age of the man.

I did a little research on this matter by studying the ads on the dating sites of several Asian countries like China, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Phillippines. I found that the vast majority of the women specified an age range not too much older than they are.

The only country where the women often left this field blank or specified a very wide age range was Thailand. I have personally talked to many Thai women about the subject of age, and in general it was just not an issue for them.

A possible win-win situation for both

The Thai woman gets a chance to start a new life which was previously not accessible for her, and the western man gets a chance of being with a beautiful and often much younger woman which would not have been very likely in his own country.

There are many more aspects to those relationships: What do the Thai men think about it? Why do so many Thai women not want to be in a relationship with Thai men? Where is the line between prostitution and legitimate relationships?

What are the problems in cross-cultural relationships? What are the excesses and shortcomings of such relationships? This will be discussed in the next article of this series.

And yes, I can hear it already. It is often different in Bangkok. If you are looking for exceptions to my observations, you only have to go to Bangkok. Thailand’s capital is not the perfect representation of traditional Thai culture which you find in most other areas of Thailand.

Bangkok is more influenced by the west, traditions are being abandoned, crowded urban environments result in stress and a breakdown of social fabrics and family traditions.

Click Here to read the next article in this series

Previous articles in the relationship series:
Relationships in Thailand Part 1

Shama KernThe author, Shama Kern, has been living in Thailand for well over a decade. His wife is Thai and they have created a successful cross cultural relationship. You can reach Shama at shama@shamakern.com

20 thoughts on “Relationships in Thailand part 2”

  1. Just reading the part about age differences in Thai/Western relationships. After spending a short time visiting the Philippines I was amazed how even teenagers were prepared to be with a man 40 years older or more. In Thailand I found that it was a matter of education and class. The less educated and sophisticated, the less age difference seems to matter.
    So if on really wants to marry a baby, go to the Philippines.

    • Well, the Philippines are known for providing brides for western men, probably as famous as Thailand in this regard. I imagine that it is pretty much the same situation there. The women with no money and little chance to get any, see the relationship with a foreigner as their best way to change their economic situation. Like in Thailand, economic considerations often come first, and true love and quality of relationship are secondary at best in many cases. For the Thai and Philippine brides, this trade-off is obviously acceptable.

      The western man gets a pretty young wife, and the wife gets economic security. For tens of thousands of couples this seems to be an acceptable state of affairs. I can only hope that the love and the quality of the relationship develop to some degree in many of those arrangements.

  2. I still find the age difference thing pretty gross. If you check out the Pattaya nightlife or the Bangkok nightlife, you see 60 year old men with 20 year old Thai girls. To me it’s gross, but to each his own I guess.

    • I agree, Emily. After some time there, I got grossed out. When I asked myself why, I decided it’s because I was invisible there. I am a 54-year-old woman and because I wasn’t young and beautiful, western men didn’t even acknowledge me. It was the realization that my worth was directly associated with how young or beautiful I was. Without those things, I was worthless to western men.

      • Hi Crystal ..Im sure it would gross you out ( as you say ) ..thats just because you cannot participate , neither can a 54 year old Thai , and yes you would be totally invisible .Rather than being concerned , look at other elements within the country where you can participate .Sexuality will never be a part of your adventure ..

        Enjoy .

      • Just as a man in the west is worthless with out a decent paying job and education. It’s how we’re wired. I live in a rich city in America and if you don’t make six figures, are six feet tall, and have at least a six inch weenie, you don’t get play here. Funny how women are huh? But oh my god if the tables are turned then it’s “gross”. Lol

        • Don’t even tell me about the social dating life in America !!! Money is first , yep , your wealthy appearance . You could be such a phenomenal man , a gentleman or with an incredible experience of life , a great soul , it does not attract anyone here . It’s over .
          So if you want a great companion , a quality of life not based on the dollar you already have or have to produce and if you got older there are no options in America these days . Needles in haystacks are even fewer ..!!!
          …You have to choose to expatriate . Only option or die of anxiety . One has to take a chance .
          I will do that very soon . Forget the young stuff .. I want someone who could appreciate who I am . With some maturity . . Age is a factor to me but not a limitation . I need so much more joy in my life ! Ain’t fun around here ..no more .. nopes ! no need to be rich , a good simple life is good enough with a partner who knows the difference . I’m not worried and I will find shoe to my foot . Thank you !
          It’s just matter of time and getting organized . America that I’ve loved so much is socially messed up now . Fear rules here . It’s a struggle all the time . Few are the people who care about you . Soooo if a sweetheart in Thailand sees something in me .. and we are at a comfortable level of understanding then let’s give it a chance ..and pair up oui-oui 😊

  3. There is one question that may be difficult to answer but in general if a marriage with Western man & Thai woman is more than 20 years apart in age, is it really possible for the Thai woman to feel love for him and be attracted physically to him?

    • This is just my speculation, but I would think that with an increasing age difference there must be a decreasing degree of physical attraction. However many of those relationship are not entered with physical attraction on the part of the woman as a primary consideration.

    • Larry ..you are looking from a Western view ..Question from a question .

      What is love in the West ? With a 50 % divorce rate .Steve

  4. I would prefer Western love even if it fails rather than a pretty young woman who wishes she didn’t have to sleep with me or imagines she is with someone else when she is with me. That’s just me though. The thought of someone letting me touch them instead of wanting me to, is highly unappealing to me

    • Personally I agree with you. I would not want to be in a relationship with someone who is not totally committed to it and who doesn’t really want me. Luckily I have found a Thai woman (my wife) who comes through with flying colors on those counts!

  5. Can I ask some advice. I met a Thai lady on the Thai dating site and we have been video chatting everyday for 2 to 3 hours. There is such a great connection that a serious relationship is developing. Problem is the ex boyfriend from 5 years ago has contacted her, she is not interested in him at all. He has contacted the family and her friends directly and they now without even know me are trying to put pressure on to date him again because they know him. They are concerned about out 13 year age difference which we are not. The age difference with the ex boyfriend is bigger. How can I impress the family and friends I am totally serious. I am visiting her for the first time next for 2 weeks in April and 5 weeks in November. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. We have already started to plan our lives together but she is worried her family wont accept me. I am a perfect gentleman and want to show them that. We are both frustrated because Covid restrictions are making life even harder. I thought about sending her a ring to show my commitment to our relationship. Is it best just stick it out and get to know the family. In time if next years trips work out I would move to Thailand.

  6. I am struggling to relate to my Thai partner as I am very intellectual and enjoy having interesting conversations, but she is simple and though she tries, she cannot engage on my level. It often feels like I am carrying the entire relationship—money, vision, plans, conversation, activities, social life, hobbies, etc. I am drowning and feel very lonely most of the time. I do not want a transactional marriage with a servant, I want a partner and best friend. We are engaged but I have not made the final plunge yet because I’m terrified of being lonely in my own marriage for the rest of my life.

    I need help.

    • I understand your dilemma. I have seen this in other western-Thai relationships. My point of view is this. Thai women, especially those from simple backgrounds, can make great wives. They can often take care of a husband much better than someone with their own strong opinions, their own career, and their own strong preferences.

      But, as you say, if you expect them to be an equal in all ways, you will be disappointed. Maybe you could try to to cultivate those aspects in her where she does have strengths. This might be taking care of you, the house, the cooking, and some Thai women are good at massage as well. They don’t feel that the status of a good housewife is in any way a lesser status. In fact, they can be quite happy doing this.

      It is quite possible that over the years she will gain more confidence, better English skills, and as a consequence, better social skills. This can lead to having a best friend as well as a wife.

      I can talk about this since I went through a very similar process in the relationship with my wife. In the beginning she was a very simple, shy person with quite limited social skills and limited English. Now, 22 years later, she truly is my best friend. She has traveled all over the world, has a lot more confidence, her English is quite good, she is an excellent driver, an excellent cook, an excellent massage therapist, and a wonderful and supportive wife. But it definitely did not start out that way – not by a long shot. It took time, and it was very much worth it.

      I don’t expect her to be my equal in all ways. That would not be fair. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and I respect and appreciate her strengths and I don’t expect her to be a carbon copy of myself.

      This will only work if you truly love her and if you have the patience to wait for the relationship to grow and blossom. If the love is not strong enough, then this might not work. So that’s something only you can know and decide.


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