Want to know more about the dating culture for foreigners in Thailand?
If you spend any length in time in Thailand as a single man or woman then it is likely that you could end up becoming involved with one of the locals. Dating in Thailand, as with anywhere in Asia, comes with its own rule book and some cultural differences. Not knowing the basics could mean the difference between successfully navigating the singles life or landing yourself in some seriously hot water.
In this guide, we explore the culture of dating in Thailand, what to expect when you date a Thai girl/guy as well as the way casual sex and hookups are perceived in this part of Asia.
What Do Thai Women Want?
There’s a strong culture among Thai women that they look for a ‘nice boy’ or ‘good guy’; what is meant by this is a man who is not a cheat, a liar or involved in some kind of criminal activity.
Thai women are looking for a financially stable, chivalrous and ‘clean’ man to date.
Most women may well be looking for something more serious than a casual and brief encounter so you should always make sure you know what her intentions are before you start along what could be a long journey.
Sexual banter is not common between men and women and best avoided on dates.
Thai women are all too aware of the intentions of many foreigners (farangs) visiting their country to make promises, have sex and leave. This kind of attitude has left many Thai women extra-cautious about dating farangs.
With this in mind, and if you are serious about your intentions, then you will need to be patient in order to gain her trust. Don’t make her feel cheap and undervalued by taking her to go-go bars or clubs and never treat her like a paid companion.
Lastly, Thai society is rich with tradition, culture and spirituality. Always show respect to her native cultural background by observing local rules and customs.
Thai Women & Western Men: What’s the Appeal?
For Thai women, western men commonly offer two things that Thai men can’t or don’t; financial security and monogamy.
Thai men can often have several girlfriends at the same time whereas a Western man is believed to be more faithful.
Many Thai people live in some degree of poverty so a Western man, even on a modest income relative to back home, can represent a real step up in terms of economic stability.
The third aspect is one of a potential visa to establish life in a new country such as the United States, Australia, the UK etc. Such a move could offer significant opportunities for improved quality of life and a better chance of earning good money which could be used to support elderly relatives.
Lastly, for some Thai women, Western men are just better looking. Perhaps it is the influence of Hollywood and the import of Western ideals but whatever the reason, Thai girls can find even the plainest guys attractive.
What Do Thai Men Want?
Most Thai men like to be gentlemen and to treat their dates with courtesy and respect. The culture of the country is one where men are the breadwinners and look after the women; so, Thai men are looking for a woman they can take care of.
With Western women, Thai men are generally sweet, sensitive and polite. They see it as a duty to give a good impression of Thailand and want to make sure that foreign women will report back favorably on the quality of the men.
In return, the men of Thailand want their women to be kind, sweet-natured and easy-going, They don’t like their dates to lose their cool, get upset or angry. With such a ‘sweet nature’, you might wonder what there is to get upset about but you should know that not all Thai men are faithful. There is a cultural tendency towards men having (and it be okay to have) several girlfriends at the same time. Though polygamy was outlawed in the 1930s, it does still happen in some parts of Thailand where men have multiple wives.
Thai Dating: The Basics
As a general rule of thumb, Thai women are quite conservative when it comes to dating and it is the man who is expected to make all of the moves. The same is true when it comes to Western women dating Thais, the men prefer to be the ‘aggressors’ and behave more dominantly.
It is not always a true reflection of their personality but most Thais have been socially conditioned to behave this way, particularly when dating.
Thailand is a largely monogamous culture when it comes to relationships although polygamy was practiced freely until 1935 when men could lawfully take several wives.
This practice has now been banned but does take place in some parts of the country and in some classes of society.
Generally speaking, Thai men and women expect their partners to be in a relationship, and be faithful, to one person only. However, it is not unusual for some men to have several girlfriends on the go at once; it’s a case of double standards.
Thailand also has no traditions of arranged marriages and couples are free to choose their own partners outside of the influence of their families.
Thai Attitudes Towards Physical Intimacy
Thai women are often stereotyped as demure, shy and typically virgins until marriage. Though this is certainly not the case for all ladies, there is some truth to this cliché.
Reputation is important to the Thai people and women, particularly virgins, protect theirs carefully. As a result, it is not uncommon for Thai ladies to invite a friend along as a chaperone on initial dates (see Bringing a Friend, below).
You may also find that physical contact is kept to a minimum, or avoided all together, during the first phase of dating. Small gestures like a touch on the hand are acceptable but stroking of the leg, neck and kissing would not be typical.
The head is sacred in Thai culture and men should never touch the head of a woman (and vice versa) without asking first.
Although casual sex is not uncommon between foreigners and Thai women in certain parts of the country, it is less likely to happen if you are seriously dating. Of course, some Thai ladies make a living out of sleeping with westerners but one who is in earnest about securing a steady boyfriend or husband will not have sex for quite some time.
In Thailand, bold (and public) shows of affection are not common and doing this can make, you appear aggressive and, your date uncomfortable.
Although Thai women (and men) can choose their own partners, it is expected that a man can demonstrate he is able to support his girlfriend/wife.
For this reason, there is an etiquette that the man always pays (see below) and he must be financially stable. Certainly, anyone who wishes to get serious with a Thai woman should be able to offer her family a sin sot or dowry (see below).
The Man Always Pays
Thai culture dictates that it is the man who is the bread-winner and, though it is often the women who manage the money, it is therefore the man who picks up the bill on a date.
This is not so dissimilar from the Western way of doing things although has become slightly less common in recent years.
With Western men, this practice is even more common as the difference in incomes between a Thai woman and a ‘farang’ are often wildly different.
Remember, chivalry is still valued in Thailand and, in some of the more rural areas of the country, is wholly expected.
In cities like Bangkok, times in Thailand are changing and you will see women in relationships who are earning similar to that of a Thai man. In these instances, you may find that Thai woman like to contribute to the cost of a date or even pick up the tab occasionally. This is more common with younger Thai ladies than with the older generation.
In some instances of dating in Thailand, you may find yourself in a situation where you are going out with a woman who earns a good salary and that you yourself are not a typical ‘rich Westerner’. If this is the case then you shouldn’t feel bad about asking for her to pay her way sometimes. Being honest is an essential part of any relationship and, if she ditches you as a result, you could be saving yourself a lot of time, effort and money not being lead a merry dance by a gold digger.
Thai Dating: Some Common Practices
Bringing a Friend
The role of ‘friend’ is an important element of Thai dating and women who might be interested in dating a foreigner will employ the skills of one of their companions to do some initial ‘reconnaissance’.
Once they have reported back to their friend, their role is not done and it can be quite common for Thai girls to bring along a friend on a date. Most often this will be a female companion but can sometimes be a man. This kind of practice was common in the West up until about thirty years ago and the friend not only acts as safety but also as a chaperone. With the Thai culture placing importance on virginity, the third party should ensure that there is no ‘funny business’ going on (see No Sex Before Marriage, below).
A friend on a date with a Thai woman can be a but awkward and, even if you weren’t planning to jump straight into bed on the first night, it does prevent privacy and intimacy from happening spontaneously.
However, there are two aspects of this practice that you should bear in mind with the latter serving as a little warning.
Firstly, if the Thai lady you are inviting on a date is virtuous girl then the presence of a friend should be accepted; after all, you are in Thailand so it is important to respect their culture and practices.
If, however, your date is more ‘experienced’ on the dating scene then having a friend (or friends) along for the ride can often simply be a case of taking advantage of your hospitality…and credit card.
If you think that this might be the case and your date brings along a group of friends, then it is not rude to suggest to her that you had something a little more intimate in mind. She may take offence and try to argue for her friends to stay as chaperones but you should be able to insist she choose just one.
Make it clear from the start that you are not providing a free bar tab for her friends to party on.
No Sex Before Marriage?
The culture of preserving virginity until marriage in Thai culture is a polarized situation with two extremes of attitude towards the notion.
In cities and resort towns like Pattaya, Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai, the kinds of girl who will date westerners often come from a tourism and/or adult entertainment background; bargirls, go-go dancers, hotel staff etc). It is more typical here to find women who are sexually experienced and who may have had Thai or western boyfriends in the past.
By contrast, and particularly true of rural parts of the country, some Thai women are still raised with a traditional mindset about sex before marriage. With this group of women, some of whom are looking for love or a way to leave poverty behind, they may well be waiting to have sex until they are married. At very least, they will preserve the virginity for the man they are going to marry.
If you find that you are dating a Thai woman from this last group then it is imperative that you respect her wishes. Whilst it can be a huge turn-on for a man to be the one to take a woman’s virginity, doing so without having honorable intentions can have consequences….and not just in breaking her heart. You may find that in becoming her ‘first’, her family expect you to marry her. Yes, there is an expectation in many parts of Thailand that men who take a girl’s virginity must also take her hand in marriage.
Though this is becoming less common, there are places where failure to do this can cause big strife. Rural communities, villages and conservative/traditional families can all turn pretty nasty if you ‘sully’ a girl with no intention to make her a bride.
Sin Sot or Dowry
Which leads us on to the payment of sin sot, or dowry. Though this was also a common practice in the west a century or more ago and also still common in other parts of Asia, a price for a bride is seen as recompense to a family for the cost of raising her. For rural families, the sin sot also provides them with compensation for the loss of a farm hand or domestic worker.
Though sin sot is not nearly as common as it once was, many Thai people live in extreme poverty and still believe that their daughters are worth a price.
The tradition is now more one of reputation and, to some extent, exploitation of willing westerners. If you are considering marriage with a Thai woman and the matter of sin sot is raised then it is up to you to decide whether the price is worth paying. Generally, the higher the price they can get for their daughter’s dowry reflects better on the family’s reputation. It is not always a case of what money they actually need or want.
In some instances, a sin sot paid to a wealthier Thai family is actually returned to the couple as part of their wedding gift; in this way, the family still maintain face but the groom is not put into a difficult financial position.
The expectation of all Western men being rich can make the matter of sin sot a complicated and difficult one to negotiate.
The ‘Myth’ That Wives Manage the Money
As mentioned above, whilst men may earn the lion’s share of the money in a household, it has generally been the case that the women looked after the purse strings. This tradition is shared in many other Asian cultures and can also be seen (to some degree) in the history of own society in the West.
Though some Thai men do still hand over their salary to their wives it is becoming more common for couples to share responsibility, and the expenses, of running a household.
We mention this because if you are dating a Thai woman and things start getting serious then she may mention that this is the cultural practice. Whilst this was the case, it is no longer an expectation…except with some of the older Thai generation.
Ways to Date in Thailand
The Thai dating scene in the major cities like Bangkok and Pattaya is not dissimilar to a lot of Asian capitals and you can often find luck on a casual front by simply hitting the bars. However, this tends to attract the kind of girls who are only interested in your money and are not looking to date one man exclusively.
You can get lucky with finding a serious date but bars and clubs are not generally the best way to do it.
There is a good selection of websites that offer either free or freemium classified dating opportunities with some even specializing in bringing westerners and Thai locals together.
- Love Awake
- F Dating
- Thai Kisses
- Mizz Thai
- Thai Cupid
- Thai Love Lines
- Thai Friendly
- Farang Date
- Thai Date VIP
Featured image via MaxPixel.