Women in Thailand are marrying 'rich' Caucasians. It has become more acceptable yet there are now two hundred Caucasian sleeping rough on the streets of Thailand. What is going on?
The explosion of international dating in Thailand has resulted in one in ten Thai women joining Thai Dating sites. It has also emerged that a majority of Thai women using
dating websites are interested in meeting a white caucasian foreign partner.
Internet causing Thai caucasian relationships to take off
Some researchers have suggested that the advent of the internet caused the momentum and the numbers of such relationships to rise but the trend itself began in the last
1960s. Most Thai women who join international dating sites are interested in meeting or establishing contact with white men or caucasian men. 'The prevailing modern culture in
Thailand has meant that a sizeable but independent minded proportion of Thai women are interested in meeting foreign partners preferably white men from affluent countries,'
says Carla Boonkong, a magazine writer in Bangkok.
Thai women - racist for preferring white caucasian men?
Carla admits that many Thai women practice obvious discrimination or even racism in their search for a foreign lover. 'I spoke to a black African American who had met and
settled with a Thai girl from Sakhon Nakhon province which is in Isaan. He indicated that he experienced resistance from some Thai women online. This American persevered
and his Thai wife or partner, who now lives in America with him, is shocked at even her own attitudes prior to meeting her husband and living in a cosmopolitan community in
America,' she says.
Currently white male caucasians account for 55% of users on international dating sites seeking Thai women. 'There are African Americans, Asian and of course local Thai
men seeking love online in Thailand. There are also many Thai women who primarily interested in meeting a Thai or Asian partner. These numbers are increasing as internet
dating has become a mainstream activity and Thai men are breaking with culture to find love online.'
'The biggest Thai dating sites are still international in character,' she says. 'I'd also have to point out that Thailand is a very distinct culture and a society which although
embraced by all Thais deeply and strong, it is very Asian and different in character from western societies. Many of the Thai women seeking love in Europe, Australia or America
have been victims of discrimination themselves.'
Isaan women seeking western white men
It has also emerged that 52% of Thai women seeking relationships with foreign men are from Isaan province in Thailand's Northeast and it has been identified that one of the
factors driving Thai women abroad is a better a better opportunity to advance in life and escape from unofficial discrimination in Thailand. 'It's ironic that it has been shown that
70% of Thai women seeking relationships with foreigners are particularly interested in meeting a white caucasian man. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there is a real racial
discrimination against meeting males with darker skin although many African Americans and indeed Africans do find relationships with Thai women. 'You have to remember that
Thailand has traditionally been a closed society even though it begun opening up through tourism in the 1970's, the internet and cheap global travel has brought about a sea
change. Also remember that many Thais are still not altogether comfortable with white westerners who are now more and more visible in Thailand,' explains James Morris a
commentator from Bangkok who writes for internet sites and international newspapers. 'The simple fact of the matter is that the ideal for many of the Thai women who are joining
Thai dating sites is a white middle class male from a wealthy western country. Many are seeking a foreign partner if not at least an opportunity to meet one.'
Why are Thai women seeking out caucasian men?
Janjai Sangwan is a Thai post graduate student who completed a study on Thai women in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Poland in 2008. She interviewed fifty five
Thai women from different backgrounds. 'I found that the men from Europe and the women from Thailand are coming from two very different races and cultures but there seems to
be a match in needs,' she says.
Here are some key findings of her study relating to Thai women and white men:
- European and German men seeking Thai women were mostly white skinned caucasians although the study included four Asian males who had emigrated to Germany and
the Netherlands. 'These men were more settled and comfortable in mainstream of society although obviously a bit lonely. It appears that many Asian men in European countries
will look for a bride or love partner through their own ethnic networks.'
- The Thai women suggested that the key advantage of a relationship with a western man was that he was more likely to be faithful to one relationship and responsible with
money. Over 80% of the Thai women in Janjai's study had a negative experience with a relationship in Thailand. Over half had children from a previous relationship in
- A significant number of the Thai women in the study found western caucasian or white men to be more passionate lovers and admitted that there was an 'exotic' attraction to
western men when they first decided to pursue a foreign relationship although this was not the primary motivation.
Thai woman defies family to marry 'handsome' German
Boonsri Fischer is a Thai woman from a middle class family living in Nong Khai, in the north of Thailand. Unusually, she met her German caucasian boyfriend and husband
while he was working at a factory in Thailand near Bangkok. He was an engineer and senior manager. 'I was working in a senior position with the education department, I had a
good government job and a master degree,' she says. 'My family did not want me to marry a foreigner. They told me that I could find a good husband in Thailand but I followed my
heart,' she says. Boonsri points out that he did not marry her German husband for money or economics. 'When I first arrived in Germany, I wanted to work but found it difficult to find
a similar position,' she says. Boonsri ended up cleaning offices in Hamburg for two years before retraining at night school and late going back to university in Germany. 'It took me
three or four years to reach the level of fluency required. I would not have been able to do this with my husband's support. Everything in Germany, it is a different, it is harder but more
rewarding,' she says. Why did you find attractive about her German boyfriend? 'It was his personality and intelligence and I had enough confidence in myself to follow my own heart.
But I thought he was handsome, sure yes and he is white,' she says. Boonsri also admits that German men are more responsible. 'I have lived with Gerhard now for eighteen years
and now my family knows that I was right.'
Thai women seeking white males - it's not a myth
It is accepted by researchers who have studied the phenomenon and from panel discussions with Thai women seeking a foreign partner that the majority are attracted to white
caucasian men. Yes, there is also an exotic interest among some of these Thai women in meeting and developing relationships with white foreigners. 'I should be clear and point
out that there are a few main drivers behind Thai women forming relationships with white western men and way down that list is the exotic attraction of finding love with a
caucasian,' says Carla Boonkong.
She points out that there are economic, cultural and societal forces that are far bigger factors in driving the growing numbers of Thai women seeking love abroad. 'I personally
have spoken to Thai women in Thailand and foreign countries who admit that they are attracted to a man with white skin,' says Carla Boonkong in Bangkok.
A recent study by a Thai researcher in the UK also seems to confirm this view when she reported that many of the Thai women living in London, some who had a background in
the Thai sex industry, stated that UK men were more passionate lovers and that their sexual experiences with an English man were more fulfilling. In this study, even though there
was a small minority of Thai women who admitted that they were in 'abusive' relationships; all Thai women reported that they were happy that they had married their UK caucasian
partner. 'That's a mixed and disturbing message of course, no woman should have to live with abuse and Thai women in the UK and other western countries are being advised to
contact the authorities in such situations,' says M/s Boonkong. 'Another study in the UK reports no abuse and a study undertaken by Stockholm University gives a very positive picture
of Thai women living in Sweden.'
White skin - a new fashion in Thailand
While 65% of relationships between white European men from countries such as Germany, the Netherland and Denmark are with Thai women from Isaan, there are also
growing reports of Thai women outside Isaan and Thai women from higher social economic groupings finding relationships with caucasian men from Europe or America. 'I think
the reasons for this are a combination of a growing number of seperated or divorced women in Thailand, the penetration of western media and cultural influences in Thailand
notably the explosion of communications with the arrival of the internet, ' says Carla Boonkong. 'It is also pointedly ironic that the majority of Thai women matching up with white
foreigners are Isaan women who are noted and discriminated in Thailand for their dark skin which in Thailand is associated with agricultural labour.'
Luk Khreung - children of Thai caucasian relationships
'Most advertisements in Thailand now highlight white skinned models and a growing number of stars on Thai TV are 'Luk Khreung' or children from relationships between Thai
women and white caucasian farang,' says Carla Boonkong. A recent report on the growing numbers of Thai women marrying white males from western countries points out that
when US servicemen took 'rented wives' when stationed in Thailand during the 1960s and 1970's the offspring or 'Luk Khreung' were not at all accepted by Buddhist authorities in
Thailand at this time. This was because of the nature of the relationships. Today's phenomenon is more acceptable to Buddhist circles and has even been endorsed as they are
designated as true relationships between Thai women and foreigners interested in long term relationships. Of course, many of the relationships established between American
men and Thai women during the Vietnam did result in very successful marriages, relationships and the creation of vibrant Thai American communities in the United States. Many
Luk Khreung, with their combination of Thai and caucasian looks and skin colour, are now seen on Thai TV and movie screens as they have become the ideal of beauty for many
women in Thailand. While the success of Luk Khreung children is noteworthy or impressive and the numbers of Thai women meeting and marrying white skinned westerners, it
would be wrong to consider Thai caucasian unions as acceptable to all sections of Thai society.
Thai woman on white skin appearance.
Duangjai has lived in Germany since 1990. She operates two businesses in Germany and returned to Thailand four years ago to set up a business in Thailand also. She is
from Khon Khaen province in Isaan. 'When I was twenty four I was a teacher in Thailand and happily married to a Thai man, I was never particularly interested in a man with white
skin. My dream was to marry a handsome Thai man. Yes, it was the story in Thailand, we think that a white farang is a rich man and today I see many younger Thai women who
now dream of a caucasian or farang husband.'
Duangjai's divorce from her husband and debts in Thailand forced her to find a 'new life' and she followed the advice of friend who introduced her to a German man from
Stuttgart in Germany. Today she runs a restaurant and dry cleaning business and lives with her retired German husband. They enjoy a life living between Thailand in winter and
summer in Germany. By Thai standards Duangjai is a wealthy woman and is often approached by friends hoping for an introduction to life in Germany or even financial
'When I went to live in Germany I learned that many Germans wanted to have a tanned look and some of the lowest people there have a very pale complexion. I think it is
something different about Thai people,' she says.
Thai class and skin consciousness
Most foreigners are shocked that Thai society is so colour conscious about skin. This is because they are unaware of social and class distinctions in Thailand which are
actually similar to other Asian cultures and run very deep. International newspapers and media around the world recently carried the features on new skin whitening products being
sold in Thailand for private intimate parts of the body. Many people reading such reports in foreign countries reacted with disbelief.
'For many foreigners discrimination or even discussing skin colour is out of bounds, a job seeker in a foreign country like the United Kingdom could go to court and win if an
employer discriminates against a job applicant on the basis of colour while in Thailand this is way of life and considered quite natural, it's truly shocking for some foreigners,' says
Some facts that Thai women should know about white skinned caucasians:
- In foreign countries women spend money to obtain a tan or bronze skin colour. It is quite normal for white caucasian women to sunbathe while on holidays with a view to
obtaining a tanned complexion and losing a white or pale skin colour.
- Many relationships between Thai women and foreigners encounter real difficulties when Thai women express a reluctance not to engage in outdoor activities for fear of skin
darkening. One Thai woman married to a UK man recently revealed that her reluctance to sunbathe and engage in outdoor activities on holidays in Greece resulted in a strain on
her marriage which eventually led to divorce. Although this was an extreme case, the issue arises in many relationships between white western men and Thai women.
- The current fashion in Thailand for whiter skin is reported in foreign media with fascination.
- Many western men suggest that Thai women with their tanned complexion to be the ideal women. This is due to Thai culture which encourages Thai women to be more
'feminine' but foreigners seem unaware of the different types of skin colour in Thailand and how conscious many Thai women are of the status in Thailand implied by a fair skin
- To judge or 'profile' a person in foreign countries particularly America and the United Kingdom is socially unacceptable although of course it happens all the time on a personal
basis. It depends on the background of the person.
- Many foreigners are quite respectful of Thailand's unique culture and understand that not everything in Thailand translates to the outside world. While many foreigners are
unaware of the skin colour consciousness of Thai people, they are aware of cultural differences between Thailand and indeed Asia and the western world. 'I think this is something
that takes the average foreigner a little while to figure out and as many white foreigners find relationships with darker skinned women from Isaan, it often provokes a feeling of
protectiveness. This is particularly true for white foreigners from working class backgrounds. It is often the case that if you find Thai women with fairer skin or from more affluent
backgrounds, it is often with a white foreigner also from an affluent background and guys like that are often tanned. But this is rare. Most eligible young women in Thailand are still
not interested in a relationship with a foreigner. I think it is changing, there are now younger, more wealthier caucasians interested in meeting Thai women, it's called
globalisation,' says James Morris.
Are white caucasian men more attractive to women in Thailand?
'Personally I don't think this is true,' says Carol Boonkong 'I think most Thai women are attracted to Asian men but perhaps an Asian or Thai man with light skin tone but there is
a feeling that some foreigners with white skin are wealthy and for some Thai women, this is the key attraction. For a small minority influenced also by western culture, a white
caucasian in a business suit can look like James Bond. In reality a white skin foreigner for a Thai woman who has been divorced and who has financial difficulties, is a dream. I
will say that there are some young Thai women who are attracted to the idea of dating a caucasian foreigner but he must be the right type of guy.'
Duangjai has an interesting perspective. 'Since I began living back in Thailand with my husband, I have noticed more younger women interested in dating foreigners but I think
there circumstances are better, younger Thai women know more about the world and are better educated about the way the world works. But for many girls from Isaan, who are
strong enough, you know, finding life with a white westerner is a good option. I know some women already here who love white men but I think it is the idea of western life as
much as anything, I think that a Thai woman comes to value a white western partner so much after time. On the other hand, I am older now and often dream about my first Thai
boyfriend! When you have lived in two cultures you can appreciate that it is people and their heart that counts the most.'
Thailand - the other opinion of white men
It is very important to keep a perspective when discussing the growth in relationships between Thai women and white caucasian men. Firstly, while it has become more
acceptable, the vast majority of Thai women are not interested in meeting a foreign caucasian man. 'One German man suggested that girlfriends of his girlfriend, an advertising
executive in Bangkok, were all interested in meeting a western or a caucasian man but maybe this is subjective but he did quote a survey on Facebook. Certainly there is still a
sizeable majority in Thailand who wouldn't dream of such a thing. Again while one in ten Thai women are members of International dating sites or social networks, many are now
interested in dating Thai men who are also beginning to join these sites. There is a growing hostility in some quarters to the phenomenon,' says James Morris. 'Many foreigners in
Thailand particularly caucasian men live in bubble and don't quite understand how the majority of Thai people think. Many Thai people say it is very difficult for foreigner of farang
to understand Thai culture. Yes Thailand is changing, yes it is more acceptable for Isaan girls to marry caucasians even for them to become part of the family or Thai community
but there is still a stigma in mainstream Thai society when it comes to young Thai women marrying caucasians.'
Thai sense of identity and culture and attitudes to caucasian men
Carla Boonkong points out that it is not uncommon for some Thai people to make remarks in Thai about foreigners or white caucasian living in Thailand. 'A sizeable proportion
of Thai people are rightly proud that it is a nation that has never been colonised. Anyone living in Thailand will see the pride that Thai people take in their country. It is a very
nationalistic country that has in recent times welcomed foreign visitors, I think this will continue but the strength and pride in Thai culture remains strong. Thai have a questioning
attitude to the increasing numbers of white caucasian men living here. You can see this clearly in the strict laws in Thailand regarding land and property ownership. Personally I
think the numbers of white men who have are marrying Thai women is a positive development to Thailand but I am sure there are many Thais who are concerned.'
Duangjai, the Thai woman married to a German man who built her own business empire; she recently returned to Thailand and runs another business in Udon Thani
province. 'I meet many Thai women who want to meet a white farang or caucasian man but now also I hear some bad reports about western men who have not treated Thai
women correctly, my husband and I now live here in the winter time, we can go back to Germany every year but he also has many friends here who are also white men. They have
money but now I think there are younger white men who come to Thailand and may not be responsible,' she says.
Online dating and security where white caucasians are African
Duangjai admits that she sometimes has a few choice Thai words for her German husband when they are living back in Thailand where live from September to March. 'He still
cannot speak Thai as well as I can speak the German tongue,' she says. 'This is the strength of the Thai woman.' However she points out that some of the reports about foreigners
she hears about in her hairdressing salon in Udon Thani come from Thai women who have negative dating and social network experiences online.
'Some of the white men online are not white men but men from Africa and Asia,' she says. In recent years Thai authorities have urged caution on Thai women using dating and
social networking sites. There have been horror stories of young Thai women losing life savings to online scams where they are invited to send money to help foreign men abroad
who are planning to travel to Thailand.
Tourism and white western men
'I think some foreigners or white western men would be surprised to learn that some clubs, entertainments venues and sex outlets in Thailand prohibit foreign men with white
skin,' says James Morris. 'I think there is a sizeable section of Thai society which is a bit apprehensive growing numbers of Thai women finding relationships with white westerners
particularly in areas of Thailand outside of Isaan or the growing numbers of less well of foreigners arriving in Thailand including caucasians. The importance of tourism to
Thailand means that this story is often downplayed.'
Growing numbers of white caucasians on the streets
The premise among Thai women that all white caucasians are rich may be called into question as it emerges that some caucasian men who have fallen on hard times.
Authorities in Thailand have found it necessary recently to tighten up visa regulations in the country as more and more westerners opt to live in Thailand. But there are many cases
and stories of white caucasian men found living on the streets of Thailand. Recent estimates are that there are two hundred western men predominantly caucasian living rough.
Often these men can be seen sleeping in phone booths in Bangkok and other urban centres. 'We are starting to see more and more homeless foreigners, many of whom have
separated from their Thai wives and now have no money,' said Natee Saravari, secretary-general of the Issarachon Foundation.
While two hundred is a comparable low number out of the thirty thousand other people sleeping homeless in Thailand, it is a shock to the system to many Thais who
automatically assume all caucasians are wealthy. 'I have heard of foreigner and caucasians coming to together to at least give these people a plane ticket home but many don't
want to go and many have been involved in failed relationships with Thai women. I think this is bound to make some Thai women question their thought process about rich
caucasians and this has already fed into the discourse among Thai women.'
Some commentators point out that this may also be the reason behind efforts by authorities in Thailand to tighten up on visa regulations governing foreigners. 'There isn't a day
that goes by without reading about foreigners mostly caucasians who commit suicide or are involved in incidents not only in Pattaya but throughout Thailand. However I would still
bet that foreigners or caucasians are a huge benefit for Thailand economically and who knows even culturally,' says James Morris.
Luk Khreung - the key to the story of caucasians and Thailand
A combination of surveys of Thai women living in Europe and America suggest that 15-20% of the women have children with their foreigner partner the vast majority who are
white caucasians. The experience of Thai women marrying foreigners since the 1960's has shown a great acceptance among Thai people of Luk Khreung of Thai Caucasian
relationships. It is also the case the 5% of relationships between Thai women and their foreign or caucasian partners involved Thai children moving to live in western countries.
'We now see many older Luk Khreung returning to Thailand and often opting to live in the land that their mothers call home as well as Thai women themselves returning with the
European, American or Australian life partners. That trend has just begun. It points to a very positive picture. I'd like to think that the Thai culture and national identity is so strong that
it can absorb and deal with these new international families. It is the beginning of a growing Thai Diaspora all over the world.'