Thai women seeking life in America driven by discrimination in Thailand
Women from Isaan, a collection of provinces in Northeast Thailand are a large proportion of Thai women seeking life partners and a new start in the United States of America. One of the reasons for this is discrimination.
Others suggest that the Western media to have provided Thai women with a stereotype of life in North America and other foreign places. Many Thai
women are convinced that by moving out of Thailand they will find the loving relationship that they cannot find in their own country because TV and the
magazines tell them so.
It has to be admitted that a potent driving force is internal forms of discrimination in Thailand although it is also true that Western celebrity magazines
and TV have colored the spectacles for Thai women from poorer backgrounds somewhat. A combination of each of these appears to be responsible for
women leaving Thailand seeking love elsewhere. It is particularly startling that this also now includes young middle class Thai women and professionals
from particular regions of the country most notably Isaan in Northeast Thailand.
Isaan women in Thailand
The story of educated Thai women seeking a new start in America or Canada can be instanced by the experience of one Canadian man from
Vancouver who met his Thai fiancée in Canada. This lucky Canadian man never did have to visit Thailand to meet a beautiful Thai woman. His story goes
that he got 'fed up with the local dating scene,' and with 'alcohol-induced relationships,' so decided to stop dating altogether. The same day he made this
resolution, he met a young Thai woman from Isaan, the region of Thailand bordering Laos in the northeast.
Through his experiences with his Thai fiancée and her friends, he found that Thai women were not only more beautiful, but also better educated and
more committed to their family than most single Caucasian women - at least those in the Seattle/Vancouver area. This is the personal view of one
Canadian, partially based on his personal experience with the dating scene in that part of North America.
His fiancée had left Thailand hoping to find the 'American dream' husband, but also to find better opportunities for herself due to the stereotyping of
Isaan women in Thailand. Most countries have their equivalents, such as the UK's 'Essex girl' and the USA's 'Jersey girl' although in Thailand it seems to
Isaan women appear to have been denigrated their entire lives until they left Thailand, and had a feeling of worthlessness instilled into them from an
early age. Little wonder they dream of a world where they have equal opportunities and can meet young men without being typecast as 'Isaan girls'. The
press paints such an attractive picture of 'The West' that it should not be surprising that they leave to find their 'perfect life'.
However, people are surprised. The Canadian man above was amazed at the attitudes of his Thai girlfriend. It appears that the immigration route from
Isaan to the USA and Canada is routine practice for many women. This Canadian man has already visited a few Thai temples in Canada with his Thai
fiancée and noticed very few Thai men other than the monks, but the Thai women he met who were practically all from Isaan, a region in northeast
Thailand which includes a number of provinces including Udon Thani. Udon Thani is famous to being home to many expats who have settled and built
homes in the town of Udon Thani and surrounding areas.
Like his fiancée, they had also left looking for something better - in fact most felt forced out of Thailand by the degree of discrimination they
experienced. Rather than remain as second class Thai citizens they preferred to take their chances with the West, as portrayed in the western press,
celebrity magazines and TV programs.
Most had settled down happily with American or Canadian husbands, and while perhaps not living the life portrayed on TV, they were living a much
happier life than had they remained in Isaan. However surveys carried out by women's groups in Canada and the America suggest that most Thai women
get home sick. This is also true for Thai women from Isaan who have now had a long tradition of find life partners or husbands in Germany, Austria or
Scandinavian countries. Many of the Thai women who had initially come to North America without find an American man to marry, worked as nannies
and childcare workers, and all had felt a relief at no longer being thought of as an 'underclass' even though their careers in their new countries were often
less than ideal. However nearly all Thai women retain a strong emotional link with Thailand and plan to return for holidays and in retirement. 'I love my
new life in America country and I would like to work here but I still love Thailand better,' was one poignant comment from a women centre study in Los
Angeles. These reports fit the growing trend of Thai women returning to Thailand in retirement, many to Isaan province, with their foreign husbands from a
growing list of countries including America, Canada, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Germany.
Thai Discrimination - African American men
Jamie, a 36 year-old African American from Chicago, met his wife on an internet dating site. Prior to this, he had used such sites tentatively to find out
how Thais viewed black Americans. He had previously worked in Bangkok for a while, so he wasn't completely ignorant of Thai ways. However, he
found the feedback to his dating queries to be quite negative, many girls being unwilling to talk to him once they knew his colour.
Nevertheless, luck was with him and he found a girl named May from the Kalasin province in the northeast of Thailand, and while she was a bit
uncertain about him when they first met, things improved and they eventually married. It has to be admitted that many Thais do discriminate on the basis of
colour, although in this case the young woman was well educated with a university degree, and was able to see Jamie as just a guy - and one she liked very
May now works in the USA, and is amazed at how she now regards topics such as race and generally looks at thing differently. Although discrimination
in Thailand may not be endemic, there is certainly an undercurrent that particularly affects people of certain regions such as Isaan.
The ideal Thai woman
It frequently appears as if Thai culture promotes a lighter rather than a darker skin. Most foreigners to Thailand make little of this as their experiences
with Thai people and Thailand are generally very pleasant. There is no doubt that Thai people are among the kindest in the world. It is unlikely that this is a
racial thing, because most Thais are darker-skinner than the common representation of the more beautiful Thai women in the media. In fact, most Thai
models appear to be practically European in looks and skin colour. Even most Thai women agree that such women are more beautiful, and that the children
arising from Thai-Western marriages are better looking than indigenous Thai children.
Another Canadian, who works in Bangkok, commented: 'Most Thai media seem to promote the perfect woman as being lighter skinned, just look at the
celebrity magazines, you see many half Thai and half farang, with pale skin and western eyes.'
Little wonder, then, that young Thai men seek such women, and that ordinary young women in Thailand particularly those from Isaan, from poor
backgrounds or darker skins colour look outside their country for a mate.
'Many of these women are the subject of real discrimination and often are amazed to find a man from England or somewhere like that who is prepared
to love them. It says a lot for our modern western culture, I think.' However it is also an example of the freedom and innocence of Thai culture which does
not have the same historical baggage as westerners. Thai women from Isaan simply get on with it and do not have time to feel aggrieved.
However, this may not be the only reason for Thai women looking westwards. It is also quite possible that Thai women, including those from Isaan, are
as bored with Thai men as equivalent western men are bored with the stereotypical western woman. It might be for this reason that many young Thai
women visit the USA and Canada just as the young western men visit Thailand. The internet, internet dating and social networking has introduced a
dynamic push among certain people in all countries to look outside their own country and dating pool for a partner or a mate. Many studies looking the
growth in inter racial dating are surprised to see large numbers of younger western men, many with third level educations, looking abroad to marry in line
with similarly educated Thai women seeking a new life abroad.
Attitudes towards Isaan women in Thailand
The fact that so many of the young women that emigrate to North America are from Thailand's north eastern Isaan region tells its own story, as does
the unarguable discrimination and racial undercurrent evident among the middle and upper classes of Thailand. Most Thai women happily marry young Thai
men, although there are parts of Thailand where young women are pushed away from their country by old-fashioned attitudes and values that the young
find hard to adopt.
Once they become familiar with the truth of western society in relation to what is projected by the media, particularly the celebrity media and TV
shows, many Thai women in the northeast Thailand prefer to live in the west rather than in their own country. They would rather marry young Americans
or Canadians than remain in Isaan or other parts of Thailand outside the northeast where they are the subject of discrimination all their lives.
This is particularly true of the young, educated middle classes, who have moved away from their country for work, and choose to remain in the USA,
Canada, Australia or Europe to avoid the social prejudices and 'small town' attitudes of much of Thai society - and also to have a better life. Not all that is
shown in the media is exaggeration!
This is not to suggest that Thailand is a prejudiced society - far from it, but there are many inland and towns and villages where old customs endure and
young women should remain at home to look after the family. While the media occasionally misrepresent the West as being a Nirvana, there are some who
misrepresent traditional Thailand as being repressive. It is not and most Thai women particularly those from Isaan or the northeast of Thailand deeply value
their culture and the traditions but they are also pragmatic and responsible.
The very fact that so many Thai women are able to emigrate and make new lives for themselves with Western men illustrates this. Thailand is very
aware of its problems but the fact is that there is a vast divide between the rich and the poor - another incentive for emigration.
Some move with work as a pretext, though their main objective is to find the right young man to help them improve their lifestyle. While this may
appear a poor reason to marry, Thai women are so dedicated to their husbands and families that western standards cannot be applied to them.
Isaan women seek to better themselves
Many Thai women, whether they are poor or middle class, educated or not, have a desire to better themselves, just as most women do throughout the
world. The divide between rich and poor is a wide one in Thailand, and the ambition of most young Thai women living in towns and villages throughout the
country is to meet and marry a rich farang who will carry them off to their own country to live happily ever after - or perhaps build them a home in their
own town and look after their family.
This ambition is even stronger in the Isaan province, where the women are regarded as of low intellect and upbringing. Many Isaan women take this
ambition to the extreme of emigrating to the USA and Canada, often to work with children, but fundamentally in the hope of meeting a young Western man.
Thai women are continually seeking opportunities to enable themselves both to be able to look after their family better and to better themselves.
Moving away from Thailand is not a problem to them, particularly when they feel pushed out of their country, as many young Isaan women feel. While
not necessarily endemic, discrimination against Isaan people takes place, and racial discrimination on the basis of colour is not uncommon in Thailand.
Thai woman overjoyed to be a US citizen
The local newspaper in Enid, Oklahoma recently reported on the city's newest American citizen Pon Schuelke who was born in Thailand and has been
married to her US husband Jim for over 5 years. Jim is a retired Enid algebra teacher.
Jim met Pons when he visited Thailand after retirement to see elephants. Having met Pon's sister, who lives in Colorado, he met and married Pon while
he was in Thailand. Pon lived on a rice farm about 500 miles north of Bangkok.
Pon told the local newspaper that as a girl in Thailand she watched airplanes fly over and trains pass by, and she wanted to be on them. At age 5, her
father made her responsible for the water buffalo on the farm.
Pon later worked most of her life as a clerk for an electric company in Thailand. When the company offered her early retirement, she took the
opportunity to attend a course to learn Thai massage. She now works in this field in the United States.
After studying and taking a citizenship examination, Pon became a US citizen having also studied American history. 'American people are really nice,'
she said. Like many Thai women emigrating to foreign countries, Pon had never seen snow and knew nothing about below-freezing temperatures before
moving to Oklahoma. 'I was so excited,' she said.
As a new American citizen, Pon said she plans to register and vote, but she did not tell the local newspaper which party she will support. Pon also
retained her Thai citizenship and hopes her family in Thailand will come to visit her. She has a daughter and two grandchildren there.
Pon tells the newspaper that in Thailand, there are no equal-opportunity laws, and gender discrimination is rampant. The newspaper tells its readers that
Pon feels much more comfortable in America. 'I'm very excited to be a citizen,' she said.