Despite the downturn in the world economy the explosive growth of international relationships continues in Thailand between Thai women and foreign men. It is now estimated that there are over one hundred thousand foreigners who have Thai Girlfriends.
Some have labeled it sex tourism and with Thailand's massive sex industry, this is certainly a significant factor but the growing number of books and research studies points to very real and genuine stories of international relationships between foreign men and Thai women. Indeed, many of the horror stories associated with Thai Girlfriends and relationships between foreign men and Thai women stem from the Thai sex industry which continues to thrive in centres like Pattaya, Phuket or Bangkok. The real story on Thai girlfriends is more complex and the best advice for any man in need of a girlfriend would still be to visit Thailand but instead to avoid Pattaya and the Thai sex industry entirely.
The initial background to this explosion is Thai culture and the relative poverty of those in the poorer sections of Thai society. The Danish movie ,'Love on Delivery' by award winning Danish director Januz Ketz highlights the personal
and very real Thai girlfriend stories of pretty young girls from northern Thailand forced to work in the sex industry in Pattaya. Up to 2008, the growing prosperity in western economies, decline of traditional values and a feminist led, more politically correct environment caused a surge of young and middle aged men traveling to Thailand, in search of sun, beer and sex. This trend, coupled with the internet revolution offering cheap global communications led to a growth in real international relationships. Many foreign men now return to Thailand a number of times each year to meet a Thai girlfriend. However since the global economic downturn and even a small decline in poverty in Thailand, new forces continue to push the Thai girlfriend story forward.
A post graduate student from the United Kingdom has just completed a study in which he found that Thai girlfriend relationships take different forms and the relationship can change as the time period moves outward:
- There is the short term companion for a holiday. This can occur through meeting a partner on the internet and inviting them to spend a holiday in Thailand or foreign visitors to Thailand meeting Thai girls in tourist resorts such as Pattaya, Samui or Phuket. More affluent foreigner visitors to Thailand meet more up market Thai girlfriends in this category particularly in Bangkok. There is no doubt that this involves forays into prostitution and there is overwhelming anecdotal evidence that such relationships can have undesirable, sometimes even lethal consequences. Horror Thai girlfriend stories now involve murder, infidelity, fraud and violence. The pattern is very real often involving a clash of cultures. Despite this, many successful long term relationships are formed in this way.
- Many foreign men or ex-pats staying in Bangkok or more affluent resorts develop relationships with more modern minded and often educated Thai girlfriends, often with or in third level education who are interested in a less traditional relationship with a foreigner. Many Thai women, particularly those with education and or more affluent backgrounds, feel that a relationship with a foreigner is more fulfilling.
- There are many Thai women who now have long-term relationships with foreigners who visit Thailand a number of times a year or who have foreign boyfriends, both younger and older, who have chosen to relocate to Thailand. Many of these women are simply women who no longer fit into the more traditional Thai society or who have chosen to opt out. Many opt for the freedom it offers. It is not uncommon, for instance, for Thai men to have mistresses or a number of wives.
A post graduate student from Gloucestershire, Paul Hughes has just finished a study on international relationships between Thai women and foreigners particularly from the USA, United Kingdom, Commonwealth and Europe. In the study he interviewed over 200 respondents who had been or are currently involved in relationships, many involving Thai girlfriends. He recorded that a staggering 78% of these relationships began online through dating sites and social networks operating in Thailand or involved online communication at some stage. His study also reports:
- Many younger foreigners have begun to develop long term relationships with companions that they have met in Thailand and have begun the process of bring their Thai girlfriends home for a visit to meet their families. Despite strict conditions
introduced by consulates and embassies regarding visas, the trend continues.
- The economic downturn in western countries has lead to increased immigration into Thailand by businessman with capital to invest. 'Many of these guys have had it with marriage and find well educated Thai girlfriends,' says one investment consultant based in Indonesia who has recently opened an off in Bangkok. 'There has been a huge growth in professional companies catering for this market.'
- In addition to wealthy middle aged immigrants, many young professionals are opting to give up the corporate rat race and setting up small businesses in Thailand particularly tourist related ventures.
- Many young graduates are opting to travel to Thailand to teach English or a foreign language as the demand for foreign languages grows in Thailand. This demand has been fuelled by the growth of the internet and a global outlook that has been fostered in Thailand particularly since the spectacular economic growth which took place in the Thaksin era.
- There has been a dramatic breakdown of traditional marriage patterns in western countries notably the UK and the USA in the last fifteen years. Many unskilled and skilled non professionals are opting not to marry but now researchers are beginning to notice a reluctance among younger men to cohabit as legislation has been introduced in some countries treating cohabitation as marriage. 'It is now not uncommon for younger and middle aged men to have a girlfriend or long term partner in Thailand,' said Mr Hughes. 'I would also say that these international relationships are more about friendship and a lot less about sex.'
The median age of the correspondents in Mr. Hughes study was 38 years.
It has been shown how Thai women are leading economic and social development in Thailand particularly through their use of the internet. Many of the the modern relationships being formed would not have been possible without the internet and cheap, instant communication between individuals around the world.
Recent socio economic studies have highlighted the real contribution now being made through foreign marriages notable in the north of Thailand. The Thai girlfriend phenomenon is becoming an equally significant force with large scale remittances from foreign boyfriends to Thai girlfriends now becoming a significant foreign investment into Thailand. The countries were these remittances are coming from include the USA, UK, Japan and European countries. Many of these payments are made through Western Union which has begun to expand its network in Thailand through retail outlets and ties ups with the major banks. The study also highlights the future impact of international relationships and marriages between Thai women and foreign men on Thailand and its relations with the rest of the world. While concerns about the protection of Thai culture exist, it may well be a very positive one.
While economics and Thai culture are key factors, some reference has to be made about Thai women being particularly charming and attractive to foreign men. Although it is, by now, trite to point out the ability of Thai women to dress, look well and appear, it nonetheless never fails to impress new visitors to Thailand particularly men. 'The difference between Thai women and women at home is that at home a beautiful woman stands out, here all the women are beautiful,' said one man from New Zealand who recently returned to Thailand with his pregnant Thai girlfriend after an extended holiday to meet his family.'