Figures from central marriage registration offices in Bangkok show increasing evidence that the median age of foreign men marrying Thai wives is decreasing.
One western commentator who works on one of Bangkok's national newspapers says: 'More and more of the younger guys know what they are
about and understand the culture, I dare say in the future that this may be a more positive thing, we are also moving away from the old stereotype.'
It is still clear that foreign men seeking wives in Thailand have several cultural differences to overcome, and must also be aware of similar problems
faced by their respective Thai wives. The reasons for foreigners
marrying Thai women and Thai women marrying farang
may be different, and it is important that each understands the true objectives of the other in the relationship.
It is no secret that Thailand is one of the first countries men think of when seeking a wife, due partially to the famed beauty of Thai women and also to
their attentiveness and fidelity to their husbands - but why Thailand and not any other Asian country?
In fact, it is not only Thailand to which men will look when seeking an Asian wife, but the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia are also popular when
Western men seek a beautiful young partner. Nevertheless, Thailand appears to be favoured, with many thousands of 'farang', or foreigners, visiting the
country during their vacations in the hoping of finding the right young Thai woman. One of the reasons for Thailand being favoured is not only the particularly
famed beauty of Thai women, but also their good manners, their elegance and their welcoming demeanour.
While many thousands of foreign men seek Thai wives every year, many fail and
even fall foul of the hidden dangers that lie behind these beautiful faces. While it is important that foreign men understand Thai traditions and their formal
ways, you should also be aware that Thailand is like any other country in the world, and is home to many whose intentions are far from the honourable
marriage that you may be seeking.
Why do Westerners seek Thai wives?
Why do men come to Thailand to seek a wife? Who are these people that find it
necessary to come so far to find a wife? Many have simply been unsuccessful back home, or can't fit in with the social conventions of their own country.
Others are divorced or widowers, and are seeking someone younger with whom to spend the remaining years of their lives. It is also a fact that others have
been unable to accept the changing attitudes of women towards men in the Western world.
Back home, they may find that they are no longer the head of their household in the way they would wish, and are seeking the more traditional approach
of Thai women. Western society has changed over the past few decades, and many married men have been unable to accept this and acquiesce to the
diminishing traditional recognition of the husband as the infallible head of the household.
Moreover, it is not only these older divorcees that are seeking young Thai wives, but recent years have seen an increase in the number of young, single
foreign men coming to Thailand seeking a lifelong partner. Not all have been persuaded to do so by the works of Sunthon Phu, a UNESCO Classic Poet of
the World in 1986 who wrote:
'A wife should show her husband respect every day. . . . when her husband goes to bed she will prostrate herself at her husband's feet as a Thai way of
showing her high respect . . . a good wife will not eat before her husband' (paraphrased).
Why Thai women marry foreigners
Thai women may have a number of reasons for accepting a foreigner as a husband, although her family will likely be the most important to her after
herself. In fact the security of her family frequently comes first, with her own preferences being a poor second. When a Western man marries a Thai
woman he also marries her family, which is why large numbers of married couples of mixed race decide to remain in Thailand.
She will feel an obligation to her family almost as strong as that to her husband, but will tend to display a level of devotion to him greater than most
Western wives show to their husbands. However, modern young Thai women are becoming more independent and may not necessarily conform to the
conventional perception that their new husbands may have had of Thai wives. She will possibly want to work, so that she can contribute to the household finances, and many men are astonished to
find their new Thai wife to have a good business head.
Thai women tend to fit in well with Western business culture, and can generally hold their own in business negotiations. Do not make the mistake of
confusing their modesty and diffidence with weakness. If you have met any Thai bar girls you will understand just how persuasive and ruthless they can be in negotiation and getting their own
Some aspects of Thai Culture
There are many cultural differences between the West and the Orient, and there are several aspects of Thai culture of which prospective Western
husbands should be aware. Among these are:
- Their religion is important, and if you visit a Buddhist temple you must not wear shorts or short-sleeved tops. You must remove your shoes before entering
the temple, and women should never touch a monk. Never debase their religion, because for many women that comes first, before anything else.
- You must respect the King of Thailand, and stand while the National Anthem is played each day - usually at 8 am and 6 pm. Jokes about the king are
disrespectful, even among young Thais. These first two customs regarding religion and the monarch are important for any man wishing to impress a Thai
woman, and a failure to observe either is bad news for you.
- As already noted, Thai women feel it their duty to care for their family. Even if you and your bride move to your own country she will feel obligated to
send money to her family in Thailand - in fact it will be expected of her. As mentioned earlier, you marry a Thai woman and you marry her family.
- Never touch anybody on the head: this is considered a sacred part of the body and should not be touched unless invited.
- Never use your feet to close doors or point: this is regarded as very bad manners, particularly if you use your feet to point at someone.
- When washing or hanging clothes out to dry, those from the top part of the body must be separated from the bottom part. Clothes from below the waist
are considered unclean and must be washed separately and never be in contact your top clothes when being dried. You should also use different towels for
drying yourself above and below the waist.
- Traditionally, Thais do not sunbathe. A pale skin is a sign of status, and only peasants of the fields have tanned skin. Never suggest to your new bride that
she sunbathe - you will be insulting her! If she does, she will likely slather herself with factor 40+ sunblocker!
There are also a few minor traditions that young Western men might be unfamiliar with back home and could misinterpret. For example, if you date a
Thai woman you may find her turning up with a female friend. It's not because she doesn't like you. This is a form of chaperone, and she might also be a bit
wary of you. After all, many Western men come to Thailand for just one thing, and she may need to know you better before being alone with you.
Sex and marriage in Thailand
Decent Thai women do not kiss in public. If she turns away when you try to kiss her, even on the cheek, it's not because she doesn't like you, but
because it is not the done thing in her country. You will find these traditions are stronger in the villages than the larger cities where Western influences are
beginning to change the old traditions.
It is normally accepted in Thailand that couples do not have sex before marriage, although increasing numbers of young urban couples have 'trial
marriages' to ensure they are compatible. It is frequently said in Thailand that 'Man wants to be the first boy of his girlfriend while woman wants to be the
last girl of her boyfriend.'
New husbands will traditionally be expected to pay a marriage dowry, and the amount asked for by her family may well be influenced by how much you
flash your cash! Try not to show off with money before you are married! In many cases the dowry is symbolic and will be repaid after the wedding
ceremony - but not always so. Much depends on the wealth or poverty of her family, and on their perception of your personal wealth. It may be repaid in
part, or later in the form of a share in the father's business, a gift of land or in some other way.
Thai Bar Girls and foreign men
Many more foreign visitors to Thailand have been successful in living their dream than have failed, although horror stories are not particularly uncommon.
This is particularly the case where a farang marries a Thai bar girl. Thai bar girls and
prostitutes are providing a service and companionship. They are usually working to feed their families, and are sincere in their work. It is not a profession
that is debased as it is in the West. However, many have boyfriends and any money you give them for their 'family' may go to them.
It is not unusual for a Western man to meet a beautiful young bar girl, return to the USA or Europe and send money back to her to take care of her and
her 'family.' All the cash being sent back to Thailand is likely going to her and the boyfriend. In fact, she is likely making more money than you are relative to
the cost of living, and also possibly has several other 'benefactors' who send her money and meet up with her on their next vacation.
Foreign men seeking wives in Thailand are advised to keep away from the bar girls, no matter how cute they look. They are advised to meet young
students or working girls, in the genuine meaning of the term 'working'. Most have a decent family whose sole objective is not to screw all the cash they can
out of you, but is the happiness of their daughter.
You will likely still be asked for the marriage dowry, because it is traditional and 'face-saving, although a good family will return this to you. You may still
be expected to contribute towards her family's welfare, but this will be in a realistic fashion. In fact, large numbers of Europeans, Americans and Australians
tend to remain in Thailand after marrying their Thai wife, because money goes further and
they can purchase large houses with land. This also gives them and the Thai wife's family status in the community.
How a Thai wife is your best asset
Thai women have strong community spirit, and if you marry a Thai woman and take her back to your own country do not be surprised if she seeks out
other Thai women in the area. She would rather be with other Thai women because she has the need for her own culture and traditions, even if just for a
while when she is with them. However, once settled in your country you will find that you have likely married an intelligent and resourceful young
Many Thai women in America have achieved success in business, and it is not unusual to
find a couple running their own business that was started up by the woman. It is important that foreign men seeking Thai women do not underestimate the
capabilities of the woman of their choice, and that she is permitted to live her own life.
A Thai wife can be a significant asset to a foreigner, and can provide him with more
than just companionship and tender loving care. The majority of foreign men seeking Thai wives have little knowledge, both of Thai culture and of the
capabilities of the women. They mistake love, devotion and a sense of obligation with subservience and weakness, but nothing could be further from the
Why Thai Women marry Farang
Thai women have many different reasons for marrying farang. Perhaps an honest one comes from Rose Nelson: 'My husband is a farang and I am
Thai. My husband is not old and he is very handsome! Not all Thai ladies from the northeast (Isaan) region are looking for a farang boyfriend. I marry my
husband because I love him and not for his money.'
In rural Thailand where people tend to be poorer, a foreign husband is a high aspiration for young women. More than 15,000 farang have moved into the
relatively poor Northeast of Thailand, bringing with them money and a source of desirable husbands for the young women who hitherto had relied on hard
work in the paddy fields for their living.
One Thai wife observes: 'Foreign men aren't handsome, but they have more money.'
Perhaps closer to the truth might be these wise words from Thai wife Ilan Finer:
'White men are exotic to the Thai woman and just like men love exotic women so do most women love exotic men'