The profile of Thai women living in France is low key. But their personal stories reveal a hidden secret: France is one of the best European destinations for a Thai woman living a personal dream.
Jean Thiebaud, a Thai woman, is a doctor who trained in Paris. She is married to a French civil servant and has got into the habit of traveling back to Thailand once a twice a year to
reacquaint herself with her past and perhaps think about settling down in the future in her home country.
'I love my life in France. It is a very good place for a Thai woman and I have always been treated very well. I think sometimes that my life has been a dream but I was surprised when I
came back to Thailand five or six years ago by how I missed by home country.'
Thai woman in France allows father to retire in style
Jean is speaking at a time when more and more Thai women are settling in Europe most often as wives to European men but also professional Thai women like Jean particularly in the
medical industry. Although Thai women in France have support groups and Thai community organisations, as in now the case in many European countries, there is no research or report on
the fate of Thai women married to French men as has recently been published for Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Switzerland and even the United Kingdom.
'There are many Thai women living in France who are very well off economically and in many cases at the higher end of the social economic scale. There are various reasons for this
but there are also some Thai women who may be vulnerable,' says Carla Boonkong, a magazine writer in Bangkok. 'However compared to other European countries, France is one where
Thai women are doing very well.' Carla recalls a story of a Thai woman working recently working in France who arrived home to present her retired elderly father with a retirement present.
'This woman is the reason why her father, who is widowed, could afford to retire in the first place with a paid for condominium and allowance but after she divorced her wealthy husband, she
transferred to him 5 million baht ($165,000) to Thailand for his personal use. 'Now her father has many younger mistresses,' she laughs.
Bangkok's nightlife to a quiet life in the South of France
Jean originally came from a well off Thai family in Chiang Rai, a northern Thai province. Her studies as a doctor and eventually employment opportunities lead her to Paris and later
Marseilles where she met her French husband. Her story is quite different from Osupa Raweewan, a younger Thai woman who is a more recent French resident.
Onsupa originates from Korat in Nakhon Ratchasima province In Thailand. This young Thai woman (29) finished a degree in marketing at Thammasat University. Her skill for the
French language and a marketing degree however did not help her initially at finding a job in Thailand. Onsupa admits frankly that her looks led her to working as a model in Bangkok often
frequenting the vibrant nightlife of one of Asia's most exciting cities. 'Truly, I could make more money doing this and attending events, that kind of thing even than a boring job as an office girl,'
'I met an older man from Bayonne in southern France and it was a love affair. He sponsored me and I went to stay with him in France. The relationship lasted more than three years. 'Even
when our life together ended, we were still friends, we still are,' she says. 'He is the first real gentleman in my life like many French man,' she says. But Onsupa moved. She went to work with a
real estate company in Paris and where she later met and married her French husband who is one year younger. Mark is an airline pilot with Air France, the French national airline. They
have a baby boy and both are working in well paying jobs in France. They can afford a 2nd home in Thailand and return there once year for Songkran hiring a car and visiting friends. 'We
have a good life, an honest life, everything has been good in my life since I came to France.' Onsupa spoke to ThaiLoveLines from a top hotel resort in Hua Hin where she is currently
holidaying with her husband.
Onsupa believes that France is one of the best bets for Thai women thinking of living in a foreign country. Here is why:
- France treats emigrants well: 'It is a very cosmopolitan society and open to different cultures even though French culture and the fashion is the best of the world. Life as a human being is
better in France,' she says.
- French culture and atmosphere: Onsupa says that her confidence in herself has blossomed during her life in France. One of the reasons is the love of culture and even fashion. 'I enjoy
the beauty of France and the love of culture. From listening to Avril Lavigne to watching French cinema and then even appreciating Disney movies...yes I know, this may not be so popular
with some French people. It is also strange but I love Thailand even more now and appreciate Thai culture more also. Life in France has more meaning. My life is successful more than I
ever dreamed,' she says. There is that word again.
- France is rich country: Onsupa believes that her success in France has been due to her ability to work hard and she makes no hesitation in saying that her beauty has helped. 'French
men are old fashioned and like to treat a beautifully lady well, it is so in France and it is a very rich country.'
Thai women in France - a tradition
There are now estimated to be over 27,000 Thai women living in France, the vast majority being married to French men although Paris and French universities are also very popular for
Thai students from more wealthy families.
'There has always been a lot of cooperation and contact between France and Thailand,' says James Morris in Bangkok. 'Even though the France is a country that Thailand has been at
war with before the World War II. 'The term 'Farang' itself refers to the French who came here in the early 18th century although they were by no means the first Europeans, the French have a
special rapport with Thailand and particularly Bangkok.'
Profile of French men in Thailand also more discreet
'But I must say the profile of French men in Thailand is a lot more discreet even though they account for a lot of tourists and many Thai women marry French men. But if you compare the
profile to Belgians, Swedish or even the English, it is a lot lower profile, maybe it is good thing.'
Morris believes that there are less French men coming to live in Thailand as there are English men, Swedes or even Belgians. 'I think that French men tend to be looking for more
genuine relationships but though many visit Thailand, they are more short stay visitors. And also most Germans and Americans are looking for Thai wives of life partners to live in America or
Germany but French men are looking for a love if that doesn't sound too cliched.'
French language in Thai French relationships
Another commentator in Bangkok thinks that language might also be a factor. Carla Boonkong, a magazine editor, believes that many Thai women see dating a French man as a more
exotic route 'I think that many Thais with limited education tend to try to grasp English now as the country's alternative language. There is also a tradition in North eastern Thailand of Thai
women marrying men from Germany and Nordic countries spread by word of mouth. Thai women marrying Frenchmen is something I see more in middle class circles, that's just my
France is good to Thai women but old fashioned
Jean Claude, a semi retired public official agrees with this. 'France is very good to Thai women as society generally in France is more supportive but it is a big country and living in
France is also a little bit more old fashioned, so it is good for a Thai wife with a French husband to find some work to do, to get out and be active. Many do not and stay at home from what I
'What is significant is that there are more French man like myself thinking of marrying a Thai woman rather than any other Asian country. I know that France has a historical link with
Cambodia and Vietnam but the cultural reputation of Thai women in France is quite high. Before I came to Thailand, there were many people who advised me strongly about the dangers of
marrying a Thai woman and the practice of paying the bride's family, things like this. Yes, all of this is no doubt true but I have seen myself many wonderful relationships between a Thai wife
and French man living at home.'
Increase in numbers of French men - the reasons
Jean Claude is sixty years old and a diabetic from Bordeaux. He leases a villa in Hua Hin and spends up to six months of the year in Thailand. He says he is still resident in France and
one of the reasons is the better health service in France although he is full of praise for health facilities in Thailand also. 'The cost of the service is so reasonable and the care is very friendly
but I value the security of my life in France too much, one must be prudent also.'
Jean Claude gives the following reasons for sudden upsurge in French men finding love with Thai women since 2008:
- The financial crisis: France has been among the European countries suffering the brunt of the economic crisis as the country relies on high level of state expenditure
and borrowing. 'I think quite a few French middle aged guys like me are weighing up the prospect of living in Thailand but it is a difficult idea for any French man to swallow, you know. But it
certainly is the case that more French men are spending more time in Thailand. A survey by ThaiLoveLines confirms that a majority of French men seeking a Thai wife or girlfriend are
either self employed, retired or are senior directors and managers of French companies (62%). 'Many French men seeking Thai wives have large disposable incomes, it is more of the case
of the new life for middle aged men than a life alternative for comparatively younger men struggling as you will find with men from The United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands.
- Thailand as cheap getaway: France is one of the the most expensive countries in the world to live. The cheap cost of living in Thailand is tempting to many French men going there for
holidays and as a romantic getaway for a number of months in the year. 'Yes, it is a good for a man with grey hairs to see the sun in his face for a few weeks and escape,' says Jean
- New ways: There are some French men particularly more middle aged who feel that society in France is changing too fast and who are looking for a more old fashioned woman. 'This is
true even for French men now there are even more feminist women in France, which is all right, but when a man has had a bad experience, he does not want to suffer again.'
- Thailand's culture: With new ways of thinking has come a increases in the popularity of Buddhism and many French men are interested in Thai women because of their beauty and
culture. 'If you visit Paris or the big cities in France you will see Thai women who looks more beautiful than you will see anywhere else in the world. The culture of Thailand and the unique
personal appeal of Thai women brings many French men to Thailand.'
Less young French men opt to live in Thailand
However unlike countries like England and Sweden less younger French men are opting to live in Thailand but more are interested in meeting a younger Thai bride. Pierre Malette is an
exception. At 25, year old Pierre spent his holiday in months in Thailand for two years and brought home his Thai wife. He runs his own DIY service and his wife Orawan is a professional
housekeeper having landed a job just three months after arriving in France. 'I became an entrepreneur while living in Bangkok. I bought a small printing business. Before this in France I had
worked on construction sites. In Thailand I learned to think for myself!'
French man's bad experience with a Thai wife
A French architect (60) was turned away by his newly married Thai wife just hours after he paid a B276,000 dowry to her family in Udon Thani last year. The older man, who earned a
monthly salary of approx 400,000 per month in France, had found his new Thai wife on an internet dating site in December 2012.
Mr Michel Sebald told an interpreter that he fell in love with the beautiful Thai woman while corresponding with her online. He said that she told him that she worked as a court clerk and
that he was impressed by her politeness and charming manner.
The French man asked that Thai woman to marry him and it was agreed that he would send B20,000 so that she could fly to Paris to be with him. This was subsequently changed when
It was agreed that he would go in March 2013 to attend a wedding party in Udon Thani.
On March 5th he arrived in Udon Thani and went to the village of Nong Gung Tub Ma where he participated in a traditional marriage ceremony. Afterwards, he spent two nights with his
Thai wife in a hotel in the centre of Udon Thani. During those two nights his wife refused to have sexual intercourse with him telling him that she was 'not ready'. The French man accepted
this as reasonable. He later had to leave Thailand when his visa expired. Back in France he discovered that he could not make contact with his wife so he returned to Udon Thani in June
2013. He was turned away by his wife's family at their village home and later pressed charges against her.
Thai wife may not have been oficial married to French man
'This story is somewhat unusual' says James Morris. 'Many Thai families would encourage the Frenchman's Thai wife to go with her new husband particularly as it appears that the
Frenchman was well off financially and more importantly, generous. It is not uncommon now in Thailand among poor village people for large sums of money to be paid by Thai women
themselves, yes the reverse of this, to men online who appear rich and interested in marriage in scam transactions.
It may well be that this Thai bride simply got cold feet. In theory and in terms of honour perhaps the Sine not should have been returned. Also I am not sure if the couple were officially
married at this point, it appears that they were not. This should take place in a government registration office in Thailand and would require consular assistance from Bangkok. The marriage
should later be also registered in France so that the Thai woman would be legally married in France also,' he says.
Thai women in France less inclined to plug back into Thailand
'Thai women living in large countries all over Europe are generally spread out among the population. While there are clusters in Germany and the Netherlands and some parts of France,
most Thai women living in France are dependent on their husbands or partners for social support. But as the numbers of Thai women living in Europe increases, so too has access to
facilities and support groups.
' I can now watch some Thai TV from home says Onsupa Malette although maybe I'm strange but I prefer to get mired now in French culture and my life here. The same is true for Jean:
'Yes Thai Women living in France really fit in and like the lifestyle and the sort of society here. I had no real longing for Thailand in the first part of my life here. Yes, I kept in touch but some
years ago when I returned home, sometimes switched on within me and now I am thinking some day also of returning to Thailand.'
Orawan (32) is from Chiang Mai province in Thailand works as a housekeeper in North eastern France. She is married to Frenchman Pierre Malette who she met while he was on
holidays. After living together for two years in Bangkok, they decided to make their life together in France. It was a good move. Orawan has a bachelors degree in tourism which she finds
useful as her works involves dealing with tourists in France and she also does accounts for her husband's household repair business.
'I was so excited when I got my visa and I came to live in France. I remember thinking how beautiful and clean it was just like in the pictures. I still feel this way but work in France is
harder and I have learned the new standards here. I can speak French pretty much fluently and I can drive a car. Only the one thing is that I am surprised that I do not yet have a family, life in
France is just so busy but yet it is so good.'
Orawan has worked a housekeeper in a large French house near the city of Reims in northern France. The house is a large chateau and is regularly open to the public in a very historic
part of France.
Her advice to Thai girls thinking of following in her footsteps:
- You must love France and the French way of live. It has some values that we have in Thailand but yet it is so different and I think better. But for this you must know how to speak
- Orawan says that French men are truly wonderful, more supportive than Thai men but can be very difficult. 'They are difficult and sometimes can be as difficult as any woman but it is a
challenge to be a French man's wife and lover and also to work. I thought it would be romantic but I did not think life in France would involve so much work. Life in Thailand is easier but then
it is not as rewarding.'
Thai women organising in France
It is now estimated that there are over 300,000 Thai women living in Europe and in the last decade or so they have become very organised. In France Thai women can receive support
through a range of organisations supporting Thai women living in France such as Solidarite Thaie en France and other immigrant associations. There is a growing movement among Thai
women all over Europe to organise themselves and an annual meeting is held in a different European capital every year. This is assisted by the Thai government who are reaching out to
Thai women who have establish themselves in every european country particularly France.
'France is one of the oldest European partners for Thailand and it is not uncommon to see Thai women very involved in affairs back in Thailand such as in recent Thai elections where
very effort was made to allow Thai women in France and other European countries to vote.' says Carla Boonkong who doesn't necessarily accept that Thai women in France are less
interested in links with Thailand. 'There are many active Thai women in France working hard to forge links with Thailand and among Thai women in France among themselves. Perhaps
you could say that Thai women in France are a bit happier and satisfied with the cultural environment, I suppose that's quite understandable. Why not? France is such a great country to live
In France there is a quarterly Thai magazine aimed at Thai women living in France. The glossy colour magazine called 'Boudsaba' is available on an annual subscription basis including
postage and packaging to Thai women living in France. It covers cultural affairs and topical social issues such as marriage in France and domestic violence.
As more Thai women consider life in foreign countries and particularly Europe, France is a key destination but the French language is a key barrier: 'I think many Thai women will be
looking at French as an alternative language to English. I think there is a great cultural resonance between Thailand and France.'