Dating Thai Guys: Thoughts from a Western Woman

A young American expat living in northern Thailand who’s dated a few Thai guys and stuck with one for several years before calling it quits. While her experience may not be indicative of all relationships, everything she says we’ve heard before when it comes to Western female/Thai male relationships.

When I first moved to Thailand people asked me if I found Thai men, or Asian men in general attractive. Personally, I didn’t really know or care, but also didn’t subscribe to the stereotype that Asian men weren’t attractive to Western women.

Thai guys date foreign women
Thai guys date foreign women

After being in Thailand for months, I did find some Thai guys attractive but also didn’t interact with them much at all. The only guys I would really speak to or interact with happened to be bartenders, musicians or tattoo artists…usually while they were all at a bar. Even now after several years in the country, I still haven’t had many conversations with Thai guys outside of these professions (aside from my landlord, neighbors and drivers). For the most part, Thai guys wouldn’t even look at me, much less talk to me and take the giant step of asking me out, however these guys had strong enough English skills, and strong enough self confidence, to talk to me as they interacted and worked with foreigners everyday.

Except for a couple minor flirtations, I’ve spent substantial amounts of time with two Thai men. One was similar to my age, kind, caring and incredibly honest, the other was older than me and came from entirely different background in terms of upbringing, education, economic status and life experience. He also turned out to showcase all the negative stereotypes you hear about Thai men … naturally, that’s who I spent several years with instead of the kind, caring one…

With both men, things started off surprisingly but good – after being in Thailand for a while it was a shock to have attention from Thai guys and both men were very attentive and seemed to place great importance on ‘taking care’ of me. I wasn’t allowed to pay for anything when we went out and, after the initial breakthrough in conversation, would regularly message and check in with me.

When I started seeing the guy who is now my ex-boyfriend more regularly things got real serious real quick, though I never really initiated any of it. This is something I’ve heard from other Western women – once things start to get a little more exclusive they seem to speed up and the guy starts to get a little more possessive.

For a long time the thrill of being with someone totally different than myself was intoxicating – at its most basic level it made for a great story but it also opened up a side of Thailand and Thai culture that’s nearly impossible to access unless you’re in a close relationship with a Thai person. I met his family and saw how they lived, I went to make merit at temples, went through rural areas of Thailand that most tourists don’t travel to and had a great in-home Thai cook.

There was also a bit of a thrill with being in a relationship that was not ‘normal’ – you see plenty of older Western men with younger Thai girlfriends, you don’t see many relationships the other way around. People would stare at us, especially if we were somewhere outside of Bangkok or Chiang Mai, and make comments to him in Thai about me –  not realizing I could actually understand them.

It was also really frustrating and difficult throughout the entire relationship because we were so different from each other. We had completely different ways of living our lives, of working, of dealing with money and of being in committed relationships. Between my experience and some of the experiences I’ve heard and read about from other women, the following aspects and issues really stood out in our relationship and I would caution other Western women to be aware of them. This is not saying that all Thai men act this way, but they are things that women should be aware of.

Expectations of Women
While my ex was initially drawn to me for my personality and confidence – I was living alone and working in another country! I wanted to travel and experience everything Thailand had to offer! – over time it became clear that he was also intimated by and resented those attributes. He didn’t want me working for myself, he wanted me helping his business. Over the years there were also comments made about how tidy I kept our shared apartment, my weight and appearance, how I didn’t support him enough, and how it was strange  and selfish that I wanted to travel – by myself if I had to – so much. I was told a Thai girlfriend would never be traveling by herself or be wanting to go out with friends as much as I did.

Jealousy and Protectiveness
There’s a certain level of caring, protectiveness and worry that are charming – everyone wants to feel looked after. But the level of jealousy, protectiveness and perceived ownership that my ex showed was completely new to me and eventually suffocating. I was driven to work, which seemed like a kind gesture until I noticed I rarely drove myself anywhere anymore and he thought I didn’t need to own my own motorbike. My phone was checked for texts or messages from other guys and he had an extreme mistrust in all of my guy friends – even those whom he’d met, hung out with and who I had absolutely platonic relationships before, during and after my ex and I were together. He even managed to find something wrong or shady with all of my female friends and I felt like I had to be able to prove where I was or what I was doing at all times.

Thai Customs and Culture
I love living abroad and experience a different place, language and customs. I have a deep love for Thai culture and don’t mind bending some of the beliefs, habits or customs I grew up with to fit with what is expected and conventional here. I am more than willing to learn what’s acceptable in terms of behavior and ways of doing things, but when it come to my ex there was little meeting in the middle. I had to adjust and conform to meet his expectations, and regularly messed up – or, more commonly, simply had no clue about – the way I did things or how I behaved in certain situations according to Thai norms. I realize I was choosing to live in his country, but felt like I couldn’t catch a break in doing things ‘right’ even when I was trying so hard to be aware and mindful of avoiding a social faux pas.

Our backgrounds, education and jobs made it so there was a sizeable income gap between us…me making the higher income. While at first he had paid for everything – despite me trying to split things evenly – over time I started paying for more and more and by the end of our relationship was completely paying for our rent, transportation, most meals, any extras and even helping out sending money to his family when work was scant and money was tight.

It’s a good thing if a man loves his mother, but it’s insanely frustrating if you can’t make any comment about the mother or family without it being, incorrectly, seen as negative or an attack. Even when you’re helping put food on their table.

Along with jealousy, another common stereotype is the cheating Thai husband or boyfriend. Every single Thai person I have ever asked about this – “Is it really as common as people say?” – have said that yes, it’s true, and it’s not uncommon – heck, it’s normal and even expected to a degree – for people to be in a relationship while enjoying something on the side. While it still is up in the air whether or not this happened during my relationship – most signs are pointing toward yes – it certainly was something that my ex was not hesitant about admitting about his past relationships. I don’t think coming from another country you could ever fully understand this aspect of relationships in Thailand, but it’s certainly something to be aware of from the start.

So there you have it. Good luck. And now, if you’re so inclined, here’s a Thai guy’s eccentric plea for foreign women to date Thai guys:

2 Responses

  1. Thank you for your article. I am an older foreign woman, who finally married my Thai partner. I agree with the money situation, mine has driven me into debt with constant requests for money. I helped, in the hope of setting up a life together in the future. We have lived apart more than together, due to work and his family commitments. I am currently reconsidering my options. I often ask if he has a gik, he responds in a ‘vague ‘ no. He seems genuine. Until I live long term with him, it’s hard to gauge. I’m trying to save some money if an escape is needed. It’s not easy.

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