Is There Lying Cheating and Stealing in Thailand?

Lying, cheating and stealing are not confined to Thailand. They’re universal human behaviors and the older I get the less they bother me. But lying, cheating and stealing have a cultural flavor in Thailand that’s worth examining because we’re all going to encounter it sooner or later, and it’s not just confined to sex.

Lying Cheating Stealing in Thailand
Lying Cheating Stealing in Thailand

Knowing I would spend last Christmas in Australia a Thai friend offered to handle some tasks I’d been putting off: touch up the house’s interior paint; respray scrapes on the car; remove the failed outside garden and its brick wall; replace the sticky sliding door tracks; finish painting the front fence. For 10,000 baht (US$300) he’d handle it all.

I returned a month later to find that – if the jobs had been done at all – they’d been done half-assedly. The garden was gone but the bricks remain; the door tracks were removed but not replaced; my friend had found the car’s insurance policy, located a body shop accredited by my insurer and charged God knows how much to the policy as an ‘accident’. The body shop had done a quick, cheap spray job. The ‘commission’ will, no doubt, end up in my friend’s pocket and, though the work was minor, the car wouldn’t be ready for another week. My request that we cancel the job and pick up my car was met with changing excuses, so I rented a car while the bodyshop finished its overpriced work.

That episode stimulated my interest and I began asking expats this question: have you experienced lying, cheating and stealing more frequently in Thailand than you did at home? (I wasn’t too worried about their having rosy memories of ‘home’: most expats have a pretty jaundiced view of life back home). 100 percent of them answered ‘yes’, and so do I. The big question is “why?”.

Here’s my guess: most Thais have no interest in befriending farangs socially. Their culture, like all ancient cultures, does not accept new members other than by birth – and we don’t share their obsession with hierarchy and ‘face’. So a higher proportion of Thais who choose to associate with farangs tend to be from lower income groups and do so for monetary gain. As a good friend said: look at the Thais in your life and ask, if they were farangs, would you still be around them? Do you hang out with losers and crude people at home? If not, why do so in Thailand? Is it because such people are likely going to  hurt you? Then why are you letting the Thai equivalent of such people into your life? Thais…..liars, cheats and thieves? Only if you choose to mix with the tiny percentage that are.

The rest of the country? Some of the most honest, kindest and nicest Thai people you could possibly meet. Just like anywhere. And, when you do get lied to or cheated or have something stolen, ask yourself if your choice of friends – just as you would at home.

Finally, here’s someone who knows a bit about how the Thai girlfriend game involves lying, cheating and stealing:


2 Responses

  1. Typical Thai income is less than a quarter of similarly employed westerners – accordingly, the majority of Thais think of westerners as being wealthy. That is “undeserved wealth”, due to solely being born in a country with relatively high income rates. Therefore, westerners have plenty of money that they will hardly even miss if its appropriated by a Thai.
    Regarding the comments at the beginning of the article about leaving 10,000 THB for unsupervised work – this is the sort of careless action that makes the Thais think the westerner doesn’t need money. 10,000 baht is a huge sum to a Thai factory worker (twice their monthly salary) and a large amount of money to a typical white collar Thai. T
    I have lived and worked (oil and gas industry) in Thailand for 25 years and understand the country very well. I love Thailand and I never ceased to be amazed by the fact many westerners cannot understand the relative material poverty of the average Thai person they interact with. If they did, they might act with more common sense and enjoy their time here more.

  2. I’ve met plenty of liars in Thailand. Thais will rarely say they won’t do something to save face. Instead they will just ignore it, even when they’d given their word prior. I’m from South Asia myself and I can assure the above commentor that it has nothing to do with relative wealth. Most people in my country are poorer than Thais but I’d trust them more.

    That being said, crime isn’t much of a problem in Thailand. However, I don’t put much faith in what Thais (especially women) say. It’s just my personal experience, yours may vary.

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