Oof. A lot has happened between when I first published this post and now, and I am definitely not with the same person. While I should update the post, let’s be honest, I’m not getting around to it anytime soon, and there are still a lot of relevant points. so, enjoy.
There’s a stereotype in Thailand of the older, often balding, white guy paired with a younger, skinnier, more attractive Thai girl. And it’s true of dating in Thailand. Regardless of the…validity (?) or reason behind these relationships, it’s apparent to anyone who has landed in the Bangkok airport that there are a whole lotta white guys with Thai women and…zero white women with Thai guys.
Before I left home, friends teased me asking if I thought I would find a Thai boyfriend, get married and never come back. I said no. Not because I had anything against Thai guys (I didn’t even know any), I just didn’t think that was going to happen.
Fast forward a year and a half, and I’m not getting married or never coming home, but I may or may not have found a certain someone. And, by that I mean, I have a Thai boyfriend. In fact, he’s someone I mentioned briefly back in a May post on Wanderlust and Lipstick… That tattoo artist… Yep.
I’ve actually had people in the past couple months when they found out I was dating a Thai guy ask me, “How did that happen?”. Word for word. That’s not normally something you ask someone when you hear they’re in a relationship. I’m usually a pretty decent person, so I don’t think it was questioning how I could get a boyfriend, and it wasn’t meant rudely, though it sounds kind of harsh. It’s just that, really, you rarely, rarely see it.
The only (few) couples that I’ve met or heard about with a white girl and Thai guy (sorry, is the term ‘white girl’ wrong? It’s just that here, we’re not considered European, or Australian, or American, or whatever, but farang or ‘white foreigner’), the guy is either a musician, a bartender or a tattoo artist. Why? My belief is that these are the few guys who are able, willing and used to talking with Western women. I (still!) don’t have any Thai friends even after living in Thailand, working in Thai schools and being able to speak a bit of Thai. It’s frustrating and hard to understand or explain – I usually feel very welcome here and people are polite. But that’s as far as it goes. (I once sent a message to a fellow teacher, who was my age and who had spoken to me several times at school, if she would like to get coffee sometime. I wrote it in Thai then again in English saying that I hoped I had said everything correctly the first time. She responded with, “Yes, you were correct. Good job.” Nothing about meeting up. ??!?!) If it that’s difficult to make friends, how in the world am I supposed have a relationship with someone?
I don’t know if it’s an intimidation thing, a money thing, a language thing…I’m assuming a combination of all three. Whereas in the Western male/Thai female relationships it’s often assumed that the man has more money and is the care taker, maybe it’s more confused with Western female/Thai male. The guys who work in the bars and the tattoo shops and as musicians, depending on where they’re located, have more interaction with Westerners in general (I hate that label, like we’re an entirely different type of people) and have better English skills. Saving face is a huge deal in Thailand and there’s a fear, like with any foreign language, about speaking English and looking stupid if speaking incorrectly.
The Western women are with the bartenders/musicians/tattoo artists because they acknowledge us. I’m sure there are plenty more foreigners living in Thailand or traveling through that would LOVE to meet a Thai guy and have some sort of relationship, but someone needs to. make. a. move.
Somehow I managed to cross this invisible cultural barrier and have found myself now helping in a tattoo shop. With my Thai boyfriend. Who would have guessed?
Live or spent time in Thailand? What’s your take on this?
Hey! I'm Alana and I've spent nearly the past decade living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, working as a writer and photographer. I started Paper Planes as a place to share local insight, special places, and how to travel well through a range of experiences — from hostels to high-end hotels, street meat to multi-course meals.
New places are always calling my name...
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