Consider Thai’s Thoughts on Dating, Courtship and Marriage

I assume you’re reading this because you’re interested in meeting, dating, and getting to know a lovely, honest, Thai woman of good background.You’re a decent, hardworking guy who wants to find that special someone to spend the rest of your life with. Someone you want to love, care for, and protect – who will offer you love, companionship, and loyalty in return.And you may even be considering a visit to Thailand. 

I want to make sure you have enough information about Thai customs, culture, and tradition so that you won’t be surprised, shocked, or confused by how we look at dating, courtship, and marriage – to ease your mind and prepare you for the experience.So here’s an overview of what to expect as you date, court, or marry a Thai woman. Right now, it’s intellectual – you’re reading words on a page. But when you’re ready to come to Thailand and pursue your dream, I hope you’ll find these words helpful.

1. On Dating

Let’s face it – we Thais are pretty old-fashioned.Typically, a Thai woman of good family is introduced to prospective suitors by someone she knows well.

In the old days, a girl would be introduced to a suitable boy by her parents or grandparents. Any outings would be closely supervised and chaperoned by the girl’s family, to preserve her reputation and guarantee her good moral character. (Think about that scene in the original Godfather movie…when Michael Corleone meets the girl in Sicily and her relatives accompany them everywhere they go until they get married.)

Times have changed in Thailand…a little…with respect to dating. These days, an eligible woman of good character is still introduced by someone she knows well. Our culture is an ancient one, and we have modernized slowly while keeping our traditions very much alive. So an honest woman with a good reputation will rely on the recommendation of a good friend, a sister or cousin, or a trusted business colleague to introduce her to an eligible man. A well-brought-up Thai lady will never directly approach a man she is interested in.

That would be too forward, and might send the wrong kind of message about her character. If she’s interested in meeting him, she’ll hint at it to someone in her “group” and wait for them to make the introduction.Such an introduction will usually take place in a public place where she’s among friends.

If the man and woman are interested in each other, they won’t express it openly. They’ll just arrange to be out in the same group of friends or colleagues at the same time. They’ll get to know each other in the safety of the group, where each of them can observe the other’s behavior, manners, and personality to decide whether they want to take their relationship further. (Remember the discussion about “high context?”)

So the idea of “dating” is still a bit foreign to us.

We won’t meet a guy in a coffee shop, decide we like each other instantly, and hop in a car alone together to go out to dinner or a movie. (And any Thai woman that does may not be who you think she is!) For a respectable Thai lady to be seen alone with a man will, at the least, be a source of gossip and speculation.And many women from upper-middle-class families will worry about their reputations if they’re seen alone with a Western guy – assuming that people will think they’re easy or cheap or worse.

Instead, we’ll enjoy group outings to parks, museums, restaurants, temples – on sightseeing trips, cruises on the river, trips to the market – anything fun and lighthearted that we can experience as a group.Over time, as the couple gets to know each other on these social outings, it will start to become obvious to everybody else in the group that there is “something in the air” between them. Their family, friends, or colleagues will have seen that the couple is acting respectfully toward one another, and will begin to accept the idea that they are becoming a “couple.”

But even though they like and are attracted to each other, the couple won’t show it  physically. You won’t see them holding hands, hugging each other hello or goodbye, or kissing each other on the cheek – especially not in public! That just doesn’t happen much in this culture. But there will be plenty of secret glances. Hidden smiles. Inside jokes. And gradually increasing time alone.

It’s also not common for men and women who are dating each other to jump into bed right away. First of all, we suffer from the old-fashioned “double standard,” where the man is expected to be worldly and experienced, and brag about his conquests. The woman is expected to be chaste, modest, and coy. It’s a dance as old as time. The man will try everything in his power to seduce his girlfriend, and she will try everything in her power to resist.

If a woman gives in to seduction, she will always worry that her reputation will suffer asher boyfriend might brag about it. Unlike in your culture, it’s just not common for a Thai woman to have more than a couple of sexual partners in her lifetime. If it becomes common knowledge that she’s slept around, she is considered “damaged goods” and men of good character will not consider her suitable as a wife (no matter how many women they have slept with themselves).

Consider – this is in modern Thailand! Not what you’re used to is it?

(Note: I’m NOT going to talk here about the bar girls, the go-go dancers, or the other fast girls you’ll find in the typical tourist areas. That subject was covered pretty thoroughly in our first book, and by now, I’m pretty sure that’s not the kind of woman you’re interested in meeting.)So dating in Thailand can be a long, slow, social process that’s designed to allow men and women to get to know each other in a safe, secure environment among friends. And the Thai couple will not specifically refer to one another as “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” – they’re “friends” until the relationship deepens.

If the couple finds they are compatible, from a similar background, with common tastes and interests – and if they enjoy each other’s company, they’ll move on to the next stage – courtship.

2. On Courtship

When a couple has arrived at the courtship stage, it’s pretty much common knowledge that they’re serious about each other. Their friends and family will accept the fact that they want to be alone together occasionally, and will start speculating about when the marriage might take place. Her family will tease her, drop hints, or talk about a future marriage as if it’s inevitable.

If the couple has dated for a long time, everyone will assume they’re already having sex (whether they are or not), but you won’t be able to tell based on how they treat each other in public. You still won’t see them holding hands, making out, hugging each other or kissing in public. We’re just that conservative a society – in spite of our reputation as a sexual playground for tourists. (In spite of the publicity about sex tourism in Thailand, the women who work in the sex industry account for less than five percent of the entire female population).

And we’re still trapped by the old “double standard” – where men are expected to play around, make sexual conquests, and have many partners before (and during) dating, courtship and marriage, but women are expected to be more chaste and modest and inexperienced. So the woman will still guard her reputation and behave modestly in public.

During courtship, there will come a time when it’s appropriate for the man to meet the woman’s parents, which in Thailand is a Very Big Deal. Meeting the parents is kind of the universal signal that the couple is very serious about each other and intends to marry – they are now more than “friends” – they are serious about each other.

A woman takes a very big risk when she introduces her boyfriend to her parents.

“Meeting the Parents” means that she is introducing them to the man who will protect and care for her (and her family) for the rest of their lives. Introducing her boyfriend to her parents is also an unspoken statement that she is sleeping with him, so sex in a way becomes “public” – at least acknowledged.

It also means that she is putting her future reputation on the line. If the couple breaks up, it won’t matter who was at fault or what kind of a jerk he was – she is the one who will lose face. Everybody will assume the fault was hers, and if she has had more than one or two serious boyfriends, she will be considered “worn out” or “easy.”And in many ways, “meeting the parents” is more of a ritual – in the Thai language we say the woman is bringing her boyfriend to be “inspected by her parents,” or to “prostrate (bow) before her parents,” or to “debut” before her parents.

When the man meets the woman’s parents, he will be judged on his appearance, his character, and his naam jai. He will be presented with many opportunities to demonstrate his willingness and ability to not only care for and support the woman but also to help support her family. The parents might take the couple out to a restaurant or on a shopping excursion so the man can pick up the check or buy gifts for the family – willingly, cheerfully, and proudly demonstrating his naam jai as well as his intentions. The longer and more serious the relationship becomes, the more the man will participate in the care and feeding of the woman’s family. It’s the Thai way. After all, we are a “we” society, belonging is important to us, and we view money as a way to express that belonging.

In Thailand, a male fiancée is happy and proud to share his wealth with his girlfriend’s family, as it adds not only to his prestige but theirs as well. He gives without asking –helping her parents fix up their home; putting her sister or her brother through school; helping pay for the cousin’s dentistry—whatever he can do to illustrate his belonging to and support of the family.Sometimes during a “meet the parents” visit, a man might be expected to announce an engagement ceremony right there on the spot, to show his commitment and put his resources on the line.

An engagement ceremony is one that requires the man to make a big show of demonstrating his ability to take care of the woman and her family. He does that by offering a “bride price,” called a sin sot in Thai. Different from a “dowry,” the goods or money a woman brings into the marriage, the “bride price” is a sum of money paid to the bride’s family – in Thailand it’s customary to offer gold or cash.

Offering this sin sot publically, at an engagement ceremony, is a way for the parents to gain prestige by showing off how prosperous their new prospective son-in-law is, but also how desirable and attractive their daughter is. It also allows the man to feel proud of his ability to take care of them.

The amount of the bride price is usually negotiated between the girl’s parents and a trusted go-between who acts on the man’s behalf. After all, because her parents are older, it wouldn’t be appropriate for a young man to speak on his own behalf. So most Thai men will send their parents or an older relative. The negotiation takes many things into account in order to establish the right sin sot:

  1. How desirable is the woman? Is she pretty? Popular? Well-educated?

  2. How “fresh” is the woman? Is she divorced? Widowed? Pregnant?

  3. How much can the man afford? What is his profession? Is he well-educated?

    What are his prospects?

The woman’s parents and the man’s spokesperson will negotiate back and forth and arrive at an amount that satisfies everybody. And many times all this negotiating takes place before the man even meets the woman’s parents! Westerners have a hard time understanding this concept, because the sin sot seemsto them to be like “buying” a wife. But to us, it’s a normal and natural part of our tradition.

We also know that many times it’s just a big game of saving and maintaining face for everybody concerned. For example, the woman’s parents may already be prosperous enough to understand the couple is just starting out. So they will set a bride price big enough for everybody to impress everybody else – then quietly give the money and gold to the couple once they are married.

3. On Marriage

Thai wedding customs vary from region to region, but a wedding is typically an all-day affair with lots of ceremony, eating, and drinking! The morning of the wedding day is taken up with a blessing of the wedding site (the bride’s or groom’s home, or the facility where the wedding will be held) by a monk. Then the couple will register their marriage – either by visiting the government office or having the officials visit them at the wedding site. These two formalities are usually followed by lunch for all concerned.

In the afternoon, the bride’s and groom’s family will gather for the official ceremony. The couple will sit together on a dais or on the floor, with their hands held in the wai position, and the most senior person attending will drape flower lei around their hands and wash them with water from a conch shell to wish them blessings and good luck. Close relatives, close friends, or other special guests will be invited to do the same, each one washing the couple’s hands from the shell. Anyone invited to participate in this ritual considers it a high honor.

A big wedding party or reception then takes place in the evening, and it’s not uncommon for there to be between 100 and 300 people there for dinner and drinks. As guests arrive, they sign the guest book and present their wedding gifts in a specified area, then proceed to dinner. As the meal is winding down, a Master of Ceremonies (usually a very close friend) will invite the couple to the center of the room (or a dais) to receive flowers from the groom’s parents.

The formalities include speeches by a guest of honor (a senior relative or honored person from the community), the presentation and cutting of a wedding cake, and “photo ops” with the bride and groom that everyone participates in. It’s also not uncommon for the bridegroom to participate in many toasts with his friends – turning the wedding night into an occasion for more than slight drunkenness!

Once the couple is married, they assume their role within their families. The new husband will continue to be called upon to support his wife’s family in many ways – by giving gifts, helping with projects, or supporting younger family members.

After all, giving is how we show “love” in Thailand.

But I’ve mentioned in the two previous sections – on dating and courtship – that Thailand is a land of “double standards” for men and women. So not all Thai weddings end “happily ever after.” It’s not uncommon for men to take a mistress – or two – and support them financially as well. As a matter of fact, some men view taking on a “second wife” or  mistress as a sign of prestige and power.

That leaves the Thai wife in an uncomfortable position. She cannot complain directly about it, or she will risk her husband’s displeasure. And should she confront her husband and make demands that he give up his womanizing, it is not uncommon for Thai husbands to become abusive. Her mother, her aunts, or her older sisters are not likely to support her – and might instead  blame her for not being a good enough wife. As long as the husband is providing financial support and gifts, he is fulfilling his role – and the wife’s role is to accept her husband as authority in her life.

Believe it or not, that’s why many good Thai women are becoming more interested in Western men as possible husbands. You have a reputation for being more faithful, more honest, and less violent than Thai men. Thai women view Westerners as more  “Hollywood” – with your pale skin, interesting accents, and foreign ways.

Just like everywhere else in the world, Thai women are looking for a good, solid, kind man who will love and care for them for the rest of their lives.

Our company, Meet Me Now Asia, will put you in touch with countless single and genuine Thai women who are looking for marriage and for a man who will join them in Thailand.  

We offer the option to meet pre-screened serious women who are looking for real relationship, not to take your money. You can try our customized dating events where you can meet lovely, trustworthy Thai single.

Nathamon Madison is a matchmaker & owner of Meet Me Now Asia, Thailand’s most trusted Introduction & Dating Agency. It’s Nathamon’s vision to help genuine guys find beautiful & trustworthy Asian girls from proven backgrounds. She’s been married to her Western husband for 12 years and has written several books and informational DVDs about romance between Asian women and Western men.

Nathamon can be contacted at:

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