Important Things You Need To Know About Thai Attitudes On Money

To experience kao jai about Thais and money, you need to see how the “we,” “nurturing,” and “in time” cultural dimensions work together with our Buddhist concept of merit making and “jai” to shape our attitudes.

Let’s review those cultural dimensions to set up our explanation.

⇒ As a “we” culture, the well being of the group and the relationships within it is our most important value. (You come from more of a “me” culture, where your personal well being is most important).

⇒  As a “nurturing,” or more feminine culture, our lens is tuned to taking care of others. (As an “achievement,” or more masculine culture, your lens is tuned to action, personal goals, and individual success)

⇒ As an “in time” culture, our focus is on an ever-evolving “now” that is influenced by the past. (As an “on-time” culture, your focus is on making plans for the future).

⇒ We have many facets of “jai,” or “heart” – and treating others with compassion and humanity is among our strongest cultural values –regardless of where those other people fall in the hierarchy of position and power.

⇒ And in Buddhism we emphasize “merit making,” or doing good works to atone for our past Karma and store up good Karma for the next life.

Given these cultural points of view, our attitudes about money are very different from yours. Let me help you understand.

We view money a little like we view time – getting it, holding on to it, sharing it, spending it – it’s temporary and financial conditions shift and change with “now.” If we have an excess of money, it’s only right that we use it to help the group, or those people who are closest to us. After all, we are driven to make sure everyone is cared for.

We happily give what we have, lend when we can, and ask for help when we need it.  In contrast, you view money like you view time – getting it, holding on to it, sharing it, spending it – it’s all part of a permanent line aimed at the future. Just like time, you save it, invest it, waste it, lose it. If you have an excess of money, it’s only right that you use it to secure your future from uncertainty. After all, you’re driven to make sure you can take care of yourself. You are cautious about giving and lending, and asking for help somehow means you are a bad person. If my best friend needs help to replace her cell phone, I’ll happily give her money to help her buy a new one. If my mother needs medical attention, of course I’ll help pay her doctor bills. If my coworker needs bus fare, I won’t think twice about paying her way. And if I’m among my friends for a meal out, I’m happy to share my resources and demonstrate my naam jai, knowing that my generosity will be rewarded – either by my friends or in the next life. After all, the worst thing someone can ever say about me is that I am jai dun.

If your best friend needs help to replace his cell phone, you’ll happily point him in the direction of a cheaper supplier, and leave him to replace it on his own. If your mother needs medical attention, you make sure her insurance company pays her medical bills. If you’re among your friends for a meal out, you’ll participate in the negotiation dance of “Let me…no let ME…” and arrive at a fair distribution of the bill. You are happy to demonstrate your control over your own resources, knowing that you’ve been fair and conservative – and protecting yourself in the process. After all, the worst thing someone can ever say about you is that you are careless with money. The average Thai man in his 40s has an extensive network of friends, family and contacts he can rely on for help in a crisis, funding for a project, or care in his old age. The average 40-year-old from your culture has a plan for his financial future, goes to an institution like a bank or other lending institution for help in funding a project, and relies on insurance to care for him in his old age.

But here’s where your culture and our culture might be very similar. Both of us want to demonstrate our prosperity by showing off just a little. When somebody in your culture becomes very prosperous, it’s not uncommon for them to buy “toys” that show their prosperity to the world: watches, cars, gadgets, homes, or vacations all let people know you’ve “made it.” It’s the same in Thailand. Jewelry, cars, clothing, and so on let other people see that we’ve been very lucky and telegraph our prosperity to people.

This difference in money attitude can definitely affect any relationship you form with a Thai woman. (As a matter of fact, even in your culture disagreements about money are among the most common reasons for divorce!)

So here are a few words of warning…and advice.

If you are lucky enough to find a Thai lady you want to spend the rest of your life with, talk about money early on in your relationship. You’ll need to respect where she’s coming from in her desire to be generous (with YOUR money) – but you’ll also need to help her understand your point of view.

You see, she will consider your money as a resource she can freely share, and might not understand your limitations. As a matter of fact, no matter how much money you make, you will be seen as very wealthy in Thailand (and you are, comparing your salary to the average Thai person). And because you are wealthy, you will be expected to freely share what you have with the group that you and your Thai wife is part of (friends, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins…). After all, it’s what a Thai would do.

And because you are clearly “rich” by Thai standards, she will want to show off her status a little bit. Jewelry, gadgets, or other signs of your “wealth” will be expected – not only for her, but for her friends and family.

The Internet is full of stories about how some Western guy got scammed by some Thai “gold digger” girl. And the stories are very sad…very dramatic. The Thai girlfriend asks for money to build her parents a new house. Her father needs surgery. Her brother needs a new motorbike. Her sister needs help paying for school. Her friend is being beaten and needs financial help to find a new place to live. She needs to send a monthly donation to her father to thank him for sacrificing to raise her.

I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  It could just be that the Western guy and the Thai woman never understood one another’s positions about money and how it works in life.

If you are to build a strong, healthy relationship with a Thai woman, you’ll need to be very kind while being honest about your limitations. Explain to her that in your life, you are the sole source of your money – that you don’t have a network of friends and extended family that freely help you financially.

Share with her your need to plan and save for your future.

At the same time, to express your naam jai, you might consider giving your Thai wife an  allowance that she can freely share however she sees fit. And if you can get her to understand your money mindset, consider asking her to help you manage and invest it! She’s very likely to become an excellent account and will gladly join you in managing your resources.

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.

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