Readers' Submissions

Old Farang / Young Thai – The Culture Difference

  • Written by Steve
  • December 14th, 2010
  • 14 min read



After living in the LOS for over a year and doing my own research including interviewing (i.e. asking many questions), I wanted to discuss the culture difference associated with the older Farang and the younger Thai relationships you see quite frequently here in Thailand. This topic has been discussed at lengths over the years with everyone giving their one word opinions like "money" to much longer and thought provoking articles in books and on forums around the globe. I just want to give my opinion on a few things I have yet to see being discussed.

In the US for years the title was given to the younger wife as a "Trophy wife". This came from both men and women. The women jealous of the younger woman's beauty and the men jealous that the older guys were taking these young women off the market. On both sides it was jealousy that stemmed the derogatory remarks. It has happened quite often in the US and still to this day. Most neglect to include this when talking about the disparity in age difference when discussing the western man and Thai woman. It is abound in every culture around the globe, but yet the heat is constantly on Thailand.

In a previous submission (The Western Mentality), I tried to cover some of the differences between western and Thai and will do my best not to reiterate those points, though some similarities may occur.

The first question to raise is why Thai women like to date western men? This is not all encompassing because not all Thai women like western men, but there is a significant portion of the population that will and does prefer this scenario.

The westerners come up with things like:

1) Money

2) Security and stability

The most common theme is that it is definitely not for love and can only be #1 or #2.

When I ask Thai women the same question I get some of the stereotypical comments:

1) Thai man "no good"

2) Farang not cheat (silly statement I know, but is what many believe)

As you spend more time in Thailand away from the bar scene and get real responses, you find a whole world of difference. A common theme I received recently from a group of Thai women was: "It's not that we do not want to date Thai men, but the selection is quite low with the number of gay and ladyboys out there." Also included was a reference to the job market for Thai men. This was very interesting because we normally do not hear this side of the story. As I asked more Thai women the same question, I usually got the same responses.. They are Thai, grow up Thai and want to date Thai, but most of the women see their choices slipping and still want to have a family and children. They then need to look outside the "norm". The same as how we may decide that if we are from California and never wanted to leave, but the only job available is in North Dakota, we take the job. If we can not find our significant other in some certain "dating pool", we then look outside that "norm" for other possibilities. Survival and happiness are not mutually exclusive, but we hope to have both in order to have a decent life. Many US men are married to foreign women and Thai women are a very small percentage of this group.


Thai language is the first barrier to overcome when dealing with a Thai relationship. When they say Thai man "no good". It is their English way of saying "mai dee". When they say this, it does not mean they will never find Thai men attractive or never have sex with a Thai man again, it is a simple statement that we take to literally. We hear "no good" and immediately associate it with our 'dregs' of society to include drug dealers, criminals, the worst of the worst, etc. We never take the time to see what they are really saying. We use words like security and stability, but Thais do not describe it in this way. The closest I have found is basically health and wellness for themselves and their family which includes their children and parents.

I am not Thai, I will never be Thai and trying to truly understand the mindset of Thai will probably never happen, though I may gain more understanding as the years go by. Westerners always apply their values and morals to Thailand and never seem to accept there are alternate ways to live in life. Westerners use things like Thai are uneducated, they do not have critical thinking, they are poor, etc. It is to complicated to think that other cultures run on a different value and moral system. Just as Thais are taught that the Thai way is the best, so we westerners are taught that our system is the best. This in turn causes the belief of the inferior Thai system to our grandiose superior moral system of the west. This is so apparent in many articles or books that westerners write about Thai people.

For Thai women, there are really only two scenarios: 1) They live abroad or 2) They live in Thailand. A majority fall under the latter and no matter what a westerner tries to do, Thai people in general feel more comfortable at home. Some selfishly believe they are providing a better life (in their opinion because it is money based) to their Thai lady by taking them out of their own country and can not nor will not believe they are not happy with this new life.

Though some similarities may exist with the first scenario, I will expound on the second scenario. They want to live in Thailand and who will they date or eventually marry. Given what I described above, let's assume they are looking for the western man. What is the dating pool?

Who are the majority that live in Thailand or are willing to relocate to Thailand? It is still the 55+ farang coming to live here. Even though there may be a rise of younger expats that are currently living and working in Bangkok, I highly doubt they are going to stay for the next 20 years. The minority of the rest includes mostly teachers. I am not going to lump in the bargirl scene or their desires as it has been discussed enough. So, take the average Thai lady that wants marriage to a Farang for whatever the reason and you end up with the only men being available are the older ones. Maybe they had their flings with a few young tourists or a teacher that left after his contract was up, but in the end the available Farang pool are the older men living or willing to live here.

Now enter the western perspective. Most of my discussion with western women touring and/or living here in the LOS basically follows this subtext:

Me: "What do you think of that couple?"

Western woman (ww): "He is a pervert, molester, can't get a woman his age, etc. She is only with him for the money."

Me: "You don't think they are in love?"

ww: "It is impossible for them to be in love. They do not know what true love is."

Me: "And you do?"

ww: "Yes, true love is…..which includes some romantic literature reference or some reference to a movie, etc."

Me: "But, isn't that your definition of true love and if they say they love each other and are happy, can you not be happy for them?"

ww: "I can never be happy for them, because they are living a lie."

Me: "What about Donald Trump and his young hot wife?"

ww: Then the confusion starts and their is no consistency with answering that. Quite comical.

This is a summary of what most western women I talk to seem to think. They put their values and morals to what true love is and can not accept any other form of it and no matter how it is presented the bias remains.

We do not have polite particles in our language nor will we truly understand "face". As you learn Thai language it is astounding how polite most Thai people are towards each other. I personally love the fact that women always use the "P" to the older men and women. Until you see it day after day, it is hard to imagine. When it comes to "loss of face" or "saving face" we really have no understanding and many just say "That's stupid!" Do your own research online if you don't understand how they apply "face" to their daily lives and you will just scratch the surface of what it is and how it is used. We have no basis to compare it to and therefore makes it quite difficult to truly understand.

Are there classes of Thai society that look down on others? Of course. This is the same as every culture including our own. The big difference I see is that even if a Thai looks down on another Thai, they can still be friends and will in many cases help someone that they may look down on. If we look down on someone in our culture we ignore them, want nothing to do with them and in general prefer they rot in their own miserable existence as they brought it upon themselves and need to be taught a lesson. Yet we persuade the rest of the world to believe we are morally superior. It is such a double standard westerners apply everywhere.

From the Thai perspective, when I ask the same question regarding the older man and young Thai, it basically comes down to if they are happy then good for them. If anything, I have heard more times than not, they wish they can find someone to take care of them.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Same as has been discussed on this website and others. Many Farang like darker skin where Thai seem to prefer lighter skin. This again falls under the older man and young Thai. The western men and women may find the man old and unattractive, but some Thai they find him very attractive even if he is older. Again we apply our own bias to beauty and do not accept their concept of beauty. I have asked this question many times and when a Thai woman says that this guy or that guy is very attractive, I just sit back and realize, I definitely do not know or can compare what they think is attractive to my own value and moral system.

In our culture we have to be able to explain everything. There has to be an answer and we can never accept that maybe things are just the way they appear. Take for example the current DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th. Edition). From sex to sleep there is a classification for everything. It is unreal how far we have come from trying to have a simple family or family unit from years ago to the absolute confusion of anyone's role in society these days. We must present our opinion on everything or we somehow don't feel we have done justice to any given situation. Of course, I believe that pendulum has swung way too far and most other cultures do not even think nor act in this realm of insanity.

The minor wife or "mia noi" as it is referred to in Thailand is an acceptable practice. Not all Thai men do this, but many are in this situation. When I ask Thai women about this they agree that they may not like it, but they accept it as long as the man still provides for the family. Thai mothers never discuss sex with their daughters, so it is always a learning curve for Thai women when they start having boyfriends or a husband. Whether or not the Thai woman does not want sex or does not want it often with their husband may factor into this, but it is hard to get real answers and I can't speak to understanding this issue with any good reference. I just know it happens and is considered acceptable. Of course the western women and the men who champion for these women will say it is so wrong and these men should be taken to the cleaners, but the simple fact is this is Thai society and they do things different. If the wife is on her death bed and says she had a great life even with the husband having a "mia noi" why do we still feel we have to explain to her that her life was absolute shit and she really was not happy. If we can not accept it, it must be wrong!

Advice is a double edged sword. Westerners really feel their advice is worth its weight in gold. No, strike that, maybe platinum! We love giving advice no matter the outcome to the person we give it to. I used this analogy the other day on a forum: If I tell my friend who wants to get a divorce "No, don't do it. Go and get counseling to save your marriage." If he then does this and the marriage still fails, should I have to reimburse him for the expenses he incurred because of my advice since it failed anyway? We all know the answer to that question. We live in a society of taking zero responsibility for our actions. It is always someone else's fault. If a western man/woman comes to Thailand and convinces a Thai woman to leave her husband because of the scenario above with the "mia noi", will he/she then take full responsibility when the Thai woman says that now she can not feed her children and has no place to stay? She is absolutely in a miserable situation that we help to put her in. Do we then just make some excuse to the woman and say "Well you don't know it yet, but you really are better off!" and still take no responsibility for what we have done? The simple answer is yes and we just move on to impress our superior morals on someone else. Again, it's the hypocritical western moral and value system to make people act like us and do like us regardless of how much they suffer.

Unlike the US, there is no real system for the aging Thai and unless they have a successful business or happen to have some small government pension they are left to fend for themselves. There may be some system in place 20+ years from now, but currently it supports such a small percentage of the population. Also included is the close bond of families and it is considered to be inevitable that the children will take care of the parents in some form or another. Typically this is placed on the daughter(s) as the father is too prideful and the mother holds the daughters more accountable than the sons. This is their system and their belief and yet many westerners want to only provide for the Thai wife and in no way ever support the parents as they apply their own belief system and never take into consideration that the Thai woman has responsibilities beyond their husband. I hear this quite frequently from western men and the common theme is "It's not my problem and not my responsibility." This falls under the independence vs. dependence I discussed in a previous submission. Does our independence make us superior to their dependence? Does my willingness to never help family or understand her culture showing my great moral superiority? You can answer that yourselves.

Our two cultures are as different as night and day. The next time you see the older farang and young Thai, try to remove your callous, ignorant, morally superior, judgmental attitude and try to look with an open minded, non biased, objectionable view, and you might just find they are actually happy. This does not have to fit in your own personal definition of happiness, but let these two people live their own life without your biased view. Any two people can come together for different reasons and yet it seems to me that only the western mindset continuously breeds contempt for these situations.

That's all for now.

Take care gang,
Steve


Stickman's thoughts:

Unless we know each person who makes up a couple well, it's hard to really know why they are with that person. Sometimes they're living a fairy tale and sometimes they're not.

My observations are that when it comes to Thai / farang couples with a large age gap – let's say 20 years or more – seldom is it a fairy tale. That's just my observation. I am sure there are some out there who are genuinely happy.