Internet Dating In Thailand: Lessons Learned
For many foreign men with more than a passing interest in Thailand, it is generally the case that a part of their appreciation for the country comes from a fascination with the undeniable beauty and charm of Thai women (quite often like a moth to a flame). Whether it is simply to achieve short-term prurient objectives or pursuit of a more long-term commitment, a large portion will probably take a shot at finding the woman (or women) they want on the web at some point.
I should state that my own experience, though I humbly acknowledge as fairly extensive, should not be taken as representative. Thais often rely heavily on stereotype and assumption in their social interactions and I likely benefit from a positive bias favoring Western men in certain quarters. There is also the practical consideration that I am based in Bangkok, where undoubtedly the largest portion of these women also reside (critically, living far away from their protectionist families back home). Those qualifications stated, I would like to share some of what I have gleaned from my experiences with dating Thai women from the internet in hopes that it may help in avoiding some of the common pitfalls.
Keep in mind that a lot of the women on these websites are not legitimately seeking relationships or even a non-pixelated meeting.
I’ve been using the Thai Cupid (previously Thai Love Links) website (and others) for about 6 years which I confess is because I no longer have much interest in marrying a Thai woman after all that I have seen. However, there are many women on these websites who have been there for at least as long simply because they enjoy the rapt attention received from foreign men around the world. Thai women often have very fragile egos and are constantly seeking self-esteem through social reinforcement from others. What better place to get it than from the hundreds of thousands of naïve men on the internet who lose all commonsense after they see a few well-polished photographs. Flirting becomes an end in itself for these women and certainly should not be interpreted as showing any genuine interest. It is best to try to steer clear of the professional internet tease if at all possible to avoid wasting time (no matter what your desired ends). If she’s been lingering on the website for a few years, there is a good reason no one has picked the fruit – it is probably either rotten, made of plastic or entirely unavailable.
Be realistic about why she is interested in you – you are probably plan B.
While not true in every case, for a lot of the women on these sites, the idea of dating a foreigner entered their thoughts because they have been disappointed or passed over by Thai men. This may seem counterintuitive because many are very young and attractive, but almost inevitably there is a story of heartbreak with an unfaithful Thai man in their past that motivated them to seek a foreign man. Otherwise, they may just not have been able to meet the very restrictive criteria that Thai men usually hold in seeking a desirable and socially acceptable romantic partner. Thai women are generally not as emotionally resilient as Westerners in dealing with romantic troubles or rejection and may reach the unwarranted conclusion that it’s hopeless to continue dating Thai men after even just one such incident.
Nevertheless, social status remains just about everything in Thai society, and although many Thai women do marry foreigners these days, it is still considered a bit of a step down unless they are already on the lower socio-economic rungs. For a middle-class Thai woman, a relationship with a Western man is almost definitely a compromise to some extent as many Thais will think badly about such a match. For Thais from a poor rural background, as in reality most of the women on these websites are, there is often a sense of little to lose and much financial security to gain – enough to make such a bargain worthwhile.
While these are just the generalities and there are certainly exceptions, they reflect an underlying truth that Westerners often have difficulty understanding or accepting. We would like to consider ourselves more advanced in most ways and maintain an inner narrative of the rich-world hero saving a poor Thai woman from a life of third-world squalor. Maybe even of carving our own Galatea out of the sensuous Thai ivory. But Thais definitely don’t see it that way at all, so don’t delude yourself into thinking you are her dream come true. Generally speaking, we are closer to a tolerable concession given the limited set of options available rather than a knight in shining armor.
Try to date Thai women who have some life experience outside of Thailand.
Generally speaking, there are two major types of women that are very interested in actually dating a foreigner on these websites. The vast majority are those discussed above who have become embittered with Thai men or have some traits that make them undesirable to the same (e.g. having children, being over 30 years old, not possessing Thai beauty characteristics, etc.). As their romantic options become very limited within Thai society, they opt to try to meet a foreigner.
However, the other segment of Thai women interested in Western men may offer a positive alternative to the dominant paradigm of “last resort” type relationships. These are women who have seen a bit more of the world and feel constrained by the Thai model of romantic relations which tends to require submissive and dependent feminine behavior.
While the former type may be just fine and even ideal from the perspective of many Western men, there is lot to be said for a dating a Thai woman who probably already has some understanding of how significant the cultural differences are and who is not sloppy seconds. The added bonus is that these women have likely received a better education and speak English more fluently as a result of their time abroad.
Avoid the wannabe “hi-so” types
Thai culture can be extremely superficial in many ways, with appearance, mannerisms and possessions defining individuals in a way that Westerners typically find somewhat distasteful. While “face” is an important concept almost across the board in Thailand, there is a substantial group who hold it as close to a religion. While they are not actually of a high social class, they desperately want to be, and the result is a collection of the most vapid, ill-mannered and foolishly judgmental women you will find. A good rule of thumb is that if they immediately start asking numerous questions that are thinly-veiled assessments of your wealth, you should try to move on as quickly as possible. These are the kind of women who firmly believe that a person is the sum total of the labels and brands they can afford, and this applies to boyfriends as much as it does handbags.
Avoid the very attractive.
It may seem like self-defeating advice – this is what most of us came for after all – but you are probably going to be much happier not dating women who are considered very good-looking in Thailand. Although Thai society is changing and becoming more modern in some ways, women are still valued to a large extent on their physical beauty. This is the reason why Thai women look the way they do. It’s a currency, and women who have a great deal of it will almost always expect to be generously compensated in return, whether financially or simply with obsequious behavior.
Thai standards of beauty are really quite distinct from the Western ideals, so you may well get a pass on having to deal with a spoiled princess and still find a woman you believe is absolutely stunning. Just keep in mind that Thais gladly accept incredibly selfish and narcissistic behavior from those women whom they deem very attractive (those with exceptionally light skin, delicate East Asian features, a stick-thin figure, etc.). If you go out to any night spot frequented by Thais, then you will no doubt witness the spectacle of a somewhat pitiful Thai guy trying to please the beautiful woman he is with at any cost. This happens because the ideal life for a great many Thai women is to be catered to non-stop, with their expectations increasing exponentially for each additional beauty point above a six. Being with a Western guy only seems to increase the level of reward anticipated by such women that much more, so do carefully consider the opportunity cost before getting involved with a true Thai beauty.
Another factor to consider is that most Thai men find it complete anathema for a desirable Thai woman to freely choose to get involved with a foreigner, and there seems to be no limit on the shenanigans one must endure from jealous admirers. It may sound inconsequential but this can prove very trying (as well as dangerous in some alcohol-saturated environments) even for the most easy-going of Western men.
Meet them in the real world as soon as possible.
Although it can seem prudent to “get to know each other” before attempting to meet, the truth is that very little can be determined through the internet or chatting on mobile phone apps. Thais are extremely adept at presenting themselves pleasantly and in ways that they think will please you. Even on the level of English-language ability, keep in mind that writing messages and speaking are very distinct competencies, with most Thais more proficient at the former.
Along these same lines, try to make sure you get a clear idea about their appearance early on. In spite of the advice above about avoiding the very attractive, a huge part of the appeal of Thai women is undeniably their physical beauty. But Thais are extraordinarily talented at taking photographs that present themselves in the best light and are sometimes just downright misleading. There are a combination of factors at play as to why this is so: (1) Thai women generally wear a lot of makeup so you are most likely seeing a very whitewashed version; (2) Thai women endlessly take pictures of themselves so they are close to professional at getting very flattering pictures; and (3) Thai women generally have no interest in providing a realistic idea of who they are to a potential mate. It’s pretty well-known that Thais have no problem with instrumental dishonesty and you should understand that this goes double for people they don’t have a personal connection to. Some women have even told me that they feel it is completely justified to lie about themselves simply because “it’s the internet” (i.e. no ethical standards apply).
Added up, this means you will almost inevitably have the experience at some point of meeting a woman that looked striking on the internet but is very plain in real life. If you’ve just spent months chatting with this woman with visions of your dream girl, you will certainly feel foolish when the much less pleasant reality shows up. In some cases when confronted about this, Thai women have even admitted to me that it was a picture from ten years ago before she had children or even of their better looking younger sister. It will help to avoid these situations, which are really in no one’s best interest, if you can see them candidly before you get too far along.
Anticipate them being very late or canceling your date at the last minute, and sometimes, just not showing up.
You need to accept that whatever plans you have made, all appointments are considered flexible or optional by Thai women. Generally speaking, 30 minutes late is not even considered particularly rude, and it’s not that uncommon for some women to breeze in an hour late as if nothing has happened. In addition, if something unexpected comes up, even if it is just a minor rain shower, they will probably drop all plans to meet without any forewarning. This is inevitably testing for Western men, even for those of us who are laidback by nature. Nothing will make you feel like more of a fool than hanging around waiting for a woman that you don’t even know is worth it yet.
As a good practice, make sure to confirm your meeting at least on the morning of, and even just hours before if you have a sense that she’s especially flakey. This still does not guarantee anything but at least it increases the chances that she will actually show up – at some point. Knowing the likelihood of lateness or postponement, I also try to insist on a meeting point that is fairly close to my home so that I can just wait until she arrives before leaving the house. <Bingo, this is exactly what I used to do when I did the internet dating thing – Stick> But the reality is that Thai women find it completely acceptable – and even savvy – to waste your time a bit in order to see how interested you really are, so best just to resign yourself to waiting and even being stood up occasionally.
Understand that Thai Love Links / Thai Cupid is not what it used to be in its salad days.
When I first started using Thai Love Links back in the late 00’s, it was an irrepressible phenomenon. In Bangkok, it was a perfect storm of just the right level of economic development and globalization to generate a high interest in meeting foreign men, an endless supply of young and lonely single women working in the city far away from home and an almost perfect innocence about internet dating from sheer lack of experience.
You could literally go on the internet, chat with a girl for a short-time and ask her to spend the night together all within the space of a few minutes. While traveling around Thailand, you could easily make arrangements to meet a girl wherever you happened to be going and hook up for the night in your hotel room with very little difficulty. It was a moveable feast: one not driven by exchange of money but just delight in the opportunity. More than once, even when a friend was brought along for security, it just meant that eventually I would get to have both. Heady times indeed!
But times have now changed somewhat, and Thai women have become less trusting of foreign men on the internet. There are regular warnings in the press telling of the “dangers” of such meetings. Of course, the most likely problem to occur might be an unplanned one-night stand, but xenophobia runs deep and irrationally through the Thai psyche. That isn’t to say that there still aren’t a lot of available Thai women seeking foreign men on the internet, but the quality seems to have declined markedly since that time and there are steeper barriers of distrust to be overcome that sometimes just aren’t worth the effort. There is even a vocabulary that has been spawned, and Thai women will tell you they don’t want to be a “holiday girlfriend” (hooking up for a week or two during a vacation) or to do “sex chat” (mutual masturbation via web cam). As with all good things, they must come to an end sooner or later, but this is paradise lost for some of us. The experience has become much closer to internet dating in a Western country, meaning much more sensible but also quite a bit less enjoyable.
Do not think that dating Western women in Thailand is the answer.
You will likely become frustrated or just plain bored with dating Thai women at some point if you continue for a considerable period of time. However, if you think the small population of female expats from Western countries offer a solution to those mind-numbing conversations about what you have eaten or whether you are tired, then you are deluding yourself. Common types you will probably meet include a lot of “English teachers” who are really in Thailand either to party for a year or because they have no career prospects whatsoever, misguided idealists with a savior complex working or volunteering for some ineffectual civil society organization, and various other undesirables fleeing their native shores. Almost universally, these women will have become extremely bitter towards men from their time living in Thailand, and as a Western man, you are the living embodiment of their resentment.
Recognize when the whole thing is no longer a cornucopia.
The reality is that Thai society places few clear limits or restrictions on personal behavior for us Westerners. You will have to come to it on your own when you have reached your limit. Maybe it’s after 10 women, maybe it’s after 100 women, maybe it’s after 1000 women. Whatever the number, make sure that you can get out before you are completely past redemption. When you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.
This is far and away the best article I have read on how things are currently with online dating in Thailand and I'd agree with pretty much everything you said.