Readers' Submissions

Thai Infidelity?

  • Written by Professor
  • April 8th, 2015
  • 4 min read

All of us tend to look for things that reinforce our preconceived notions. We tend to reject things that differ from our way of thinking. One current example of this is the thousands of conservative Republicans in the US who steadfastly deny the existence of climate change or evolution. They have a firm belief in an alternate reality, and ignore or reject the facts. They’re not stupid, or blind, they just have a different way of looking at things.

People are comfortable with what they know. If all you know of Thai women are Isaan bar girls, you might think that all Thai women are comfortable drinking, parading about naked, sleeping with foreigners and eating grasshoppers. You might reject the assertion that most Thai women are quite modest, don’t like to drink to excess, and much prefer Thai men to foreigners.

When one reads something on the internet, the same process occurs. We like to read things that might support our beliefs, and reject things that don’t. We often don’t look deeply into what we see, preferring to tick the box and move on.

Recently it was reported by many wire services that Thais were the most unfaithful nationality. There are dozens of wire stories on this and they all quote a study by Many people familiar with the Thai bar scene take this as proof of what they already know, laugh about it, make generalizations, and move on. Few attempt to determine the truth.

And this makes sense. If you read something that quotes various news sources, you tend to believe it.

Years ago, a company I was working with commissioned a research study. The results were counter to everything that company believed in regarding the product in question, and the company was about to change its entire marketing strategy based on this research.

I didn’t believe the numbers. They didn’t make sense to me. I kept challenging the research, and kept being told to go away. Finally, I went to the research house and asked them to show me the raw data. Sure enough, someone inputting the data had exchanged two columns of figures, which caused all results to be wrong. Once fixed, the data confirmed what we had felt all along.

I didn’t believe the reports that said Thais were the most unfaithful nationality, and I certainly didn’t believe that 56% of all Thais were unfaithful. Yet there it was in dozens of news reports.

So I decided to read the original study. Who was interviewed, how was the interviewing done, how many people were surveyed, which countries were surveyed?

The most famous example of misguided interviewing methodology was in 1948 when a Chicago newspaper publicly miscalled the Presidential election, saying that Truman had lost. After the fact it was determined that the research company did exit polling by telephone. In 1948 only very rich people had telephones, so the polling was biased to wealthy voters, who tended to support Truman’s opponent.

So I tried to find the original study. Two hours later I was still looking. The actual study (as opposed to news reports talking about the study), didn’t seem to exist.

Finally, I found this reference from an article about the survey:“Thailand’s top ranking for adultery in this ranking looks to be based on the results of a 2012 survey by condom-maker Durex”.

Aha. So this isn’t new information; it is simply a pickup from a well publicized study from 2102 by Durex. OK, now I wanted to read THAT study. So I went to the Durex website. Guess what? I couldn’t find the 2012 survey results either. Same thing. Lots of news reports. Everyone and his brother talked about how Thais were unfaithful according to the Durex study, but the actual study is nowhere to be found.

But, there is a 2005 survey on the Durex website. With full details. Now for things that change rapidly, for example, smart phone usage in developing countries, 7 years can make a huge difference. A country like Myanmar would have had zero smart phone usage 7 years ago, while today the number may be close to 25 or even 50%.

But culture changes more slowly. Thinking about it, one can imagine very little difference in the amount of infidelity in a country 7 years ago vs today.

So let’s look at the published results from 2005. For those who care here is the full study

This study interviewed 317,000 people from 41 countries.

On page 15 we see that the global average for extramarital affairs was 22%. That is 22% of the people surveyed admitted to having an extramarital affair.

The highest country was Turkey at 58%, followed by Denmark at 46%.

The highest country in Asia is Vietnam at 36%. (Personally, I tend to doubt that number, but that’s for another sub).

Australia 16%
New Zealand 16%
UK 14%
US 17%

And Thailand…16%.

So there you have it. Thai people are as unfaithful as Kiwis and Aussies, Brits and Yanks, and less unfaithful than the global average.

Take care


PS: I am perfectly happy to be corrected if someone can send me actual results of differing studies. Please do not send me news reports.

PPS: 41% of New Zealanders said they had anal sex, vs only 17% of Thais (Global Average was 35%.) Can someone please explain that to me?