Relationships in Thailand

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Thai Friends

A sincere Thai friend can make your transition to living in Thailand much easier. But making friends in Thailand is just as difficult as anywhere else in the civilized world -- probably even more so.

Please understand that I'm talking about friends rather than acquaintances. I'm also talking about sincere people rather than opportunists.

Thailand has any number of the latter, willing to do or help out with small tasks and problems. These folks usually have financial motives. I'm not saying that an expat shouldn't pay for services rendered, but look at the situation realistically. Because very often, besides the "tip", there may be a "commission" involved -- even an ongoing one.

I don't mean to sound elitist when I say that the folks who can help you along your path to living in Thailand will not usually be found in bars or among street hawkers. So stop and consider where to look for a circle of friends.

Expats who have lived in Thailand long enough to have a few good Thai friends will not always introduce you to them. At least until they are pretty sure of your character. After all, they will be seen as bearing some responsibility for your subsequent behavior.

Making Friends in Thailand

It sound a bit crude to talk about looking for friends in the right place, but it is a way to start. Some suggestions.

  • Use your situation. Expats have no real status, but Thais do not expect westerns to understand the rules. Play ignorant in certain situations. A Thai would never walk up to someone of higher status and start a conversation. Expats can get away with a certain amount of impoliteness. But -- know the limits.
  • When you go to the bank, start getting acquainted with your banker. After a time, invite him out for lunch. Bankers tend to know lots of the right people.
  • Teachers don't make big money but they usually have a circle of friends, and they normally speak a bit of english. Taking private classes to learn the Thai language is a double benefit. Invite your tutor out for coffee or a meal after your session.
  • Kamnans are people too -- and they have lots of influence. After you have a solid grasp of your manners, wais, and greetings; arrange an introduction to the headman of the tambon.
  • Taking a small gift along when you visit friends is very much appreciated -- the gesture more so than the value of the gift.

Friends Back Home

Keeping in touch with friends and family back home shouldn't be last on the list, but too often it is. Create and use an effective system of staying in touch, and don't burn those bridges.

Friendships With Thai Women

This is where men need to be extra careful. But handled properly, becoming a friend with a Thai woman can pay all sorts of dividends. Just don't try to cross that line between friendship and relationship. If the woman is married, try to make friends with her husband. There may be some initial suspicion, but if you can get past that, you have two friends rather than one.

You may have more difficulty making friends with a Thai woman professional. They may not want to be seen alone with you, or even if you have a girl fried in tow. But if you feel that a friendship is appropriate, invite the woman and her husband or boyfriend out for a meal.

Relationships With Thai Women

I have never seen nor heard so many horror stories about failed relationships as I have since I moved to Thailand. Apparently some latent genetic defect in western men make them believe in the B'wana syndrome (someday).

What would you say if I told you that men who are seemingly wise in the ways of the world will meet a girl in a bar and -- after a courtship of a few days .. take her home to live with them? Impossible? No, it's extremely common.

Furthermore, the lass in question speaks rudimentary english at best and our new groom-to-be knows about a dozen words of Thai. That's only one of any number of problems in Thai relationships.