I have been asking around regarding Thai dating rituals for some time. Everyone was willing to drop a clue or a one-line hint but was too shy to continue. A while ago I met ‘Miss Z’ She is a 22-year-old woman from northeastern Isaan who has been working as a receptionist for the last year in Bangkok. She is a straight talker and was more than willing to give me her scoop on Thai dating based on her own experiences.
When asked how Thai men show their interest in women, she replied, “It usually starts at the age of sixteen or seventeen. First they start looking at each other a lot and smiling. Next the man might ask if you want to go for lunch with him or send you sweet messages on pink paper saying ‘someone is interested in you.’ He might also buy you candy, flowers, food, or a small necklace or other cute things.
First you must say no to his lunch invitation. Tell him ‘I am eating with my friends.’ Thai women really do like to eat together and we are shy. After he asks three or four times, I will go if I like him, but I will bring three of my friends with me. He will pay for everyone to eat but he will be very happy.”
After the initial lunch dates ‘Miss Z’ says, “The day after I eat lunch with him he will tell my friends to come to me and say that he likes me. He will ask if we can be together more. But our parents tell us to be very careful about our boyfriends. If we go out, we must go out with many friends or he might come to the house and talk to my parents. We could walk together during the day but never at night. Dating is more about flirting, eating together and watching movies.
“When I was younger, I went out my window at night to see my boyfriend. My father caught me and never let me out of his control again. If you are sexually active before you are married, it is very bad. Everyone will talk bad about you. I think about 70 percent of people in Thailand are having sex before they are married but it is a very big secret.
“I have seen western dating in movies. Thais are just too shy. Sometimes we will hold hands in public, but hugging and kissing is not good in front of other people. I have also seen that western people sometimes sleep with no clothing on. We wear pajamas to bed. I also think we do not kiss as much. We put our mouths together, but not all of that with the tongue.”
‘Miss Z’ is looking for a boyfriend. Her ideal man would be, “One who takes care of the family, who does not go from woman to woman like a butterfly, and does not drink too much or smoke. Many Thai men like to have many girls. If he is handsome, about forty percent of other women won’t care and will pursue him. I think twenty percent of Thai men are good. Most men say ‘If you love me, you will go to bed with me’ but then he will probably run away to the next girl and do the same thing. Wives get AIDS from their husbands running around on them but people are getting more careful about AIDS in Thailand. There are good men out there, but it is very difficult to find them.”
She was attending university in Bangkok when her father fell ill and died of cancer. Left with 200,000 baht (4,651 US Dollars) of debt and medical bills and a mother and two siblings at home, she sends the vast majority of her income home. “I share an apartment with three friends. It costs 4,000 baht (93 US Dollars) total. I can make 7,000 baht (163 US Dollars) a month, but I eat off the street and don’t spend my money.”
When asked what a happy life for her would be she stated, “Pay the bank, get a better job, take care of my mother, get married, and have children.” The unhappy life she fears is, “Having no money, the bank taking my mother’s house, finding someone I love and having him leave me.”
When asked about country life compared to city life she stated, “In Bangkok things are more out in the open, especially about dating and sex. I am not very happy in Bangkok. You have to be strong and look out for yourself. There are many things here that can make you go the wrong way or do a bad thing.”
Let’s hope ‘Miss Z’ finds her way in Bangkok and also finds the man she is looking for.