Mixed Marriages in Thailand
I arrived in Thailand after there had already been decades of cheap long-haul travel and Western films (or even
Thai films involving Westerners), so it is hard for me to know what the attitude to mixed marriages in
Thailand used to be like.
However, the subject of attitudes towards mixed marriages in Thailand is an interesting one to me because I
am a European married to a Thai woman.
In general, things are done to raise the status of the family in Thailand and since wealth and profession, which
is based on education, are very important factors in determining status, any additions to the family, especially
husbands, need to bring something to the table.
White foreigners (farang or falang in Thai), are acceptable husbands to ordinary working-class girls and their
families. I should imagine that this is because the falang has more money than they do.
Many Thai women say that falang men are kinder and more tolerant than Thai men, but I don't know about that,
because Thais don't wash their dirty linen in public.
Having said all that, most falang that I have ever met in Thailand are only moderately well-off (maybe they have
just sold their house and get a pension), but they are still richer than most Thais. However, there is a dowry to
be paid for a bride in most cases and this sorts the wheat from the chaff.
A typical dowry for a typical working-class woman, especially for one who has been married before and/or has
children might be $3,000, which is within the means of most foreigners in Thailand.
However, an unmarried village girl with no children, no baggage and a university degree might cost $15,000,
which will make a lot of men think twice. The same girl coming from a rich family might command three or four times
However, the parents of a rich girl might not accept an old man as a son-in-law even if he is very well-off.
They may accept a younger, well-educated professional like a doctor.
They already have money, but a doctor or surgeon would add value to the family. I suspect that the number of
foreign visitors and the films about them, have made foreigners more acceptable as family members. However, I meet
villagers every month who have never met or never spoken to a foreigner before.
Despite this, Thai parents seem to be allowing their daughters more freedom to choose who they want to marry
and, since Thais don't travel much, because only Thais speak Thai and farmers don't get much time off, a girl who
wants to travel may prefer to marry a falang.
I do not believe that there was ever as much prejudice against mixed marriages in Thailand as
there was in the UK and USA against white-black marriages 40 years ago, but there may be other reasons for not
wanting your daughter to marry a foreigner.
For example, the man will probably never be able to speak Thai well enough to hold a meaningful conversation and
he is unlikely to be a Buddhist. Small things but they may count.
A bigger reason for being against mixed marriages in Thailand is that the falang will probably need to work in
Europe or the USA, so the bride's parents will hardly ever see their daughter or grand-children, who will grow up
knowing very little about Thailand, its culture or its language.
by Owen Jones