Young middle-class Thai women marrying foreigners: Why?

Young middle-class Thai women marrying foreigners: Why?

"Western men find me attractive the way I am, I don’t have to be someone I am not," but "my parents told us not to walk in public around the house because they felt embarrassed to be seen by the neighbours."

With reports of more successful, independent women marrying foreign men, long-held stereotypes about cross-cultural unions are beginning to erode.


Go West, young woman

With reports of more successful, independent women marrying foreign men, long-held stereotypes about cross-cultural unions are beginning to erode.
Abridged version of Chaiyot Yongcharoenchai article in Spectrum here

Happy together: Otto Widl and Sunisa Noonpakdee, who has long been attracted to foreign men as she says they are more mature than their Thai competition.

For as long as she can remember, Sunisa Noonpakdee has been attracted to foreign men.

"I dated a few Thai guys before, and one thing I found quite annoying is that they are not as mature as Westerners of the same age," she said.

"Many Thai men are childish, irresponsible and jealous for no reason. Meanwhile, many Westerners are completely the opposite."

Ms Sunisa began dating her first foreign boyfriend when she was in college, at the age of 19. While that relationship eventually fell apart, she has continued to date Western men since.

Intelligent, talented and ambitious, Ms Sunisa has had no shortage of opportunities — even receiving a scholarship to study for a year in Belgium — and said her preference for foreign partners has nothing to do with economic convenience.

Instead, the 32-year-old is one of a new breed of successful, independent women challenging the negative stereotypes of cross-cultural relationships in Thailand.


When Supichaya Promboon began examining relationships between Thai women and foreign men, she thought economic reasons were the driving factor — that young women saw it as a ticket to escape poverty. But as she began digging deeper, she soon changed her mind.

Early last month, the Thammasat University student released the abstract of a preliminary research paper which gained media attention for its surprising claims about the changing love lives of young women.

Some of that attention was overblown. The abstract posited that the number of middle-class women aged 18 to 30 marrying foreign nationals was rising, but Ms Supichaya told Spectrum the theory is based on observation and she is still in the process of gathering evidence to back it up.

But the story struck a nerve, garnering thousands of online shares and generating debate in web forums over why the trend might be occurring.

The student said her interest in the topic was piqued (pique curiosity) by the social media activity of Thai women, particularly one group who post messages on Facebook with the hashtag "pob farang lor bok duay", or "let me know if you find a handsome foreigner".

Ms Supichaya said these women were generally young and highly educated, meaning their attraction to Western men was unlikely to be economic.

Chanida Chitbundid, the Thammasat University lecturer who is overseeing the research project, said it is a noticeable but as yet unproven trend that has been developing over the past decade amid rising levels of education and women’s empowerment... 

..Ms Supichaya also believes social media is helping to drive changes in attitudes towards cross-cultural relationships, due to the relative ease with which young people can hone their language skills and communicate with people abroad...


Born into the family of conservative government officials, Jirawadee Sangrayab’s parents had high hopes for their daughter’s future.

Although they didn’t interfere with her choice of studies at school, they were strong in their desire to see Ms Jirawadee marry a "decent man" who could take care of her for the rest of her life. In their eyes, an ideal suitor would be another Thai government official with a secure job and stable income.

Ms Jirawadee left her Ang Thong home to pursue tertiary studies in Bangkok, determined not to let her parents down. While she did well academically, Ms Jirawadee’s dark brown skin did not conform to the beauty standards desired by most Thai men and a "decent man" proved elusive.

"One of my Thai boyfriends left me for a lighter skinned girl with Chinese eyes," she said. "I secretly learned later that he wants a girlfriend that he can proudly brag about with other friends. They [Thai men] have such high expectations of women." 

Ms Jirawadee’s focus remained her career, and while at university she joined a work and travel programme to the US where she gained her first exposure to a new culture. The experience boosted her English language skills, and she felt more confident engaging with foreigners.

Not long after returning to Thailand, she began dating a Western man.

"Western men find me attractive the way I am," Ms Jirawadee said. "I don’t even have to try to be someone I am not just to please them."

Obtaining her family’s approval was not so easy. "My parents were surprised to learn about me and my boyfriend," she said. "When I first took him home, my parents told us not to walk in public around their house because they felt embarrassed to have me seen by their neighbours.

"They were afraid that the neighbours would think that I am a typical mia farang [a slang term for a foreigner’s wife] who relies on his money."

Slowly, however, they came around, and Ms Jirawadee, now 31 and a media account manager in Bangkok, is due to marry her Western partner early next year.


While slowly beginning to erode, the stigma against marrying a foreigner is still strong in many parts of the country.

Chanya Chaosakul, 31, was born and raised on Phuket and therefore exposed to Western culture from a young age. 

Being born into a middle-class family, Ms Chanya grew up in a protective environment. Though she has never struggled, her parents taught her to understand the value of money and hard work.

As she entered her teens and early twenties, many of her friends began dating Westerners, but Ms Chanya said the stigma attached to interracial relationships stopped her from doing the same. “I didn’t want anyone to insult me or my family by accusing me of dating a foreigner for money,” she said.

Her relationships with Thai men, however, frequently ended badly. Her first, whom she described as a "charming bad boy", ended up in prison on drug charges. Her second boyfriend cheated on her, and her third was possessive and controlling.

After three failed relationships, Ms Chanya was close to giving up. But her American colleague, with whom she talked often, slowly began to change her perspective on Westerners. After a year of friendship, the pair entered a romantic relationship.

"I was starving for a real conversation, which never happened when I was with my previous boyfriends," Ms Chanya explained.

The couple, who are now engaged, have lived in the US together for the past four years, where Ms Chanya is studying for her second master's degree.

"Our relationship is based purely on understanding and love. He never checks my phone or questions me about what I’ve been up to," she said. "Honesty and understanding are the main keys to keep this relationship going. This is why I feel like I finally made the right decision."

Ms Chanya said she has not been able to escape social bias and stigma for being in an interracial relationship, but said much of it has come after she moved to the US. "I have no problem with Westerners. The prejudice seem to be mainly from other Thais," she said...

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  • abridge: to make a book, play, etc. shorter by leaving parts out - ย่อ, ตัดทอน, ทำให้สั้นลง
  • abroad: in or to a foreign country - ในต่างประเทศ
  • abstract: a summary of a research paper put at the beginning -
  • academically: relating to education - เชิงวิชาการ
  • account (noun): being recorded officially as a customer of a business - บัญชี
  • activity (noun): a thing that you do for work, interest or pleasure, or in order to achieve a particular aim - กิจกรรม
  • ambitious: determined to be successful, rich, powerful, etc - ทะเยอทะยาน
  • annoying: making you feel slightly angry or impatient - น่ารำคาญ
  • approval: agreement to do or accept something - ความเห็นชอบด้วย
  • approval: official permission - การอนุมัต
  • attention: interest, especially interest that the public has in a person, event, situation etc - ความสนใจ
  • attitude: someone’s opinions or feelings about something, especially as shown by their behaviour - ทัศนคติ, ลักษณะท่าทาง
  • attract: to cause someone to be interested in something - ดึงดูดความสนใจ
  • attraction: something that creates interest and brings people to see it - การดึงดูดความสนใจ
  • attractive: having features or qualities that make something seem interesting and worth having - น่าดึงดูด
  • back it up: to support - ให้การสนับสนุน
  • bias: an attitude that you have that makes you treat someone or something in a way that is unfair — - อคติ, ลำเอียง, เดียดฉันท์
  • boost: to increase - เพิ่ม
  • brag: to talk too proudly about something you own or something you have done - พูดอวดดี, ฝอย
  • broad: wide - กว้างขวาง
  • came around: finally agree to something, after first disagreeing -
  • career: a job or series of related jobs that you do, especially a profession that you spend a lot of your working life in - อาชีพ
  • challenge: questioning whether something is true, accurate, or legal - การคัดค้าน
  • charge : an official statement accusing someone of committing a crime - ข้อกล่าวหา
  • charming: very attractive and pleasant - น่ารัก, สวยงาม
  • cheat: to have a secret sexual relationship with somebody else - นอกใจ, มีชู้
  • childish: behaving badly in a way that would be expected of a child - เหมือนเด็ก
  • claim (noun): saying that something is true although it has not been proved and other people may not believe it - ข้ออ้าง ข้อกล่าวหา
  • colleague (noun): someone who works in the same organisation or department as you do or someone you know who has the same type of job - เพื่อนร่วมงาน
  • communicate (verb): to express thoughts, feelings, or information to another person or animal, for example by speaking or writing - สื่อสาร, ติดต่อสื่อสาร
  • completely (adv): totally, in every way possible - อย่างทั้งหมด
  • confident: certain; having trust in people, plans, or the future - มั่นใจ
  • conform: to agree with or match something - สอดคล้องกับ
  • conservative: careful; cautious; not taking chances - ระมัดระวัง
  • continued: happening or existing for a period of time without interruption - ซึ่งติดต่อกัน, ซึ่งต่อเนื่องกัน
  • control: To exercise restraining or governing influence over; to check; to counteract; to restrain; to regulate; to govern; to overpower - จัดการ, ควบคุม
  • convenience: something that is useful and can make things easier or quicker to do, or more comfortable - ความสะดวก
  • conversation (noun): when two or more people are talking about something - การสนทนา, การพูดคุย
  • cross-cultural: involving or containing ideas from two or more different countries or cultures - ข้ามวัฒนธรรม
  • culture (noun): the customs and beliefs, art, way of life and social organization of a particular country or group - วัฒนธรรม
  • date: to have a romantic appointment with somebody - นัดพบ
  • date: to have a romantic relationship with somebody - นัดพบ
  • debate: to discuss something, especially by giving different opinions - อภิปราย, ถกเถียง, โต้เถียง
  • decade: a period of ten years - ทศวรรษ
  • decent: of a good enough standard or quality - เหมาะสม
  • desire: to have a strong wish to have or do something - อยาก, ประสงค์, ต้องการ
  • determined: having made a firm decision to do something and to not let anyone prevent you - แน่นอน,ซึ่งตัดสินใจแล้ว
  • driving: strong and powerful; having a strong influence in making something happen - แรงผลักดัน
  • due to: because of - เนื่องจาก
  • due to: scheduled to - มีกำหนด
  • ease: to make a problem, situation or pain less severe or serious - บรรเทา
  • educate (noun): to teach people about something - สอน, ให้การศึกษา
  • elusive: difficult to describe, find, achieve or remember - ซึ่งหลบหลีก
  • embarrassed (adj): feeling uncomfortable, nervous, worried or ashamed about something that you have done or something that has happened - รู้สึกอาย
  • empowerment: giving someone the legal power to do something ทำให้มีอำนาจ -
  • engaging with: making an effort to understand and deal with someone or something - ประสานกับ, มีส่วนร่วมใน
  • environment: a place, including all the physical conditions that affect it - สภาพแวดล้อม, สิ่งแวดล้อม
  • erode: to weaken; to gradually reduce the value, importance or level of something -
  • escape (verb): to get away from a place; to leave a place where you are in danger - หนี
  • eventually: at the end of a period of time or at the end of a process - ในที่สุด
  • evidence: facts, signs or objects that make you believe that something is true - หลักฐาน,ข้อแสดง
  • examine: to look at somebody/something closely, to see if there is anything wrong or to find the cause of a problem - ตรวจ
  • expectations: the belief that something will happen - สิ่งที่คาด คิดว่าจะเกิดขึ้นในอนาคต
  • expectations: what is expected - ที่คาดไว้
  • experience (verb): to have something happen to you or to live through some event - ประสบ
  • exposed: openly affected by and not protected from - ได้รับ ในที่นี้หมายถึง สูดควันบุหรี่
  • exposure: experiencing something new -
  • factor: a fact or situation which influences the result of something - ปัจจัย
  • fell apart: broken, in very bad condition, failed - แตกเป็นชิ้นๆ, แตก
  • focus: to give attention, effort, etc. to one particular subject, situation or person rather than another - เพ่งความสนใจ
  • forum (noun): a place where people can express their ideas and opinions - ที่แสดงความคิดเห็น, การประชุมแสดงความคิดเห็น
  • garner: to obtain; to get - ได้รับ, รวบรวมได้
  • gather: to bring things together that have been spread around - รวบรวม
  • generally: true in most cases and situations - โดยทั่วไป, โดยปกติ, ส่วนมาก
  • generate: to produce - ผลิต, ก่อให้เกิด
  • give up: to admit that you can’t succeed and stop trying - ยอมแพ้
  • handsome: attractive; good-looking - รูปหล่อ
  • hashtag: a word or a phrase with a "#" before it, that marks something as belonging to a certain category or relevant -
  • hone: to develop and improve something, especially a skill, over a period of time -
  • hope (noun): a belief that something you want will happen; something that you wish for - ความหวัง
  • horizons: the limit of your knowledge, desires or interests - ขอบเขตความรู้, ประสบการณ์
  • ideal: the best possible - ดีที่สุด
  • in public: when other people, especially people you do not know, are present; in full view of other people - ต่อสาธารณะ, ต่อชุมชน
  • in the process of: currently working on .... -
  • income: money that someone gets from working or from investing money - รายได้
  • independent: not connected with or influenced by something; not connected with each other - ซึ่งเป็นอิสระ, ไม่ขึ้นกับใคร
  • independent: not taking help or money from other people - พึ่งตนเอง
  • intelligent: smart -
  • interfere: to deliberately become involved in a situation and try to influence the way that it develops, although you have no right to do this - แทรกแซง
  • interracial relationship: a relationship between two races, such as Asian and White or White and Black -
  • irresponsible: done or said without thinking of the possible results of your actions or words - ขาดความรับผิดชอบ
  • jealous: unhappy and angry because someone has something or someone you want - หึงหวง, หึง
  • lecturer (noun): a teacher at a university or college - อาจารย์ผู้บรรยาย
  • let down: to fail to do what someone who trusts you wanted you to do - ทำให้ผิดหวัง
  • master's degree: a further university degree that you study for after a first degree - ระดับปริญญาโท
  • mature: behaving in the sensible way that you would expect an adult to behave - มีวุฒิภาวะ
  • meanwhile: at the same time - ในเวลาเดียวกัน
  • media: radio, television, newspaper, the Internet, considered as a group - สื่อ
  • message: a piece of written or spoken information that you send to someone, especially when you cannot speak to them directly - ข่าวสาร, ข้อความ
  • middle-class (noun): families that are not poor or rich but have incomes in the middle, sometimes thought of as educated people with professional jobs - ฐานะปานกลาง, ชนชั้นกลาง
  • national: a citizen of a particular country - ประชาชน
  • negative: bad - ที่เป็นด้านลบ
  • neighbour: someone (or towns, cities, countries) who lives or is located near you - เพื่อนบ้าน
  • new breed of: new kind of -
  • noticeable (adj): easy to see or notice; clear or definite - ซี่งเห็นได้ชัด
  • observation: the process of watching someone or something carefully, in order to find something out - การสังเกต
  • obtain: to get something that you want or need, especially by going through a process that is difficult - ได้มา, ได้รับ
  • occur: to happen - เกิดขึ้น
  • official: someone with an important position in an organisation - เจ้าหน้าที่
  • officials: people who have the power to make decisions or enforce the law - เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ
  • opportunity (noun): a chance to do something, or a situation in which it is easy for you to do something - โอกาส
  • opposite: a person or thing that is as different as possible from somebody/something else - ตรงกันข้าม
  • oversee (verb): (past form: oversaw) to watch or organise a job or an activity to make certain that it is being done correctly - คุมงาน,ควบคุม
  • ovreblown: exaggerated; to describe something in a way that makes it seem better, worse, larger, more important etc than it really is - กล่าวเกินจริง
  • particularly: especially, or more than usual - โดยเฉพาะ
  • partner: the person that you are married to or having a relationship with - คู่สมรส, คู่สามีหรือภรรยา
  • perspective: a particular way of considering something - ทัศนคติ
  • pique curiosity: make a person interested in something, make a person curious - ทำให้อยากรู้อยากเห็น
  • please: to make someone feel happy and satisfied - ทำให้พอใจ, ทำให้ถูกใจ
  • posit: to propose or present a new idea for people to consider -
  • possessive: demanding total attention or love; not wanting somebody to be independent - หวง, ขี้หึง
  • post: to send information, in this case, to a website -
  • poverty: the condition of being extremely poor - ความจน
  • preference: something that you want or like most - ความต้องการ
  • prejudice: an unreasonable opinion or feeling, especially the feeling of not liking a particular groups of people - ความมีอคติ
  • preliminary: coming before the main or most important part of something - เบื้องต้น, ขั้นต้น, ขั้นแรก
  • prison: a place where criminals are put to stay for a period of time as punishment for a crime - คุก, ,เรือนจำ
  • project: a planned piece of work that is designed to find information about something, to produce something new, or to improve something - โครงการ
  • protective: providing or intended to provide protection - ซึ่งปกป้อง
  • proudly: feeling pleased and satisfied about something that you own or have done, or are connected with - ภูมิใจ
  • prove (verb): to show to be - ปรากฏ, แสดง
  • pursue: to work at something or carry it out - ทำให้ลุล่วง
  • reason (noun): why something happened or exists - เหตุผล
  • relationship: a sexual or romantic connection between two people - ความสัมพันธ์
  • relative (adj): considered and judged by being compared with something else; that exists or that has a particular quality only when compared with something else - ที่เปรียบเทียบกัน; สัมพัทธ์
  • release: making known to the public - การเปิดเผย, การปล่อย
  • rely on: to need something in order to continue living, existing, or operating - อาศัย, พึ่งพาอาศัย
  • remain (verb): to stay in the same place; to not leave - ยังอยู่, พักอยู่, รออยู่
  • research: a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it - การวิจัย
  • romantic (adj): connected or concerned with love or a relationship - เกี่ยวกับเรื่องรักใคร่และการผจญภัย
  • romantic (adj): believing that things are more exciting or better than they really are, dreamy, idealistic, overuse of imagination - เพ้อฝัน, ในอุดมคติ, เต็มไปด้วยจินตนาการ
  • scholarships: money given to a student to pay for the cost of education - ทุนการศึกษา
  • secretly: not telling people things, hiding things from people - ซึ่งปิดปาก
  • secure: safe from attack or harm - ปลอดภัย
  • share: to have or use something at the same time as someone else - ใช้ร่วมกัน
  • shortage (noun): when there is not enough of something - การขาดแคลน
  • skill: the ability to do something well, usually as a result of experience and training - ฝีมือ, ทักษะ
  • skin: the outside covering of the body - ผิวหนัง
  • slang: informal language used by people when speaking to each other - ภาษาสแลง, ถ้อยคำที่เป็นภาษาพูดและใช้ในกลุ่มคนบางกลุ่ม, ภาษารหัสของขโมยหรือโจร, คำสแลง
  • social (adjective): related to society, to people and the way they are connected to each other and interact with each other - เกี่ยวกับสังคม
  • social media: the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, etc. - เครือข่ายสังคมออนไลน์
  • stable: firmly fixed; not likely to move, change or fail - มั่นคง
  • standards: a level of quality that is normal or acceptable for a particular person or in a particular situation - มาตรฐาน, บรรทัดฐาน
  • starved: lacking; not having enough of something - ขาด
  • starving (adj): not having enough food to eat - ที่อดอยาก
  • stereotype (noun): a fixed idea or image that many people have of a particular type of person or thing, but which is often not true in reality - ข้อคิดเห็นที่ไม่เป็นตัวของตัวเอง,ข้อความที่เลียนแบบมา,ทัศนคติทั่วไปของกลุ่มสังคม
  • stigma: a feeling that something is wrong or embarrassing in some way - ความอัปยศอดสู,มลทิน,รอยด่างพร้อย
  • struck a nerve: make angry; irritate -
  • struggle (verb): to try hard to do something that you find very difficult - พยายาม; ต่อสู้
  • successful (adjective): achieved the goals you wanted to achieve or made a lot of money - มีผลสำเร็จ, ประสบผลสำเร็จ, ประสบชัยชนะ
  • suitor: a man trying to get woman to marry him; competing for her hand in marriage - ผู้หมั้นหมายผู้หญิง, แฟน, ชายที่เกี้ยวผู้หญิง,โจทก์, ผู้ขอร้อง
  • surprise (verb): to make somebody feel surprised (a feeling caused by something happening suddenly or unexpectedly) - ทำให้ประหลาดใจ, ทำให้แปลกใจ, ทำให้ตื่นใจ
  • talented: having a natural ability to be good at something, especially without being taught - ซึ่งมีพรสวรรค์
  • teens: teenagers - บุคคลที่มีอายุระหว่าง 13-19 ปี, คนรุ่นหนุ่มรุ่นสาว, วัยรุ่น
  • term (noun): a word or phrase used for something - คำศัพท์
  • tertiary (adj.): at university or college level - ในระดับมหาวิทยาลัยหรือวิทยาลัย
  • theory: one or more ideas that explain how or why something happens - สมมติฐาน
  • trend: a gradual change or development that produces a particular result   - ทิศทาง แนวโน้ม
  • trend: a new development in clothing, make-up, etc - แนวโน้ม
  • union: marriage -
  • university (noun): a school where students study for BA, MA, MS and PhD degrees and where research is done - มหาวิทยาลัย
  • unproven (adj): not proved or tested - ไม่ได้พิสูจน์
  • version: a particular form of something which varies slightly from other forms of the same thing - ชุด, เวอร์ชั่น
  • Western: countries such as the US, Europe and Australia -
  • westerner: a person from a "western" country such as US, Europe, Canada, Australia or New Zealand - คนตะวันตก, คนเกิดหรืออาศัยอยู่ทางตะวันตกหรือภาคตะวันตกของประเทศ
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