Dating Despair is a four-part series about why dating in Bangkok, well … sucks. This story is a collection of anecdotes from Thai men who live in the capital.
From girls who want them to bleach their most intimate zones, to ladies that expect the latest iPhone as a gift, to competing for women against blond foreigners with six-packs, it ain’t easy in this city for a Thai dude to find love.
In our ongoing series about why dating sucks for pretty much everyone in Bangkok, this entry is about Thai men. Their plight might not be the one that immediately springs to mind. Their assumed home turf advantage and reserved nature means that you aren’t constantly bombarded with complaints and stories about how dating sucks for them. But, here, we have a rare look into their issues with relationships.
One of the trickiest parts of being a Thai man looking to date in Bangkok is that they are surrounded by lovely women, but society dictates that they can’t really approach them.
Pump*, 29, is single and works in the travel industry. He said that it’s not customary to approach women you don’t know on the street or at a bar. “Have you been to a Thai bar? It’s not designed to walk around and talk to people that you don’t know. You sit with your guy friends, share your tower of beer or whatever, and then go home. If someone brings a female friend that you don’t already know, that’s like the best chance you’re ever gonna get.”
Tee, 28, works in journalism and grew up a bit “hi-so.” (That’s “high society” for our non-Bangkok readers.) “I’d guess at least 50 percent of Thai guys are not brave enough to approach a woman they don’t know,” he said. “They usually only meet people through people they already know. So that’s a small pool.”
Even if a Thai man were ballsy and stepped out of this societal norm, it’s not likely that a Thai woman would be that open to a romantic — or even friendly — approach by a stranger, since she is also tied to the same societal ideas and would not be expecting to be approached by a Thai guy on the street.
When asked about the Western romantic comedy stereotype of sidling up to a strange but alluring woman at a bar or winking at a stranger on a train, Pump said it’s totally unheard of and almost shocking.
This makes dating hard in Bangkok because, well, you can’t approach anyone.
Tee added another aspect to young, well-bred Thais’ struggle to find love. “Good parents often prefer that kids go to all-girl or all-boy schools so they concentrate on their studies. This means even less exposure to the opposite sex and less comfort around them. And you have to add this to Thai people’s natural shyness, too.”
Koh, 31, is a chef and has an American girlfriend but has dated Thais in the past. He said: “One problem in Thai relationships is who makes the first move. Neither side wants to lose face, which is why there’s the whole ‘let’s be friends first’ mentality. I’ve certainly tried to encourage my friends to approach girls they were interested in, but they always decline. The Thai guys I know who date Thai girls usually knew them through mutual acquaintances.”
One complaint repeated by our male Thai interviewees over and over was that Thai women have impossibly high standards.
“Both Thai men and women are focused on looks when it comes to a boyfriend or girlfriend. They want light skin, slim, Chinese-looking, if possible,” Tee said. “It’s media brainwashing, they want someone with that [slim, boyish] Korean body. Thai men aren’t usually into a curvy Western or Latin American-style woman,” he said of body preferences.
Add to that the country’s plastic surgery obsession and attention to small details, such as the recent viral story about penis-lightening laser therapy that countless Thai girls tagged their boyfriends in, and you might begin to see why your average Thai guy feels pretty hopeless about romance unless he looks like he belongs in a K-Pop band.
Ben, 27, is Thai and grew up in Texas but moved back to Bangkok six years ago and went to college here.
He spoke up for the other side as well.
“Let’s not be unfair. Thai dudes make it hard for themselves as well,” he said. “They have impossibly high standards for the women they want to date. She must be ghost white, and skinny AF with big tits, and a small face. But some of them forgot to look at themselves in the mirror first.”
“I think both Thai men and women’s comically high standards for dating complement each other in the most messed up ways,” he added.
Koh said that he likes dating a foreigner because he believes they tend to date anyone they are compatible with and don’t need someone who looks perfect. However, that may simply be his unique experience with Westerners, who are as capable of shallowness as their counterparts of any color.
Pong, 26, is in the Thai military. He has a darker complexion and is tall, with sharp cheekbones and an athlete’s build. He is incredibly handsome by Western standards but said that, simply because of his tan skin, Thai girls have always ignored him. He is currently dating a German woman.
Related to high standards are the monetary and material demands of Thai women, according to the men we spoke to.
Tee, who often works until 10pm or later, said: “Younger guys in the city may not have much money and have to spend all their time working to afford the city lifestyle. They have no time to even try to meet anyone, and it’s the same for girls.”
He admitted that Thai women are materially demanding, wanting to be given gifts and taken out, and to have a boyfriend with a nice car, but he clarified that he doesn’t think they are bad people, despite dating a Korean himself.
“I think it’s just related to wanting a comfortable lifestyle. It shows that he can support you,” he said.
That can also lead to serious issues. The Thai boyfriends we spoke to had a common complaint of being pressured to spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need to keep their partners happy.
Ben dated what he considered to be a very demanding Thai girl during college and now has a Vietnamese girlfriend. He recalled that his college girlfriend wanted him to sell his expensive motorcycle and buy a car. He didn’t need or want a car and it would have taken much longer to get anywhere in Bangkok’s nightmare traffic, but she wanted to be seen at their university getting out of a car each day. Her parents backed her up and put pressure on Ben as well.
Pong said that he thinks money is more important than love for Thai women. “Being raised in Thailand, I believe that most Thai women tend to go for Westerners, Thai-Chinese, Korean, or Japanese men, because, from what I see, the woman tends to ask the guy to pay for everything. I personally believe that it is unfair. We are all equal.”
Blond Foreigners, Big Dicks
Ben noticed another trend as well. “More and more I am seeing Thai women with farang men — and not just the nasty beer gut fuckers with hooker girlfriends — but decent-looking dudes with regular-looking Thai girls.”
“I think the media has sensationalized farangs and that has created this idea of farang perfection for Thai women. They think if they are able to get a foreigner, he’ll have a big dick, a six-pack, be over six feet tall, and have blond hair. Well, Thai guys are hardly any of those things,” he said of a few common perceptions among Thais about foreigners.
“I also think that since Thailand has boomed in the last decade or so, that’s brought in more foreigners and they’re more accessible for Thai women than ever. What girl wants a boring Thai guy when they can have fuckin’ Paul Walker, right?”
He also said that, in his opinion, one old stereotype about foreigners is still widely held though the reality may be anything but.
“Thai girls believe a thousand percent that every foreigner that comes here is loaded. That’s another big reason why Thai women usually go for farangs.”
Though the true percentage of Thai women dating farang men is actually fairly small, it can seem amplified in the city, where these couples are out and about each night.
There are also plenty of Thai men that find no problems dating in the capital though, whether they choose locals or foreigners, good girls or naughty ones. For our purposes, we only asked our subjects to reflect on the difficulties that they’ve experienced and observed for Thai men looking for love in Bangkok.
No matter what the unique difficulties of finding the perfect partner in the Big Mango, the journey is worth it. Even if you aren’t successful, you’ll likely have some fascinating stories to tell.
*All names have been changed for privacy.
Like this story? Read the rest of the series here: