Date Culture

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Dating Culture in Thailand

18th January 2006

Before deliberating on dating culture and customs in Thailand, it must be understood that no single dating culture exists and the culture changes from area to area.
Thai dating customs are largely coming out of the expectations in Thai society. Thai people expect a spouse to respect the partner’s family. In some ways, then, you do not just date your partner but practically the entire extended family.  There are many expectations, financial and otherwise, that Thais have for someone who wishes to become part of the family, and some of these expectations reveal themselves in dating behavior.

For example, take the expectation that a partner will help the other’s family. Thailand’s economy is fast growing, but it has passed through a turbulent past. As a result, a large part of the Thai society is underprivileged and not educated. But Thai people yearn for learning and mixing with the mainstream world. So much so that even in hotels, requests have been displayed for tourists to distribute English learning books for the benefit of underprivileged Thai people. Such yearning is reflected in dating behavior very distinctly and it is expected generally of the groom (but in some cases the girl too) to help the partner’s family grow. After the first few dates, if the boy and girl decide to go steady, gradually the parents or brothers and sisters join the meetings, maybe for a short while, where peculiar issues ranging from business to education or any other specific issues are discussed.
 In marriage, the boy or girl is generally free to choose their own partner. While dating, each person makes sure that the wouldbe partner satisfies all the expectations. As such, dates are used to test the behavior of the partner to be. A partner is expected to be an active listener. During dating and even otherwise, Thais often do not overtly say what they are really feeling and thinking and expect the partner to read the nonverbal queues.  It is a no-no to talk straight when there are gentler alternative ways to say the same thing. It is also in bad taste to make a partner lose face over an argument in public. Thai people are not loud and would avoid their display of love or arguments in public. Even if you are sitting at an adjacent table, you may not be able to comprehend anything said by the Thai couple, while they would have covered all the subjects under the moon. Occasionally, if any of the partners feels upset over any issue, the other party has to understand through nonverbal clues only.
Nowadays, drug use is becoming a major issue in Thailand and this time is also extensively used to find out whether the partner has any such problem. During dating, Thai girls ensure that the partner exercises self-control, self-discipline on spending money and demonstrates loyalty and honesty. Dating time is the time when both parties show the best in them; both dress nicely, show patience during conversation and being too assertive, showing too much of Machismo work counterproductive during dating.
Generally it is the boy, who takes initiative for dating. It would be impolite for a boy not to invite a girl for lunch or a movie on the first date. It would mean that the boy is not serious, if he does not invite her for an outgoing, social first or second date. However, Thai society is more liberal than many Asian countries and a girl can also take the first step towards dating. In fact, nowadays, data is emerging that girls in the age group of 19-27 earn more than boys and are taking more initiative for dating. During dating, casual but neat dress is in vogue for boys, however, both boy and girl appear to be totally masked with rich perfume.
Thai people have firm belief in their culture and convictions. During dating they do expect certain essential manners: the partner should be clean, nice-smelling, and dressed neatly. A date should not to talk with too many adjectives and should let emotions show up gradually and normally, not complaining or cribbing too much about any thing. A partner should not visit the other’s relatives if they do not want to continue relations as they do not want to lose face. A date should not show social superiority, nor attempt public demonstrations of affection. One should compliment the partner when it is deserved, appreciating other person’s shortcomings if any. A man should carry a woman’s bags and occasionally present small gifts for her parents too.
More advice: never be late for a meeting, do not go to a bar if it is a first meeting, do not ask for going to bed in first few meetings, do not make dirty jokes, do not be arrogant (to your date or to anyone else – for example don’t be arrogant to your waiter), and do not make vulgar displays of wealth. A man should not object if his date wishes to take her friend during first few meetings as she may take time to gain confidence in him.
Finally, the idea of ‘sanuk’ (fun) is central to Thai society and dominates the dating spirit. For Thai people, this part of life is probably the most cherished memory of their lifetimes. 

This article on Thai dating culture was written by R S Chawla, a 43-year-old male accountant from India who has traveled in 14 different countries with a passion for understanding various cultures. The author now lives in Canada and last traveled to Thailand in 2005. He also visited in 2002 and 2004 and has spent a total of about 30 days in Thailand. While staying in Bangcock in 2004, Mr. Chawla befriended an English speaking taxi driver. The two became friends, and Mr Chawla stayed a night in the taxi driver’s apartment, which was just outside of Bangkok near a canal that stunk so bad it was hard to breathe. There, the taxi driver and his wife, guided him a lot so that he could have a better understanding Thai people and Thai culture.

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