Dating In Thailand: Social Norms, Traditions, & More To Guide Your Search For Love

Thai social norms in dating

Meeting new people can be difficult as it is. But add in dating traditions and highly specific social norms and that can lead to all sorts of miscommunication. Having spent my late teens and early twenties abroad, coming home and going out got me so confused that most Thais didn’t even think I understood my own mother tongue.

So that you don’t have to go through some of the trials and tribulations I went through, here are some of the social norms in dating here in Thailand that you should know if you want to find love in the Land of Smiles. These are packed with lessons I’ve learned from firsthand experience as well as through experienced friends who felt pity for me (but not before enjoying a few laughs).

1. Indirect rejections are common

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Thais are very conflict-averse. This means that it’s easy to plough right through past a subtle rejection.

Some of the most common ones can be easy to pick up on: constant flaking and ghosting. If they’re always rescheduling on you, it is highly likely that you’re quite low on their list of priorities. Of course, there are people who are genuinely busy, so keep a close eye out.

If they’re asking to invite another friend into a date, then it’s also highly likely they’re looking to bail.

One that is particularly malicious is when a situationship lasts just a bit too long. If that’s the case, then it’s usually because while the other party kind of enjoys your company, it’s not enough for them to fully commit to.

The bottom line is this: they’re looking for a peaceful way out that saves both people of unnecessary embarrassment.

2. Most relationships blossom out of existing social circles

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It is becoming increasingly common to meet others on dating apps, but for the most part, Thais will usually form romantic relationships from friends or friends of friends.

That’s why if you want to meet someone, your best bet is to meet up with people with similar hobbies. I’ve seen countless couples form in local sports clubs and gaming groups.

This isn’t because dating apps are frowned upon, but usually it’s just because Thais tend to quite wary of people outside their usual circle even if they act hospitable.

3. A situationship is more official than you think

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Because most relationships stem from existing friendships, a lot of time will be spent in a weird limbo where neither party is confident enough to make a concrete step forward. Sometimes it’s just nerves, sometimes it’s because they worry for the group dynamic if a rejection were on the cards.

What all this means is that you’re often in situationship for a long time. In Thai, we’d call this particular status chuang-kui (ช่วงคุย, lit. talking period). While in western cultures, it may be okay to casually “talk” to multiple people at the same time, it’s generally frowned upon to be seriously courting multiple partners simultaneously.

Situationships are serious business in Thailand. In fact, many pop songs are dedicated to lamenting over the feelings of both frustration and hope during this period. Some of my friends have had situationships that last over two years during college. But of course, that usually means that one of them simply just wasn’t that into the other.

4. A family’s disapproval may supersede your love

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In Asian cultures, the family’s approval can make or break any endeavour. This, of course, includes romance.

There’s a stereotype that in-laws are the worst, but in Thailand, if your potential in-laws don’t like you, you probably won’t even get to that point.

It’s gotten much less extreme over the years, but there are still stories of parents being very restrictive with who their kids date.

This restriction can be so severe that kids will get disowned and be asked to return the things their parents bought them. In the worst cases, they’ll even be asked to repay the cost of their education.

So don’t be surprised if your potential partner shies away if you don’t get along with the in-laws.

5. Dowries still exist for some Thais

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While this is very uncommon nowadays, dowries still exist in certain communities within Thailand. In Thai, these dowries are called sin sod (สินสอด).

These are payments made by the groom to the bride’s parents. While some will ask for only a small amount that’ll ultimately go into the cost of the wedding or a house for the new couple, some will ask for amounts that will be shocking.

This is a deeply-rooted part of Thai culture that has mixed responses, even among Thais. The younger generation generally frowns upon this practice, with many say that it feels like the girls are being sold off.

On the other hand, some of the older explanations for why this practice exists is for the groom to show that he can financially support the bride in starting a new family. Which is why some families will use the sin sod to directly support the new couple, usually paying for the cost of the wedding or a new home.

If you were to ever be in precarious situation regarding sin sod, one of the biggest factors to think about is how to navigate your way to a solution that’ll save “face” for everyone involved. This’ll require a lot of patience and understanding, as well as support from your partner.

6. Mia Noi & the extra-marital affair problem

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In Thai, mia noi (เมียน้อย, lit. minor wife) is a mistress.

It’s no secret that Thailand frequently tops the infidelity charts. Even as recent as 2023, as high as 61% of Thais admit to adultery. Older studies, like the one by condom manufacturer Durex back in 2012, also say 59% of the Thai women surveyed admitted to cheating on their partners, putting them 2nd in the world.

While this might prompt someone to say that adultery is largely gender-neutral in Thailand, the truth is that it’s a bit more complicated than that. Although it’s largely frowned upon now, it’s much more socially acceptable for men to unofficially have a “second wife” as discussed here.

Ultimately, what we can say is this: you and your partner are the people who define what your relationship is. That means that if you would like to be in a polyamorous relationship, then that is okay so long as your partner is also okay with it. Just be sure to be clear about personal boundaries that’ll keep you sane and happy.

Thai social norms to guide your search for love

Regardless of culture, dating is a negotiation between two people on how they’d like to be together, if at all. Like most good negotiations, it’s good to meet somewhere in the middle and find a happy medium where you don’t step on the shoes of local culture while feeling comfortable enough to be happy. Hopefully, this list of Thai social norms in dating will help guide your quest for the elusive “the one”.

For a deeper dive into Thai love culture, check out our article on Thai superstitions regarding romance as well as this list of Bangkok shrines that locals love praying at for love. But if you prefer to learn about Thai love through song, here’s a list of Thai singers that’ll get you in the mood.

Cover image adapted from: Norbert Braun via Unsplash