Praew (a Thai lady in Bangkok)
I agree with your article about PDA in Thailand (public displays of affection) and saving-face. You should pay attention not to express your affection with your girl in public and you should be aware of the importance of saving face and avoiding confrontation in public, this could confuse you a lot when dating a Thai girl.
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It’s quite true that showing affection in public is not really the Thai way of expressing love, even within a family. The more you go out into rural areas, the more distant families are in terms of expressing their love to their spouse or children. You won’t find kisses or hugging in many families. They don’t really even pay compliments or say beautiful things to one another. Sometimes you hear them calling each other names, or making fun of one another’s appearances. You would probably just scratch your head and wonder, where’s the love?!
The practise of PDA in Thailand might seem odd to you, for example, making jokes of each other in a family or among close friends is a way of showing that you care, and it is much more common than any sort of physical embracing and so on. When you poke fun at your loved one you are noticing them and you point out areas where they feel embarrassed (I know how weird it sounds!). However, if you’re not yet familiar with this kind of practice, don’t try to attempt it yourself. You may make it in the wrong way and that will lead to trouble!
Just take note though, if your girl starts making fun of your appearance, don’t get offended. She doesn’t mean to bully you or put you down; instead she’s showing you that she feels at ease with you. She senses that your relationship is close enough to allow such jokes, and this is the sort of PDA in Thailand that you can expect from a local girl.
But can you touch your girl in public at all? That depends where you are and where your girl comes from. If your girl is a bit of a city type and you’re in a big city like Bangkok or a tourist area, people are more tolerant to see a couple expressing their affection in public but your behaviour always has to stay within limits.
PDA in Thailand as regards holding hands, putting your hand on your girlfriend’s shoulder or waist etc. is fine but it has to be in a casual way. Please don’t do any more than that, a Thai girl will feel very uncomfortable if you do. In public, she cares more about what others think towards her rather than how she feels towards you. She doesn’t want to be regarded as an easy girl who got hooked up with a farang (a westerner).
In a stricter environment like a rural area, a girl is likely to be the daily gossip in the village if she is seen with you. She could seem to be traumatized whenever you’re around her, let alone when you try holding her hand in public!
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As you may have noticed, Thais are a gentle people. We rarely say “no” directly to others and we avoid making anyone feel uncomfortable. We prefer to smile or say things which comfort the person we converse with. We save what we think to ourselves. When we hold back things from you, we might share it with a third person who is likely to pass the message to you. This could be a common friend who we share with you. Then, you will know what we think!
This mentality can be applied to dating Thai women. In the western world, if you want to get a girl, you have to show her that you’re the man. When you are interested in a girl you show her that you’re brave by coming to talk to her, asking for her phone number, etc. Thai dating style is the opposite. Being a man doesn’t mean you need to be bold and direct because this is uncomfortable for Thais just like PDA in Thailand.
When approaching a Thai girl, you should use a third person to help you. Send your friend over, or use her friend, and ask them to let the girl you like know that you find her attractive. They will pass on the message that you’re interested in her. Whether it’s a success or a failure, you will know immediately. Because you’re using a third person, nobody will lose face and no girl will feel that they made you lose face.
Also, to ensure that you’re going along with this “avoid the confrontation” theme, when it comes to conversing with a Thai girl, always make sure that you’re not too direct. When you want to know if she has a boyfriend, you don’t ask, “do you have a boyfriend?”, rather you ask something like, “doesn’t your boyfriend go clubbing with you?” The point is that you don’t show your obvious intention that you want to date her. First you should make her feel more comfortable about getting to know you. For Thai women, being bold and direct is not a charming quality in a man, therefore, I advise you to avoid that!
PDA in Thailand is easy to get used to with a little practise, and I agree that ‘saving face in Thailand’ can lead to some confusing white lies, but it is important to try and understand these things if you want to enjoy a successful romance with a Thai girl.
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