Thai Women; Pros and Cons of starting a business with them

By Ron (from Australia)

Typically, many Thai women are looking for long term security. If you are in a long term relationship with a Thai girl, one of the most common requests is to provide the funds needed to open a business. I have lived in Thailand for many years and have experienced this first hand. Whenever a relationship starts to get serious, my Thai girlfriend at the time would ask me to help her with a business start-up. In all honesty, the success of the business depends on the personality of your girl.

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Some see a business as a tool to show their friends and family that they are in a serious relationship. Others use the opening of a business to show off to their friends. It is possible to start a business with very little capital. Of course, this depends on the nature of the business. A large bar or restaurant may be an expensive investment whilst a small salon would require a small amount of capital.

If your financial situation allows it, opening a business can be a great way to improve a relationship. It shows your girlfriend that you are committed and that allows them to relax. If your girlfriend is anxious about your long term intentions, she can become possessive and untrusting. This was the case with my current girlfriend. She knew all about my history and my past. I had a reputation for playing the field which could cause many problems between us. When I gave her the money to open a business, this anxiousness was reduced significantly.

Increased freedom

Providing that your Thai girlfriend commits herself to the running of the business, you will enjoy much more freedom. Thai women are very easily amused. They are happy to sit in the home and watch TV, cook food and chat to friends. If you want to go somewhere then they are more than happy to accompany you. Whilst this can be fun at first, I found that after some time I was feeling a little trapped. I wanted some space to enjoy myself on my own. I don’t think it is healthy to spend every hour of every day with one person. It certainly isn’t conducive to a healthy relationship. My girlfriend is responsible for the day to day operation of a salon and a bar. She is the manager of both businesses and is in charge of everything. I have watched her grow as a person with the added responsibility that I have given to her, which makes her even more attractive to me. She struggled at first with some organisational aspects and I also needed to explain to her the importance of marketing, stock control and financial management.

The businesses have been successfully operating now for nearly one year. I am free to go and play a round of golf, visit friends or relax in a bar. They may seem like simple activities to enjoy, but Thai women that are bored or possessive can make them difficult to enjoy.

Helping my girlfriend to overcome short term thinking

Thai women are renowned for short term thinking. My girlfriend only considers the events of the current day. It has been very difficult to change her mindset so that she recognises the importance of planning. The following story particularly emphasises this point.

We had just opened the bar and our supplier was based approximately 30kms from our location. I entrusted my girlfriend with the task of ensuring that the bar was fully stocked whilst I went out to play golf. Upon returning, I noticed that the fridge was suitably full and there was enough spirits behind the bar. I thought nothing else about it. The following morning I had intended to go to collect my friend from Bangkok airport. Thirty minutes into the journey I received a frantic call from my Thai girlfriend informing me that we were out of stock. How could this happen? She had only visited our supplier the previous day. My girlfriend had only bought enough stock to last for two days. Apparently we were extremely busy and the stock had been sold in a single day. Upon asking why she had not bought stock to last for one week, she replied that it was very expensive. It did not matter how many times I explained that we would have to buy stock regardless. She simply could not understand, and the benefits of buying in bulk at reduced prices totally baffled her.

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Potential for making money

All businesses have the potential to make money and Thai women certainly love making a profit. When they see the possibility of increasing their bank balance, most Thai women fully commit to the business. A profitable business can also help to ease the burden of supporting your girlfriend and her family. There may also be the opportunity to employ some members of her family. My Thai girlfriend currently has three family members working for her. She certainly enjoys being the boss and the status that goes with it.

One of the main problems that I had with the financial side of things was in relation to working capital. If the business made a profit of 10,000 baht in one week then my girlfriend wrongfully assumed that she was free to spend it on what she wants. Make sure that your girlfriend understands the need to re-invest some of the profits back into the business itself. You should also be aware that if your relationship comes to an end, your girlfriend is entitled to the business in its entirety. Never invest money that you cannot afford to lose.

I have to admit, my girlfriend is now doing a great job of managing the businesses. However, she is still capable of the odd mistake. The bar that she owns is directly opposite another bar. We have a nice outside space with a canopy for sitting outside and watching the world go by. I was enjoying a cold beer in this very spot when a team of Australian rugby players approached the bar. They were undecided as to which bar to visit. After calling them over, I tempted them inside with the offer of a bottle of tequila free of charge.

They stayed for a number of hours, spent a substantial amount of money and really enjoyed their time in the bar. Profit wise, it had been a particularly good day. That was not how my Thai girlfriend saw it. She was angry that I had given away a 350 baht bottle of tequila for free. Explaining that they spent over 25,000 baht in one afternoon in the bar, I was confident that she would see the overall benefit. To this very day she still brings it up in conversations; this is just typical.

Thai women can be very frustrating

I would certainly recommend opening a business with your girlfriend. It can be a great way to learn about her strengths and weaknesses. It has significantly improved my relationship with my girl. You should be prepared to offer your advice and guidance until she learns how to operate the venture successfully. It requires a lot of patience on your behalf but the advantages certainly outweigh the disadvantages.

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Key Learning Points:

  • On the issue of Thai women business partners, the enterprises that westerners usually form with them generally fall into two camps. I suspect that this story has a little of both camps instilled in its raison d’être. The first sort of business is the sort that you and I are well aware of, the one where profit is the sole motive. The second sort, which is common with westerners in Thailand, operates more as a social vehicle than a profit making vehicle. For example, many expats in Thailand buy beer bars and use them as a meeting point for whiling away the hours with friends. In Ron’s case it is clear that the business allows him to gain some independence from his girlfriend, and a few hours of valuable alone-time. Remember that being alone is not a Thai thing and that Thai women spend a very large part of their time with their men, which usually feels a bit claustrophobic for most western men after a while.
  • On the issue of Thai business motives there is again a bit of a difference with western motives. Thai women and men alike place a great deal of emphasis on status and gaining face. In Ron’s story, his girlfriend would have gained a great deal of face from being a business manager. This is not a problem in itself, but it can be at the root of some problems if the status thing gets in the way of sound business decisions. For example, using the beer bar example again, it is not uncommon that an ex-bar girl would use the business purely as a face-gaining vehicle by giving away free drinks to her friends. It’s a show of Nam Jai of sorts – although it wouldn’t be a very good show of Nam Jai if it causes an unsuspecting westerner to fund a failing business for excessive amounts of this sort of behaviour.
  • Investing in a small business with your girlfriend will indeed increase her confidence in you and your relationship with her. If you have found the right girl, and you are interested in running a business in Thailand, this is a good way of bringing you closer together and you will have a ready bunch of helping hands in the form of your girl’s family. The key is to find the right girl, don’t even consider any kind of financial linkage with any Thai women that you are not completely certain of. Ron is quite right that you shouldn’t invest more than you are happy to walk away from – this is a common sentiment amongst many in the expat community.

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