Stereotypes in Thailand Can Bring Out the Worst in People

I remember hearing a story a few years ago that really shocked me. This elderly gent was walking around Chiang Mai with a young Thai woman beside him. A western female approached the couple and loudly accused him of being a dirty pedophile. The man was innocently walking around with his daughter and he had to put up with this type of abuse – imagine how he felt and imagine how his daughter felt. I’m sure that this is not an isolated innocent and it really is a shame. Can I expect that one day somebody will approach me when I’m out with my son and accuse me of the same? I’ve no idea how I’d react to that but probably not very well.

One thing that I’ve always found a bit unsettling living in Thailand is the abundance of negative stereotypes towards western men. I’m not really talking here about the negative way that Thai people might view us (this does happen) but with the way we view each other. We seem to now live in a very black and white world and we like to label people as if there was no such a thing as individuality – there is good and bad and no inbetween. This means that every Thai women with a western man is on the game and every western man is viewed as a sex tourist – no excuses. Even those people who are otherwise quite liberal in their views can be very unfair when it comes to stereotypes in Thailand. We can make our minds up about people even though we really know nothing about them – don’t get me wrong, I’m not immune to doing this type of thing myself. It is just a bit sad that we always suspect the worst and never the best.

I suppose that there is nothing we can do about negative stereotypes; it’s just the way things are. This is something that I want to stop doing so much myself though because it is probably not the healthiest way to deal with the world. The reality is that the people who are probably most deserving of suspicion and negative opinions are the ones who never even make it onto our radar. Those like that respectable woman in England this week who shoved a neighbour’s cat in a dumpster becuse she thought nobody was looking.

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14 thoughts on “Stereotypes in Thailand Can Bring Out the Worst in People

  1. Hi Paul,
    I have a good friend back in England who has Thai girlfriend over here. They only see each other when he comes over but they have been an item for some time. They would like to take their relationship to the next level but he doesn’t have the means to move to Thailand and he can’t have her come to England because he is so worried about what people would say. Not least of all his 21 year old daaughter who is only 2 years younger than his girlfriend. The attitudes of others towards a situation they don’t understand and is none of their business anyway, are preventing 2 people from finding happiness together. It’s such a shame that this happens so often.
    P.S. i would love to sling that women into a dumpster head first and i wouldn’t care if the whole world was watching. I can’t abide cruelty to animals.
    take care Paul…………….tom yam

    1. Hi Tom Yam, people do like to think the worst. People will make all types of assumptions on the most minimum of information. It is easier to just approach the world with broad strokes than to consider the possibility that people and thier stories are complex.

  2. I feel so bad for that guy, but have to think that if it was me I would just bring the girlfriend over and to hell with what others are thinking. He would quickly find out who his true friends are.

    I suppose I have been lucky as I live in a smallish town here in the U.S. and most of the people Golf and I meet don’t even know where Thailand is, let alone have any preconceived notions or stereotypes about the country. Many have been the times when people asked where Golf is from and when we tell them “Thailand” they look at us in puzzlement and say “What was that…Taiwan?”.

    1. Hi Steve, I must admit that my wife has always been treated well when we visit Ireland – most people think assume she is a Filipino. I do sometimes get the ‘wink wink’ comment from men when they find out she is Thai. I know a lot of women because of my previous job as a nurse. Many of these women do have a negative view of western men with Thai women, but they seem to have a preconceived idea about what this ‘western man’ looks like – desperate and unable to find love anywhere else. We have a lot of Filipinos living in Ireland and people wouldn’t think twice about an Irish man married to somebody from the Philippines – strange.

  3. Paul personally I find that I do stereotype people and that I worry about their view of me. Duen is half my age and the same age as my oldest daughter.

    This certainly affects my thinking about taking her to the UK even for a holiday. Stupid I know.

    Here in Thailand I am much less concious of our age difference but occasionally we do get some “looks” from Western women who I assume are tourists.

    I certainly don’t like the label of sex tourist, since I have never been one and my partner has never worked in the entertainment industry here.

    This negative stereotyping may well be why many Western men living happily in Thailand avoid other expats and tourists. I know I do.

    1. I think that you may be right Mike about the fear of stereotyping making ex-pats weary of other westerners in Thailand. Perhaps it isn’t always unfriendliness that makes westerners stare blankly at one another; perhaps fear of judgement does play a part. The fact that I’m so open about my own personal history, allowing drink to almost destroy me, means that I’m quite used to being stereotyped. The fact that I’m Irish likely adds to this. This type of thing doesn’t worry me too much anymore though – I just think it is a shame. When you have reached such publically low points as begging on the streets (something I did in my twenties) you become a lot more immune to what people think of you.

  4. I read the same story as well, and my heart bled for the guy.

    ‘the abundance of negative stereotypes towards western men’

    Thailand does seem to be on the receiving end of it more than other countries, but all of us have experienced stereotyping elsewhere. It doesn’t make it any less infuriating when it happens in Thailand though.

    And yes, human nature being what it is, we all do it to some extent. I was going to create a list just now, but as it had the tendency to grow HUGE, I passed 😉

    1. Thanks Catherine, I suppose the only thing that any of us can do is try to monitor our own perceptions. I really do believe that I get more from life when I prejudge as little as possible – of course this is a lot easier said than done.

  5. The only time I received public comments in Thailand was from Thai people. I’m wondering if a similar situation will ever happen to me though, when I walk around with my daughter in 10 or so years. Not too sure how I would react!

  6. Great post Paul, you’ve definitely hit a nail right on the head with this.

    Personally, as a relative youngster out here I don’t get too much negative attention, though the fact that my wife and I are young with kids has prompted some comments, typically behind our backs, from locals. I put this down to jealousy or simply not understanding.

    Ironically people at home have never said anything, my wife lived in England for years and speaks like a local – to the point that some Thais think she is foreign.

    Funny how it goes sometimes.

    1. Hi Jon, I think your age would make a difference. When my wife is back in Ireland there are always people coming up to her and speaking Tagalog – we don’t have many Thai people.

  7. At work I often hear the guys talking about the so called Thai brides thing. It’s so borish & amusing at the same time to hear them going on about subjects they have absolutely no idee about!

    Their knowledge mostly originates from low class rags like the Sun. These papers churn out such fiction, and the really sad part about it is that these people believe it! Hence more stereotyping and name calling.

    The power of the force over the weak minded lol (obi wan)

    1. Hi Mark, I to think that a major problem with the world is that many of us have opinions and no real knowledge to back it up. We get our views from the media without realising that the media is all about providing titillation and shocks so that we are willing to keep the industry going.

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