Thai Culture

Regardless of culture, humans have more in common than they have differences. However, there are cultural differences, and some can mean some serious issues. Many differences are subcultural rather than cultural, i.e., not all Thais are the same. My own experience plus that of my farang friends and associates is most remarkable, and I’ll do my best to structure it here.

Overall, the vast majority of farangs have Thai girlfriends from the farang bar-girl and freelancer scene. A smaller percentage are Thai ladies from the offices of multinational companies (usually met in the office), and Thai ladies attending universities (often met via Internet). A still smaller percentage is Thai ladies from none of the above, and what I’ll generally categorize as from social encounters — the general blue collar workforce, or born wealthy and idling, or supported by their extended family, etc. (Low level sales ladies in department stores and the like are often in a grey area, in-between.)

There are major differences between “mainstream” ladies and bargirls/freelancers. While there are many sorts, most of them will not get in bed with you quickly. (How long varies from a few dates to a few months. Those waiting until marriage now make up a small minority.) They will expect you to be faithful to them. You must know how to be reasonably polite and proper in Thai culture if you ever expect to get far. Sukhumvit and Pattaya norms are not acceptable — this is a different subculture.

When in public in Thailand, it’s important to not overdo physical contact. Watch Thai couples. They may touch hands or arms occasionally, but they don’t walk down the road arm in arm, and don’t even hold hands much. Nonetheless, the looks in your eyes, smiles, and gentle affectionate touching which flows naturally is quite acceptable in contemporary Bangkok culture. Of course, unnatural, “forced” contact is a turn-off. Kissing in public is something you should never do in Thailand

marrying a thai


Marriage in Thailand is not a difficult process. As a foreigner you are allowed to register your marriage to a Thai national or to another foreigner.
Marrying a Thai
A foreigner is eligble to marry a Thai national. The process is as follows:
You will need to first visit you embassy. You will need to have an “affadavit of freedom to marry” prepared and endorsed by the Consul. This is a document basically stating that your are not currenty married and are free and available to enter nuptials. You will need to provide divorce or death certificates if applicable.

We will then legally translate this “affadavit” and our lawyers will have the translation notarized, and the consul signature verified at the Thai Department of Naturalization. The government fee for this is 400 Baht per document. Translation, notary, and signature verifcation process is normally 2-3 days.

After you have the completed documents you are eligble to marry in Thailand at any local government amphur office. The Thai national will require his/her Thai ID card. Please Note: If you are interested in a Pre-Nuptial agreement, it must to registered at this time.

Foreigner/ Foreigner Marriage

Thai marriage is considered legal in most countries of the world. Both parties will need to visit their respective embassies to obtain a “Affadavit of Freedom to Marry”. This basically states they are not already married. They will need to provide divorce or death certificates if applicable.

We will then legally translate both “affadavits” and our lawyers will have the translation notarized, and the consul signature verified at the Thai Department of Naturalization. The government fee for this is 400 Baht per document. Translation, notary, and signature verifcation process is normally 2-3 days.

After you have the completed documents you are eligble to marry in Thailand at any local government amphur office. Please Note: If you are interested in a Pre-Nuptial agreement, it must to registered at this time.

If you are going to retire to Thailand and if you are over 50 years of age you should obtain a Retirement Visa. It’s that simple.

If you don’t then you will be doing a “visa run” every month like thousands or tens of thousands of other foreigners. For those of you not acquainted to the term visa run it is a trip outside of the country to get your passport stamped. It is time consuming, costly if you have to do it every month and just a nuisance. It appears that new Immigration Law to be put into effect soon will limit you to 3 entries and then you will have to return home for 3 months and then apply for a tourist visa and then return IF you do not have a long term visa.

When I first considered retiring to Thailand I read about the visa runs and I wondered what I could do to avoid doing that. Well all you have to do is to get yourself a Retirement Visa. It normally takes 4-6 weeks to obtain from the time your completed application and fee is sent to the Royal Thai Embassy or Thai Consulate.

The requirements include a criminal check where you will probably have to pay a small fee to get the local police to check you out and then issue a form. The other requirements include a medical certificate from your physician saying that you do not have Aids, TB and a few other communicable diseases. Along with my application I submitted a letter from my bank stating that I had considerably more than the amount required by the Royal Thai Government which was 800,000 baht or about $22,000 U.S.

When it come time to submit your application it will be in the form of an original and and 4 copies which have to be notarized and a fee of approximately $120. payable to the Royal Thai Embassy. It is all mailed to them by courier with a prepaid return envelope.

If things go well you will get your passport returned to you within 4-6 weeks with the Retirement Visa inside. It takes a page and looks like it was stamped on the paper.

After that you are required to go to the Immigration office every 3 months and fill out a form showing your current address and phone number. It takes about 10 minutes and they attach part of the completed form into your passport and then you are all set for another 90 days. Much better than a visa run.

Now I have read that the age requirement is 50 and I have also read that the age requirement is 55 for the Retirement Visa. I applied at 52 and I can tell you that the age requirement is 50 years of age.

The total cost of my retirement visa was about $300 Canadian. That includes the fee to the Royal Thai Government, fee for criminal check, fee for notarizing the forms, prepaid courier to Royal Thai embassy, prepaid courier for return courier from Royal Thai embassy, and gas for 2 trips to the police station, gas to the lawyer, gas for trips to bank, and miscellaneous. But when you look back after you have the retirement visa the fee you realize is well worth it.

A Retirement Visa can be applied for from your local Consulate or Embassy where you live outside of Thailand OR when you are in Thailand.

With our service we advice you where you should apply, how much money you should bring, when you should bring it and what you should do with it when you have it here. This may souund simple and straight forward but IT IS NOT. We can save you approximately $ 1,800 U.S. on just information about money management dealing with the Retirement Visa requirements.

NOTE: In most cases we suggest applying for a Retirement Visa while you are still in your home country.

NOTE: You can lose upwards of 9% on your money in foreign exchange fees imposed by the banks.

NOTE: What you read in the way of requirements for a Retirement Visa may seem straight forward and you may think you understand but trust us. You have to know what you are doing or IT WILL COST YOU MONEY.

So we are here to save you money, and time and make the move here less work than it has to be. From Retirement Visa, to moving here which includes what to bring and what not to bring, saving money on transportation costs, and then when you arrive here we will help you find accommodations that are affordable and within your budget yet with the comforts of home.

There are firms that will charge you for preparing your Retirement Visa. That is all that they do. They do not advise on anything else and there is money to be saved on everything else from transportation, money management, investing, and more.

Things to Remember:

After you have your Retirement Visa and should you decide to leave the country you must obtain either a re-entry permit (single entry or multiple entry). I believe that the single entry permit cost me 1,000 baht or about $25 U.S. If you leave and do not obtain a re-entry permit then say good-bye to your retirement visa.

Before the retirement visa expires it is a matter of paying a fee of 1,000 baht, having a medical certificate from a physician ( 100 baht ) and a Thai bank statement showing at least 800,000 baht, and a current photo. Once this information is shown to Immigration officials then another retirement visa will likely be issued which is good for another year and should be ready same day if you applied in the morning. You would still be required to visit Immigration offices in Thailand every 90 days to provide them with your current telephone number and address and also you would be required to leave the country at least once a year (could be any neighboring country for a brief visit), and remember to obtain a re-entry permit if you intend to leave Thailand.

Note: With the recent changes to Immigration policy the the money money must now be in the account and remain in the account for 90 days before application or renewal. This is one of the new rules for Thai visa’s and you should be aware of all the changes and how they will affect your decision to stay in Thailand or to retire to Thailand.

A person married to a Thai is eligible for a three month Non-Immigrant Category B visa, extendible up to one year. Proof of 400,000 baht ($10,000) in a Thai bank, or foreign income or pension to the value of 40,000 baht per month is required. The above changes will probably apply too – better to show a higher bank balance.

So that’s it. Fairly simple but what I learned is that you should not believe everything you read on the internet about the retirement visa. For example I have seen on a number of occasions the age requirement being shown as 55. There are other things that I noticed and which we pass on to our clients when we advise them about the process and get into the details.

The Immigration office in Chiang Mai is located very near to the airport. For the routine visits every 90 days go to the building on the left side as you drive in. For re-entry permit go to the building on the right hand side. They have a small restaurant and a area where photocopies can be made and photos taken more towards the back of their property.

Staying on the Visa topic note that citizens from 57 countries can enter Thailand without charge for 30 days without a visa. These countries include U.S.A., U. K., Australia, South Africa, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada as well as most European countries.

Your passport must be valid for 6 months beyond your planned departure.

A tourist visa is good for 60 days and can be gotten through a Thai Embassy or consulate in your country. This can be done by mail. The cost is $25. Once issued, the visa must be used (started) within 90 days of the date issued. The visa is invalid upon departure from Thailand even if the visitor hasn’t stayed 60 days.

There are other types of visa but generally they don’t apply to visiting Thailand for a holiday.

Overstaying your visa is a serious matter and should not be taken lightly. On the one hand, you can clear up an overstay when you leave Thailand by paying your fine at the airport- 200 Baht per day with a maxiumum of 20,000 Baht.

On the other hand, you can be subject to arrest even if the police stop you for something else. Being arrested is fairly common and it is extremely unpleasant.

In addition to fines and detention, it is possible to be deported and black listed. That could mean that you can never return to Thailand.

The Thai Government realizes that seniors make great visitors. That they have the money and that they can stay longer. Unfortunately in my opinion they do not realize that seniors particularly men want someone to share their lives with and at times come here for the affordability, climate and also for the Thai ladies who are seeking marriage minded men.

If the Thai Government wanted to encourage seniors to spend more money and more seniors to come here to Thailand to retire then they should change the home ownership laws. From what I understand foreigners can own condo’s but not houses. So what happens is that the farang (foreigner) comes here and meets a lady and they develop a long lasting relationship. The farang decides to buy a house and has to put it in her name. Being a smart and cautious farang he has to figure out a way around the existing home ownership laws just in case the Thai lady gives him the boot. So they put the house in her name and she signs a long term lease allowing him to stay there for almost nothing. It works and most farang-Thai couples do it this way. But is this necessary? Come on now do you want farangs to come here to retire or not?

What I think is a great deal is that of coming here for medical treatment. This can be major dental work, a hair transplant, a heart operation, or liposcution or breast enhancement for the females. The costs here are so much less and the treatments performed by qualified physicians that it is a good idea to come here for a vacation and get this medical treatment performed and then return home with money in your pocket from what it would have cost you back home for the medical treatment. As I write on another page in the web site, I wish I had known about this sooner as I would have taken advantage of this and had 3-4 Free Vacations to Thailand by now.

If there is something that is particularly annoying to me it is the quality of the health care back home. In my case that is Canada. I can remember when a trip to the doctor involved a short wait and you were treated promptly and effectively. Now I find that you make an appointment, wait an hour to two hours after your scheduled appointment time to see the doctor who is always behind schedule because they want to maximize their earnings and then they get you to keep coming back when they don’t have the slightest clue what ails you or how to treat you. When a specialist needs to be seen it takes 1-2 months wait and then you find out how incompetent your physician really was when the specialist diagnoses the problems and prescribes the treatment after seeing you for only 10 minutes.

It might sound like I am a complainer. Well I can be at times. And if we don’t complain when we have reason things will not get better on their own.

So there you have it information about the Retirement Visa, some details about other Visa’s, and some whinnying about health care and about property ownership laws here in Thailand for home buying farangs. Well no place is perfect and there are a few things that irritate me and which I cannot understand but so is life.

I do urge anyone coming here to retire to obtain a Retirement Visa.

We can help you with the process whether you want to apply when you are back home or apply after you decide to make this home.

Any marriage in Thailand must be performed according to Thai law and any detailed questions on the procedure should be addressed to the appropriate Thai authorities. Some guidance is provided on the website of the Royal Thai Embassy in London.

The Thai authorities require that any foreign national wishing to marry in Thailand obtain an “affirmation of freedom to marry”. This affirmation must be made in person at the Consular Section of the British Embassy in Bangkok. It is not possible to obtain the affirmation from the United Kingdom in advance.

The marriage will only be recognised under UK law if it is valid under Thai law. For it to be valid in Thai law, the marriage must be registered with the Registrar at an Amphur Office (District Office). A religious ceremony on its own is not recognised as being valid under Thai law.

The Thai marriage certificate will be in Thai only. You may wish to commission a “sworn translation” of the marriage certificate from a translation bureau, so that you can use the document for legal purposes in the U.K.

Consular Section can arrange for your marriage certificate to be deposited with the General Register Office (GRO) in the United Kingdom. This not a legal obligation and has no bearing on the validity or otherwise of the marriage. It simply means that you are able to obtain a certified copy of your marriage certificate directly from the GRO, should you need to do so in the future. Please ask us for further details if you wish do this.

Stickman’s guide to Bangkok

A very interesting article and one in which his observations are absolutely spot on. Where I find the article less than good is explaining why the Thais act as they do - he rather takes the view that the western way is correct and that Thai culture is simply misguided in its outlook. I think if you dig a little deeper, you can fully understand why Thais think and act as they do.

Let me explain.

1. The Thai way. Thais place the family unit above all else. An individual - including yourself - is placed below the family unit. A Thai is brought up to believe that the order goes like this - family, themselves, their children, their parents, their husband and extended family and then their friends. This cultural tradition is born out of necessity - Thai families are generally very poor - they need to become richer to survive. Thais are taught to help their family when they are young so that the family survives and with the expressed knowledge that if they as an individual fall on hard times (or grow old and frail), then the family will look after them.

2. The western way. In western culture the individual is placed above all else. The most important relationship we are expected to have is with our wife so our order goes like this. The individual, your wife, the kids, our friends, then our parents and perhaps then extended family, acquaintances and business colleagues. Our families are rich and we are brought up to believe in independence from our families. How many westerners live with their parents after the age of 21? Parents do not wish to depend on their children when they get old - they look for independence too.

Once you understand this the different attitudes and actions of both farangs and Thais begin to make a lot more sense.

Take love for instance.

Thais do not hold a romantic view of love. They consider a potential husband as someone who they can get along well with but principally as an ideal partner to bring up their children and provide support for the enlarged family as a whole. They do not consider marital fidelity to be that important so long as the husband remains faithful to the family unit which encompasses, the wife, children and the extended family.

The husband is expected to support the parents and the extended family. If he doesn’t or is reluctant to do so, they simply do not understand. Why would their daughter marry someone who is rich if he is not prepared to help out the ‘family unit’? When you marry a Thai, you are marrying not the girl but her whole family.

Westerners generally hold a ‘romantic’ view of love. That the wife is a soulmate and best friend irrespective of looks or wealth. That this love forms an ideal family unit and that the children are an expression of that love. Westerners find it very hard to understand the constant demands to help and support the wider family after they are married because the concept is not part of their culture.

Look at the ways Thais act in business. Remember everything is subservient to holding the family unit together and enriching the family unit - everything else is expendable including the truth. The concept of truth does not extend passed the immediate family and even the truth is expendable if it helps keeps the family unit together. Thais view the stock market as a way of selling part of their business, to enrich their family without giving up any control. They see it as enriching themselves and the family unit at the expense of minority shareholders. They do not expect minority shareholders to trust them because they are inherently trying to rip them off.

To a western view of thinking the stock market is supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement. Minority shareholders invest in you in the belief that you will build value in the company and that that value will then be passed back to minority shareholders in the form of dividends or the rise in the stock price.

Thais simply don’t understand this concept. They know that the major Thai shareholders are trying to rip them off and so don’t understand the concept of investing in their business. They are happy to ‘play’ shares but they know that it is simply a ‘gamble’ rather than an investment.

Being brought up in the West we naturally tend to think our ‘culture’ is right and the Thai ‘culture’ is wrong. We place an enormous value on the individual and truth, The Thais do not. It is best to remember though, that their culture has its root in necessity.

In some respects it is also difficult to see which culture is the most successful. The Thais place the family above everything else and recognise the importance of money in a relationship. As a result Thai marriages are more successful in terms of resulting in less divorces and bringing up children within the extended family unit. Western marriages tend to fall apart over such flimsy things as the husband shagging around. Now of course westerners are usually rich enough to afford divorce but it is inherently a selfish act that is done to the detriment of the family as a whole.

For myself I am somewhere in between. I mean I don’t really believe in romantic love, I fully appreciate the importance of money or looks in bringing happiness and I feel that the western view of romantic love (irrespective of things like money and looks) is simply a case of westerners lying to themselves . On the other hand I do believe in the value of honesty and of independence from the family - in fact I believe it is difficult to build a lasting friendship (which is ultimately based on understanding) without a foundation of truth and mutual trust.

For society as a whole (rather than me as an individual) I am not sure which works best but I tend to favour Thai ‘culture’. Seems to me that western culture simply isn’t working. Most marriages are failing and those that stick together are not necessarily happy. Thai ‘culture’ is immersed in ‘family values’ something that the West dispensed with sometime ago.

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