Here is a little unsolicited advice, for what it’s worth, if you are thinking about moving from the “friend” level to “boyfriend”. This advice is about cross-cultural relationships. To be specific it is about “westerners” (Caucasians, frankly) called farang here in Thailand, who may think about becoming attached to a Thai fellow romantically.
First, know that you are about to acquire a relationship with an entire clan. You cannot avoid this, nor should you want to. But it tends to complicate things. The clan has “issues” and expects everyone to be involved in appropriate ways. This sometimes takes time and energy that may not seem convenient. But it is a two-way street. When you need help they’ll be there for you if you have bonded with them.
Second, you will never be an insider. You will probably be more “in” than you are now, but it is best to be aware that you will always be different, and one of the most aggravating aspects of this is to be perpetually treated with exclamations of surprise whenever you do anything really Thai. Eating Thai food, going to the temple, speaking Thai colloquially are forever going to be surprising to people. But those things will be a source of pride to those who include you as one of them. Hopefully those groups will be your boyfriend’s clan and his circle of friends. When you eat insects with them they will just glow with happiness…and watch to see what you spit out.
Third, you will have to forfeit a measure of your privacy. Especially if you live in a village setting, everybody will want to know what’s going on. People will drop in unexpectedly and stay or leave according to plans and signals you will only slowly learn to grasp. This is very much governed by relative social status, which is an area of mystery that takes longer to learn than Thai language does…indeed the learning is linked. It is probably best just to adopt the attitude that “my house is your house”.
Fourth, (how shall I put this?) you will be entering a moral milieu that you cannot control. Ambiguity is a hard concept for outsiders to grasp, but it is a key to social success in Thailand. “Just what is going on” is not going to be obvious right away, and it is best not to need to know right away. You will be much happier if you sort out what you need to know(and keep that list very short) from what you do not really need to know. I think most Thai-farang romantic relationships fail on this very issue.
Finally, it is best to start off tentatively and ever so gradually work toward something more lasting. Every relationship is different, but I’d say three or four years would be a minimum trial time before investing any large amount of your heart and resources. The boyfriend has a desperate need to provide for his mother, but if building her a house is something that pops up at the beginning, beware. Anyhow, there are stages beyond “boyfriend”. Take it easy, the climb can be steep and the path fairly long.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.