How to Impress Thai Parents-in-Law

Mission: Impress Thai Parents-in-Law is easier said than done, especially for Western folks. Traditional beliefs (especially in rural parts) tend to clash with the more liberal Western practices. And when they butt heads, it’s not a pretty picture. So, don’t expect smooth sailing 100% of the time!

Asian parents are unfortunately stereotyped as overbearing folks who have a tight leash on their children, all in the name of ensuring their success. Some scholars call this “tiger parenting.” Thai parents get lumped into this group because, well, they’re Asian parents. Also, it may have something to do with the fact that Thai culture strongly emphasizes familial connections to get by in life.

While some do exhibit this behavior, it doesn’t mean that we should generalize a specific community’s parenting methods. How about we try looking at their ways from their point of view instead? Approaching things from their shoes not only earns you brownie points, but it gives you broader perspectives as well. 

Open-mindedness is a key to impressing any parent, really; every parent raises their kids differently, after all. Thais are no exception to this. Earn Thai parents’ seal of genuine approval by keeping these expectations and considerations in mind.

What to Expect and Do When Dealing with Thai Parents

1. Don’t expect to hit it off with your partner’s folks right off the bat

Although times are slowly changing interracial dating norms, this one’s probably standing pat. Is it frustrating? Sure! However, here’s the thing: if you’re culture-shocked, so are they! Different beliefs and upbringings are bound to clash, especially if the two parties are from opposite sides of the globe.

For Thai parents, Western folks are from another planet. Aside from the looks and the possible language barrier, cultural differences may be a challenge. On top of that, they usually expect their children to be married to fellow Thais! 

Don’t get discouraged by those points, though; if you genuinely love your Thai partner, you know you’ll have to exercise more patience and sensitivity when dealing with other cultures. Don’t just sit there and wait for your partner’s parents to give you the thumbs up! Work to earn their respect and trust.

2. Don’t leave them in the dark about your plans

Let’s say you two have plans that may need some convincing from your Thai partner’s folks. For example, both of you plan to live in your home country. Thai parents typically don’t want their daughters to move overseas despite the possibility of having a better future there.

As much as parents want their kids to be under their roof and supervision forever, reality sinks in: Thai adults are grown people. They’re capable of making their decisions independently. 

Make things easier on the parents’ end through concrete and thorough explanations. Paint a detailed picture of your possible future overseas so they’ll see the potential too. Not only will they be kept in the loop, but they’ll also learn to trust you.

3. Get used to changes and adjustments

We all know that Eastern and Western cultures are starkly different. This requires a ton of adjustments on your part to try acclimating to Thai culture. If that alone isn’t challenging enough, there’s also the possible language barrier.

Most Thais consider family as their social life’s foundation. One wrong move can lead to trouble in paradise. So, how does one get on Thai parents’ good side?

The answer isn’t as complicated you think.

Try to reach out to your partner’s parents as if they’re you’re own. Getting to know them won’t happen overnight, so be patient and don’t try to force things. Don’t be afraid to ask your partner for help!


4. It’s not about the money

Not every Western partner is loaded with money; some of them just live simple lives, looking for the guy or girl of their dreams. Unfortunately, some Thai parents may not be too happy with that. How are you going to support their child’s future if you don’t have the big bucks?

Fortunately, money isn’t the be-all and end-all here. Convince your partner’s parents that their child’s with the right person by earnestly displaying your skills and knowledge. This gives them the impression that you’re serious about your relationship.

Gain extra brownie points by getting to know your partner’s siblings (if they have any, of course!). Who knows, one simple outing may turn the tides in your favor! Ask your partner to allow your involvement in simple things like chores as well.

5. Be open-minded

As we’ve said in the intro, open-mindedness makes things a lot less stressful on your end. When dealing with the naturally conservative Thai culture, you’re going to need a lot of it to counter your Western sensibilities!

Thai families have a firm adherence to their motherland’s culture. You can’t fault them for that, though, since they were taught to do so since childhood. Their beliefs may lead them to exhibit controlling tendencies, such as their heavy (and sometimes, overbearing) involvement in their children’s relationships.

If you happen to be a conservative person, this expectation may not be much of a problem for you. But if you’re the opposite, your patience and tolerance meters will need tons of adjusting. You don’t have to adopt the “fake it ‘til you make it” strategy here just to please your partner’s parents!

What you can do is adjust your meters when you’re around your partner’s family. Your beliefs may clash, but that doesn’t mean you have to butt heads. School yourself on Thai etiquette as well! You can ask your partner for help on this one.

6. Observe before you act

Remember “tiger parenting” from the opening paragraph? This entry relates to that point. Thai parents tend to be controlling since they only want the best for their children. They also tend to believe that they’re the only people who know what’s good for them. This drive leads them to force their conservative and traditional values regardless if their kids like them or not. 

Why are they like this, you may ask? They expect their children to lift them financially. Don’t be surprised if they won’t let their children be free (especially daughters) since they have a 

Families like these aren’t easy to deal with, so tread carefully! If you see some manipulative tactics from parents in play, don’t report your observations to your partner just yet. Only they can solve that problem since it’s a family affair. If your partner willingly lets their parents control her life, you may want to step back and think about your relationship.

7. Don’t mind the whispers

Tongues will wag when people spot you with your partner. This is especially true in Thai society since your partner’s pretty close with neighbors and other friends in their community.

While gossip is inevitable, it doesn’t make it less annoying. Maybe people talk because they’re jealous of what you two have and don’t have much going on in their lives. Don’t be that person and stoop to their level! You’ll just give them more ammo. Pay no mind to the naysayers—after all, it’s YOUR relationship.

If you want them to get off your case, ask your partner to tell their nosy friends and neighbors about how wonderful you are without their peering eyes. That declaration may start to shut them up.

8. Don’t be the ex

No, this isn’t a shoutout to their ex! (*cue the Little Mix song*)

It’s usually okay if you aren’t your partner’s first boyfriend or girlfriend. However, many Thai families are hung up on the idea of the “first love.” We can’t blame them for that, really; who wouldn’t forget the first person they introduced to their parents?

If you’re not the first guy or gal that entered their doors, don’t be surprised if they’ll be distant towards you. Don’t let this discourage you too; you don’t have to be the ex to prove your worth. The ex is the ex for a reason, right?

Win everyone over through your sincerity! You two aren’t together for nothing, yes? Show the parents why their child is right in choosing you as their partner.

9. Earn their trust

By now, you’d know that Thai parents are different from their Western counterparts. Trust isn’t handed on a silver platter, requiring you to work for it. Brace yourself for questions regarding your career, family, and other nonnegotiables.

Don’t give your partner’s parents a reason to distrust you. Build rapport by showing old pictures of your life out West. This allows them to get to know you better, along with gaining a few laughs in between! Your partner can also help you out by naturally bringing you up in family conversations, even if you’re not around.

10. Stand your ground on the subject of kids

Raising kids is hard enough. Growing up in Thai society is another story. We haven’t even mentioned how kids are going to deal with their environment growing up!

Fortunately, you call the shots here. After all, they are YOUR kids. You’ll be the to decide things like picking out the school that’s right for them. However, in-laws will get involved in raising your kid(s). Decisions will clash, and heads will butt. 

The best thing you can do here is to explain and convince your partner’s parents why you two made your decision. Do allow them to get involved since they do have good intentions. Just draw the line when too much is too much, okay?

Are you ready to meet the parents? Just follow this entry and work from there. Good luck!

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