Can you imagine Thailand without its Isaan people? Or let me put it another way: Do you even want to imagine this country without Isaan? Probably not.
Why am I asking this? Well, it’s because you meet people from northeastern Thailand everywhere you go: The hotel receptionist in Koh Phangan, the housekeeper at your apartment in Hua Hin, the taxi driver in Bangkok, the bar girl in Pattaya.
Out of the four regions of Thailand, none of them has nearly as many people leaving their homes to work in other parts of the country, especially in the big tourist centers. I’m not only talking about prostitutes here, but I will come back to this category in a moment.
And besides that the northeastern region, that’s more commonly referred to as Isaan, is the biggest of all regions in Thailand, consists of 20 provinces and is a true paradise for off the beaten track traveling (and mongering).
But let’s be honest: When you hear someone saying “Isaan” you probably don’t think of taxi drivers in Bangkok or Wat Nong Wang in Khon Kaen. What you rather think about are Isaan girls or women and the experiences you have made with them. And the opinions you have about them. Or maybe the prejudices you have about them?
Because this is the point: There is no other topic that’s so controversially discussed in the foreign men community in Thailand as whether Isaan women are good or bad, what characteristics they have, what you can expect when meeting one of them in the bars, when dating one of them, when marrying one of them and so on. Everyone likes to think that he is the expert on this topic, but what is really the truth about Isaan girls?
The Most Common Prejudices About Isaan Girls
If you stay in Thailand for a while, you will sooner or later talk with expats or long term tourists who will come with their “I have seen it all” attitude and tell you like the prophet of the new world: “Stay away from Isaan girls. They are selfish and only want your money. They say they are single, but they have a boyfriend or even husband they don’t want you to know about. They are lying a lot. And if you meet her somewhere out of Isaan then they probably also have a baby that’s back in their province with the grandma.”
The family. If you mention this word in combination with Isaan ladies to many expats in Thailand they will tell you all sorts of different stories about how her family would always be more important in her life than you could ever be. And that at the same time you should prepare for being the sole financial caretaker not only for her, but also for her mother and father and probably also for her brothers, grandparents, dogs and chicken in their home’s backyard up in good old Isaan.
Sounds horrible? It is. And that’s not because any of these arguments, or prejudices I should say, about Isaan girls were true about the majority of these girls. What I mean is that most of the Farangs who tell you such things have no idea what they are talking about. And the reason for that is because most of them only get to know one type of Isaan girls: The hookers.
Of course hookers are all about money. That’s their job. And of course you shouldn’t take everything serious what they are telling you about their marital status, how old they are, when they had sex for the first time, how long they have worked in the bar and so on. Would you trust and fall in love with prostitutes in your home country? Probably not. A lot of Farangs here think that prostitutes in Thailand are different than prostitutes in their home countries. Think again.
I know I’m writing a lot about hookers and the red light scene on Thailand Redcat. But I’m also regularly trying to show you the bigger picture – and if you look at the bigger picture you will see only a small fraction of bar girls among the millions of girls from northeastern Thailand, and if you look at the “normal” girls then you will discover completely different characteristics compared to the ones described above.
What Isaan Girls Are Really Like
If you ever had an Isaan girl as your girlfriend who was not working in the bar then you will know from your own experience what I’m about to talk about. You will probably be like me and don’t even listen to the desperate Farangs in the bars anymore who tell you about all their terrible experiences. I have written more than 800 words in this article and think it’s now time for the most important of all statements I make here:
Most Isaan women take care of their men in the best way possible.
pûu-yǐng ii-sǎan sùan-mâak duu-lɛɛ pûu-chaai dii tîi-sùt.
You can call yourself lucky if you have an Isaan girl as your girlfriend or wife. You probably know the saying “once you go Asian, you never go Caucasian“. I would even go a step further and say: Once you go Isaan, you never go another type of Asian again.
If you have come in contact with girls from other regions of Thailand you will know that southern Thai girls are more rough and less sensitive, and that central Thai girls (especially from Bangkok) are a lot more career-oriented and “emancipated” than Isan girls. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there is nothing compared to Isaan girls in the way they make you feel like a man and do things for you that you would never have expected possible after dating girls in your home country.
At the same time you should be aware of one thing: Of course you will be expected to be the main financial caretaker in a relationship with an Isaan woman. But that’s just the same with any type of Thai women or Asian women in general. And what you get back from Isaan women for providing for them is usually much more than from any other type of women I know.
I have been to all neighbor countries of Thailand and also in the Philippines and Indonesia, and nowhere I have experienced anything comparable to the empathy and kind heartedness of Isaan women. Sure, if you know a bit about how women are like in those countries and be a nice and gentle guy it won’t be hard to meet and sleep with girls anywhere, but what I’m talking about is a relationship with girls and that’s where I cannot see anyone seriously compete.
I currently have an Isaan girlfriend (she is actually half Lao and half Isaan Thai, from Udon) and she is doing everything you can imagine for our relationship, from doing housework and cooking to all the small little things like sending me messages every day when she is at work or in college about how my work is going today, if I have eaten yet etc. She couldn’t be more caring about my happiness and well-being. She has never asked for money, but at the same time I want to take her to nice restaurants, buy her new shoes or a backpack and take her on a trip from time to time.
Ask anyone who has been in a relationship with an Isaan girl for more than two years who is not a bar girl about how they feel about Isaan girls and they will highly probably tell you that they are the best kind of women for relationships in the world.
Taking Care Of Her Family
This is one of the issues that causes the biggest misunderstandings and problems in Thai-Farang relationships. A lot of Farangs just don’t understand that in Thai society the young people take care of their parents when they get older. It’s actually the same principle in western countries: You pay money into the retirement fund that is being distributed among the retired people. The only difference is that in Thailand people do it by themselves.
As I’m sitting here and writing these lines I have just confirmed with my girlfriend how it usually works among the Thais: Assuming the Thai guy earns 20,000 Baht a month, then he would usually pay his Isaan girlfriend a salary (ngǝn-dʉan, เงินเดือน) of about 3,000-6,000 Baht a month. She would then transfer most of that money to her family to support them. They call that “to help a little bit” (chûai bâang, ช่วยบ้าง).
Yes, this practice is more common if you have a girlfriend from Isaan and less common if you have a girlfriend from southern Thailand. The main reason for that is because the Isarn is the poorest region of Thailand due to the dryness and few natural resources. Their main source of income is rice production. They don’t get much from tourism like other regions of Thailand that also have more natural resources like water, fruit, vegetables etc.
And no, this practice of supporting the girlfriend’s or wive’s family isn’t exclusively expected from Farangs. Because that’s what a lot of people falsely assume. They think only they need to pay because they are regarded as the “rich foreigner”. The truth is that if the family asks for support, then that would also be the case if the girl had a Thai boyfriend instead of a Farang.
That said, it’s not always the case that you are expected to pay money if you have an Isaan girlfriend. Like in my case, I was never asked for it thus far. And I know more than enough people to confirm that not everyone pays. And even if you pay them like 4,000 Baht a month – what’s the point? It shouldn’t be your main concern to pay this kind of money, but rather to be ambitious and make a lot of money so you can support for a great life for you, your girlfriend and your future family.
What do Foreigners like about Isaan Girls?
I could have also written “what do men like about them” because it’s not just us foreigners who adore Isaan girls – many Thai guys feel the same way. I remember when I visited Roi Et earlier this year and met a Thai couple in the White Elephant restaurant. It turned out that the guy was from Bangkok and was visiting his girlfriend in Roi Et.
When she went to the bathroom we took a short break from playing pool and I asked him how he felt about Isaan girls. He just confirmed what I told you earlier by saying that they are kind-hearted and take care of the men extremely well (jai-dii, ใจดี and duu-lɛɛ dii, ดูแลดี). They are extremely grateful for everything you do for them, great mothers, open minded and loyal. If you have doubts about this, again ask yourself where you have met the girl.
Apart from these great characteristics it gets even better if you consider how attractive and beautiful most Isaan women are. It feels like the further north you go in Thailand, the smoother the skin of the girls gets. Sure, you can meet nice and attractive girls anywhere in Thailand, but girls from the northeast just seem to be a category of their own with their beautiful curves, black hair, dark eyes and skin like silk in combination with their unique charisma, charm and smile.
I know it’s not usually a good idea to make general statements about certain groups of people. However, I just felt this post was necessary since you hear so many foreigners complaining about Isaan girls when they really only know bar girls or simply don’t respect the rule of giving and taking in relationships with women in this country.
What’s wrong about paying your girlfriend a monthly salary of 5,000 Baht? I know foreigners who have happy relationships and marriages with Isaan women and don’t even want them to work and pay them significantly more than that. It works just fine because in turn they get an amazing partner who isn’t only sweet and attractive, but who takes care of them and the whole family in the best possible way.
I have mentioned it a few times on this website: This idea of relationships was exactly the same back in the western world not too long ago. The men earned the money, the women took care of the rest (yes, very simplified). Now that women have changed and become “emancipated” many men are fed up with this attitude and look for a Thai or Isaan girl. This is fine, but you should not forget to do your own part to make the relationship work. It’s not only about taking, but also about giving.