- 1 Our Background
- 2 Sharing Expenses
- 3 Cultural Issues
- 4 Banking Issues
- 5 Legal
- 6 Final Words
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Our BackgroundI think it’s useful first to tell you a little about the background of my relationship and our personal circumstances so you can put things below into context. I am 29 years old and have been living in Thailand for the best part of four years. I work as a teacher, run a website and do the odd writing gig which, in total, brings in around 75-80,000 THB a month. I used to work for a golf company in the UK and before I came to Thailand. I had savings of around 30,000 GBP which I have used to buy a condo in Bangkok.
My Thai GirlfriendMy girlfriend is 22 and works as an English tutor and does the odd private classes too, which brings in around 25,000 THB a month. Before we met, Nook lived in America for a year and worked in Asia Books at the airport in Bangkok before that. I would say Nook is a good example of the increasing number of middle-class people in Thailand. She makes good money, rents a decent house and has disposable income to spend. We have been together for almost two and a half years and live on Nawamin Road, which is on the outskirts of Bangkok. We met at the nearby Fashion Island shopping mall and hit it off straight away. At around 100,000 THB a month, we make a decent amount combined but would like more to make things more comfortable. We both have aims to increase our salary over the coming year. I’m aiming for closer to 100,000 a month and Nook would like around 35,000. In terms of monthly outgoings we have to put aside around 45,000 THB which covers accommodation (mine and Nook’s family’s) and bills (utilities, student loan payments and gym memberships). This leaves around 55,000 THB for everything else. I’ll go into more details below in terms of what we spend and who pays for everything below.
First DateOn my first date with Nook, I paid for lunch and she paid for drinks and ice creams after. I offered to pay for everything but she was insistent on paying for the latter. I actually found that a lot of Thai women are happy to split the bill or contribute, especially those under 30 who have traditional jobs. Following dates took place at the cinema, restaurants and local parks. The bills were usually shared and Nook contributed every time. There are probably some guys reading this thinking that women shouldn’t pay on a date and that is fair enough, but times are changing and it isn’t uncommon now to split things. We never went to a fancy restaurant or expensive location so we both felt comfortable paying for things.
Having a Financial TalkI’ve never really found it difficult to talk about finances and to be honest I talk about money with my girlfriend on a regular basis, whether it is about travel, shopping or savings. Being honest with someone can make problems easier to solve and that is certainly true when it comes to finance. I am of the opinion that both partners can contribute financially even if it is only a few little things now and again. Even with a low salary I feel it isn’t unreasonable that a Thai partner can pay for little things like snacks, drinks and make a contribution towards bills or shopping. There are Thais of all ages who will try and get what they can from foreigners but I found this very rare among Thais who have decent jobs. I live outside the center of Bangkok and there are a lot of Thais who have decent jobs in the 18-30,000 a month range, which is in a similar range to how much Karsten spent per employee. Many of them feel eager and capable to contribute towards your relationship. You will see later that even though Nook has financial responsibilities towards her family, she still chips in. One major factor which I think has helped Nook is that she lived for a year in America so had to become good at budgeting and looking after money. She had money to spend there but had to be careful and she has carried that attitude into our relationship. She understands that there is a limit to what we can spend and there is never a problem when agreeing that something is unnecessary or too expensive. There is a growing number of Thais studying and working overseas in various programs so there is a chance to date someone with experience of your culture and of budgeting.
SalaryBeing honest and direct about our salaries helped my girlfriend and I decide how to split costs and what was reasonable for both of us. Telling someone on a first date is a mistake but once you know you are in a serious relationship, I think it helps as you can plan together and set budgets. Many Thai people presume foreigners make huge salaries and likewise a lot of foreigners presume Thais have low salaries. An understanding of how much each partner makes will help you a lot to plan. There is a growing middle class and with the increase in university attendance, salaries are creeping up to over 15,000 a month for new graduates. After a couple of years working at a decent company, it isn’t unreasonable for young Thais in their early to mid-20s to be earning over 20,000 THB a month. A degree in a good subject and some hard work means salaries of over 30,000 aren’t unheard of. Sure, there are people making less than this and the old story of the 300 THB a day minimum wage gets thrown around a lot. However, in reality I wouldn’t be mixing in the same social circles as these people and would be unlikely to date someone who makes minimum wage. You can check an average salary here with Adecco Thailand. It might sound like I am being disrespectful but these days a lot of younger foreigners are meeting Thais through socializing, networking and work rather than just in bars and dating sites. I also didn’t think too much about how Thai people live on their salaries. Nook used to earn closer to 30,000 THB a month and even at that level I felt like it wasn’t a huge amount, but it is amazing to see how she can make money last. Sure, she doesn’t make too many impulse buys, but she knows how to find a bargain and is normally quite sensible when it comes to shopping. When we first met I was making 50,000 THB a month, but that has increased over time and has meant that we can do more things since then.
Living TogetherLiving together is a big step and there are many financial implications which should be thought through and discussed. I moved in with Nook after about 15 months of being together. At this stage we were aware of each other’s financial statuses and had discussed who would be responsible for what. In terms of my condo, I make payments of 30,000 THB a month and I cover those. The cost can be higher or lower depending on locations. When it comes to the utilities, Nook pays for the electricity and I cover the rest (water, maintenance fee and Internet). This arrangement works pretty well for us. Be careful when it comes to moving in and make sure you are 100% sure you can make the agreed payments. I have a friend who moved into a swanky 50,000 condo based on his partner saying that she would contribute 10,000 THB a month. After a month, her contribution decreased, and now he is lucky to get anything and is regretting his decision to move into his place. The way I looked at things was that even if Nook didn’t contribute anything towards our accommodation I would still be able to cover everything. I was already living there for a year before she moved in and everything was fine.
Cost of LivingSure, some things in Thailand are cheap but it is still easy to spend a lot very quickly here. I have put a table below which shows our average monthly spend and following that, a short description to give you an idea of what is included and who spends what. Remember, as I said above our combined monthly income is around 100,000 THB. Karsten also wrote an article about his average spending in Bangkok as well.