Religion in Thailand: Its Diversity & Impact on Thai Dating Culture

A woman practicing Buddhism religion in Thailand.
Thai constitution protects religious liberty, but Buddhism is the predominant religion in Thailand.

Did you know about 95% of the Thai population is Theravada Buddhist?

In Thailand, religion and culture are intertwined. Thailand is a Buddhist country with a long history of religious freedom. The new Constitution, adopted in 2007, guarantees the protection of religious liberty for all citizens. However, the vast majority of Thai people are Buddhist. Theravada Buddhism receives significant government support.

Theravada Buddhism in Thailand has played a major role in shaping Thai culture and society for centuries. So when we speak of Thai Buddhism, we generally refer to Theravada Buddhism. An example of its influence can be seen in how Thais are generally respectful of elders and authority figures. They place a high value on harmony and non-violence. These values are all rooted in Buddhist teaching. Religion has also influenced Thai art, architecture, and literature. Another religious influence is the requirement that the King of Thailand must be a Buddhist. This is not surprising for a country with an overwhelming number of Buddhists.

In this article, we will explore the rich religious culture of Thailand and its impact on Thai dating culture.

5 Officially Recognized Religious Groups in Thailand

Thailand is a country where people of all faiths can live and worship freely. The government protects the right to freedom of religion and prohibits discrimination based on religion. This is reflected in the Thai people’s generally tolerant and accepting behavior toward other religious groups other than Buddhists.

Thai people practicing Theravada Buddhism in Thailand.
Theravada Buddhism in Thailand is a dominant religion, and it has a significant impact on Thais dating culture.

The following are the five officially recognized religious groups in Thailand:

  1. Buddhists

    As stated, Thailand is a majority-Buddhist country, with Theravada Buddhism being the most dominant tradition. However, there are also other Buddhist groups in Thailand, such as Chinese Buddhism. In addition, some Thai Chinese practice ethnic Chinese religions, such as Taoism, Confucianism, and Chinese salvationist religions. These religions are not officially recognized in Thailand, and their followers are counted as Theravada Buddhists.

  2. Muslims

    Islam in Thailand makes up about 4% of the population, making them the second largest religious group. Some areas with Muslim communities have been plagued by violence for centuries. But the Thai government has taken some steps to address the discrimination and violence faced by Muslims in Thailand. It also supports the work of non-government organizations that work to promote religious freedom and tolerance.

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  1. Christians

    Christianity in Thailand is a minority religion, making up only about 1% of the population. The majority of Thai Christians are Catholic, with a Protestant minority. Thailand’s Christianity was introduced by European missionaries as early as the 1550s and has grown rapidly due to the work of Thai Christians and the influx of foreign missionaries.

  2. Brahmin-Hindus

    This religious group makes up only about 0.1% of the population. Although part of a minority, this group often receives attention, stemming from their belief in different gods in Thailand. The three main Hindu Gods are Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva. Hindus in Thailand also worship other gods, such as Ganesha, Lakshmi, and Durga. This unique pantheon of gods has its roots in the Indian subcontinent, and it has been preserved by Brahmin-Hindus in Thailand for centuries.

  3. Sikhs

    Another minority religious group is the Sikhs. Sikhs in Thailand are generally well-integrated into Thai society. They are respected for their strong work ethics and their commitment to community service. Sikhs are committed to preserving their religion and culture. They are working to build bridges with other religious communities in Thailand.

How Religion in Thailand Influences Dating Culture

With Theravada Buddhism being the dominant religion, Thai people put great emphasis on the importance of modesty, respect for elders, and avoiding conflict. Hence, their dating culture is generally conservative and respectful.

A statue of one of the gods in Thailand.
The number of gods in Thailand that are worshiped reflects the diversity of their religious beliefs.

Here are some specific ways religion in Thailand impacts Thai dating culture:

  1. Thai couples are typically expected to meet through family or friends.

    Thais are family oriented. They place a high value on family and community. They believe that it’s important to have the support of their loved ones when dating. The family even often takes an active role in finding suitable partners for them.

  2. They may not start dating until they are well into adulthood

    Buddhism teaches that people should strive to achieve enlightenment. This can be achieved through a combination of study, meditation, and good deeds. To achieve enlightenment, people need to have a clear mind and a strong sense of purpose. This is why Thais believe that it is important to get a good education and establish a stable career before starting a family.

  3. Thai couples are expected to be modest in their behavior and dress.

    Thai couples believe that it’s important to show respect for others. They do not want to offend anyone with their appearance or behavior. This is related to their Buddhism belief that all beings are interconnected. They believe that we are all part of a larger whole, and we should treat each other with kindness and compassion.

  4. Thai couples should avoid physical contact before marriage.

    Buddhists have the Third Precept, which states “Do not indulge in sexual misconduct or “Do not misuse sex.” But there are no clear Buddhist teachings on sexual ethics. According to Learn Religions, Buddhism generally takes the attitude that sex between people who love each other is moral, married or not. Overall, Buddhism teaches that sex should ideally be undertaken within the context of a committed relationship.

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Date Respectfully and with an Open Mind

How people view dating and relationships can be traced back to religion in Thailand. Each religion has its own dating norms and values. For example, Christian couples may be more likely to date in public, as they could be comparatively less concerned about modesty. Muslim couples may be expected to marry within their own religion, and they may follow stricter rules about physical contact. But because Thais are mostly Buddhists, their dating culture is mostly inclined to the teachings of Buddhism.

Of course, there are also many Thais who do not follow these traditional dating norms. But religion still plays a role in shaping Thai dating culture, even for those who are not religious.

However, take note that Thai dating culture is diverse and constantly evolving. The influence of religion on Thai dating culture is just one factor that shapes how Thai people date. Other factors, such as education, socioeconomic status, and personal values, also play a role.