Marrying their way to a better life

 |  January 27, 2011

It has been three years since 36 year old Hathairat Lauridsen moved from Khon Kaen in Thailand’s Isaan region to the city of Ballerup in Denmark. She first met her Danish husband, Rene Lauridsen, at a café when he was travelling through Thailand. He showed her a smile, and two years later, they got married.

Relatively few Thai women end up in Denmark due to romantic considerations: the random girl-meets-boy scenario. Where Hathairat now lives, the vast majority of her Thai friends have come to Denmark through arranged marriages, a sort of bride-trading business that has grown in Denmark through recent years.

“I think there are around 100 Thais in Ballerup now. There are constantly new Thais coming over. At my school they say that about 600 Thais come to Denmark every year,” Hathairat says.

She’s taking Danish classes at the local language institute. This is one of the requirements she has to meet to legally stay in Denmark. Another requirement is the 58,000 Danish kroner, equalling well over 300,000 baht, that her husband deposited to Danish immigration as an official guarantee. On top of this, he accepts that Haiharat frequently sends money home to her family.

When Danes marry Thai women, they often agree to support not only their new wives, but to some extent also their families back in Thailand. Hathairat has been sending her family more than 5,000 baht every month since she arrived in Denmark.

“I have a very big family in Thailand. I’m not rich, but maybe I’ll send them more money when I get a job someday,” she says.

Hathairat has seen many women come to Ballerup through more or less arranged marriages, but “if they can just help their families, they are happy” she says.

Despite the cost, and cultural differences, Denmark is overflowing with men willing to fight their loneliness by importing a bride from afar, and business people are now taking advantage of this.

The issue has made it to the national Danish media in recent years and been the topic of the documentaries From Thailand to Thy and its sequel, From Thy to Thailand, both made in 2008. The films follow a middle aged Thai woman, settled and married in Thy, Denmark, who profits by arranging marriages between men from where she lives now, and women from Thailand’s Isaan region where she’s from. She was the only Thai in Thy when she first moved there, and 15 years later, in 2008, when the film was made, there were 575.

On the Danish Film Institute’s website, a brief summary of the films show the enormous difference it makes for a poor Thai family to have a daughter married to some rich westerner: “In a small village in the northeast of Thailand there are two kinds of families. Those who have a daughter married to a Dane, and those who don’t. The first mentioned live in concrete buildings, the latter in small wooden cottages.”

The brides from Isaan often pay a tremendous price for economic security. Many have to leave their children behind in Thailand when they leave, but marrying a Dane still seems the better option to them.

Hathairat wasn’t among the girls looking for a Danish spouse when she met Rene, but when Citylife asked her how she thinks her life would have been had she married a Thai man instead, she doesn’t hesitate.

“Different…I think I do have a much better life now, than I would have if I had stayed in Thailand.”

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From Thailand to Thy and its sequel From Thy to Thailand are availablewith English subtitles on YouTube and via The Danish Film
Institutes website.