In this article we debate the pros and cons of the practice of sponsoring, where a foreigner sends money to an individual in Thailand for their individual benefit. These types of relationship also exist in similar forms, such as the sugar – daddy relationship in some Western countries. The usual example in Thailand is that a sponsor agrees to pay a salary to a Thai, in exchange that Thai no longer needs to work in the entertainment industry and maybe can return to her village and family. The tacit agreement is that now, in return for the monetary exchange the Thai will devote all their affection solely to the sponsor.
Now, opinions among hardened expats and other Pattaya veterans is that this relationship is fraught with risk for the sponsor with little upside and high chance of being financially taken advantage of and emotionally manipulated. The counterpoint to this is sometimes said, that all parties are grown adults and know what they are doing when they enter into this kind of relationship. This is true , but it is often the case that matters of the heart can cloud people’s judgement so they are incapable of recognising their own interests.
This story often can be seen when first time visitors come to Pattaya and are overwhelmed by the experience. They find that they are happy and want their Thai partner to have a comfortable life. So, when they get a request “I’m sick, I can’t work can you send me money” or “my mother is sick, I have to go home can you help me” or some other similar excuse such as the famous sick water buffalo. They rush to the exchange office or Western union to send the money requested. Over time the requests cascade and before too long the sponsor is paying a salary.
Now, some of these arrangements are perfectly satisfactory to both parties. But, trust is important in a relationship, and given there are likely to be many difficulties in communication, as well as physical distance, there is a lot of scope for misunderstandings, or even worse, outright deceit and lies to permeate the relationship. Too many times foreigners and Thais in sponsorship arrangements have violated the terms, or argued about what the terms of the agreement even were in the first place. One person might say the money was just a gift and there was no expectation, another person might have had different ideas. So if you do this kind of transaction it should always be clear from the outset what expectations are. This is extremely difficult to do before you even consider language barriers.
The sponsorship arrangement is generally criticised by the grumpy old expat community in Pattaya, however, it does seem to work for some people. The chances would seem to increase if the relationship begins with a learning phase to set expectations and so that each party is comfortable with their responsibilities under the arrangement. Many foreigners have been warned by their friends back home that they are doing something stupid after they arrive home and annoucne they are in love with a Thai. Maybe you can be the one that proves them wrong? But it is very likely you will lose money and have nothing to show for it.