What is the sick buffalo story in Thailand?

September 21, 2021 - Reading time: 7 minutes

Reading stories online about relationships in Thailand between Thai ladies and foreign men, you might occasionally hear the reference to a “sick buffalo”. The phrase has become an often repeated idiom by expats and men that are in relationships with Thai women.

The “sick buffalo story” in Thailand is an example of Thai ladies telling a story in order to generate sympathy from their foreign boyfriends and to try and get more money from them. Some ladies will tell their boyfriend that their family’s buffalo is sick and that they need money for veterinary bills. The “sick buffalo” story has been told in Thailand for decades.

Although the sick buffalo story is now somewhat of a joke, poverty in Thailand and across south east Asia is not a joke.

In Thai culture, the daughter of the family is traditionally responsible for supporting her parents in their old age. Your Thai girlfriend may be responsible for supporting her entire family as well as herself.

Often is the case that Thai ladies will have children with local Thai men at a young age, when their relationships break down, they are then expected to provide for their children as well as their parents. The concept of a child’s father giving money to his ex-partner as child support is uncommon in Thailand.

A water buffalo in Thailand

As the minimum wage in Thailand is quite low, many women struggle to make ends meet, especially if they do not have steady careers or a university education. This can lead them to working in bars, and other adult entertainment venues in order to provide for their families. 

Many of these ladies will go on to forge relationships with foreign men in nightlife venues; which is where they might tell the sick buffalo story in order to ask for extra money.

As many Thai ladies tend to hail from poor farming communities in north east Thailand, many of their families will earn money through farming pigs, cows or water buffalo, making the story that her family’s buffalo is sick plausible.

Many ladies might not claim that their family’s buffalo is sick, but instead that they urgently need money for medical bills or another emergency. While the story itself might not be truthful, the lady may or may not be in dire need of money for one reason or another.

Is her buffalo really sick?

Is your girlfriend’s water buffalo really sick or is there a more likely reason? A more common reason for Thai ladies to need money is debt repayments.

If your girlfriend does come from a poor faming community and has a family to support, then it is very possible her true reason for requesting money from you is to repay debt or to provide for her family.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, household debt in Thailand ballooned to 90.5% of GDP in the first quarter of 2020, which is the highest level in 18 years according to Bank of Thailand data. Many will be dealing with the fallout of this debt for years to come.

Asian lady wearing a tank top

Due to the concept of “saving face” in Thailand, and the general fear of causing upset, it is not likely that your Thai girlfriend will be totally open and honest with you about her financial situation. 

Put simply, if your Thai girlfriend is struggling under a mountain of debt, then she might prefer to tell you that she needs money for her family’s sick buffalo instead. Of course, it is more common for ladies to claim that their mother or father is gravely sick in hospital and she needs money for the medical bills, or that she is having another emergency.

Although it’s easy to tell jokes about sick buffalos and Thai women telling lies to their foreign boyfriends in order to extract money from them, poverty is not a laughing matter, and the true reasons for women to tell these stories are often dire.

With all of the above said, you should not allow yourself to be taken for a ride whilst in a relationship with a Thai lady. While many Thai women are good and honest people, there is definitely a subset of women who try to take advantage of their foreign boyfriends, and practice what is known as the Thai girlfriend scam. 

These ladies are often found in beer bars, a go-gos, massage parlours, and other nightlife areas where they interact with a high volume of foreign men.

In this current day and age, there is also a growing number of women that instead prefer to meet men through online dating websites and apps.

The “Thai girlfriend scam” typically involves an attractive Thai lady forming relationships with several different foreign men. These men will all believe that they are the only man in their girlfriend’s life, meanwhile she is speaking to multiple guys every day, often taking steps such as setting up multiple Facebook profiles for each of her boyfriends in order to make the scam more believable.

For some Thai women, especially those working in nightlife areas, relationships with foreign men pays their bills. Some ladies are able to earn vast amounts of money through scamming their boyfriends.

Determining whether a lady is genuine, or if she is simply telling stories about sick buffalos in order to extract as much money from you as possible, can be quite difficult. In such cases we are often asked by our clients to place a lady under surveillance in order to monitor her activities and check if she is meeting up with other men behind her boyfriend’s back.

If a lady is running a dating scam or involved with other men for financial gain, then conducting an investigation in this way can often help to save our clients huge amounts of money.

Is your Thai girlfriend using you for money?

There is a fine line between supporting your Thai girlfriend and helping her to better herself, and simply being taken for a ride. For more information on this subject, read our blog post 11 signs that your Thai girlfriend is using you for money.

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