A daughter hoping her new online meeting with an English Doctor will lead to success, and the building of a suitably large house back in her rice village to boost her status.

During the summer of 2023, Katerina, Mirabel and I set off on a six week journey to explore the controversial Isaan culture of Thailand.

Isaan are a large matrilineal group that live in the poor agricultural region of Northeast Thailand. But thanks to their reputation for being hard working, honest and true, the women have found a new path in life that potentially has access to generous amounts of wealth – thanks in part to mass tourism and the new online dating world!


Location: Isaan, Northeast Thailand.

Population: Around 22 million.

Religion: Theravada Buddhism.

Language: Isaan language (based on Lao) and Thai.

Tribal status: The Isaan in Thailand are Thai citizens. Those Isaan that live in neighbouring Laos are Lao citizens.

Matriarchal features

  • Daughters traditionally inherit land (matrilineal heritage)
  • A husband moves to his wife’s family (matrilocal residence)
  • Women are considered the main breadwinners of families – as “good and grateful daughters” they must support their family and take care of their parents. To fulfil their duty, they migrate to large cities and tourist centres across the country, where they often work as prostitutes.
  • Many women get married to foreigners. Some of them live abroad, others bring their men to their native villages. Having a foreigner for her husband is very prestigious. The woman gains a privileged position in the family and the community.