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Britain's Thai community   Loy Krathong
Living in the UK

What does the UK Thai community look like? How many Thais live in the UK and what do they do? Can we really talk about a 'community' and if so, what is it that brings Thai people together?

Thais living in the UK live with the stereotypes about them and their country which continue to persist in the British imagination. This view of Thailand is characterised on the one hand by a fascination with the food, and on the other with a view of Thai women portrayed in Little Britain's cruel depiction of Ting Tong Macadangdang. In between all this thousands of Thai people try to make their way in the UK and yet there is virtually no information about their experience of living here. Their profile is such that in a publication a few years ago by the Institute for Public Policy Research (which was covered extensively by the BBC and in The Guardian), there was absolutely no mention of the Thai community. Smaller communities were mentioned but not Thais.

Academic research into ethnic minority groups in the UK shows a similar lack of interest. The library at Warwick University's Centre for Ethnic Minority Studies contains over 30,000 items in its catalogue and none of them refer to studies or research in to the UK Thai community. A search on the larger Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) database also fails to bring up any relevant information.

The problem with being part of an invisible community in the UK is that public services tend to overlook your specific cultural or linguistic needs. When things are going fine this matters less. But when problems arise such as legal or health matters, it can make all the difference in being properly understood. The Telephone Helpline Association has over 1,100 member organisations providing support services across the UK. They provide help in over 30 languages but not one of them offers support in Thai.

Thai-uk has been arguing this point for some years and we're pleased to have influenced the Runnymede Trust report in to the Thai Community.  Jessica Mai Simms report is excellent.   It is the first robust research into the lives of Thai families living in the UK with a particular focus on Thai women.  More research is needed now, for example into the relationship between British men and their Thai partners and the impact of language acquisition on relationships and children.  This is an area that Thai-uk is working on and we’d be interested to hear from you if you have experience or ideas in this area. 

Thai temples

English test for partners begins in November

12 Nov 2010 - In June 2010 the UK government announced plans to introduce compulsory English language tests for all non-European migrants applying to come to the UK to join or marry their settled partner.

These plans will be implemented from 29 November 2010. From this date, any migrant who wants to enter or remain in the UK as the partner of a British citizen or a person settled here will need to show that they can speak and understand English, by taking an English language test with one of our approved test providers.  The UK Visa Agency has published a list of approved qualifications and the levels required for each.

A list of approved English language tests and their providers is downloadable here...More>>> as well as a Useful factsheet.

Krathong image
At the November full moon in Thailand, when the Monsoon rains have ended, two ceremonies take place.  In temples people make merit and show their respects to the monks by offering new robes.  The tradition goes back to the time when monks were expected to remain in the temple during the rainy season (the rains retreat).  In November they are allowed to leave and the giving of new robes marks that occasion and is known as the Kathina Robe Ceremony

The other festival is not strictly Buddhist, but Brahmin.  Its origins are in appeasing the Goddess of the Water and people gather to make an offering in the form of a float (kratong) which they launch gently into the water (a river, stream, pond, canal - whatever is available).  The float is traditionally made from a slice of a banana trunk and woven with banana leaves and decorated with flowers, incense and candles.  Sometimes money is placed on the float too.

Join the celebrations for Loy Kratong and the Kathina Robe Ceremony at Wimbledon's Thai Temple on 21st November.

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