These days all the IMs (instant messeging) have a) profile picture and b) name. Assuming these two are out of the question, Thais will always ask *:
* I know it’s a generalization but the percentage of Thais who do ask is far greater than those who don’t.
Are you male or female? **
What is your age?
(Bonus question) Are you Thai?
** The conversation happened in English. Right away after saying hi.
It’s probably made more sense if this happened in Thai.
Now, let me explain problems with these questions.
It does not make a difference if what you’re talking about has nothing to do with gender. For example, academic stuff. I reached out to an online user of a popular forum per her request to ‘find an English practice partner.’ The topic itself has nothing to do with gender, yet I’ve been asked this multiple times even after I dodged the question. (Because it’s impolite to point out that it’s rude, don’t you agree?)
Side note: in Thai they add ‘particles’ at the end of sentence to denote politeness, which can be used to identify ‘gender’*** of the speaker.
*** Only two of these particles exist, krub (masculine) and ka (feminine).
It does not make a difference if it does not concern your age. Even if you ask for age for finding out common interests, it still is not a guarantee that your interests will intersect. A grandpa can be a hardcore comics fan and a college student can devour the whole library too.
Side note: Thai society is hierarchical.
I think they were meant to ask ‘do you speak Thai?’ Most Thais mindset has it that if you’re Thai then you can speak Thai. Which is not always the case because some children of Thai immigrants abroad do not speak Thai. Also, ‘are you Thai’ can be interpreted as:
Do you speak Thai? → heavily implied
Are you a Thai citizen? → probably not what they were really asking for but can be possible
Are you an ethnic Thai? → also implied — it’s complicated
You can’t assume anything based on their appearance, citizenship and languages spoken. I could be a hill people from the north of Thailand who is of indigenous tribe who speaks Thai, English and tribal language.
It makes sense if these questions happened in Thai. But this happened in English, and there is no way of making the first two questions relevant in English because you don’t use different pronouns (you) for anyone older or younger than you. Plus, you can’t really tell gender because in English we just use ‘I’ or ‘me’ to address ourselves. It makes zero difference if you know their age and gender.
In the end, it might be the ingrained mindset that you need to know age and gender before to proceed a conversation in Thai. Let me know what you experienced when texting with Thais.