Sin Sod - Thai 'dowry' - Marriage in ThailandFeatures Living 

Sin Sod – Thai Dowry – Buying a wife in Thailand?

Let’s buy a wife in Thailand, right? Yeah! If you think like that this is the right time to leave my site and never come back.  Everybody else who is interested in Thai culture and the ‘why’ behind this often wrongly with ‘dowry’ translated mystery that is Sin Sod, is warmly welcome on my way to figuring things out.

I’ve been waiting to publish this post for ages and finally come to an end with talking and interviewing friends, colleagues, students and random people regarding one of the biggest misconceptions or misunderstandings in Thai relationship ‘business’. Sin Sod. Thai “Dowry”.

First and foremost: Sin Sod is not a dowry! But what is Sin Sod, why is it still ‘a thing’ and how does it work these days? That’s what I tried to understand over the past years and in countless conversations (hundreds of them) here in Thailand.

So when I started to talk about Sin Sod with my Thai friends, colleagues and students there were two reactions that I had to face ALL THE TIME. The first reaction was ‘Why do you want to know that? Do you want to marry?” Since that’s somehow understandable when asking about a topic like Sin Sod it still kind of started to go on my nerves – but I pulled through it for my dear audience ;-)

The second reaction that I faced almost every time was the ‘Well, it’s Thai culture‘ answer. People, that is not an answer when someone asks for an opinion! “What do you think about Sin Sod?” – “It’s our culture.” Even though this answer is kind of unsatisfying at first it did show a typical Thai way of approaching some issues. Just not stating an own opinion. Especially if this opinion might cause a conflict with what one has learned or has been taught. Many of my interview partners really tried to avoid that question when they heard it.

Thai Wedding - Sin Sod needs to be involved
Thai Wedding – Sin Sod needs to be involved

Define: Sin Sod

But let’s just dive into the ‘what is Sin Sod‘ task before then coming back to diverse opinions about it. Sin Sod is, as mentioned above, something that has its foundations in ancient Thai culture and hence isn’t really questioned. Sin Sod means, in easy words, paying respect to the bride’s parents for taking care of her and educating her over the years from her childhood until that moment of time when her soon to be husband is going to take care of her. Paying respect is, as so often in Thailand (and other (Asian) countries) not only done by stating it but moreover accomplished by showing it. This means money and wealth has to be involved. Therefore the typical Sin Sod consists of money, gold and expensive give aways (a house, a car, you get the point).

Farang point of view: Many foreigners still have the perception of Thailand as a country where you can easily ‘buy’ girls or wives. And while there are services that provide exactly that, Sin Sod, obviously, isn’t such a thing! However it doesn’t help to change  the perception if you are not  willing to discuss this or similar matters it just because it’s Thai culture. “It is culture is not an answer!”

Why Sin Sod?

That’s a question that many (foreigners) ask who usually aren’t satisfied with the ‘paying respect’ answer. Well, as mentioned above Thai culture says that the family of the girl took so good care of her and educated her until now – when you found her and since you now love her so much and want to marry her you should be more than happy to pay ‘respect’ (Sin Sod) to the family. As we all know in ancient times women used to be the weak gender and hence the guys had to take care of the girls. Somehow understandable, isn’t it?

Farang point of view : It’s the year 2013 (2556 in Thailand – even further ahead!) and we’re still talking about ‘the guy needs to take care of the girl’? Both genders study, both genders work. Come on! Emancipation! Yes, still only girls give birth but do you really always wanna bring that up as the k.o. argument?

How much should I pay?

Typical farang (foreigner) question. Thais would never ask that – but since we are not Thais we can talk about it. When I asked that question the most common answer, besides a disapproving look, was ‘you will find out when you sit down with the parents’. In farang words we would say “ah, we negotiate the price for our ‘good'” – which is, obviously, wrong. It’s not about bargaining it’s more about figuring out what the groom is able to pay and how the Sin Sod should look like. While superstars tend to give Sin Sod worth millions of Thai Baht many average weddings happen on a  Sin Sod of around 300,000 THB. However, to be clear, there is no ‘minimum’ or ‘average’ price. You shouldn’t argue with ‘I heard about someone only paying 100,000 THB’ – you’re probably talking about the only daughter of the family and you don’t wanna piss off the parents in law just yet, right? Furthermore it is quite often coupled to the education the girl had (Master’s > high-school degree, etc.) or her current job and the status of the family.

Farang point of view : If I don’t pay Sin Sod then nobody will marry her, right? Come on, I’m pretty awesome and your family should actually be happy to get me as son in law! The heck! Why don’t you pay my family for raising me and making me the successful and awesome guy I am? Maybe you want to wait until someone ‘better’ comes along for your daughter?

 

Thai wedding - with sin sod
Thai wedding – with sin sod

What happens with Sin Sod?

Well here is where the story telling and the differences begin. It depends on where you are, how wealthy or educated your family is and what you ‘negotiated’ with them earlier. Some say the money and goods go directly to the parents to make up for the ‘work’ they had with raising the girl. Others say that the parents will keep the money for ‘bad times’ and give it back to the couple in times in need (child birth, etc.).

Farang point of view : Saving money for bad times is a nice idea but isn’t that why Jehova invented banks and / or loan sharks? I could even get some (very low) interest rates for giving my money to the bank until I need it. 

Farang Sin Sod vs. Thai Sin Sod.

Apparently we, foreigners, are never gonna be treated similar to Thais. So when it comes to a Thai/Farang wedding the expectations regarding Sin Sod are usually higher then when it comes to an average Thai/Thai wedding. Be prepared for that. However if you’re close to your parents in law, what I simply expect when it comes to the point of a marriage, that shouldn’t be a problem since you probably already know them for a very long time and so you’re able to talk to them, right? You’re not here to have a quick wedding to go, are you? If so, then you deserve nothing more than being milked.

Farang point of view : None. I can’t think of anything but bullshit. So if you’re a sucker who’s in for a quick wedding-to-go just to have fun I have no words left for you. Everybody else will be able to talk to his loving parents in law. 

Country Side vs. Modernized Sin Sod

That’s now really a thing I experienced a LOT. At the countryside it’s still super important to have big Sin Sod ceremonies and stuff. The whole village will attend the wedding and will see how much is being paid in money or goods/gifts. On the other hand I’ve also seen quite a few weddings here in Bangkok where only a small Sin Sod was given to the bride’s parents and nobody really cared about it. As mentioned earlier, quite sometimes the parents will even return it later on which makes the whole SIn Sod thing more a showing off ceremony.

Farang point of view : Skip the showing off and just have a blast! Everybody knows it’s fake anyways.

Money back guarantee?

Nope. You should know what you get yourself into. Just like it is with every marriage in every other country. And no, not even if the girl cheats on you or whatever. The Sin Sod usually (!) stays with the family. There might be other arrangements made if she really screws you, but in general there’s no such thing a s a test run, trial or money back guarantee. Stupid question!

HOWEVER…when the girl screws you while you are engaged, you might be entitled to get the money back. Twice as much. Once more: Amazing Thailand.

Sin Sod Roundup

Let’s just recap what we figured out over the past 1,400 words.

  1. Sin Sod is not a dowry!
  2. Sin Sod does not mean buying a girl!
  3. Sin Sod is not only about the money but the amount does have some kind of importance
  4. Sin Sod is not only money. It’s also gold, jewelry, goods (cars, house, land, etc.)
  5. You can’t get Sin Sod back
  6. Sin Sod is Thai culture (god how I hate that argument)
  7. Normally there’s no way around Sin Sod.
  8. The higher educated the girl and the better the job, the higher Sin Sod – unless the family is super illuminated (yeah I wanted to use that word) and hyper modern and doesn’t care anymore (very rare to find!)

Diverse opinions

As promised in the beginning, let’s here some of the opinions that my interview partners shared or disagreed on before leaving you with your own thoughts.

Pro Sin Sod

  • It’s Thai culture. It has been like that forever. Accept it. We are different (better) and we should keep it that way.
  • It’s a form of respect and hence should not be questioned
  • Sin Sod shows how much you respect the family
  • It’s just a nice gesture

Contra Sin Sod

  • It’s the modern times now. Not the ancient Thailand anymore. We should adapt to modern styles.
  • Marriage should never be about money but about love only. Most things in Thailand are about the money. This has to change (I loved that statement as a general one).

Student Definition of Sin Sod:

Sin sod; the assets that the men give to the parents who raised their wonderful daughter – and also to show them respect. Parents can assume that men can take care of their daughters so that they can trust them.  However money is not the only matter for  marriage, love and understanding do also matter.

Edit: Many of my Thai friends don’t get tired of pointing out that Sin Sod plays a much bigger part in the North-Eastern (Isaan) region than in central or northern Thailand. Would be happy to hear comments on that as well.

Update: Humiliated bride sues husband who didn’t pay Sin Sod.

Feeling enlightened? Or even more confused? Have similar or different experiences? Let me know. I’m glad to learn something new or hear more stories. Comment and discuss. Thank you! 

 

Sascha Funk

Founder / Editor at My-Thai.org
Sascha is the publisher of my-thai.org and switched from an online marketing agency life in Europe to a teaching and education life in Thailand. He also writes about Teaching & Technology.

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  • 30 days

    great explanation. at first i thought i have to say ‘wait that headline is wrong’ – but good job in explaining everything.

  • Manita Tantipimolpan

    In my point of view, base on my acquaintances, many bride’s families return sin-sod their daughters in order to prepare after marriage life with husband. For example, sin sod is spent on new car, new house even expense on their children. Anyway, there are many ways to deal with sin sod. The world changes and so do Thailand.

  • That’s the right attitude. I think I mentioned that in the article as well though :)

  • Parinda Gunsakdinon

    As you said above that Sin-sod is the thai culture. From girls point as me it seem as some payment that my parent take care of me.But as you said from parent view, it is money after marriage problem.
    But for this century, woman more stronger, we did not want sin-sod as the past. Just for process. And man also against the sin-sod as you see in Pantip. Man published the post about asking why man have to paid sin-sod. The highlight post for me that why man have to pay sin-sod even though woman have more income. It funny for me. So in the future if I get marry. I have to ask the man how much money you have in case I have more income than him.
    For the point that buying women, we can think like that but different definition. I think the man should think that he buy the best woman in his life who will take care him. It seem as the long term worthy-investment. I think it is better definition for sin-sod

  • Natchapol Nademahakul

    Thai people also start to question about the SIn-Sod tradition too and I know someone who gone through break ups because of it, but I think it is done for a good cause because it proves that if you are going to take care someone for the rest of your life, you have the resources and power to do so. And now it is more modernized now as you mention in the article, it is only about showing off culture and tradition now and the bride family doesn’t care about the amount of money and they usually gave it back for her daughter to start her family.

  • saran

    So, I love how there are many different views in this article.
    My opinion about this is that I don’t see how we need to change to modern way because its deposit hurt and the parents like it. If you successful then you got the money! Also, parents don’t just came up with an amount they want. They do consider how much is fair and suitable if you are good and love there daughter its just a tradition that we should follow. Maybe when my generation is a parent we probably don’t care about sin-sod anymore.

  • Thanwa Niphatjaroen

    My brother and I are arguing about this as well, Thai cultures tends to stick with what they were always doing and afraid to change them as well. About this i think you really showed a very good point about this.

  • Thank you. Appreciate the feedback!

  • Prakin Chatteeraphat

    I do agreed about your article that Sin-Sod currently is being used to show off of how wealthy each family are.After the wedding, Sin-Sod will be return to the daughter anyway. In my opinion, it does make any sense any more because the cause of showing off might cause some couple to break up and give more pressure to the man who want to marry a women.

  • Watsakorn Kaewsaard

    I just attended my sister’s wedding, and there was no Sin-Sod. I asked her why and she said that they(the couple) would like to spend the money on something else rather than giving money to the parents like the other wedding event. I agree with her because that sin-sod money can sometimes be highly valuable that it could afford a personal airplane.

  • Song Sathiraboot

    For me, as a Thai citizen, I also questioned my parents as well about this topic when I was young. I didn’t really understand why do the family of a male has to pay a money to the family of a women. My parents doesn’t really know either. All they know is that, this is what people do in Thailand, in our society. We don’t really know who create this rule. But it has been followed strictly into these days. In which, I didn’t really like this system that much because I saw some of the couples having trouble with their parents because the male doesn’t have the amount of money to give to the female’s family. In which, it didn’t impressed the female’s family. I felt sorry for the couple that loved each other so much, but have to face an obstacle like this.

  • Jamie Chowpradith

    Wo…wait for it…WOW!!! Lots of INCREDIBLE points, Mr. Funk! “It has been like that forever” This is the sentence that make this Sin Sod thing still exist here in Thailand. However, it’s funny to think about the fact that Thailand is such a mixed culture country! I saw people giving Sin Sod in Chinese wedding!? AHHH Well, because it’s “traditional” and represent “Thainess” they said. Also, in some cases, there are actually Thai women out there who would get married just to get the money ;-( But hey, sometimes, there are gentlemen out there who insist to do it, to prove that they can earn enough money to take care of another family’s daughter who is going to marry him soon. Anyway, I’m feeling so hype reading this post! Thank you for your awesome point of view on this..ah Sin Sod thing.

  • Aployyzz Pattanan

    Honestly, I feel really frightened after seeing the headline-buying a wife in Thailand. However, I don’t completely agree with this traditional. In the past, a man who want to marry should pay money to the wife’s parent as a Sin-Sod. The traditions belief that it’s the payment that the parents looking for the bride until she grows up and ready for being a good wife. It also a claim that the groom is able to look after their daughter in the future. In practical, most of parents don’t keep those money for themselves but they keep it for the couple in order to build their family up. Nowadays, some part of those Sinsod are belonged to the bride. So, I think it is not completely right or wrong in this traditional. It’s good for the couple to prepare money for beginning the new married life but it should be in appropriate amount and actually keep for the couple not for the bride’s parent. Life and feeling of love cannot estimate as a amount of money and living of female can not be trade like a goods.

  • Trustsaran Jantanop

    I find that this sin sod thing is the stupidest thing that is still happening in Thailand. From my POV love does not depend on money, but it seems like this sin sod thing is mostly to prove that a man is rich enough to take care of a woman.

  • Sivakamon Jalanchavanapate

    Cool topic!
    I have experienced sin sod in my own way. For my family is a tipical modern family in Thailand. But the Sin Sod thing is the culture that we have to stick. So the reason you provide are the answer. So, my family usually give away Sin Sod to the groom and the bride so they will have the money to start up the family. So, Sin sod for my family some of it come from the money saving from them when they living together before they get married. So, they are only the custom thing on the wedding. Then we don’t say such thing like pay for girl or man have to take care women like that.