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.
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?
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.
- Sin Sod is not a dowry!
- Sin Sod does not mean buying a girl!
- Sin Sod is not only about the money but the amount does have some kind of importance
- Sin Sod is not only money. It’s also gold, jewelry, goods (cars, house, land, etc.)
- You can’t get Sin Sod back
- Sin Sod is Thai culture (god how I hate that argument)
- Normally there’s no way around Sin Sod.
- 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!)
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.
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!
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