|Published: 1st June 2008||Author: Know Phuket|
In our last article, we discussed the slightly touchy subject of western husbands paying their Thai wives a salary. In this article, we will look at the much more contentious subject of whether western men should pay sinsot to the family of their prospective Thai wife.
What is Sinsot?
Sinsot is the Thai marriage tradition of the man giving money and gold to his new wife's family. They put the payment on display at the marriage ceremony. It is a way for the man to show he has the financial means to take care of his new wife and for the woman's family to gain face. It shows how highly the man values his new wife so the more money and gold they can put on show, the more face the family gain.
The parties involved hold negotiations before the wedding to agree how much the man should pay. Usually the woman's family will make an opening request and the man will counter offer, etc. They do not just negotiate how much money and gold he will give, but also what will happen to the payment after the marriage ceremony. There are no definite rules on this. Sometimes the entire amount will go to the woman's family. However, often they will agree to return some or all of the payment after the ceremony. Sometimes, they will agree to give some or all of the money to the woman to help her set up her new home.
So the amount that is put on show at the wedding ceremony is not always the amount that the man will actually pay. Although sometimes the wife's family just want to negotiate as much money as they can get, there are many other nuances to these negotiations. If the parties agree that some of the payment will be returned, then the man is showing trust in his wife's family that they will honour the agreement. They in turn can show they are trustworthy by repaying the agreed amount.
A successful sinsot agreement and transaction shows the man values his new wife and the families can work together. It is a good start to the couple's married life and for the relationship between both families. An unsuccessful sinsot transaction can cause bitterness and have repercussions for years to come.
Do Thai Men Really Pay Sinsot?
Some western men believe that sinsot is a tradition invented purely for Thai families to squeeze money out of their farang-son-in-law. They do not believe that Thai men really have to make these payments.
Well sinsot is a tradition that is slowly fading in Thailand. There are many Thai marriages where no sinsot payment is given. However, the sinsot tradition is genuine and many Thai men still have to make this payment to get the wife they want. The amounts involved can be very high and often the Thai man will need to save for years or borrow the money to make the payment.
As with so many things in Thailand, the answer is not clear-cut. Some Thai men have to pay sinsot and some don't.
How Much Should Men Pay?
There are no definite rules about how much sinsot to pay. It is down to negotiation. It does depend a great deal on the circumstances of the woman. For a well educated young woman from a high-class family who is beautiful and has a good career, her family can demand a high sinsot. I have heard of Thai men paying two million baht for such women.
Women from lower class backgrounds can still be worth high sums if they are beautiful and especially if they are still virgins. The Thais use the word 'fresh' to describe such women and there is still a lingering tradition that some women save themselves for their marriage partner. Such women may command sinsot payments up to 500,000 baht.
However, such high payments are certainly not the norm. I would say a typical Thai sinsot would be under 100,000 baht and probably with half the payment returned to the man after the ceremony.
There are factors that reduce a woman's value. If a woman is divorced or has children then her value is greatly reduced. My wife is previously divorced and I certainly did not consider making a sinsot payment and the subject was never raised by her family.
If a woman has worked in the sex industry then she is sullied goods and Thai men would not be willing to pay a large sinsot. Still I know one Thai man who found his wife in a girly bar and paid 200,000 baht sinsot to her family, none returned.
Should Western Men Pay Sinsot?
The contentious bit - should western men give sinsot if they marry a Thai woman? Many men will point out that sinsot is not a western tradition so why should they have to follow it. In fact, the western tradition is almost the opposite where the woman's family should pay for the wedding ceremony. Just like in Thailand, that tradition has become a little outdated and many marriage ceremonies do not follow it.
There is no simple answer. It is up to the man and his fiancé to find a compromise solution that works for both parties. It does seem that many western men are much more willing to bend to Thai traditions than the other way around. Therefore, it is common that western men agree to make some kind of sinsot payment. That does not mean they should pay over the odds just because they are western. If the western man is willing to give sinsot then he should negotiate an amount with which he is comfortable. Remember that agreeing to a sinsot payment that leaves you feeling bitter will not make for a good start to the marriage.
Also remember, dare I say it, that if you found your fiancé working in the sex industry, she really is not worth a high sinsot payment.
What I would say is that the sinsot negotiation can tell you a great deal about your fiancé's family. If they are willing to accept that sinsot is not your tradition or they do not want a sinsot, then this is a very positive sign. It shows they may be enlightened about accepting other people's values and they are more interested in the happiness of their daughter than making money.
Even if her family are traditional and do want to negotiate a sinsot, this is not always a bad thing. It is how they carry out the negotiation and how much money they ask for that you should judge. If they ask for a fair amount or if they are willing to return some or give the money to your wife, then they are probably a good family. It is when they start asking for unreasonable amounts and will not negotiate that I would become wary. If they start using negotiating tactics like 'take it or leave it' or suggesting that other men are willing to pay this amount, then you may be dealing with a family that are going to be a problem.
This might sound harsh, but no matter how lovely your Thai woman may be, if you are marrying into a bad family then you are going to have problems. They will always be a bad influence in the marriage and Thai family ties are so strong that it will be tough for your wife to side with you. A bad family has been the doom of many mixed marriages in Thailand. If you get the feeling that your fiancé's family are only interested in your money, then sometimes it is best to walk away from the whole thing and start again.
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