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Sin Sod - An Explanation

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Thanks to two of our members tomissan and Maizefarmer for some good information regarding Sin Sod. To try and help people new to the forum understand what Sin Sod is I have reproduced their posts here.

The first step in marrying a Thai girl is to have someone approach the ladies parents to discuss the "Tong Mun" and "Sin Sod."

"Tong Mun" which means "gold engagement" is actual 24 karat gold jewelry given to the lady. This is similar to the western engagement ring, which may also be given, but will not be expected.

"Sin Sod" is the marriage price, the word "Sin" means riches, things of value. In the past it might have been farm animals, farm products, land, or some such. Now money is used as the thing of value. "Sod" is the act of storing away, or holding the "Sin". Long ago it could have been keeping the "Sin" if it was a farm animal in a secure fenced area. Now the "Sin" would be likely stored by depositing the money into a bank. The amount will vary due to several factors such as, the social status and wealth of the parents, the education, age, and beauty of the daughter. The cost of the ceremonies, parties, food, etc., will be paid by the parents using part of the Sin Sod.

As a Westerner you think this sounds like selling ones daughter but the Thai culture has a completely different idea about it. They believe a prospective husband owes them for bringing up the daughter to be a proper lady and wife. Second you are replacing the labor she would have contributed to the family wealth. Third you are demonstrating you have the financial ability to support a family. Thai's are very strict about going along with their culture.

The "Tong Mun" and sometimes the "Sin Sod" will be presented at a betrothal ceremony called a "Phitee Mun," which will take place at the parents home. There may be a small group of family and friends present for the ceremony which involves the introduction of the groom by a friend, giving of the gifts, promises by the groom to take care of the daughter, and acceptance by the parents. You and your lady are now considered to be "Koo Mun" which means "tied or joined couple," (engaged.) Afterward there will be a meal served, and conversation.

Sometime later, it could be the same day, next day, next week, or whatever date set by the "Koo Mun," there will be the actual wedding ceremonies.

The "Bai Sri Soo Kwan" ceremony. The "Bai Sri" is a symbolic ornament put together by the women of the village using banana leaves, rice, flowers, and string. "Soo Kwan" is a sermon given by a village elder. The ceremony concludes by each guest tying a string around the wrist of the bride and of the groom, while giving the married couple their blessings, followed by the placing of a garland of flowers around the couples necks. There will be a meal, music, and "Ram Vong" dancing if there is room.

Although some or most Westerner's disagree or don't like the idea of paying for a wife, it is Thai tradition. For more than 20 years I've been to many wedding ceremonies, including many family members and only once did I hear of the brides parents giving some of the Sin Sod back to the groom so he could start a business. In addition, Thai grooms usually give more than farang. The bride & groom share the gifts of money given to them at the Phitee Mun ceremony.

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For the benfit of all who didnt pick up on the other Sin Sot thread - read on:

Firstly, it is never a condition and no approving parent (rich or poor) cares two hoots about it.

Let me put that another way, if practised as it should be, it is NEVER asked for - and if it is, then something is wrong right from the start - it is gesture, made to the parents in-law by the husband to be entirely of his own free will.

It is about an expression on the husband to be's side to accept his role of care in the family - and that is a very traditional Thai (and South East Asian) practise (in reply to the forum member who questioned why in was so totaly oppisite to "dowry" as practised in places like India and Pakistan).

Yes, it is practised less and less nowadays, because the family structures are less and less what they were in the old days, but a lot of families do still practise it.

Where sinsot is practised honestly in Thai society, you will find that the parents in law often return most of it back with the other hand to the new couple as a wedding present - who suddenly find that the poor old dad (who hadnt a penny to his name before you married his daughter) has purchased them some land for them to build a house on - or it is spent in some other relivant context: to take the often poor abused buffulo (and the excuses which this animal provides), a rice farmer would buy his new son-in-law a "new" buffalo to pull the plough (if the one the son inlaw had was old).

And yes - fact it is practised more in the rural communities, where traditions have hung on a bit longer, but its practise has been across the whole Thai social status strata, and it is not limited to certain incoime brackets - so please dont hang onto the "poverty" comparison I have made - the key words are "relivant to the circumstances".

The point I am making is that it is traditonaly reciprocated by the parents in law - so if you are concerned and trying to establish whether or not the sinsot was conducted in its correct context - look out for some sort of reciprocation, because by and large it is returned to the couple in some way or another that would be of help and relivant to the circumstances.

That is sinsot in its correct place.

It is not about money - its about gesture, tradition, committement and a whole set of values related to you becoming part of that family. It is a serious matter which has no value if it becomes an "exchange of goods" as outlined in my first posting on this subject.

It has no legal value in the sense that it is part of Thai marrige law.

In reply to the forum member who raised the question why sinsot as a subject had been related so much to bar-girls - well the fact of the matter is that most instances of sinsot practised between farangs and Thais takes place between guys who marry bargirls - not all cases, but the majority - and this is the same group in which most marriages between ex-pat males and Thai girls take place (again , not all but most) - and it is against that background that most sinsot takes place out of its correct and proper context and/or role.

I hope that helps to put the subject into perspective.

Tim

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on the dowry aspect, I cant speak much. However, if they are genuine, they should be satisfied with a public ceremony (invite some guests, rather than internal family only). i dont think you should give any dowry, ..... an engagement ring for sure, other items of jewelry i think is something that can be negotiated, and you shouldnt be told it is a must.

you will probably have to pay for the expense of ceremony..which in itself could amount to a fair bit (depending on where and how many people). the number of guests, again you dont need to make it huge like a wedding, but all im saying is, it may very well be bigger than what is traditional engagement party in the western culture.

I know and have been to lots of weddings where the actual reception would have cost close to a million baht, add to that dowry and other items (gifts) for family members. crazy stuff, but there are people who do that.

eg. father of bride got some huge dowry from the groom. he gave them a huge house in bangkok in return. who knows which of the value was more, but they do it not cos they want the money, but its a way to show ability of the husband to take care of their daughter.

Nibaru,

MiG16 made some good points, but I would suggest you are asking the wrong people (i.e., us, expats) as we all have our conscious and subconscious home country customs and biases. I would ask some Thai friends of the family what they would expect in such a situation. Having said that, I will offer some comments from my experience.

  1. Sinsod was required and provided at the engagement.
  2. The amount reflected the family's value of their daughter (plus some consideration of the prospective groom's finances). It also reflected their status in the community (e.g., sinsod for the daughter of a multi-millionaire in BKK will not be the same as for a Isan's farmer's daughter). And remember, no family anywhere in the world wants their children marrying "down".
  3. Engagement ring (and any other jewelry) goes to the prospective bride; sinsod goes to the family. Keep the two separate.
  4. In my case, the family held the engagement party (maybe because I didn't know enought to have a big public one?). However, it is customary for the groom to pay for the wedding (and I did). And, again, her family will want one that at least reflects their status. If you are a $1000/month man marrying into a rich family, then something will have to be worked out. Note I did not write "negotiated" (more on this below).
  5. Most family's I know who were essentially financially stable used the sinsod to help out the newly weds in some manner, regardless of whether their daughter married a Thai or foreigner.

I very, very strongly suggest you do not discuss anything with the family thinking in the back of your mind "it is negotiable". I think that is a serous deficiency with so many of the comments you got. You are not making a purchase. Thinking "negotiate it down" puts you in the wrong frame of mind, it will come across in your manner, and is insulting to both the girl and her family. Like MiG16 said, it is not because of the money; the money is a just a symbol. If the family thinks your are a suitable husband for their daughter and fully understand your financial status, it can be worked out (not negotiated).

Now go ask some Thai male and female friends what they think if you really want to understand the Thai marriage customs.

Edited by noise

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I read the pined post of: Pinned: Sin Sod - An Explanation "PLEASE READ THIS FIRST”

And Now, I am more confused than ever. I understand the terms, and I know the cultural significance of it, but I still don’t know what is appropriate, there are two posts in that thread , one say you always get it back , the other one say you don’t get it back, which one is correct?? I love my fiancé, and I love her family, they are decent people and I want to do the right thing for her and her family. Personally I think that my fiancé getting married to me (I don’t have such a high opinion of my self , just considering the opportunities available to her as a US citizen) is of greater value, than sinsod ,but I understand the need of her family to comply to their cultural norms. After all they have to live in their village and they need to be respected.

I know that this subject has being disclosed many times, I have read countless of posts on the subject, but there are so many conflicting opinions, I am now more confused than ever. Can some one once and for all tell me what is appropriate. Not your opinion on the matter, we all have one, not what you would do, or have done, that is anecdotal, and your particular situation. but what is appropriate.

Thank you :)

PS. My finance is a beautiful 25 year old, with a University degree, from a poor family in Isaan .

Neither is correct - there is no rule: for each marrige the circumstances are different, and its the merits of each case that will determine what gets giving back, and the circumstances under which it is given back.

Put it this way: its common to have something given back, than not to (call it tradition if you wish).

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Sin sod is part of the culture and part of the ceremony for sure. My take is that it depends on the family finances a lot.

Middle to high class family, i.e. not short or desperate of money will give it back to the couple. Amounts can be anything from 100k to several millions. It's mainly for show during the ceremony. Some of these families might be greedy and if you do not discuss it beforehand they also might keep the money.

Lower class and poor families especially in Isan tend to keep the money as the family is usually always short of cash. In your case i would say propably around 100k is already good money and you should not go much more higher than that. Locals propably pay max 50k, more likely much less.

Then, in Isan. If there is someone in the village married to farang and that bloke paid 1 or 2M you are definedly asked the same or more. Matter of face and "market value" the parents see. They also see opportunity to get rich via your marriage. Another issue is that if you are much older than your lady the parents see what it is and ask you to pay more. Also keep in mind that they propably have no idea of money and might consider 5M is loose change for you as all farangs are rich beyond their wildest imagination.

So your biggest problem is to get your girl and her family to see the facts. I.e. amounts over 100k are serious money in farangland as well and all they ask is out from their daughter's life. Try to reason with your girl and get her to explain it to the family as well that you prefer to use the money for your life together as couple instead of giving it all to her parents to blow on cars and cellphones or gambling. Best way to do this is to take your girl to US to see herself what is the cost of living there and where the money comes from.

Then again as the guys say above they have paid millions for poor isan girl's family. Nothing wrong with that if you have the money and agree to give it to the parents so it also depends on your own finances.

And don't forget, it's not only the sin sod, you are also expected to buy gold for the mother and for your girl and pay for the wedding ceremony and party for the who village. You can easily spend few 100k on these as well if you want. Quite common way is that you can negotiate so that the sin sod is used to cover for the gold and cost of wedding party and ceremony and what ever is left is then returned to the couple of kept by the parents.

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I think Sin Sod is done differently depending where the girl is from. My wife is a middle class from Bangkok and sin sod was never brought up. Maybe because we married in Australia first and then in Thailand second. Both Western style weddings. Our Thai wedding had a bit of a Thai flavour to it though. But no sin sod.

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Violet Fonce....I'm with ya!

I just got engaged in Bangkok so I could take pictures for the K-1 Visa process.  I gave the parents 50,000 baht as a down payment on the sin sod.

Early in the relationship, she told me 200,000 baht.  Her mom asked for 300,000 baht.  She told her mom she loves me and that I only have to pay 200,000 and for the extra 100,000, she will work when she comes here and give it to her....

I also only have to cough up 5 baht of gold.

Stats, girl from Issan, one 6yo son, BA degree from Mahidol University (I paid for 50% about 5K)

You know...in the long run, if it's true love, the amount of sin sod you pay is irrelevant...

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I think it may help if Sin Sod/t was put into context.

It’s an Asian tradition – and it’s not exclusive to Thailand. It has been practised in one form or other across South East Asia for hundreds of years.

There is no "yes or no" or "right or wrong" about it - its practise is very much on a case by case basis (and it is starting to die out – just as many other traditional cultural and family practises are starting to die out as South East Asian communities move headlong towards Western values and practises)

Traditionaly, it’s been a “thanks” (of sorts) a groom makes to his parents-in-law, and as important as that, it has also been a demonstration of the grooms’ sincerity and committement to his parents’-in-law - similar to the practise of the eldest son of a family traditionally taking on the primary responsibility of caring for his parents in old age. SS, is in some ways, an extension of that practise - and like many cultural/family practises from the old days, it grew from the practise of providing a safety net for elderly family members as the mariage of a daughter traditionaly meant one less pair of hands work in the house and field, after marrige is moved out of her parents home to live with her husband, in his or with him in his parents home.

The basis to many family/culturle practises associated with marrige in Asia, are often associated with real life circumstances that exsisted at the time these practises started. No State health/welfare or other forms of safety net in those days!

But but - its not all a one way “transaction”.

On the other side, if the whole “business” is been carried out with honesty and integrity, and you are genuinely been accepted into the family for what you are - then you can expect your partner and parents-in-law to reciprocate your gesture - and one way of expressing that reciprocation is not putting you into a situation you cannot afford, or which causes you distress.

… if that’s what is happening, or, if you have doubts, then you really need to take time out before signing on the dotted line.

Sadly, Thaivisa is full of examples of ex-pat fools, and equally, Thai partners who set out to use abuse SinSod/t dishonestly.

Speaking for myself, I’d be taking a very close look at their and my real motives for wanting the marriage to go ahead – in fact, I’d be kicking myself for allowing the subject of marriage to come up before knowing my partner well enough to know I wouldn’t have to worry about such a basic issue - because at its core it raises more than a few questions about the strength and nature of the relationship, and how well I know partner(?).

As I always say when throwing my 2cents worth in on such threads: approach relationship issues no differently than if you were dealing with a Western girl. Again, as said above, at the core of rleationships with Thai's (both on a personal and professional level) are many of the same values we accept and recognise in the West - they are universal values of right versus wrong, honesty versus dishonesty. They're no different in Thailand, and in how we deal with those we live and work with.

Edited by Maizefarmer
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If it's a reasonable request, and you can afford it, then pay it

If the request is not reasonable and you can't afford it, then don't

If the girl won't marry if you can't pay, then you know it was only about the money

It really is as simple as that

Correct .... and that is the one universal answer that works for every single question about the sin-sort.

Robbie here is right. you do what you can afford, dont go overboard. but it is part of thai, and other Asian cultures also practice it. it was not invented to 'scam' farangs. :)

Forgive me if I sound ethnocentric, I am not , I have great respect for all cultures especially the Thai culture, But.

As far as the benefits of a poor girl from isaan derives from marring an American citizen ( and for that mater a Euro, or Australian or other national)are concern, in my opinion, go far above the sinsod. For instance as soon as she arrives to the US ( we have applied and should be getting her fiancé visa any day now) we will marry in the US and change her status from Visa to permanent resident, with in 2 years she will have her Green card, and with in 5 years apply for citizenship. Get An American passport and the opportunity to travel the world with most countries requiring no visa from the US. Access to first rate continuing education, and the opportunity to get a job where she makes more in 3 days than she will make in Thailand in a month, Protection under the law. Her family will , over the years, receive assistance far greater than the initial sinsod, and access to some of the opportunities available in the rest of the world that are not available to them now. But most of all she will have the opportunity to reach her full potential.

some have said you only have to pay sin sod to isaan girls, or only to poor, or only to [insert whatever other category you want to]. well this is not the case. it exists in all social groups (as far as I know).

Up to you.... its for show, so most certainly should get it back - this is how it works. Anyone tells you differently then you are being scammed.

Im gonna refute this statement somewhat. the idea of sin sod is for the parents to keep. but yes you are right that in practice many families will decide to give back part or all of the sin sod to the couple (there are also instances where the parents will top up the amount!). but all this depends on the financial ability of the individual family. there may be some families who are poor but still decide to give it back. some might not. the same with the rich.

bottom line is - the choice is up to the parents IF they want to give it back.

so you should offer what you think you really are able to give away. (there may be cases when it IS agreed before hand that they only want X amount, but need 10X amount shown, but the rest will be given back. this however needs to be discussed and made very clear. let your fiance do the talking, you dont make that kind of negotiation directly with the parents)

in chinese culture they infact have a person whose role is to engage in these kinds of negotiations!

so those dating chinese thai, you may be aware of this?

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"Im gonna refute this statement somewhat. the idea of sin sod is for the parents to keep. but yes you are right that in practice many families will decide to give back part or all of the sin sod to the couple (there are also instances where the parents will top up the amount!). but all this depends on the financial ability of the individual family. there may be some families who are poor but still decide to give it back. some might not. the same with the rich.

bottom line is - the choice is up to the parents IF they want to give it back.

so you should offer what you think you really are able to give away. (there may be cases when it IS agreed before hand that they only want X amount, but need 10X amount shown, but the rest will be given back. this however needs to be discussed and made very clear. let your fiance do the talking, you dont make that kind of negotiation directly with the parents)

in chinese culture they infact have a person whose role is to engage in these kinds of negotiations!

so those dating chinese thai, you may be aware of this?"

This statement is absolutely wrong. Sinsot is ONLY about show and nothing more. It is NOT about buying the daughter from the parents but rather to show all and sundry that the groom has financial substance and therefore lives up to the bride’s family status.

The sinsot is MOST DEFINATELY given back to the couple after the ceremony.

living in exile

Im not disagreeing to come across as knowing better than other people, but I do have to add something in response to your remark about 'buying'

sin sod is not money to BUY anyone. however, one of the original concept why it came about is that daughters traditionally contribute to household work in different ways. (either working in the fields, or house chores, including taking care of parents physically). once she is married off, the parents lose this help. the sin sod is a way of saying, here is my contribution while i cant be here to continue helping you.

to use the term buying is offensive, and it is certainly not something Id imply about thai women, that we need to be bought :)

also as said, it is traditions, but in practice people adopt different ways of it, and adapt it to suit their circumstances.

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You should realize that the sin-sod is far more important to her and her family then it is to you.
I'm sorry to have a downer on you 'Kenai' as you sound a nice bloke, but if it's "more important to her and her family than it is to you" then let her pay it. Love is a 2 way thing. But love really doesn't come into it in Thailand it the ability to 'look after', that's the most important thing. Love usually comes later in my opinion.

My wife actually did pay, she worked and saved for the wedding just as much as I did. But I do understand your point. And part of me agrees, just as I feel if they want an engagement ring worth thousands they can waste their own money on it. Luckily my wife is not the gold or diamond type.

As far as love not coming into it in Thailand I see your point. Perhaps in your culture money and success of the groom matter much less. Many Thai come from a very poor background, when you are very poor money does mean allot.

Families love their children very much they want their daughters to be taken care of, they also often need their children to take care of them. It isn't surprising they want a nice loving son-in-law that can and is "willing" to help take care of them. To me the sin-sod is a way for them to measure the groom. It is also a good way for the groom to gauge the brides family and learn about their intentions...

Edited by kenai

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kenai,

well said

but ive also said that in the end, you talk to your GF/wife. bottom line is, no one, certainly not her parents, would want to bankrupt their future son in law.

the harder it is for him to find the money, the harder their daughter's life will be once they are married

(hence why the practice of often the amount is given back to the couple to start their new life together)

I think people need to get away from the idea of thinking sin sod is about buying love.

in thai culture, children take care of parents once they are able to. be that once they start working, and yes, also once they get married.

through whichever method, a daughter now has additional support from her husband (dual income, or he supports her, whichever), so it says that she is now secure, and hence should be able to take care of her parents. (not to forget that they took care of her, and that very likely in the future the parents will also help look after grandchildren). that is just the way things work in this society.

modern influences may have changed different aspect of all the above.

and to those that may raise the question as to how does the wife repay the husband's parents?

again, remember that even today extended family living together is still common in thailand. many couples still live with their parents after they are married. the new daughter in law is expected to take care of parents in law in the same way she would have her own parents

many of you may find the idea out of date. I wont argue with that.

but if you ask about traditions and practices, the above views are what I can offer.

every family maybe different.

but one thing is for certain:

Sin Sod was NOT invented to rip off farangs :)

it has existed in thai culture for centuries. in fact in the earlier days, a thai woman marrying farang or any other non-thai would be considered an outcast, and parents would not allow that.

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My tips on Sinsot:

Don't write the idea of Sinsot off if you really love a Thai girl. It is tradition, and if you're marrying in Thailand you should consider it.

Try and gauge or ask what her female relatives of similar age received from their Thai husbands, and what her male relatives paid their Thai wives.

Generally Thais don't marry out of their class so it's a good gauge with family.

Also ask what happened to the Sinsot on that occasion. It really does vary according to location, class, family situation and so on. Sometimes returned sometimes not. Even among Thais.

If you marry into that family and a particular social circle, consider that if you don't go with the flow, you're setting yourself up as an outsider from the start.

Think how the love of your life will feel if all her siblings paid/ received Sinsot and you don't in a face driven country like Thailand

Don't forget your own face in Thailand. Don't over pay but don't look like mister khii-neaow either providing it fits with the social family and circle you're joining

Paying or not paying Sinsot you're setting a precedent for what happens next: cheapskate, no understanding of culture or unwilling to compromise, overgenerous idiot, farang mug. All are possible

If you really object to it and your girl is traditional and expects it, get married outside Thailand in your own country where it isn't the cutom.

Compare all that with what you are comfortable with for the love of your life.

Personally for the right girl, in the right situation, in the right social setting I believe Sinsot is appropriate if marrying in Thailand.

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