The Thai Dowry System is simply a method of payment whereby men are expected to show their absolute generosity as well as love, respect and all the other usual suspects in accordance with Thai culture.
As far as westerners are concerned, the dowry or sinsot as it is known to the Thai people would seem to be a little out of date in these ultra modern times. Besides, behind the scene, it would appear that the dowry could easily be linked directly to some form of extortion rather than as a token of your love.
It would appear that everything about Thailand has some kind of connotation related to the money issue. Thai people spend an awful lot of time talking about money… Well, yours mostly… as well as harping on the poor me syndrome. Without seeming to be disrespectful or to discredit many well-meaning Thai’s, there are a greater number of poor people in other countries out there.
Take the neighbouring country of Cambodia for instance, or the many African countries that are not only extremely poor but who are constantly being displaced by civil wars. Thailand is a rich country with lots of resources and many more opportunities for Thai’s to prosper more efficiently. They have to go out there and grab it. Money just seems easier to obtain from foreigners.
My Thai girlfriend who lives in a good area of Bangkok has a reasonably good job too. She also has money in the bank yet she always complains about how little she has. Sometimes I’m tempted to ask her for a loan, but I know better.
To understand how the dowry system works in Thailand, you also have to understand how the Thai culture works using this system. Daughters brought up in a traditional rural Thai family household without any formal schooling, could easily end up working mostly in the agricultural sector. They, in all probability, tend to remain in their respective provinces and marry locally. The dowry paid will depend on their individual circumstances.
Those who have been more fortunate in having obtained a school education, will either go on to university or venture out to the bigger cities in search of better job opportunities. Whatever the circumstances, many of these city slickers not only provide a reasonable source of income for themselves, but they also provide a fair income for their parents as well.
In many cases, once a daughter marries and has children of their own, the parents will take on a fair amount of responsibility in the child’s upbringing. Any extra income coming into the household is considered a blessing. One of the overwhelming factors here in most Thai households is the great respect that children have for their parents.
In order to compensate for any loss of income should the daughter be unable to work, the future husband will then provide a substantial amount of money in the form of a dowry. And please note that Thai parents do not want any cows or goats compared to that of the typical dowries of Africa. Rural Thai families already have their own water buffaloes. Thai’s want money and as much of it as you are willing to give. To them, this is a good way to ascertain how rich you really are.
The more generous you are, the better your new Thai family will be able to show “face” in their community. This showing of “face” amounts to the extent of respect they will receive. The more money you give, the more respect they get. You, of course, get the girl. More like trying to keep up with the Joneses or better still, getting even with the Joneses at your expense.
How generous should you be
How generous you may be is to understand what is unavoidable and how much is too much. A typical dowry may be paid in equal amounts of cash and or gold. Normally the amount paid would depend on the families social standing.
Poor families could expect around 50,000 Baht and a middle class family could expect around 100,000 Baht. I have heard some girls asking for one million Baht. Nothing wrong in asking, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to pay the asking price.
Apparently, in some cases, parents give as much as half the dowry amount back to the newly married couple but I wouldn’t count on it. This is mostly if the couple are both Thai. During most Thai wedding ceremonies, guests will congratulate the happy couple with a cash envelope, but certainly not the traditional western concept of household goods.
To sum up the Thai dowry system you would need to use your initiative and some common sense. Although your Thai girlfriend will probably try getting as much as possible out of you, you need to be very careful without her getting upset. Do not pay more than you can afford to lose and certainly not more than what a Thai family can earn in a year in the province of their birth.