Negotiating Sin Sot
By BKK Swgain
This post is in response to the recent sin sot posts, specifically Stick's weekly topic (sin sot) which brought on the post from Camuschula and The Thai Lass..
First, I’d like to talk style and I’ll use these three above posts as examples to make my point. Stick's weekly topic discussion on sin sot appeared aimed at a general audience and was well thought out, arguably accurate, to the point, and perhaps most importantly written in a way that respected both the readers and Thai culture / people in general. The latter is important because if you alienate the readers through arrogance and crassness then you might as well be talking to the hand because no one will listen. Whatever points you’re trying to make lose their luster. The Thai Lass, bless her, had some good points which I’ll expand upon.. but her lack of writing skills in general not to mention her limited
English skills just didn’t do much to support her point. Style – Gentleman will not only appeal to a broader audience, but will help keep the readers cursor off the “back” button.
The audience. Who is the audience of this information? I often wonder if even the long time expats residing in the Kingdom realize just how large of a business the marriage scene has become. Business? Of course it is. In every marriage, every country, in every way, marriage is a business consummated with the signing of a legal contract, your marriage license. My post will approach marriage and sin sot from a business viewpoint because my friends, like it or not when it’s time to literally sign your life way you are becoming financially tied to your new wife and in most cases the government of your country as you sign the “affidavit of support” for a marriage based visa.
With that said let me assure you the vast majority of men looking to marry Thai ladies have for whatever personal reasons, decided to come to a country they know very little if anything about, marry into a culture they don’t understand to a woman that can’t understand (literally), for reasons even they don’t understand. And they do it by THE THOUSANDS each and every year. Loneliness is powerful.
So Stick, Cascuchula, The Thai Lass, and myself who have some experience and understanding these men lack, are desperately trying to turn that little light bulb above their heads to the on position. In most cases the facts aren’t enough, the truth isn’t enough, and even once burned isn’t enough. To compensate bluntness to the point of rudeness is often employed as well as whatever shock tactics the writer can muster. While we’re on the subject of experience let me share mine.
I’ve lived all but about 5-7 years of my adult life in Asia. I’ve lived in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Okinawa, and most recently Thailand. I’ve learned to speak in fluent Japanese and Korean, the Japanese all but forgotten. My marriage to a Korean lady lasted almost ten years and produced a son. I’ve lived on the local economies, taught at the local universities (not English) on occasion, worked in the Asian corporate world and even earned my MBA while in Thailand. I’m currently married to a wonderful Thai lady who is probably as average as they come. I’ve driven, owned cars and homes, and enjoyed every part of my host country which any native did, often times more. I’ve recently decided to move to Thailand indefinitely and while I’ve lived here for over two years before, I’ve only been back this time a few months. Oddly enough Thai food is the only Asian food I’ve not enjoyed (drives my wife nuts), and Thai is the only language I haven’t bothered to learn past the casual (very) conversation point. I’ll be correcting the latter at a sharp pace from now on. As luck would have it.. I’ve acquainted myself with a large number of Asian ladies over the years and for the most part these have been ordinary average women.
From a journalistic and perhaps academic viewpoint I’ve made it a point to know and understand the “lady of the night” profession and to be honest it fascinates me. Thailand is no exception. Perhaps in a follow-up post I’ll contrast and compare this area between several Asian countries.
On to marriage. While there are those of us who marry like aged, educated, and like minded women.. for the sake of this post we must quickly get to the point and accept that most men coming here to marry Thai women marry much younger, mostly less educated, and certainly less well off women. This means that in most cases the women are not marrying you because they’re attracted to you (no matter how young you look for your age (you guys need to give that line up)), because you’re their soul mate, or because all else being equal they would have chose you over a like aged and educated local man. THEY ARE marrying you because it’s good business. You bring to the table financial security (hopefully), an increased level of living, and citizenship in a western country. YOU ARE my friends a good business deal. This doesn’t mean that love and success cannot grow out of these relationships.. but it’s vital you understand why the woman is marrying you in the first place.. or honestly.. even looking at you in the first place.
So why the surprise when Thai women and their families do their best to get the best damn deal they can? And if you don’t understand this hard fact of life how can you hope to counter for the best deal you can? We’ve all heard for the “three me’s?” The “me” you pretend you are inside your head, the “me” as other people see you, and the “me” you truly realize you are in your “talk to God” moments.. This is a “talk to God” time folks. Time to be honest with yourself on all counts, not beat yourself up over the truth, and make the best damn deal you can. You’re trying to get the youngest best looking best in bed woman you can afford, and they’re trying to get the biggest down payment “sin sot”, largest monthly payments “family support” and rebate “you’re life insurance” they can. Gentlemen, it’s time to get the three “me’s” and God all in the same room and be honest with yourself and after that hard interview if you still want to seal the deal, then make the best damn deal you can.
The history of sin sot. Who cares? What? The Thai Lass has an excellent point. Who cares about the history? Thai people in most cases don’t know, you don’t know, and anyone who says they know is lying to you. Even the guys writing the history books make this part up as they go along, probably after a night out at their favorite beer garden. What you know, what I know, what Stick knows, and what your Thai fiancée knows is what other people have told them, what they did, what their friends did, what the family down the soi did, etc, etc.. That’s it, and probably most of that is fiction. Unless you plan on transporting yourself back in time who cares what the history is! The facts on this one are only what others care to share. Some do, some don’t, some do better than others. It’s good to get that part over with..
So let’s deal with realities. I was stopped on the expressway last night on the way to the airport right where Stick said they’d be. Seriously, when I bought my new car I had the windows tinted dark just so the police couldn’t easily see I was white until it was too late and I was past them heading away. Past experience has shown me that of the last 20 cars making that illegal U-turn.. the white guy is the one who gets stopped. Last night it was because it was after 2100 and my temporary red plates restrict me to the normal roadways from 2100 to sunrise. I wasn’t the only one.. I watched a lady in a new Corolla pay 100 baht, a Thai man in one of those ugly van shoe box thingys pay 100 baht (these aren’t fines, they’re graft), and when it came to my turn.. well the farang in the new Fortuner had to pay 200 baht. It’s a reality of Thailand so deal with it. Likewise, when it comes to sin sot. and you think you’re going to pay more for the sin sot then deal with it. Deal with it or don’t close the deal. Of course there is some room in between and this is where your business skills come into play.
Like any other business deal, especially in Asia, you negotiate. Not only it is expected, but if you don’t you’re only showing your lack of experience and lack of a backbone. Bargain hard, but bargain fairly. When I bought my brand new Toyota SUV no one had driven it hard, it wasn’t dirty, no dings, no damage, and it smelled nice.. They were asking 1.24 and they got 1.2.. It was a good deal. Now.. if I had been purchasing a 10 year old taxi that had recently been repainted and repackaged to look new.. but in truth it was driven to hell and back, the springs sagged, you never knew if it would start, and every sex tourist who had been to Bangkok in the last ten years had ridden in its backseat! Then I’m bargaining like hell, maybe getting them to pay me to take it off their hands. Can I be anymore clear here? If you’re paying too much for the well-ridden taxi then it’s only your fault, not anyone else’s. Be honest, in less than a year you’ll probably want to sell that old taxi anyway because it will give you way too much trouble.. and if you could sell it for 1.2 then you would. But pushed into a corner you just might pay someone to take her off your hands. Am I wrong here? Get used to the idea.
Ok, so you got the deal you wanted on your old taxi. Do you think the deal is going to include maintenance? A new radiator? New tires? What if it hits a sick waterbuffalo, do you think it will pay for that? Of course not! The purchase price and the maintenance fees are entirely unrelated. Got it? Now.. some dealers might offer a maintenance plan.. Pay one large price and never worry about unkeep again. I’d be very skeptical however, once they have your money in hand they quickly forgot about whatever promises were made and when the oil needs changing it will be back on you. Are we clear on this? Good..
Now licensing fees might be different. The old taxi needs to be licensed, insured, cleaned, and presented to you. Usually the dealership manager, the service manager, you, and everyone else turns out to watch you seal the deal and get the keys to your new ride. If you had negotiated in the cost of this little party then you might be set, and if someone tries to not hold up your end then you just don’t take delivery.. Easy. Usually however these are considered extra costs and during the negotiations it’s best to be very clear and cover these costs up front. You’ve all bought a car before right? If it’s not on the contract then forget about it right? Yup..
You’ve got to admit, by now you’re probably thinking that while you can’t afford the 1.2m for the brand new SUV, it might be wise to buy the three year old Corolla without the sagging springs and cracked block? Ever heard of Carfax.com? Yep, they check out the cars history, when it was bought, how many owners, IF IT HAS A CLEAR TITLE, who’s been driving it, if it’s been in any wrecks, and other such things.. if it’s not a really new car it might be a good deal to pay this fee and see the cars history don’tcha think? Much better to know up front the cars history than to come home early one day and find the real owner putting the key in the ignition.. This is just my opinion of course… some people are into shared ownership or even car pooling.. not me.
I’m not going to go much into the exact prices of used taxis and three year old Corolla’s.. Much has to do with supply and demand, your zip code, negotiating skills, etc.. but there have been a few good posts with prices listed (all more than I think are necessary, but so what) …
Let’s get back to this sin sot thing.. we’ve talked enough about cars for the moment. I’ll say this.. Personally I would never marry any woman who would not marry me because I don’t pay a sin sot. Marriage is about sacrifice and when you get married there’s a long and tough road ahead of you, so I want to be sure my wife is in for the duration. This is my choice for my circumstances. However, if I was a “more mature man” and I was marrying someone 20-30 years younger then me, then we already know it’s not about marriage and is all about the business deal. This is one of those “facts of life” and you’d best be able to tell when one of these facts come along.. Ultimatums are never good from any side of the deal so be careful here. Know and accept who you are, why the woman is marrying you, and lets all hope that time closes that age / love gap thing and the quality of the relationship gets better. Of course we all also know this means you have to be worth it for her to see you this way..
Back on course for a moment.. The Thai Lass made another good point but just didn’t support it as well as she might have.. The best type of business deal is the type when both sides feel they’re getting the best end of the stick. How can that be done? I call it “investing in your future.” You see, we’ve already ascertained there are no hard and fast rules about sin sot and the history of sin sot is merely how we see the deal in relation to the deals of others. That’s it. If your fiancée agrees to marry you without a sin sot you’re going to feel pretty damn good about that I’m sure. Hell, you won. You got the clean end of the stick and your future in-laws got the shitty end. A great feeling no? What? It doesn’t sound good when I put it that way? Ya, thinking about it I agree. Your girl wants to marry you no matter what, even if there’s no sin sot.. lucky guy you are and all.. but maybe this is a time to make this a win-win.. A reasonably sized sin sot might pay for a stick with two clean ends.
With all the uncertainties in Thailand there is one thing you can count on for sure, and that is that when you marry a Thai woman YOU ARE marrying her family. This is universally true across Asia and I hear it even spills over to a lesser extent to western countries. Do you really want to live the next 20-30 years with your in-laws after handing them the shitty end of the stick? Ya, I didn’t think so. Coming up with 50-100K (total) could easily be looked upon as a sign of good will on your part, diplomacy if you will. Everyone’s happy.. You’re wife would have married you no matter what and that’s a great feeling.. there was enough money for a decent party and the wedding your wife’s always dreamed about.. and the in-laws got to keep a little bit of face (and baht).. This gesture, the “letting them win” gesture, will go a long long way in the future.. and this being a marriage and all there might come a time when them having respect for you and being on your side a bit (a bit is all you’ll ever get) will really pay off. Investing in the future.. The Thai Lass really does make an excellent point.
I’ve seen this happen more than a few times.. A man marries and gets away cheap.. and the marriage turns into one of those really good ones. Babies, great in-laws, many happy years.. but the man NOW WISHES he was a bit more generous with these fine people than he was then. It can get really expensive trying to make up for this..:o)
The big picture.. There’s almost always a big picture. I’m of the mind that truly believes that in every successful relationship one of the parties understands and manipulates the big picture to success. The same with business dealings. The most successful businessmen go into the proverbial big meeting KNOWING how it will turn out, give or take a certain percentage they can live with. They go into the meeting already knowing how much their first offer will be, what the first set of terms will be, which point they’ll negotiate first, what point they’ll concede first, etc, etc. Sin sot negotiations are much the same. No matter how good a deal the other party thinks they got, if you bring that deal in on your terms then you know inside that you won. In fact like I said before, the better the deal the other side THINKS they got, the better it is for you, and the better the odds you’ll be doing business with that person again.
NEVER EVER go above your pre-determined price, and never agree to conditions you haven’t previously considered and made arrangements for. Often times the sin sot negotiations aren’t done in one meeting. There’s absolutely nothing wrong at all with requesting some time to think over any aspect of the deal, and then agreeing to another meeting date. Do not be rushed into anything, and do not agree to anything you haven’t already considered. I should probably say that again.. but nah…
Something else I’ve not seen mentioned. The sin sot negotiations will set the scene for future negotiating.. This is your chance to impress the family, show your intelligence, fairness, backbone, and many other traits. It’s also the time where you could unfortunately show a negative side of yourself you didn’t want shown. Thais respect self-respect and they’ll admire you for handling things with fairness and firmness. The sin sot negotiation meeting will set the stage for determining your place within the family. It would be unusual, but not unheard of, for a farang to so impress all those involved, that they will become the senior head of the family. This might or might not be worth something to you. For me personally this gave me veto power over a sister in-law's sin sot negotiation.. and the relationship in general. In a Thai family, especially if you live in country, there are many decisions they’ll look to you for advice or consent on if you’ve earned that position. Personally I think this is a great position to be in because it allows you into your new family on a very sincere and equal basis. For me, it allowed me to truly become “one of the family.” And with a Thai family this can be a very good place to be.
I wish everyone the very best of circumstances, for most people reading this that will mean you don’t marry a Thai lady, for others it will mean a sin sot negotiation where everyone wins, and for some.. it won’t mean a damn thing..:) For those of you who take the effort of getting to know the country, your new family, the culture, etc.. it can mean great happiness.
Many good points, although I have to say that the more submissions we get on the sin sot issue, the more I think that it is a potentially destructive thing with the potential to seriously damage relationships and the marriage before it even gets started.