Sin Sod And Farangs
An interesting subject this one.
It seems, to me, that the guys who have the strongest opinion on these topics are the ones who have lived, or live still, in Thailand.
I am coming at it from a different perspective; one of having a semi-tame Thai woman at home with me in England.
We met and married in Bangkok (2001, I think), she came here, we fought like crazy, she was an idiot, I was a twat, blah blah blah, we divorced. My divorce settlement was zero, life went on.
Around eighteen months ago she came back to live with me and is still here. We get on great and she now has a nice little dream of us getting married in Thailand, which is fine by me. When this reared its head though, so did the subject of sin-sod.
When her younger brother married a Thai girl from the village he paid sixty five thousand baht sin-sod. She suggested that I should pay two hundred thousand baht and twenty baht gold, which at today's rate would be another two hundred thousand.
This is not a bargirl looking for a score, she very seriously expected me to agree. When I asked, quite reasonably to my mind, why there was so much more expected of me than her brother I got a fairly heated 'if you don't want to pay then we will never talk about it again' which got me off the hook without either laughing or telling her to, well you get the picture.
Now, given our history and the fact that this would be our second marriage, 'what is that all about?' would appear to be a reasonable question, and one that I have asked myself many times.
My belief is that it is partly because she is Thai and partly because she is a woman. Women generally, in my view, are all slightly unhinged and I'm sure it's us blokes that make them that way. We, us dudes, can fix most problems with a shrug of the shoulders and a trip to the pub. They, the dudettes, are far more complex than that and it drives them crazy. I will never be able to fully understand, or to explain, the workings of a woman's mind.
Now to Thailand. I can't seriously discuss any aspect of Thai culture without the concept of 'face' playing a very large part. Face and family are, to us farang (more of which later), really not that big a deal. To Thais they appear to be everything, whether they admit it or not.
My opinion on the sin-sod situation is simply this. In leaving the village, living a single life in Bangkok and ultimately committing the social taboo of marrying a farang she has lost a lot of face, she is not a 'good girl'.
I don't underestimate this because, having committed the same sin, I have an understanding of these things.
My belief is that, in order to restore her standing in the community, she not only has to bring in a higher sin-sod than her brother, she has to ace the whole village. It has a lot to do with money to me, but far more to do with social standing to her.
To her, the money is a totally abstract concept. She will never see it so all she is doing is procuring it for her mum in a 'I told you so' gesture. It’s just a number and she wants her number to be bigger than anyone else’s. What is also fairly certain is that a large proportion of it would be spent on a party to celebrate the nuptials and, of course, show the whole village their new found wealth.
I don't think that sin-sod is a 'milk the farang' game; it's a game of one-upmanship and farangs can be a major stepping stone. It's nothing personal. <Great paragraph this – Stick>
I interviewed her about the use of the word 'farang', mindful of the fact that that is how they, her and her friends, see me. To them I am a 'farang'.
When she calls me 'farang' it is, in my opinion, no different to me calling her 'Thai', it's just a collective noun. When you think about how poorly travelled the average Thai person is, it's not a surprise, grouping us all together and I'm not in the least offended by it.
I have asked her before about Cambodia; Pol Pot and the killing fields, all that. She had no idea what I was talking about and yet was living next door to it. I have no problem believing that she could no more think of Germany and France as separate countries than she could find them on a map.
It's sensitive territory this, but to the majority of Thai people that I have met the word 'farang' is used in the same way we, I, would use the word 'Jew' or 'Arab' or ‘European’. It's a descriptive word for a disparate group of people who loosely fit together for one reason or another.
The obvious caveat to that notion is this. Thai is a tonal language and the way things are said is very important. I'm completely convinced that to some Thais the word 'farang' is the equivalent of the "n" word and is meant to be offensive, the context is as important as the word. It carries the same racist overtones and the same superiority complex, but when your partner uses it in the home you know that here is more to it than that.
There was one paragraph there about sin sot that I really liked. Maximising the face gain is a big part of it.