Stickman Readers' Submissions October 8th, 2009

Is a Thai woman an Asset or Liability?

Well let me first introduce myself, I hail from a Scandinavian country and I live in China, working and doing business. I came to Thailand for the first time when I was 26 which was a lot fun as you can imagine, being a young guy in an ocean of women.

I am a long time reader and first time submitter to this site. I think Mr Stickman is doing a good and indeed a necessary job by letting people share their stories about Thailand here. Newcomers to the kingdom can avoid plenty of problems
by reading the stories collected here. Now I am 32 and happily married to a Thai woman and we have a lovely son.

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Anyway, let's move on to the topic: Is a Thai woman an asset or a liability?

As I have my own business I need to have basic financial literacy. I need know some bookkeeping and accounting practices and so on. Without that I couldn't run my own business. It's as simple as that. A dear friend of mine (who
is a dollar multi-millionaire) taught me the concepts of compounding interest and investing principles a few years ago. I wanted to have an early retirement in Thailand and he showed me the basics of financial literacy so I could start building
a nest egg. I kept reading books, subscribing to newsletters and following financial news daily. I am no Warren Buffet and never will be but now I know more about economics and how money works than just a few years ago.

My Thai girlfriend who came over to see me from Thailand while I was working here in China, just has a basic Thai education and is now my wife. Her family makes a living as farmers and owns quite a lot of land . They have paid off all loans
to the bank, are not rich but I wouldn't call them poor either.

While she was with me in China we partied without a hat and she got pregnant. Now I love this woman because she is the kindest woman I have met in my life and when she told me she was pregnant I was happy. I played around a lot in my life
and felt (and still feel) ready to start a family to stabilize my life. My wife-to-be informed me that we would have to get married quickly before people in the village could tell that she was pregnant as that would be a big face loss for her
family if she gave birth without being married. As she is a devote Buddhist, abortion was out the question, marriage or no marriage she said. OK, let's get married, I replied.

As you all know the sin sot and wedding plans negotiations came up pretty quickly.

My wife was 23, pretty good looking and hadn't had any kids. She had never even introduced her previous boyfriends to her parents. She used to date a young doctor in her home town before she met me but still she is considered in some
way untouched by her parents – so the sin sot could cost me. I have a read a lot of opinions here on about the sin sot. Some people claim you don't have to pay a dime because you are a foreigner but what it usually comes
down to it seems, is just showing money at the ceremony and then you get the money back. Now I knew my girlfriend didn't stay with me because of money, because I never sent her any, except when I paid for her airplane tickets to come visit
me. I pick up the bill when she stays with me but I am not at a Western Union office every month sending her money.

Here follows a brief summary of our negotiation. If you have any experience doing business with the Chinese you know that they have a cut-throat approach to it even though it is all smiles and “let's be friends before we do any
business”. I learned a lot from them and used that knowledge in this negotiation.

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Me – So baby…how much can your parents pay my family for me marrying you?

She – What!?

Me – Yeah, I mean in the west it is the bride's family who pays for the wedding and the dowry to the groom's family, soooo how much do you think your family can pay me?

She – But…But in Thai culture it is the man who pays the woman.

Me – Yeah I have heard something about that….(yawning)

She – Baby we agreed to getting married in Thailand in a Buddhist ceremony…you are expected to pay a sin sot for me…

Me – I see what you mean…however I am a Westerner, not Thai…so how much?

She – (Silent as in shock)

Me – Traditionally it would be the equivalent of the price of two cows, but that was a long time ago when people did that in Europe! How much does a water buffalo cost in Thailand? Maybe your family could buy two of them for my family!

She – Arai wa!

I am of course lying to her, however…how could she possibly know that?! She has never been to the west so at this point I had to struggle to keep a straight face.

She goes on and on about Thai culture. I stick to my guns telling her that she is marrying a westerner and that our marriage is 50% Thai and 50% western, so instead of her family paying my family dowry and vice versa we could omit the sin sot entirely. Finally it comes down to this. We show money on the wedding and I get it all back. I pay for the wedding and her family gets to keep the envelopes from the guests. She wanted to have 600 guests because her father is some kind of village
elder and an MP from Bangkok would attend the wedding as some kind of guest of honor., I got the number down to 400 hundred and it went something like this.

Me – Baby I got a great idea! Why don't we get married in a city hall in China right now, just the two of us and then we can go on a romantic honey moon to Macau where we can gamble and stay in a five star hotel and when we get back
to Thailand we just show the people in your village pictures of our wedding trip…that would be so romantic! Just the two of us!

She – (Silent and looking very troubled)

Me – Or maybe…I don't know….maybe we could have a smaller wedding in your village…I am not sure though….

She – Ok…we make smaller wedding!

Me – Ok…how about 75 guests? That's normal in the west.

And so it went

In America I think its called “low balling” when you start a negotiation with a ridiculous low price and let your counterpart work hard to get it up. The fact was that my baby was in her stomach so I had the upper hand in the
negotiations no matter what but I had to duke it out with my wife before she called her parents with the wonderful news that we were getting married.

The weeks that followed were hectic, especially for my dear wife to be. She arranged a lot of wedding stuff over the telephone from China and I started to teach her the basics of money management.

I thought like this. Where do I put my wife? Do I put her in the asset column or the liability column? Will she be a team player in our team (family that is) or will she stay at home watching TV and threaten to go on a sex strike unless I
give her more money for the shopping account? Question…questions…

We talked a lot about it. I showed her the concept of a nest egg and showed her how much faster it would grow if both of us helped out instead of just me. After a while she got it.

Now my wife has never been a big spender but on the other hand she never made a lot of money either so we agreed to set up a business for her (with my investment) after the baby was born and I would cover the costs of the baby. She would
live with her family in Thailand while I finished my contract in China because she never liked staying in China anyway. We flew to Thailand, had our wedding and then I returned to work in China and then I returned again when the baby came and
stayed there for a few months with my baby and her and then headed back China again. She set up her shop and is doing pretty well now.

I plan to quit working for a pay check and take the leap over to Thailand to stay there full-time with my wife only working on my business. But to be able to do that my wife would have to open another shop to be able to cover our monthly
expenses, while I pursued money for the big purchases, house, car and so on.

So…my dear wife was probably a liability when I met her, uneducated about money and probably thinking that her farang husband would send her money every month.

Now she will be the one covering my stay there while I work hard to expand my business so we can build a dream house and but a nice car. Now she is definitely an asset. The house will be in my son's name if any of you are wondering.

What I think I want to say in this submission apart from amusing you with my negotiation technique is that Thais in general think that when a foreigner goes to the toilet gold comes out of his ass and that is why we are so rich. Planning
for the future is not really the Thais' favorite thing to do as we all now. To have a successful marriage I think your spouse has to take part in the planning of the family economy just like in the west and to be able to see exactly how much
her (frivolous?) spending actually affects the future for both of you. Also I just want to add that when a westerner marries a Thai / Asian woman he doesn't have “fold over” on all of his future wife's family's demands.
He is a westerner and he is the man of the household. The contract can't be 100% in Thai if you understand what I mean. I think it has to be 50 – 50.

Negotiation is everything

Stickman's thoughts:

You seem to be a very smart young man and I think your marriage is going to go just fine. Do drop us another submission in the future and let us know how it's going.

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