Western Woman on Sin Sod
Hi again! Aussie Lady here, after a long hiatus. Thanks to people who have written to me and my apologies to those I did not reply to. I have been busy completing a post-grad degree and having my fifth child. Best of luck to a particular gentleman who shared his touching story with me – I still think about it from time to time…
I wanted to give you my experience on sin sod as a Westerner married to a Thai man. Take into account that I married a Muslim Thai man, and according to Islam it is compulsory to give a sin sod (also called a “mahr”) to the bride. The “price” of the sin sod is up to the bride alone, although others may advise her on the matter. The sin sod does not necessarily have to be in the form of money, but can be something else such as property or a precious item etc.
When my husband asked me to marry him, we were in a long distance relationship. One of his first questions after I accepted was to ask me what I wanted for a sin sod. I have never been overly interested in the material side of life, but I knew exactly what I wanted from him. He smoked regularly, and I saw this as my opportunity to ask him for one very important thing that would make me happy in our married life. I said I wanted him to give up cigarettes as a sin sod to me. He wasn’t sure if this was a valid request, so he said he’d get back to me.
He rang and asked a scholar of Islam for his thoughts on the matter. The scholar told him that “smoking is haram [unlawful] according to Islam, so give up immediately and ask her again what she wants for a sin sod!” I was so proud of him when he gave up smoking over the following months.
So when he asked me again what I wanted, I said I’d like a ring and he was to choose one which he thought I would like (the style and price were up to him). That way, even though wearing a wedding ring is not an Islamic tradition, people would be able to see I was married. On our wedding day he presented me with a gold ring and necklace. His mother also bought me a gold bracelet. I think the bracelet from his mum was a gift of appreciation and possibly a way of giving me “face”, as I had not asked for much. Our wedding was also a small affair (close relatives around for a meal we all helped to cook) paid in part by my husband and in part by his parents.
As I studied Thai language and culture at university and had made numerous trips to Thailand before getting married, I knew a bit about the tradition of sin sod already. I knew that if I was Thai it would be expected that my family ask for a high amount (being healthy, young, university educated, employed as a teacher, ‘rieb roy’ [speaks/ dresses/ acts modestly and politely], not previously married/had children etc, etc). However, I also knew that my future husband was not rich, but was exactly what I wanted in a mate. If I had asked for a high sin sod, I knew it would have put him and my in-laws under a lot of pressure and for what? So I could have a chunk of money?
My thinking was…my future husband was gainfully employed and had been so (without break) since graduating from technical college, so I didn’t need him to prove he was hard-working. He had never taken a loan, but had saved and bought his few possessions with cash and had a little bit of savings in the bank. He didn’t drink (or smoke now, either). These two points showed me he was financially responsible. I didn’t need a chunk of money on top of that.
My mother-in-law has since asked my husband if I ever felt ‘noy jai’ [hurt or offended] that I didn’t receive as much sin sod as others in my position would be expected to receive. He has assured her I haven’t. I wondered at times whether it would cause people in my husband’s neighbourhood (mostly his relatives) to treat me with less respect because I had asked for so little, but I needn’t have worried. To their credit, they are much more interested in the personal traits of a person when deciding whether someone is worthy of their respect or not.
In conclusion, I am sure I made the right choice as my husband is exactly who I wanted to marry; my in-laws respect me; and we have made our own money together and feel the closer for sharing the struggle.
Further thoughts on sin sod:
The matter of sin sod is a matter of pride with me. Where a Thai woman may feel pride that a high amount is offered for her, I feel like putting a price on my worth would cheapen me. I am not worth 100,000 or 500,000 or 1 million baht. Hopefully my worth goes beyond a monetary amount.
If I did ask for a sin sod, my pride would not allow me to ask for an amount which I knew my parents-in-law would end up paying. First of all, that is money they have earned to support themselves. Plus I think it sets a kind of precedent where they can interfere with your marriage later on because they have made an investment of their own into it.
My mum wouldn’t want me to give her a sin sod paid to me by my husband. She’d say, “Use it for your own family. I was only doing my duty when I raised you and I don’t expect to get paid for it.” However, I am sure there may be some families in Australia who would accept their daughter’s sin sod quite happily to use for themselves and laugh about the fool who was stupid enough to pay it over (there is that element in every country).
I’m not suggesting that Thai people are wrong and Western people are right. I’m saying that we all think differently, even within our own racial group. Therefore, when deciding about your own circumstances in relation to sin sod, communicate with your future spouse and share your thoughts and feelings with each other. Then decide on a course of action with which you both feel comfortable. It’s common sense and good practice for the rest of your marriage.
Anecdotes of others’ experiences with sin sod:
I heard through the grapevine that an extremely wealthy previous boyfriend of mine (also Thai, but Buddhist) gave a sin sod of a few million baht in money, a house, and 99 baht of gold to his bride. I have no idea of the reasons behind such a high amount for a sin sod. The woman he married was beautiful and educated, but I think there must have been other reasons (including “face” and possibly some kind of business merger with her family).
One of my Thai female friends wanted to marry an Australian man who didn’t have a lot of money. She was a wealthy, educated Chinese-Thai. At the wedding, her mum arranged a heap of money and gold on a platter and declared it was the sin sod her son-in-law had paid for her daughter to save “face”. That was the first and last time he ever saw it!
One of my husband’s distant female cousins wants to marry an Australian man. Her parents have asked for a sin sod of 3 million baht. My husband’s family thinks this is scandalous; that the parents are putting on airs and are really just greedy.
My two Thai sister-in-laws asked for a sin sod of roughly 100,000 baht each. The one of slightly higher social standing asked for a showy wedding, whereas the other was happy with a simpler affair. Neither had been educated beyond high school, but both are young and pretty and had not had previous boyfriends. My parents-in-law ended up paying for both of their sin sods as neither brother-in-law had the means to do so at the time they wished to get married. The one of slightly higher social standing used her sin sod as a down payment on a car for her and her husband. The other gave her sin sod to her mother as a gift and it wasn’t returned.
Interestingly, the one who gave her sin sod to her mother came from a Buddhist family. My husband says that Thai Buddhists see sin sod essentially as a repayment to the mother or the parents of the bride for raising her. I think my sister-in-law may have chosen to follow the Buddhist tradition over the Islamic tradition to soften her mother’s heart towards her new husband and his religion, since her mother was not very happy about her getting married to a Muslim. If my sister-in-law had kept the sin sod for herself or used it for herself and her husband, her mother may have felt that Muslims did not respect or value their parents as much as Buddhists.
Some Western men ask if roles were reversed, would a Thai man pay sin sod to a Western woman. I have heard from a few others in my situation (Western women married to Thai men) – all after I had been married for some time. In each case, the man has asked the woman how much she would like for a sin sod, and the woman has been happy with a token of his love to her (usually a gift of jewellery of his choosing).
The way you handled the question from your husband to be of what you would like for a sin sod is all class. I just wish we heard more similar stories.