Second wife and men’s dowry: Relationships in Thailand
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Last updated at 03/10/2023, 04:00
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Every time I research things related to Thai love, I get a little confused. As everything here, also relationships in Thailand are complicated and full of contradictions. Sometimes I think that even Thais can’t figure it out. On one hand the society is very conservative and talking about sex is wrong, on the other, there are lovers and second wives. On one hand women should be modest and committed to their husbands, on the other quite a lot of them have their ‘gigs’, who they meet to enrich their lives.
I’ve been living here for the last couple of years and I find out something new all the time.
Here are a couple of interesting facts about relationships in Thailand.
Pick up Thai-style
Thais choose their own partners. You won’t find arranged marriages here, which is different from the neighbouring countries. Women choose their men carefully. Their priority is very often to have a comfortable future.
At the moment young Thais love Tinder and other applications. That’s how they find their partners. Family and friends also play a role of matchmakers.
Some girls bring a friend to a first date. A chaperon is supposed to make sure that a man won’t do anything inappropriate. Of course, this custom is not as popular as before, but it still happens from time to time that a girl brings her friends to a meeting.
When a couple wants to get married they ask their parents for permission. The bride’s family needs to make sure that the man she chose is a good match and will provide for her in the future.
Sin sod – a dowry
Sin sod is a dowry that is paid by a man to his future wife’s family. Previously, when most of the Thais were farmers, sin sod was a compensation for losing a pair of hands for work. Today, despite the fact that there are less and less farms, sin sod is still a common custom in many households.
The higher sin sond the better, but it can’t bring financial troubles to the groom.
Sin sod is quite a controversial subject when it comes to mixed marriages. People expect more from a western man as in Thai culture everyone that comes from abroad is rich.
However, it’s worth mentioning that in so called ‘good families’ sin sod is returned to the groom after the ceremony, or is not required at all.
Mia Noi – a second wife
An average Somchai is delicate and shy. That’s why it’s a surprise that Thai men are considered to be cassanovas. Ask any Thai woman about Thai men and she will tell you that they not only like whiskey, gambling and karaoke, but also women.
It is very common in Thailand to have a so called ‘mia noi’, a second (minor) wife. Bigamy was legal here not so long ago. Law was changed probably because the Thai government was afraid that Thailand would be attacked by one of the colonisers occupying the neighbouring countries, which were very often looking for excuses to grab more land for themselves. Having multiple partners is rooted in Thai culture.
The subject of mia noi is complicated and can take on a few forms. So, a farmer living in a remote village can have two wives with whom he shares his house and duties. He earns money and his women look after their home and family.
Mia Noi could also be a successful businesswoman from Bangkok, whose unofficial husband works for the government.
Mia Noi doesn’t need to live with her ‘husband’ and doesn’t need to see him every day, but she stays faithful and committed to her man. Although, there are exceptions from this rule as well.
Second wives don’t have a legal status in Thailand and bigamy is illegal, but they are not lovers either. It happens that mia noi is a woman that a man chooses to be with while he is still in a relationship with his first wife.
I heard rumours that women choose mia noi for their husbands, but I haven’t had a chance to verify if this is true or not.
Sex and intimacy in Thailand
Thai people don’t show affection in public. They don’t hold hands, they don’t touch and they don’t kiss. All of this is reserved for privacy of their home.
The same goes to clubs and bars, which are frequented by Thais. You won’t see any people kissing and hugging on a dance floor.
Those, especially women, who show their affection in public, are thought to be dissolute.
A well behaved Thai woman doesn’t allow herself to kiss, or hug another man in public. Gentlemen, it’s worth remembering about this when you visit the Land of Smiles!
Sex is taboo in Thailand and people don’t speak openly about it. Women brought up in so called ‘good homes’ are taught not to speak about it. In some families they are even told not to take pleasure from it. Only recently Thai schools introduced sexual education and some of them even placed condom machines in their hallways. Maybe that’s why there’re so many teenage pregnancies in Thailand.
Virginity is still perceived as something precious. A woman, who hasn’t had sex before, is believed to be better than the one who’s had it.
Until very recently divorcees and widows were thought of as dissolute. They were the first points of call for a man who wanted to have a quick affair without strings attached.
Young women, who due to lack of money and perspectives, work in the sex industry hardly ever find themselves a Thai husband. One of the most important thing for Thai people is their honour and no man would like to marry someone, who has had so many sexual partners before him. The only chance of getting out of the situation for these women is marrying a farang (white man), who doesn’t care if his future bride has worked in a brothel.
Thai men go to public houses and it’s their privilege, which no one talks about. A man is a man and he needs to satisfy his desires. That’s why many women prefer western men as they are considered to be more faithful.
When it comes to relationships and sex Thai culture is starting to change.
Young girls wear skimpy clothes and go out with their friends. They drink a lot, sleep with men whenever they like and forget about strict norms and rules that their parents used to follow not so long ago. They have Tinder on their phones, they go out on dates and swipe through the dating app while talking to another young man. Then, on Sunday, they put long sleeved shirts and skirts that cover their knees and they go to temples to burn incense and make merit.
Both men and women can have ‘gigs’ – someone they meet casually. A gig can mean something else to many people. They can be a lover, but also someone they are very close with without having sex with.
Who said that relationships in Thailand are easy?
Relationships and money
Thai people think of relationships as a practical choice. A future partner needs to provide for his wife. Money is a priority for many women here.
Before, a man in Thailand was the only bread winner. He was supposed to look after his family. After he got paid he would give his wife most of the money. He was the one working and her role was to be in charge of their family’s finances. Of course, it was yet another way for taking his money, so he wouldn’t spend it on other women.
At the moment this rule is not followed so strictly. Normally both partners work. Thai women get better jobs than before and they can also contribute to their households. Sometimes a man gives his salary to his wife, but it is not so common anymore.
Caucasian men often come to Thailand to find themselves a wife, or a short-term girlfriend. Thai ladies are famous for their beauty. I must confirm this stereotype. They are probably the most beautiful women in the world.
A farang is a chance for a Thai woman for a decent and comfortable life. As relationships in Thailand are very practical, male visitors from other countries find themselves much younger wives.
Mixed marriages used to be illegal in Thailand and older generation still finds it difficult to accept them. In more traditional families a Thai girl should marry a Thai man and shouldn’t involve herself with a foreigner. Times have changed and nowadays a young, 20-something Thai woman walking along with her 50-year old boyfriend is a common sight. To us Europeans it can be a shock. I often think how it’s possible for her to be in a relationship with an old and (let’s be honest) often unattractive man. For Thais however this kind of a relationship is pure business. Feelings are one thing and having a comfortable life is something else.
Of course, this is the more talked about kind of a relationship. More often than not, a Thai woman is loving and caring and they contribute as much as they can do the household. There are many girls in the Thai society that fancy western men for their fair skin and charm.
Also younger, foreign men come here as well looking for a girlfriend. Many of them succeed and stay in Thailand forever. Some date for a bit and then quit as they get frustrated with language barriers and not being able to understand the complexity of Thai culture and behaviour.
Mixed relationships are challenging and one must learn a lot about local culture before they decide to date a Thai person. On the internet you will find thousands of websites advising on what to do and how to behave when going out with a Thai woman. Thailand is very different when it comes to the rest of the world in terms of customs and important issues, such as religion.
The truth is that in Thailand there are many women that calculate and try to get out as many financial gains as possible out of a relationship. Many farangs don’t know the local customs and that’s why they often get cheated. They are told that giving away their whole salary to their wife is a norm and that she doesn’t need to contribute to their household, or that sin sod needs to stay with his wife’s family. That’s how the horror stories you hear about happen and how the poor man stays with nothing.
Of course there are honest, good and decent women out there, who love their husbands and look after them. But they don’t excite people as much and no one ever mentions them, which leads to stereotypes and gives Thai women a bad reputation.
A Thai man and a foreign woman relationship is a less frequent occurrence. Probably because in Thai society a man should bring money home and, as mentioned earlier, Thais believe that foreigners have more money and earn more. An average Thai man would lose his face if he earned less than his wife.
Other reason is the difficulty of understanding Thai men’s intentions. Thais don’t speak about their feelings and it seems that courtship here takes a very long time. After a few weeks of trying to understand if it’s only a friendship, or something more, many western women lose patience and move on.
Relationships in Thailand are a fascinating subject. No matter if you’re a man (or a woman) looking for an affair, or for someone to share your life with, if you come to Thailand you should definitely find out more about this part of Thai culture. And if you find out something interesting, let me know. I am always curious about it and collect new facts, so I can forward it to my readers.