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I am visiting my Thai girlfriend’s parent. How do I ask for permission to marry her?

Reader’s E-mail

Hi

Next month am going to meet my thai girlfriend family. Her home is nearer to udon thani. my girlfriend and her mom come and pick me in udon thani airport. i stay in her home for a week and ask her mom to get permission to marry her daughter . i don’t know how to ask and what to do.. help me

Reply from Thailand Info

Hi

I have had a chat with my Thai wife about your question.

First I shall tell you what my wife said, then I shall you what I think. Both my wife and I agree that the answer to your question depends a lot on what the Thai girl is like, and what her family is like and you need to assess the situation as you go.

My Wife’s Advice

If you were Thai and going to ask for permission to marry your girlfriend, you would typically go to the girl’s village with someone from your family, normally your own parents. They would talk together and decide whether the marriage was a suitable one and the terms of the marriage. In Thailand you paysin sod, which is a dowry paid by the man (or his family on his behalf). This amount is agreed at the same time as the parents agree to the marriage. Typically the man pays around 10% of the dowry as a deposit at the time the marriage is agreed upon. Often the payment is in the form of gold. It has to be Thai gold which is measured in ‘baht’ weights. A baht is the same weight as a 1 baht coin, and at the moment a 1 baht gold necklace costs around 22,000 THB.

My Advice

I find it a bit odd that you are going to the village without having discussed these basic details with your girlfriend beforehand. Unless you are fluent in Isan Thai language (not the same as Bangkok Thai) you will not be able to speak directly with the girl’s family and it will be your girlfriend doing all the talking. In which case, actually your girlfriend should be giving some guidance about the family’s expectations before you even set foot in their village. It is generally quite a big deal for a Thai lady to bring a foreign man back to the village with them because if there is no agreement to marry already in place then the girl in question will appear to more conservative Thai people like a prostitute going with a foreign man for money. This is why your situation appears a bit strange to me.

The Person to Ask is Your Girlfriend

If it were me, I would be having a careful conversation with my girlfriend and asking for some answers to two key questions before I would consider going to the village to meet the parents to talk about marriage. If you are going to make a marriage with a Thai lady work long term then you need to set out some ground rules, clear boundaries and generally take control of the situation.

My questions would be:

1. Have you discussed our marriage with your parents already?

2. How much will the dowry be, and what will the deposit be?

Get Answers to Your Questions Before You Go

If your girlfriend doesn’t have an answer to these questions, tell her to get to get on the telephone and have that discussion with her parents before you consider your planned trip to Udon Thani. This may sound like hard advice but trust me: if you just leave things as they are, and simply go without knowing what to expect, then chances are things are going to end up badly. Even good girls in Thailand can be extremely manipulative, as can family members, and you need to be careful that you are not walking into a ‘minefield’ with this trip to visit the parents. Get the facts clear before you go.

I hope this all works out well for you. I am happily married to a Thai lady, and I did visit the family in the village before we got married, but only after I had given my wife a ring and the terms of marriage (ie the sin sod) were agreed upon. This notion of needing to ask permission doesn’t generally apply in Thailand – the two sets of parents normally sort it out by talking, and, if your parents are not Thai and on hand to do it, then the process to be followed is for your girlfriend to talk to her parents on your behalf and settle it that way.

Stock Up On Food Before You Go

As a final bit of advice, whatever else you do, stop at the supermarket on the way to wherever the family lives and buy some things you can eat. If I had not I would have starved. Also buy beer (for yourself) you are likely to need it.

Ma and Pa House

My Thai parents’ house