Think first; a Thailand wife often comes with baggage! If the worst comes to the worst with your Thai dating exploits, and you find yourself considering marriage, have yourself an extra long think. In Thailand a wife comes with a number of unfamiliar issues that you will need to be comfortable with before making your final decision.
First of all, before you get married, there is the issue of the dowry. The dowry (or 'sin sod') is a sum of money that is paid to the parents of your Thailand wife. The idea is that you are demonstrating both your financial capability of taking care of your lady, and also, your thanks to her parents for taking care of her before you met.
The whole notion of cash being handed over as part of the marriage process feels a bit wrong, but don't forget that Thai family culture is very different to western culture. This is the way that things are done here and it will be expected.
There's no way I can put a figure on what needs to be paid, each case is different. What would be regarded as a respectable amount for one Thailand wife is different to what would be respectable for another. The right figure is influenced by many things including:
The list goes on, but you get the idea. The dowry might cost anything from nothing (if she has married before and had kids etc) to millions (if she is a highly educated high-society type). Most dowry's come in at around 100,000 baht. If you are asked for an unreasonably high amount, don't ignore it, it is an important sign of things to come after you marry!! In this case, it might be an idea to call the whole thing off!
Some Thai marriages go ahead where a sum of money is displayed during
the ceremony, but after the wedding is over, the money is returned to
the groom. The idea is to avoid a 'loss of face' by making on-lookers
think the dowry has been paid. This might happen if the groom simply
cannot afford to part with the cash.
Once you've tied the knot with your Thai girlfriend, and paid the dowry, you might reasonably think that the financial support stops at this point.... ha! Sit down young Skywalker, there's much you have to learn!
Ask your Thailand wife to discuss the concept of 'gat tan yoo' with you.... you'll love it, it's a real rib tickler! Gat tan yoo is a responsibility that your wife will take very seriously. It relates to the debt of gratitude that your wife will feel towards her parents.
children are taught from an early age that, once they reach adulthood,
they need to take care of their parents. You can understand why, there's
no welfare system or state pension to speak of, so the kids need to
look after things. Your Thailand wife will want to take care of
her parents for the rest of their lives and, in some cases, the extent
of that 'care' would be enough to send a shiver down Bill Gates' spine! Your
wife will not feel that gat tan yoo is some kind of burden that must
be carried, she will genuinely feel very deeply about it, and it will
make her happy to give whatever money she can to her parents.
Unless you are lucky enough to have a literally bottomless pit of cash, you're going to have to find a way of dealing with all the financial demands. One tactic you might try is to argue that your resources are only sufficient to take care of the two of you, or three etc if you have a child already.
Point out that any surplus cash that is coming
in needs to be saved for a) your retirement since, presumably, you will
not want your children to support you once you stop working, and b)
future costs like the kid's education. Even then you might still need
to compromise. You could tell her that she can get a job and send part
of her income to her parents.
This compromise has another advantage in that, once she's working, you'll be able to get some peace and quiet on your own! Otherwise, your Thailand wife will want to spend virtually every moment of every day in your company, making sure that you don't get up to anything you shouldn't!
One last thing worth mentioning is family hierarchy. Where, in the west, everyone is equal (more or less), Thai society is much more hierarchical. This hierarchy extends to the family unit too. You should ask your Thailand wife who fits where. If you don't, you might make a bit of a fool of yourself by giving a nice big 'sawasdee khup' and a 'wai' to one of your nephews or nieces.
Thailand Wife; related page:
Thailand Wedding; if you are due to marry a Thai lady in Thailand, click here to find out what to expect from the ceremony.