Having money issues with a Thai partner or know someone who is? Thinking about starting a relationship and not sure what you do and don’t have to pay for? Are Thais just after money?
In most cases the foreigner will earn more than their Thai partner and this disparity can cause conflict, jealousy and demands. I read lots of bitchy comments on forums from foreigners about their Thai partners asking for money or spending too much on joint bank accounts. I’m sure there are equally bitchy comments on Thai forums about foreign partners not giving money or complaining about it.
However, there is a middle ground where both sides are happy, I’ve found it, it is real! I’ll let you know about my situation at the end of this article but first I want to look at some of the common reasons for having money issues with a Thai partner.
Your Thai Partner – Is Love Blind?
There are many reasons Thais want a foreign partner and one of them is for money. Not all Thais are after money but I think it is important to consider this factor especially if you are facing demands for money and “problems” that require a few thousand Baht to fix every few weeks. I believe it’s easy to spot these people but I think in Thailand love can sometimes be truly blind and common sense goes out of the window.
Without wanting to paint a negative view and tar all Thai people with the same brush I just wanted to highlight a couple of different groups of people who are notorious for causing money issues.
The Bar Girl / Ladyboy / Guy- Many “I’ve lost everything!” horror stories tend to start with “I met this girl in Pattaya…..”. Whilst I would never wish losing everything on anyone, I feel little sympathy for people in this situation who started their relationship in a bar.
You know lets be honest it isn’t a bar – it’s a brothel. And lets be even more honest, if the guy / girl / ladyboy you are with is working there it’s for the money – they want lots of it. They could get a job in 7/11 in their local town if they just wanted enough to get by on. There are maybe some who are genuinely there as their parents have sent them to work but these people are again after money, if not for themselves for their parents. In fact it can even be the family put more pressure on you for money than your partner.
Some might even be reading this having met their Thai partner in one of these places but it really should set alarm bells ringing if this is the place you met.
The “I don’t work” – After the bar worker comes the non worker. The person who sits at home all day and doesn’t work. To me it seems like they are just lazy and are looking for someone to fund them and their lifestyle. Unsurprisingly some of these people used to work in bars and are now at home as they have someone ( or maybe a few people ) sending them money to stay away from the bar and be their “special someone”.
However, it is worth noting that I do know some people that don’t work but that is because they are from very wealthy families and often rely on their parents money (which again is something of a negative trait in my opinion).
Thai Cultural Issues Related to Money
There are a few cultural differences between Thai and Western society which focus on money. Understanding and discussing these issues is important. Whilst it is good to talk about these I feel you should also include you own culture and beliefs in the decision – remember it’s a relationship and your views are important too.
Saving Face – This is common in many Asian cultures. It is the process where you keep a good public image and preserve your reputation as a family and an individual. It also means you don’t embarrass other people in public. This is heavily linked to the class system which, in my opinion, is something affecting Thailand greatly and prevents the people from getting along with each other.
Most Thais wrongly or rightly believe foreigners are rich and being with one means you will be able to have the latest technology and designer gear. Some foreigners do spend a lot of money on their Thai partner and if your partner has a friend with a foreigner you can bet they compare how much money they are given and what gifts they get. If it turns out you aren’t as generous as the other foreigner you may find yourself being pressured. This also shows itself through the family who would suffer loss of face if you don’t treat their child as well as another Thai is treated by a foreigner they know of.
Loss of face might be a reason that many younger Thais are spending money they don’t really have to buy the latest phones, cars and clothes. The Iphone 6 costs 30,000 Baht here and I know people who have one even though it is twice their monthly salary. Being seen with an inferior product can cause embarrassment and many people desire the latest, best products. This might lead to your Thai partner asking for money to keep up with the trends.
Looking After Family – In Thai culture children are expected to provide and look after their parents when they get a job. This means giving a portion of their salary to their parents or providing housing for them. Whilst wealthy parents may not demand money it is still very common. My girlfriend pays for the house and bills for her mum and brother. Whilst in the West this system seems strange it is easy to see why it is needed in Thailand when the government only gives 500 Baht a month to retirees. The only exception to this is government employees who do receive a decent pension but still not enough to live a life of luxury in old age.
I would say that many parents are relying on this method of support. Savings for retirement can range for non-existent to very limited, especially in poorer families. It puts great pressure on the children especially in terms of healthcare when a parent gets ill. My girlfriend is thinking of buying private healthcare for her mum which would cost 2,500 Baht a month as the free government healthcare is apparently “rubbish, slow and dirty”. You also have the case where parents often have to live with their children’s family. This task will often fall to a daughter, not a son, so you may have the family moving in with you or a request to rent them a house / pay their bills.
Many western people may think it is very irresponsible of the parents to put this pressure on their children and not save money for retirement. However, this practice is very common in Asia and is based on children paying back the cost of their parents raising them.
This can lead to money being needed for healthcare, clothes, food or housing for the parents of your Thai partner. Whilst it is easy to get frustrated with the parents I think it is important to remember that if you don’t help then the parent has nowhere else to turn. However, when your Thai partner has brothers and sisters it is important to say the other siblings need to contribute and the onus shouldn’t be on the foreigner as the highest earner.
Sin Sod – The payment of Sin Sod when marrying a Thai woman has been debated online to death. Sin Sod is the payment made by the groom to the bride’s parents during a Thai wedding ceremony. Sometimes this is referred to as a dowry but it isn’t the same ( in terms of the Thai view ). Historically this money was used to give to the bride’s family to cover the loss of income from their daughter leaving the family house. This money is sometimes just shown at the wedding ceremony and then given back to the couple or used as the cost of the wedding. Some families don’t even care about sin sod, they just want to see their daughter happy. However, sometimes the money will be kept by the parents – the outcome should be discussed between the groom and the bride’s parents before the wedding.
So how much is needed? Well that depends a lot on the bride, your situation and the family situation. An average Thai man marrying an average Thai woman will pay around 200-300K Baht. A foreigner marrying a Thai woman could be asked for double or 3 times that amount. Again before the wedding a meeting is held to discuss this and it could prove to be a point of conflict where you feel you are negotiating to buy your wife. The Thai value of not losing face means that money will normally always be shown at the wedding even if you are keeping the money.
However, perhaps you find yourself in the situation where the family don’t intend to return your money and you don’t want / cant afford to give it away. All I can say here is that you could be in trouble. Losing face is not something your future in-laws want and your reputation will be ruined with everyone they know if you refuse to stump up the cash. It is also likely your future wife will be under enormous stress and find herself in the middle of a storm. There are several ways this situation could end if you refuse to pay, the worst being the cancelling of the wedding as your bride is furious.
In the West it has been tradition that the family of the bride pays for the cost of the wedding. In India it is tradition that the family of the bride pay a dowry to the grooms family. Sin Sod is a tradition like these and in the end you should be respectful towards their tradition and they should respect yours. In the end I feel the situation of having the money on show at the ceremony and using it to pay for the wedding or returning it to the couple is the best compromise in this situation.
In the end it is down to you. If you don’t want to pay then you don’t have to – it’s not a legal requirement of marriage.
Men Pay – Another cultural issue is that many Thai men will pick up the bill for everything once married. This means that some women will just expect you to pay for everything. They are not aware of Western culture where there is maybe a more even split.
Whilst going on the first few dates you may be happy to pick up the tab you might be surprised that months down the line you are expected to pay for every bottle of water, phone top up and taxi fare.
However, among younger Thai women there is more of an attitude of sharing costs, or at least offering to. This doesn’t mean you have to accept their money but it is a more similar situation found when dating Western women.
Class System – The wealth disparity in Thailand shocked me when I first arrived. The difference between the rich and the poor is huge. The poorest live in self built wooden houses whilst the richest live in grand mansions.
There are 3 clear classes in Thailand and there is an obvious difference in their lives and attitudes. They don’t really mix and I often here people saying disparaging comments about people from “lower” classes. It often comes across as rudeness – especially when you see how people in service based jobs are treated by ” Hi-So” customers.
Some try to reach a higher level in society and marrying a foreigner is a way a poorer person can get a higher income to improve their life. This might be a desire that the foreign partner will have to contribute to.
This is an important step that every couple should do regardless of nationality. Having an open conversation, especially when their is a large gap between salaries, means you can discuss how to deal with daily spending, large purchases and other issues.
Some people argue that you shouldn’t tell your Thai partner your real salary as they will try and get as much of it as possible. All I can say is that if you have a partner like that then they are not someone you should be with.
Westerners are seen as being high earners with lot of disposable income. However, we all know that that isn’t true for everyone. Sometimes a discussion about this is needed to show that you are not a millionaire and can’t afford to live the life of luxury.
I spoke to a Thai woman once who said she wouldn’t date a foreigner who made less than $100,000 a year as she had expensive tastes and expected to be taken care of. She was learning English for this very reason – to find a rich husband to take care of her and her family. She seemed to be looking for a situation where the guy found a wife and she found an ATM but at least she was honest about it; many aren’t.
By having an honest discussion you are both on the same field and can avoid problems in the future.
Are You Living In The Same Country?
With the internet being used by more and more people in Thailand long distance relationships are increasing. This, coupled with the fact it can be hard to get visas for Thai partners, mean the number of partners living in different countries than each other is increasing. This brings problems in terms of finances and costs.
In many cases it comes down to how well you know your partner and how much you trust them. If you met for one week on a holiday then you should be warier than if you have known and met each other often. Unfortunately there are people out there scamming people and playing on feelings just to get money. Again, common sense should play a part and with this problem being widely reported you have been warned of the risks of sending money, buying houses and cars with Thai partners.
So, if you’re happy as a couple but living apart you might be wondering how much you should send to your partner. Firstly, there is always the option not to send anything. If your partner has a job they should be able to support themselves but sometimes greed and family pressure comes into things and demands are made upon the foreign partner.
If you do decide to send money to your Thai partner then you should be aware of the cost of living here. When you come on holiday you spend a lot more than the average Thai person will. The minimum wage works out at around 10,000 Baht per month. This isn’t a huge amount to live on but if you’re partner already has a job an extra 5-10K will make a huge difference to their life. I have heard stories of foreigners sending 25K+ to Thai partners which means they will live better than many Thai people.
Are You Living Together?
Living together with your Thai partner can be an interesting experience before it even comes to money matters! Deciding where to live and what type of property to have is an important decision. Western style houses are available but come with a high rental cost compared to Thai style houses. Condos are an option but less spaces means they aren’t always ideal for couples, especially those with children.
Buying a house in Thailand is almost impossible for foreigners. In order for it to be in your name you need to set up a company ( which you own 49% of the shares ) and use the company to buy a house. This can be expensive and is technically illegal if the only activity the business has is buying 1 house. If you buy a house under the name of a Thai national they have all the legal rights to it and can kick you out and you won’t receive a penny back ( even if you are married!)
However, you can buy an own a condo here under your name. It is not too difficult to do check out this aritcle I wrote about buying my condo in Bangkok.
Thais traditionally live with their family unless they move for work or get married. It is possible your partner has not had to pay for rent and bills before. Presuming that the rent and bills will be split 50/50 would be a mistake so make sure you discuss this before. I know of some couples where the foreigner pays the rent and the Thai partner pays the bills. This system works for them as both partners are working decent jobs.
You can read about my monthly spend in Bangkok to see my monthly incomes and outgoings but as a quick overview I’m 28, live in the outskirts of Bangkok, pay monthly for a Condo I have bought and make around 60 – 70K Baht a month.
My Thai girlfriend Nook is 21, works as a private English teacher, rents a house on the outskirts of Bangkok and makes around 25-30k Baht a month. She lived in the USA for a year as part of the work and travel program and has finished university.
We are both aware of each others financial commitments which helps. Being honest about these things means we can plan activities and know what is a reasonable expense and what is too much.
Accommodation – We each pay for our own accommodation and utility bills. She has to rent a house as she uses it for her English school and needs a classroom but if we lived together we would split the rent and bills.
Her family don’t own a house so I guess the issue of us living together is difficult as she supports her mum and brother and they live in the house together. At the moment she spends maybe 3 nights a week at my condo as we only live 25 minutes apart. In the future I’m not sure what will happen as it wouldn’t be ideal living in the same place with her family and a condo isn’t great for 2 people long term in my opinion. I guess we will pay for her family to rent another house or apartment.
Day to Day Expenses – On days when we aren’t together we are each responsible for our own expenses. If Nook goes to dinner with her friends or wants to go shopping then she will pay for that with her own money.
Living for a year in the USA, Nook is very good at budgeting and seems to have a lot more common sense with money than lots of other people. I don’t really make big purchases that often and on an average day will spend less than 300 Baht.
Some people give their Thai partner spending money which I could understand if you’re partner was earning the minimum wage here but for us it’s not necessary. I hear sometimes of people giving 20k+ per month which seems excessive to me but to each their own.
Days Together – When we are together for the day, or just meeting up for dinner most costs are usually shared. This isn’t always 50/50 but it’s never just one of us paying for everything. For example on our recent trip to Safari World I paid for all the entrance tickets and Nook paid for drinks, snacks and lunch. We sometimes treat each other which I enjoy as I like to buy her dinner sometimes and getting a free meal is always good too!
Travel – We have been on one long holiday together and 3 or 4 shorter trips. For our long 1 week holiday in Krabi we spent around 25,000 Baht total which I paid around 22,000 Baht. On other shorter trips such as to Chiang Mai and Khao Yai It normally works out that I pay around 60-70% of the costs.
We each have our own savings and separate bank accounts. Our plan for next year is to travel more together so we have already started saving for that. Having a separate account with savings will make it easier for Nook to apply for visas in the future. Lots of couples have problems as the Thai partner has maybe 2 or 3k in their account and cant prove they will be supported during their trip overseas.
I pay 30,000 Baht a month for my condo so I don’t save a lot amount every month. Nook spends around 15,000 a month in rent and utility bills so again after spending money doesn’t save a huge amount. We both realize that at the moment it is hard to save but our large outgoings right now are all for the benefit in the long term.
Special Purchases – If we need to buy something expensive together we always discuss it together. We actually work well as a team and have always come to what seems to be the right decision. Holiday planning is done together so we are both happy with prices and don’t get any nasty surprises. Buying my condo was something Nook helped me with a lot and her advice saved me money in the long run.
Things I Pay For – There are a few things I have paid for which aren’t general items but then not special big purchases. Although I would never want to drive in Bangkok I think it’s important to learn how to drive so I paid for Nook to get some lessons at 250 Baht per hour.
I love going to the beach and swimming but Nook cant swim so I will arrange for her to get some lessons soon.
Money Arguments – Whilst we have never had any big arguments over money there are still times when it can be a problem. There are times when I have probably offered to pay for too many things and then times when I have complained about things being too expensive and refusing to pay for them ( like 2 tier pricing at temples ) which annoys Nook.
Overall – I feel we have a good system as in the end I am happy to help out if needed and we also have our own freedom in our daily lives and no pressure on either partner. I’m not saying it is perfect and it wont work in every situation but hopefully this shows that things can be shared and not just be the responsibility of one partner.
I feel I am lucky that Nook has experience of living alone and budgeting which I think many Thai people don’t have. If they have always lived for free in the family house then they don’t truly value money and everything they earn is just disposable income – there isn’t really a huge need to save. This leads to a lack of understanding that although a foreigners salary is high they have commitments like a mortgage, bills, student loans etc which need to be paid every month.
Money Issues With a Thai Partner – It’s Your Life!
I think it’s important to remember that in the end it is your choice if you do or don’t give money to your Thai partner. You only live once and if something makes you happy then do it but be aware of the consequences – you can only blame yourself if something bad happens. Money issues with a Thai partner should not be ignored but also arguing over a few dollars isn’t going to help you much either.
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