Ongoing expenses you’ll need to think about
The financial obligations on a groom do not usually end with the wedding. Don’t forget that your Thai wife has her ga tan yoo. You are going to need to help your wife to give some money to her parents on an ongoing basis.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that you need to send large amounts though. It does depend on individual circumstances, but whatever you send should be easily affordable to you and a decent Thai wife would not ask you for more than you can reasonably afford.
It is easy to see how a family-support system like this might develop. There is not much of a welfare state in Thailand, there’s very little that resembles any kind of retirement pension, and traditionally Thailand has been a poor country (meaning that most people are unable to make savings for retirement).
Free healthcare is not provided by the state and only the rich have private health insurance. In these circumstances, when the parents are too old to work and cannot support themselves anymore, the children step in. If you want a happy and contented Thai wife, you’ll need to take some time to discuss these things with her.
Don’t forget that all of this is proportionate to what you can afford, no one decent will expect you to stump up large monthly expenses if you don’t have the resources, but you’ll be held in very low regard if you live in the lap of luxury whilst your own in-laws are left to struggle in poverty.
Generosity is a big deal in Thailand, and that brings me to the final Thai custom that you’ll need to be aware of if you want you and your Thai wife to be regarded as good people with the community in which you live.
Nam Jai (generous heart)
A traditional Thai wife will automatically assume that you want to demonstrate your generosity as widely as possible and to as many people as possible. In doing so, you are showing your Nam Jai.
Don't be overly concerned by this, it is exactly the way that a respectable wealthy Thai person would want to be treated in order that he could demonstrate his generosity. In return you will gain face and status (I wrote about the importance of ‘face’ on my page about Thai girlfriends).
Thai people love to show their generosity by buying gifts for each other. If someone is known to be wealthy, his friends will make opportunities for him to demonstrate his Nam Jai!
Also, this generosity flows in both directions, only a fool would keep on giving and getting nothing in return. For example, if you need a favour doing you will find that there are people who are not just willing to go at great lengths to help you, they’ll be delighted at the opportunity!
In rural areas in particular, where everybody knows each other, the concept is still going strong. When one farmer needs to harvest his crops, everyone helps out. That farmer will then return the favour when someone else needs a helping hand.
It remains to be seen how these traditional values will stand up in the face of globalization and economic development. I suspect that as people become less reliant upon each other’s help, these traditional values will slowly be lost in time. They survive for the time being, and if you can feel that you can embrace them then you be rewarded with a sense of community like you’ve never experienced in the west.
If you feel that you can’t adopt the principles of nam jai and ga tan yoo, then it might be a sign that marriage to a Thai wife is perhaps not the best idea for you. It would certainly be difficult to fit into Thai society if you can’t adopt some of the local customs, so this is something to think about before getting seriously involved with any Thai woman.