Cross-Cultural Marriage: A Growing Trend In Vietnam
Vietnamese citizens marrying foreigners has become more popular in Vietnam over the last few years.
According to a Ministry of Public Security report in 2014, an average of 18,000 Vietnamese citizens register to marry foreigners each year, 78 percent of whom come from Ho Chi Minh City and Mekong Delta provinces in the south.
The report states that around 115,000 interracial marriages were registered in Vietnam between 2008 and 2014, and Vietnamese women partnering with foreign men account for more than 72 percent of the couples.
According to a 2013 report by the State Committee for Overseas Vietnamese and the Vietnam Women’s Union, nearly 300,000 Vietnamese women married foreigners between 2008 and 2010.
The top nationalities engaged in interracial marriages with Vietnamese citizens include Taiwanese, Chinese, South Korean and American.
In the north, a trend has developed in which Vietnamese women in provinces bordering China marrying Chinese men without registering with Vietnamese or Chinese authorities for marriage certificates. Many of the women marry Chinese workers at Chinese-invested factories and projects.
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There have been many cases in which Vietnamese women have been lured or cheated to travel to China to marry Chinese men.
According to immigration data published by The Korea Times in December last year, there were around 152,000 South Korean-Vietnamese married couples. Among foreigners who married in South Korea, Chinese women made up the largest number at 27.9 percent, followed by brides from Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan.
The Vietnamese police said that young Vietnamese women with a lack of education and employment from poor families often met their suitors via illegal brokerage services.
A Changing Attitude
Before the 1980s, marriages between Vietnamese and foreigners were rare, especially in the north and central region where Confucian ethics had a stronger hold than in the south.
In China, intermarriage was initially discouraged by the Tang Dynasty. In 836 Lu Chun was appointed as governor of Canton, and was disgusted to find the Chinese living with foreigners and intermarrying. Lu enforced separation, banned interracial marriages, and made it illegal for foreigners to own property.
The anti-foreigner sentiment came from the French colonial times when Vietnamese people used labels "me Tây" (woman married to a Western man), "me Tàu" (woman married to a Chinese) and "me Nhật" (woman married to a Japanese) to describe such partnerships.
The women labeled as “me” are looked down by many because Vietnamese people regarded French, Chinese and Japanese husbands as belonging to the cruel conquerors and greedy merchants who had brought misfortune and disgrace to the country.
Respectable families would not accept a foreigner in their homes. Interracial marriages, as well as interracial children, were usually mocked or criticised.
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However, after the Doi Moi (Renovation) reforms initiated in 1986 more and more foreigners have come to the country and Vietnamese people got the chance to learn more about other countries and cultures.
The growing presence of foreign tourists and businesspeople has largely erased the ingrained prejudice against interracial marriage.
Statistics show that almost 40 percent of interracial marriages in South Korea have ended in divorce within five years. There have been reports about Vietnamese brides abused by the husbands and their families, and some wives commit suicide. Cultural and language differences are usually considered the main reasons.
The topic of interracial relationships in Vietnam has sparked heated debates on the media, online forums and social media networks over the past few years.
There have been discussions about the pros and cons of marrying foreigners and comparisons between Vietnamese and foreign spouses.
Vietnamese citizens marrying foreigners may receive strong objections from family members. Some traditional Vietnamese families have a stereotyped idea about a Western husband. Some think that the spouse is just seeking a short-term marriage while living in Vietnam and will ask for a divorce when their time in Vietnam ends.
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The language barrier and cultural differences are also obstacles in cross-cultural relationships.
A Thanh Nien report in December last year said bureaucratic red tape in Vietnam is an obstacle to interracial couples when it’s time to apply for marriage certificates.
The report quoted a Vietnamese woman living in HCMC as saying she had been unable to complete all the necessary paperwork for her marriage certificate in Vietnam two years after she tied the knot with a Nepalese man.
Against All Odds
Local media has published various reports about Vietnamese women who have married foreigners for love and are living a happy life. The majority of online forum users vote in favour of interracial marriages.
Whether people like it or not, the number of cross-cultural marriages will continue to rise in Vietnam due to the further integration of Vietnam into the world economy and the increase of international relocation for work and pleasure.
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