Dating Vietnamese girls – A reply to Johnson
First of all I would like to thank the author of “A Mekong Memory” – I found it a very touching article and the sad ending was not due to a girl scamming her foreign boyfriend but due to cultural misunderstandings and different expectations. I think many people can relate to his story, whether it is about an Asian women or any other cross-cultural love. Whereas the anonymous author wrote a very touching article, Johnson’s article was completely the opposite – cold, heartless, a bit appalling. In his eyes finding a “decent” Vietnamese woman is the same process as finding a decent car: Preferably not a second hand (no divorced woman, no single mothers, no girls who have had foreign boyfriends before; should have a high market value – a well-sought after commodity), not too old (preferably the girls should below the age of 24, regardless of how old you are), should not have any scratches or defects (no tattoos; no kids; not too many ex-boyfriends; non-smoker; non-drinker; should not visit the bars), preferable from a good brand (the poorer she is, the better), it should not cost too much for maintenance (Johnson advises us to give a maximum of $300 US dollar a month to the girl to be your girlfriend) and you should have it thoroughly checked before you are using it (the girls should have had a blood test regardless of how many sex partners you have had). I even think that many people would even love their car more than Johnson loves his women.
I have dated several Vietnamese girls, and while I have had some good and some bad experiences, it was never about a girl trying to scam me. The same counts for the people I know who are dating Vietnamese women. I have yet to hear a story about a Vietnamese girl with several western sponsors, being a drug and gambling addict, having a local boyfriend preying on her money she receives from the foreigners and having a family extorting her and pushing her into prostitution. I’m pretty sure that those girls also do exist in Vietnam, and I am certainly sure that prostitution in Vietnam is as big as in Thailand or anywhere else in SEA, but Vietnamese girls scamming western foreigners has yet to be a big phenomenon in Vietnam. While the marriage market for other Asians (Chinese, Singaporeans and Koreans) in Vietnam is certainly booming (as can be seen here:
and there are many horrors stories to be found (such as here: http://www.tuoitrenews.vn/cmlink/tuoitrenews/features/viet-brides-nightmares-in-the-land-of-kimchi-1.47890 and here: http://www.tuoitrenews.vn/cmlink/tuoitrenews/features/online-vietnamese-bride-market-1.78757), for foreigners there are a lot of “good” and “decent” girls available. I am however afraid that the more “Johnson’s” come to Vietnam, the more the Vietnamese bride and prostitution market will cater to western foreigners, bringing all the nasty stuff which Thailand and the Philippines is suffering from at the moment.
Vietnam is, for SEA expats, still a good alternative dating option. Vietnamese people generally care more about traditions and family values than capital accumulation and materialism. It is easy to date Vietnamese women, but it is hard to get approval
from the family – which is a good thing in my eyes. You have to work for it – it is not all given to you. Finding a good woman in Vietnam should be like finding a good woman anywhere else in the world. The only impediment however, and that
is what Johnson has observed rightly, is the power-aspect. In a country where people average $3,400 earnings a year per capita, it will be almost impossible to find a girl in the same socio-economic class as you – which in my eyes is
most preferable when finding a suitable girl. The power-aspect can therefore not be avoided, but that does not mean that a relationship with a Vietnamese woman is doomed to be unsuccessful it is just another challenge to overcome.
How to find a good girl or woman entirely depends on your own age, socio-economic class, intelligence, culture, religion, expectations, knowledge of local language and culture and of course, most importantly, your own characteristics and background. There is no guide-book on how to find your perfect Vietnamese girl, especially if it is written by a western male. There is no one-size-fits-all model. I have made a mental guide for myself on who and where to find a suitable girlfriend, but it will be no use for you if you are the opposite of me – middle-aged, divorced, having a considerable big salary and position and not knowing Vietnamese – and besides that I am constantly updating my own mental guide, I’m still in the learning process. It strikes me how sometimes older expats and tourists in Vietnam think that they are in the same category as young guys when it comes to dating local women. If you are middle-aged, your best option is single mothers or divorced women. I know plenty of western men successfully dating single divorced mums, since they usually do not have time for third-world shenanigans – they are looking for a provider, someone who can take care of them, since, which Johnson has also observed rightly, Vietnamese men are usually not interested in them. Single women above 30 are also a very good option, since many Vietnamese girls regard themselves as “useless” for marriage if they have reached an age of 30, which makes them pretty desperate, less-demanding and they receive a lot of pressure from the family.
Another good thing about Vietnam is that we have no such thing as “Isaan”. Most of the “gold-diggers” and prostitutes come from the Mekong area, which is certainly not a poor area, but the discrepancy between rich and poor is bigger there, making prostitution and “gold-digging” a very attractive option to poor socio-economic disadvantaged local girls. North-Central Vietnam is one of the poorest areas of Vietnam, but here you are most likely to find the most traditional and “good” girls. Vietnamese people don't look down upon them as people in Thailand might look down upon people from “Isaan”. The biggest insult is perhaps saying that they are “nguoi nha que” (a derogatory term for countryside people), but it is no “shame” if you are dating with a girl from Hatinh or Nghe An province. The most disadvantaged people in Vietnam are the ethnic minorities, not the Kinh / Vietnamese people who live in the countryside. We don’t have smart-ass Vietnamese men saying that western foreigners can only get “nguoi nha que”, it is actually the total opposite, they’d rather say that all the girls from Saigon are chasing foreigners (which is interesting, since in Vietnam people tend to think that city girls are more easy than countryside girls, which is opposite to Thailand if I have understood your and the readers’ observations on this issue correctly).
Knowing that I am probably 20 years younger than the average Stickman reader, I can give just some humble advice on finding a good Vietnamese girl.
1) As Stickman already mentioned, try to learn the local language and try to understand the culture. That is most important and should be a universal rule for any country you are residing in.
2) If you don’t know Vietnamese, and you don't want to bother learning it, go at least for the university graduates, teachers and the ones who have studied overseas. For myself, I only consider dating girls who have at least graduated college. I am not interested in college-drop outs, does not matter which country they are from. We can already not overcome the economic inequality, but at least you can find a girlfriend in the same social class as you.
3) You know that you have a good girlfriend if she has some reservations to introduce you as her boyfriend to her parents too quickly. It takes time, you have to gain her trust first (since foreigners do not have a good reputation in Vietnam when it comes to commitments) and then both of you need to gain trust from the parents. You need to secure a future, it does not necessarily mean that you promise to get married with her in the beginning of your relationship, but you need to provide future perspective. Otherwise, Vietnamese girls could be pretty direct and end the relationship, since they don't want to waste time on a nobody (and their clock is ticking!). The anonymous Author of “A Mekong Memory” has painfully experienced this.
4) Please understand that Vietnamese girls with foreign ex-boyfriends will have problems finding a Vietnamese boyfriend. Therefore, dating a Vietnamese girl, especially if you are her first foreign boyfriend, takes a lot of courage from her side if she is a good girl. Vietnamese locals have the same prejudices on local women dating foreign men as the people back home (in many cases even worse). Therefore, a good girlfriend will not show much affection in public and she will be very reserved to let anyone know that you are her boyfriend – she’d rather say that you are her husband (such as in A Mekong Memory).
5) Not all girls visiting bars are prostitutes – that is a big lie and something which only people like Johnson or some locals tend to believe. I have plenty of Vietnamese female friends who occasionally visit bars, and all of them are good “girlfriend-material”. However, when you are visiting Vietnamese nightclubs try to be very very cautious, especially if girls approach you.
6) I don't know anything about dating websites for Vietnamese women, since I’ve never tried them. But I would be a bit suspicious if a girl is specifically looking for a foreigner. Let’s be honest, I think that 99% of the Vietnamese women prefer to have a good local boyfriend over having a western one.
7) Get Vietnamese friends before you are dating anyone. It always strikes me how so many expats do not have any Vietnamese friends, but want to date a local girl. What is wrong in finding local friends? Why are expats racist when it comes to befriending locals, but suddenly not racist if it is about shagging their women? If you want to have a good Vietnamese girlfriend, it means you have to be open for the Vietnamese culture, and that includes befriending locals. If you look down upon locals, how will you ever properly respect your girlfriend? Will your girlfriend ever respect you, if she knows that you think very little of her male country-mates?
8) Vietnamese people are very family-oriented. It is an integral part of Vietnamese culture to take care of the family. I think it is a fable to say that if you are marrying a Vietnamese girl you are also marrying her family, but it certainly is no fable that an integral part of your girlfriend is her family. You don't have a successful marriage if you just regard her family as how you regard your own family back home.
9) Many Vietnamese girls are quite superstitious and it can be quite frustrating if she or her family let the fortune teller decide whether you and her match or not. Therefore I would like to refer to point 2#, find an educated girl, who tends to be less superstitious and more individualistic.
10) Where you find your girlfriend is also important. Cities like Hanoi or Saigon are less suitable than cities like Hue or Dalat, the former attracts more scammers, gold-diggers and prostitutes.
11) If you have to give a salary to your girlfriend, I pity you.
12) If you just want to shag a girl, visit any massage parlor, you can have a shag for 7 – 15 euros or so. But I have to be honest, enough Vietnamese girls who would like to experiment with foreigners, since foreigners are perceived to be open to sex and less judgmental.
I am afraid that Vietnam will face the same development as Thailand when it comes to dating local girls, and the relationship between locals and foreigners. I don’t know all the connotations of the word “farang”, but I know that many people use it in a negative or derogatory manner, the same counts for example for some Hong Kong people who label foreigners as “gwailo” (in English it means white ghost). In Vietnam, people use the word “ong tay” to describe western men (the more appropriate term is: nguoi nuoc ngoai), which translates as Mr. West, and for some reason I find it to be completely acceptable to be labeled as such, but I’m afraid that the more foreigners will visit Vietnam (especially the sex-tourists or backpackers), the more that local people change from being friendly and open to apathic and even to hostile. If you see Asian women as a commodity, and if you think very low about local Asian men, please stay in your own native country, because I hope that Vietnam will not further adopt, with all respect for the nations, the negative characteristics of Thailand or the Philippines.
Seems to be some good solid advice in there.