Insight into VN Culture as a Westerner Dating a Vietnamese Woman?

Hi.

This is my first post on expat and I'm here because I feel like I'm screwing up sometimes with my girlfriend and generally want to hear from others with experience dating across cultures.

I've only been living in Saigon two months and I'm just barely starting to learn the language, have started reading a book about Vietnamese culture but I haven't found any good resources for understanding the culture from a relationship perspective.  I would like to please hear from Vietnamese women  married to or in a long-term relationship with a Western man or Western men married to or in a long-term relationship with Vietnamese women.

To be a bit more specific, here are the things I worry about, especially these last couple of weeks:
(1) I recently asked if she was ok and she got upset.   She said it was as though I was saying she was ill or there was something wrong with her and that people don't do this in Vietnamese culture (an accusation rather than the intention of simply asking if she wanted to talk about something.)  Please explain.

Then, she said she was worried I would leave her.  She cited a statement I recently made wherein I said I didn't feel settled in Saigon *yet* and was really looking forward to a couple months from now when I will truly feel settled (motorbike, routine, lots of tutoring clients in addition to my part-time job -- settled).  She forgot the "yet" part and said she took this to mean I might just suddenly leave her and move to Thailand.  So...  does this have to do with culture or is it really just about her reasonably worrying that I will bail like a backpacker?

I have no intention of leaving her or Saigon (and no interest in moving to Thailand, no offense.)  She's the most wonderful woman I've ever had the privilege of being in a relationship with -- and I've had a lot of relationships, good and bad -- and I want to do everything to avoid these weird fights that come out of nothing, misunderstanding.  How can I get over this learning hump quickly?  Or will this all just take time?

(2) She got upset with me about 4 days prior to the above incident because I started to try talking to her about the stress I was feeling, just looking for a bit of empathy as we all do from time to time.  She had apparently had a long day at work --  she is a career woman at a big corporate intl. company -- and she didn't want to hear it.  She said it was better to keep our worries to ourselves so we don't worry others.  I didn't take it so well.  She apologized the next day, but I was left wondering if this is a cultural difference or a cause for concern.

She's done a lot for me and when I was sick a while back she came with a care package.  She flew to Bangkok just after we met to spend the weekend with me before I had to go back to finish a contract elsewhere, before I moved to Saigon.  She's going with me on a trip to convert my visa to a work permit through my employer.  She's brought me food her family has cooked for me.  She's taken me all over to doctors to resolve headaches.  She often reminds me to eat lunch.  She's the most caring woman in the world and I'm falling for her and it's really scary cause it's been a while and the last relationship was not so good.  I could use some advice on how to avoid these arguments/fights and learn what I need to know to understand her culture.  She doesn't know my culture and I don't know hers so we can only teach each other very slowly as it happens, after the argument/misunderstanding.  Help?  Or does it have to go this way and do I just need to be patient?

Open and clear communication cures.

Have you shown her your post here?   She WILL appreciate your concerns.

Men want sex.   Women want security.   No cultural trait there.

The rest sounds like a normal relationship.   Exploring each others Values.
As you have already noticed, Asian women are closer to the survival ethic, or to put it bluntly, Westerners come wrapped in cotton wool in comparison.

The finer details we take for granted are trivia to them.    No welfare system.

Forget First & Third world.    This one is real.    As we are told to  'Just do it'

..they have no choice...    YOU are HER security, her safety, her certainty.

You have a keeper.    Be hers.

Vietnamese cultural is conservatism. And forget compromise. My first year of marriage I tried to compromise but women like men that take charge. More action than words.

And tolerance. Vietnamese women go through crazy cycles for inexplicable reasons. Tomorrow is a new day.

All true.  For 'Real' men.   After all, PMS  is just another excuse, right..?

..this too will pass...

That they are also Respected is very important for the VN ladies as it is with all women!

Agree with Bazz that DC's lady should be encouraged to read his post and also think that opening his heart and mind to others (strangers) can only be beneficial.

Wishing DC and his lady a happy and fulfilling relationship

I agree too, we are all unique, imperfect, etc...

..and I'm as guilty as anyone for wondering...     :offtopic:

..but surely there must be someone to offer something more constructive..?

(..for the OP, that is...)              :happy:

For the Vietnamese like many Asian cultures, relationships are serious business not the ephemeral, try it before you buy it mentality prevalent in the west.

A lot of time/effort is invested to lay the groundwork for the future, and when one partner appears to be not pulling their weight or perceived to be complaining about the plain realities of life, it shows weakness and threatens the integrity of the relationship.

For your girlfriend this is serious business and youre not just another boy friend who may/may not work out. 

As youre probably familiar with the history of Vietnam and the many hardships it has gone through as developing country, suggest you try to look at things from her perspective before venting about stress/aggravations that are likely trivial to most Vietnamese.

Hello everyone,

Some off topic and inappropriate posts have been removed from this thread. I invite everyone to respect each other. This is a mutual help forum.

Thank you.

I really appreciate your responses Bazza139, Khanh44, Mikeymac and the responses of those that gave appropriate responses to lovingit.

If there is a reason for lovingit saying what he said, as Lananhemily speculates, and Bazza139 is wondering, I don't know what it is.  Please, by all means, someone with intelligence and social abilities translate the useless language used into something constructive.  I'm here for input, to seek the counsel of those who have substantive experience with the topic at hand, being a Westerner in a relationship with a Vietnamese woman.  So with that said, it would be good to get back to the topic itself... 

I'm probably just preaching to the choir, but will say this anyway.  Some of us like doing things the hard way, to bottle up our feelings until we inappropriately attack strangers in online forums with no real cause or message.  I am sometimes vaguely like that myself. 

But sometimes you try something different just to see if it helps and this has helped already.  It goes right along the same lines as 'work smarter, not harder,' something I've been trying to get better at doing.  Recognizing and reaching out to the wisdom of experience, whether strangers or friends, is something good, not something to be slighted with adolescent, sexist language.  Otherwise this forum is simply reduced to relatively meaningless and arbitrary questions and answers about things we can mostly figure out ourselves quite easily at best, or at worst, trolling and nothing useful.

goreme :

For the Vietnamese like many Asian cultures, relationships are serious business not the ephemeral, try it before you buy it mentality prevalent in the west.

A lot of time/effort is invested to lay the groundwork for the future, and when one partner appears to be not pulling their weight or perceived to be complaining about the plain realities of life, it shows weakness and threatens the integrity of the relationship.

For your girlfriend this is serious business and youre not just another boy friend who may/may not work out. 

As youre probably familiar with the history of Vietnam and the many hardships it has gone through as developing country, suggest you try to look at things from her perspective before venting about stress/aggravations that are likely trivial to most Vietnamese.

This is very helpful, thanks.  It is not nor ever was my intention to equate my hardships in acclimatizing to a new life with the struggles of Vietnamese over the previous several decades.  Yet I can completely understand and appreciate what you are saying and how this perspective, also alluded to by Bazza139 in his first post if I'm not mistaken without rereading it atm, informs one of the interactions I described above.

It is not my intention to be whiny.  I am coming to this from a different perspective than perhaps has come across to some readers of this post by my words and if so that is my fault.  I value an ability to speak directly, a balance to the relationship where either partner is able to lean on the other for the purpose of clear and open communication.  If it is expected of me to take on a more traditional role as the male partner in the relationship, I can see the benefits of this, but at the same time it is perhaps at times and in certain circumstances not necessarily familiar to me.  I can do old-fashioned chivalry, being the one doing the physical things, for example, as I always have done time, but if I have to be the guy who grunts instead of being articulate about his thoughts and feelings, isn't that a bit of devolving, i.e., going too far?  Is that the subtext of some of the advice being given here? 

More generally it speaks to the question, in a multicultural relationship, of how much one changes to fit the environment/culture vs. how much one retains of his- or her- self from the original culture.  Or am I heading in a completely different direction than what others were thinking?  I am nonetheless curious about this question and not decided, completely open to hearing what others think so long as it is worded with intelligence and respect toward all.

Perhaps I've already answered my own question.

Bazza139 :

Open and clear communication cures.

Have you shown her your post here?   She WILL appreciate your concerns.

Men want sex.   Women want security.   No cultural trait there.

The rest sounds like a normal relationship.   Exploring each others Values.
As you have already noticed, Asian women are closer to the survival ethic, or to put it bluntly, Westerners come wrapped in cotton wool in comparison.

The finer details we take for granted are trivia to them.    No welfare system.

Forget First & Third world.    This one is real.    As we are told to  'Just do it'

..they have no choice...    YOU are HER security, her safety, her certainty.

You have a keeper.    Be hers.

Thanks Bazza139.  I consider this very good advice on which to ponder and adjust my perspective.  I sent her the link last night and we met for lunch today and discussed it briefly and she did appreciate it very much.  She was all smiles when I met her today.

I can't help but feel exactly as you and others here have since said -- I am doubtless sometimes coming across with my 'first-world' problems as presenting trivial matters and I need to own up to it and adjust my perspective to reflect reality, not old ways of thinking or habits.  This is how people grow and one of the great benefits of leaving the fish bowl for the world at-large and it will certainly come with time but recognizing it more clearly right now helps very much.  Thank you.

You are already self-aware and own an open mind.

Positive reinforcement  (smiling face)  removes the old mindset.   Quickly.

You'll be Ok

bah I've been around these forums for a long time seen them all.

Just ignore the negativity. Seems the new phenomenon or fad or whatever you want to call it is called 'trolling' for people's reaction. And strangely these trolls get their 'kicks' out of people reacting.

So  understanding this don't let it get your day down and don't waste your time feeding the trolls.

mikeymac :

That they are also Respected is very important for the VN ladies as it is with all women!

Agree with Bazz that DC's lady should be encouraged to read his post and also think that opening his heart and mind to others (strangers) can only be beneficial.

Wishing DC and his lady a happy and fulfilling relationship

Thank you Mikeymac.  Best to you as well!

Dash I've never been to Asia, but I've been around folks with Asian background.
If I may generalize in the West it's primarily boy and girl relationship. In Asia is more like boy and girl and her whole family with all the ramifications of such interactions. For Asians being more whole family oriented it's a much serious and complicated business.
Now all women want the same thing, they want to be respected, nurtured and safe.
Because of cultural and language differences I would suggest the "kiss philosophy" keep it simple stupid.
Try to express yourself/feelings in the most basic English you can.
Make her feel special, you could buy her flowers, chocolates or jewellery but all that is somewhat hollow for is just a matter of spending more or less money.
How about giving of yourself? Like "giving her a weekend" where you both do whatever she would like to do, or offer to go shopping with her, or the thing she would like to do and that she knows that hate to do and let her know that to make her happy that is a small price to pay to be with her.
I don't think I said anything that you don't know, that a woman that feels respected, nurtured and safe will likely do just about anything for and with her man.

My advice would be to sit back and observe your lady, get to know her better, to see her true personality and character. Just two months will tell you very little unless you are with her day in day out. Make sure she is the type of woman you really want to be with and spend time. If her family are accepting of you, friendly and honest hard working folk, people who don't expect gifts and money all the time, then you may have found a decent lady and family.

My wife's family are very accepting of me, they are friendly and don't ask for anything. I'm still waiting for them to get a quote to tile the kitchen and dining area, it's been 8 months since I offered to get it done for them. This proves to me they don't care too much about squeezing Anh Tay for everything he has.

I don't know, people are throwing a lot of softballs, I see some issues!

dashcom :

I recently asked if she was ok and she got upset.

Red flag. Opposite behavior of my Vietnamese wife who asks me literally 5+ times a day "Are you ok"? because she cares.

dashcom :

she said she was worried I would leave her ... [worries] I might just suddenly leave her and move to Thailand

This means she is invested in you and is having some insecurity, which will at times bloom into panic. In the US, women hide insecurity, they are empowered by feminism to overreact, dump you, and ask questions later if they feel hurt. I think here, women are liable to pair faster than we expect, and sometimes cling.

dashcom :

She's the most wonderful woman I've ever had the privilege of being in a relationship with

Also my experience with gf now wife

dashcom :

She got upset ... talking to her about the stress I was feeling. She said it was better to keep our worries to ourselves

Red flag. Don't all women harangue men to talk about their feelings more?  Does she prefer the strong silent type?

dashcom :

She's done a lot for me. She's brought me food... She's taken me all over to doctors ...She often reminds me to eat lunch. She's the most caring woman in the world

So considerate - also my experience

dashcom :

I feel like I'm screwing up sometimes with my girlfriend

Really, is it you? Listen to[at]khanh44. Conservative culture, men lead, men are strong. Say goodbye to feminism and accept this culture where men and women appreciate their differences, have complementary roles, with respect, not 'equality'. A system that has worked for thousands of years.

So some mixed scores. My advice is don't get married for a year despite the pressure from her famiy.
Keep your eyes open. Listen to [at]colinoscapee. Make sure about your interpersonal compatibility outside of 'culture'. Remember there are more fish where she came from. Abundance mentality.  :top:

Some self-evident truths might help too

The excuses are as many as the reasons are few

Doubts exist   Why?

Is it Love because of a need: or a need because of Love?   (Erich Fromm)

No relation/ship can be perfect

You are in the same boat, heading in the same direction

Who has a hand on the tiller?   Who is looking at the lifeboats?

And sadly, the one with the control cares the least

I am not a troll..I just speak my mind...

..and your advice was helpful to me.

Most psychologists are self-corrective, but we often become too pedantic and even seem patronising to many people.    So you are not alone.

While your observations were a little OTT,  they were absorbed, and I'll try harder to be less cryptic in my future postings.     Preaching to the choir is a constant problem, so I try to get them to read between the lines.     As you noted, this does not always work.

Sometimes, negatives are necessary.    I am mindful.   Not (always) full of it...

I wonder why this rant by Lovingit was deleted by him?


The message reads as follows:
This post will go down in history on Expat.com which as highlighted just how pathetic most expats are in Vietnam, most running away from the real world, most have been in failed marriages with western women and come to Vietnam thinking that every beautiful Vietnamese women want you for what you are...please wake up..they want to rid themselves of the crap that is handed out to them by the male chauvinistic Vietnamese men and find a western man that will give them a future...nothing wrong with that but you get your occasional love struck numpty like dashcom who is too naive and goes whimpering on a website like this...and most of the replies are sucking up to it...omg it seems like Vietnam is the dustbin for the weak expat when its comes to relationships...

I'm curious too

I can only assume the moderators took exception?

But as Nietzsche pointed out, there are no facts; only perspectives

And as in all humour that has a bit of bite, there were a couple of kernels of truth in what Livingit was saying

So thanks Col.   I missed the first posting. 

Still, I prefer pitiful to pathetic.

  ..and their sad experiences serve as warnings to us all...

Mods will usually say when they remove something, I think he may have deleted it and replaced it with the "I'm not a troll"

Everyone has a right to express an opinion, but calling others losers is not an opinion it's a rant.

Bazza139 :

..and your advice was helpful to me.

Most psychologists are self-corrective, but we often become too pedantic and even seem patronising to many people.    So you are not alone.

While your observations were a little OTT,  they were absorbed, and I'll try harder to be less cryptic in my future postings.     Preaching to the choir is a constant problem, so I try to get them to read between the lines.     As you noted, this does not always work.

Sometimes, negatives are necessary.    I am mindful.   Not (always) full of it...

I am confused as to who this is directed at and about what.

Lovingit claims not to be a troll that he just speaks his mind, whether anyone else minds that, doesn't seem to be a concern.
Aside from venting his (her?) frustrations what was the point of the post?
All Vietnamese men are all alike?
All Vietnamese women that date a foreigner have the same reason/intention?
Why should he care where the dust bin of expats is? Is that why he moved to Vietnam?
His post seemed to me to be intended as an attack and not as an aid to dash.
Yes there may have been a few "caresses" amongst the numerous stabs, but just ask Dash if he feels that lovingit's posts where any help. And expats helping expats isn't what this forum is supposed to be about?

Havaianu :

Lovingit claims not to be a troll that he just speaks his mind, whether anyone else minds that, doesn't seem to be a concern.
Aside from venting his (her?) frustrations what was the point of the post?
All Vietnamese men are all alike?
All Vietnamese women that date a foreigner have the same reason/intention?
Why should he care where the dust bin of expats is? Is that why he moved to Vietnam?
His post seemed to me to be intended as an attack and not as an aid to dash.
Yes there may have been a few "caresses" amongst the numerous stabs, but just ask Dash if he feels that lovingit's posts where any help. And expats helping expats isn't what this forum is supposed to be about?

There is a good chance he dated a bar girl and found out that it wasn't really love after all.

Colin aside the fact that you jumped to conclusions the question remains the same. Are all "working girls" the same? It must have never happened before, bar girl marries and is a great mother and wife. Not possible right? Just because they work the sex trade they have no values or ANY value at all? Most of us never worked the sex trade but surely too many of us got s____wed on our jobs.

..and aside from the relative relativity Einstein identified..?   

'There is a good chance'  is more of a possibility than conclusion

   But yes, the question remains, and we all learn from the mistakes
we made in the heat of the moment.   Dash was wise to ask for insights,
and us expert expats exist by virtue of having 'been there, done that'. 
We are all wiser after the fact.

   The first word is insight on the original post.    I'm equally sure Dash
has used his own introspection and learnt from our input

  Just as there is no way to be a perfect person, there are infinite ways
to be a better person

I'll keep wandering.    And wondering

Havaianu :

Colin aside the fact that you jumped to conclusions the question remains the same. Are all "working girls" the same? It must have never happened before, bar girl marries and is a great mother and wife. Not possible right? Just because they work the sex trade they have no values or ANY value at all? Most of us never worked the sex trade but surely too many of us got s____wed on our jobs.

We won't know till he replies, he seems to have hit and run, usually the sign of a troll.

Bazza touche I was definitely guilty of jumping to conclusions myself. But possibility one, OK, but to build on that possibility and draw another possibility it's one possibility too many, both with the same intent, to denegrade Dash's relationship.
But enough of trying to play Dear Abby for me.
Best wishes Dash

Greetings, I have been away in Singapore on business, okay I have made some enemies on this site for speaking my mind, just a few facts I am happily married with a daughter of 7 months old, I met my wife who worked before we had a beautiful daughter in the Vietcombank in Q7 near lotta mart.

The reason I felt I had to comment or post a negative post about Dashcom is that I felt he needed to wake up a little and not be so green and naïve, yes my posts were deleted because it seems that they only want positive replies, nothing personal against Bazza or dashcom but there are too many 'Yes men' on this sight and its not all rosy living in Vietnam

I not a vindictive person just one that feels I can speak out..if it upsets people then okay..

regards

I doubt it's about your negative views, which are fine as its your opinion, it's more about calling someone a name like "numpty". Maybe if you express your thoughts without the name calling it may help.

lovingit :

I met my wife who worked before we had a beautiful daughter in the Vietcombank in Q7 near lotta mart.

She had your baby in the bank? Cool! That's like a deposit, yeah?
haha :cool:

Sure I agree too, opinions are good, based on different experiences. They help to inform. I just came back from Thailand, man, talk about people who only think positive. A country of sheeple afraid to ruffle feathers while voting to give away their representative democracy.

Havaianu :

Bazza touche I was definitely guilty of jumping to conclusions myself. But possibility one, OK, but to build on that possibility and draw another possibility it's one possibility too many, both with the same intent, to denegrade Dash's relationship.
But enough of trying to play Dear Abby for me.
Best wishes Dash

Thanks Havaianu! 

Our relationship stands strong regardless of the projections of trolls or troll-like persons.  We just got back from an adventure in Cambodia to convert my visa for work and despite seriously aggressive behavior from the police, unhelpful tourist industry staff, mix-ups and a screw-up by my employer that nearly left me in Cambodia going into the work week, we made it and we agreed it was all in all a good trip.  These are the experiences, I think, that separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of partners who are 'go' rather than just 'show.'

lovingit :

Greetings, I have been away in Singapore on business, okay I have made some enemies on this site for speaking my mind, just a few facts I am happily married with a daughter of 7 months old, I met my wife who worked before we had a beautiful daughter in the Vietcombank in Q7 near lotta mart.

The reason I felt I had to comment or post a negative post about Dashcom is that I felt he needed to wake up a little and not be so green and naïve, yes my posts were deleted because it seems that they only want positive replies, nothing personal against Bazza or dashcom but there are too many 'Yes men' on this sight and its not all rosy living in Vietnam

I not a vindictive person just one that feels I can speak out..if it upsets people then okay..

regards

Dearest Lovingit,

Greetings and salutations.  I've never dated a woman from another culture before, and so the obviousness of calling me 'green' upon reading my post begs the question of intention.  But where do you get 'naive'?  Is it naive to ask for others' points of view based on their experiences?  If you had asked for others' advice on socialization when you were a teenager, we wouldn't even need to have this discussion in letter form.

I suspect that now being married, you overgeneralize and inflate your personal experiences to feel like 'the expert' on all things relationship.  I'm curious to ask a few questions about this to demonstrate how information is gathered, rather than assumed.  I'd ask (1) How many relationships have you actually had?  How many were with women from another culture?  (2) How long have you been married? (3) Is this the first woman whose ever considered marrying you? (4) Are you having trouble adjusting to the burdens and stressors of fatherhood? (5) Project much?  (6) etc, etc....  but I honestly don't care so please don't answer any of these questions. 

Did your tantrum make you feel better?  Are you in the habit of competing with your 7-month-old for others' attention very often?  Help me understand how a grown man gets to behaving as you did by your words cause it's not making any sense from my perspective unless I start assuming, like you did about me, a few things about you (see the questions above and this will give you some practice in  making inferences rather than assumptions.)

I appreciate your feeling about 'Yes men' -- good documentary, by the way.

You're assuming a lot (incorrectly) about me and how I see life.  You've invented some strong feelings toward me based on one simple post and thus relegated your ability to help me to a level of complete uselessness.  Why even go on the forum if this is your attitude? 

So if we agree on most of what you said and most of what you said is about someone other than me we don't have to have any more bad words just to give you more attention.  Why be so anti-social about it?  Attention can be gotten in much more intelligent ways.  There are many other ways to say what you said and I would have considered your point (as others have said, there probably is something to consider buried in the emotion of your words), but you chose to say something non-constructive, attacking, inaccurate and presumptive.  Grow up and be the role model your daughter is going to need.  You certainly wouldn't want anyone talking to her one day in the manner in which you spoke to me (and likely plenty of others).  Stop complaining and start being the person you wish others to be.  Too many critics, not enough writers, etc.


Regards,

Dashcom

Lovingit  -  Keep posting, your analogies are to the point, and not sugar coated - if people want to read and heed, so ne it, but if they are offended by the truth, that too,  so be it    I enjoy your posts - so keep on posting...................... :cool:

dashcom :
Bazza139 :

..and your advice was helpful to me.

Most psychologists are self-corrective, but we often become too pedantic and even seem patronising to many people.    So you are not alone.

While your observations were a little OTT,  they were absorbed, and I'll try harder to be less cryptic in my future postings.     Preaching to the choir is a constant problem, so I try to get them to read between the lines.     As you noted, this does not always work.

Sometimes, negatives are necessary.    I am mindful.   Not (always) full of it...

I am confused as to who this is directed at and about what.

I too used to be confused by posts from Bazza139 but have over time come to enjoy them.  Look for the hidden kernel of truth within.  :unsure

Thanks Thig

Theep Dinking is too deep for some...             

..but I see the sound of silence still works too...        :cheers:

Dash,
To put it simply:

1. Understand the 4 noble truths.
2. Understand the 8 fold path.
3. Keep it healthy.
Mac

You are assuming she is not a Catholic?

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