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Tue, Oct 02, 2012
The Straits Times
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More Singapore men marrying foreign Asian brides
by Theresa Tan

Singaporean engineer Adam Chow was past 40 when he joined dating website His previous relationships had not panned out and there were no potential wives in his all-male workplace.

Thai entrepreneur Kanya Chomwijit was in her mid-30s and hoping to find a good Caucasian husband through the same website. She had had one Thai boyfriend but thought little of Thai men.

The 40-year-old said: “Most Thai men are butterflies (meaning they have roving eyes) and they drink a lot. It’s very hard to find a good Thai man who is single.”

For Mr Chow, nationality did not matter and “it just felt right” with Ms Chomwijit. After a three–year courtship conducted long distance, they married in 2009.

Like Mr Chow, 48, more Singapore men are marrying foreign women, and this is driving up the trend of inter-ethnic marriages.

Last year, one in five, or 5,388 marriages, involved partners of different ethnic groups – up from one in eight, or 2,814 marriages, in 2001.

In particular, the number of brides classified as “others” – which means they are of any ethnic group except Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian and Caucasian – has ballooned in the past decade.

These women made up about half of all the brides in inter-ethnic unions last year.

The 2011 Marriages and Divorces report does not give the breakdown of marriages by nationalities, only ethnicity.

But experts say the women who are “others” are likely to be foreigners, with many coming from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Another set of data, the Population in Brief 2011 report, supports this observation, Institute of Policy Studies demographer Yap Mui Teng noted.

Marriages between a citizen and a non-citizen made up 40.6 per cent of all marriages involving a citizen in 2010, up from 32.1 per cent in 2000. And 96 per cent of the non-citizen brides in 2010 were from Asia.

Singaporeans meet their wives when they go overseas to work or play. The women may have also come here to work, often in the service industry, or to look for a husband through compatriots already wed to Singaporeans, marriage brokers or dating websites.

According to solemnisers and counsellors, Singapore men are well regarded by women from less developed economies hoping to escape poverty back home.

Singapore men are also perceived to make loving and faithful husbands, compared to men in countries such as Thailand and Vietnam, said women and counsellors interviewed.

For many Singapore men, especially those older and less well-off, foreign women seeking a better life may seem less demanding than Singaporean women.

Technician Yeow Jim Lee, 42, claimed he could never “go near” a Singaporean girl, much less date one.

Three years ago, he married a Balinese waitress 10 years his junior. They met while he was holidaying in Bali and she was his third Balinese girlfriend.

“Singapore women like the ‘five Cs’ and they would rather not get married if they can’t find the right men. And even if they are not fussy, their parents may be fussy,” said the Malaysian, who is a Singapore permanent resident.

“But to Balinese women, money is not everything.”

The Community Hurdle While Singaporeans seem more open to marrying someone of another race, parents can still find it hard to accept, said marriage counsellors.

Sikh community leader and solemniser Jasbir Singh said: “Parents’ first choice is always that their children marry someone of the same race. Marriage is not just between two people, but between two families and there are many shared experiences between the two families.”

Another hurdle can be the need for religious conversion.

This could explain why the number of marriages between Chinese, Malays, Indians and Eurasians remains small or has even declined in some cases, say academics interviewed.

Last year, 123 Chinese men married Malay women, fewer than half the 281 who did so in 2001. Some 146 Indian men took Chinese wives, compared to 155 in 2001.

These numbers are tiny compared to the 2,008 Chinese grooms who married women classified as “others” last year, more than double the 755 in 2001.

Marriage experts think it might be easier for some parents to accept a foreign son-in-law or daughter-in-law – as long as they meet criteria such as income and character – than a Singaporean of a different race.

They struggle to get past their own biases of the other races here, even if they have no such problems with foreigners.

Mr Chow and his Thai wife feel fortunate that their union had the blessings of both sides.

Mrs Chow, who has a master’s degree in logistics from an Australian university, gave up a “good income” in Bangkok to marry the Singaporean graduate.

She used to run a business providing educational services and earned about 100,000 baht ($4,000) a month. The couple welcomed their first child, Tara, on Sept 6.

Said the housewife: “I think I’m very lucky to have married Adam. He’s so kind.”

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