updated 19 Aug 2013, 03:11
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Mon, Aug 19, 2013
The Straits Times
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Meet my hubby from China
by Lea Wee

Singaporean Airene Tan finds men from China somewhat self-centred and ambitious, which she attributes to the country's onechild policy and highly competitive education system.

That, however, is not stopping the 30-year-old senior designer with a mobile advertising company from marrying one of them.

"I would say the competitive streak in him is healthy for our relationship as I prefer someone who has drive," she says of her husband-to-be, IT specialist Ding Zhuo from Beijing. "I also find him independent and intellectually mature."

Mr Ding, 31, who came to Singapore with his parents when he was 11, says Ms Tan changed his view of Singaporean women.

"I used to think that girls from China are more intellectual. After I got to know Airene, I realised that Singaporean women can be intellectual too."

The couple met through a mutual friend in 2002 but began dating seriously only three years later. Before they got together, Mr Ding dated a woman from China, while Ms Tan did not date anyone. The couple wanted to be financially stable before getting married and plan to register their marriage at the end of this year or early next year.

Theirs is a story that is increasingly common these days.

While Singaporean men with mainland Chinese brides are no longer news, more Singaporean women seem to be marking a new trend by pairing with men from China.

Statistics in the Report on Registration of Births and Deaths 2012 released by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority last month show that a small but growing number of babies is being born to such couples. There were 306 such babies last year, comprising 0.7 per cent of all births, up from just 64, or 0.1 per cent, in 2000.

This was the most significant jump compared to the number of babies born to Singaporean women and men of other nationalities.

The number of Chinese nationals here is estimated to be a few hundred thousand, including those who have been granted permanent residency or citizenship.

Experts cite the emergence of Chinese middle-class professionals as one reason for the rising number of marriages between Singaporean women and mainland Chinese men.

Although there is no official data, Professor Gavin Jones, director of the J Y Pillay Comparative Asia Research Centre at the National University of Singapore (NUS), says there is a significant number of professionals from China who have gained permanent resident status or are working here on contract.

For example, the 2010 census found that 61.4 per cent, or 332,000, of all permanent residents here were ethnic Chinese, although it did not give a breakdown of how many of them were from China.

In April last year, a report by NUS academics Brenda Yeoh and Lin Weiqiang stated that "the majority of skilled contract workers - apart from Malaysians - are now from China and India".

The report was published in Migration Information Source, a project by independent think-tank Migration Policy Institute.

Prof Jones says: "With such large numbers of professionals from China, this would increase the pool of potential Chinese husbands for well-educated Singaporean women."

Singaporean women who marry foreign husbands tend to be well-educated, he notes, as single women aged 30 and older with tertiary qualification here outnumber single men in the same age group, so some may look elsewhere for a partner.

"These well-educated Singaporean women tend to marry well-educated professionals they meet at work or in social situations, or perhaps when they work or holiday abroad," he says.

Of the eight couples contacted by SundayLife!, all the Singaporean women hold either a diploma or a university degree and can speak Mandarin.

The men either attended a university in China or a Western country, or were educated in Singapore.

All but one can speak English. Some have lived here for so many years that they have assimilated well and can even speak Singlish.

But some couples admit that cultural stereotypes proved a stumbling block at first.

These include perceptions of Singaporean women as materialistic and Chinese men as uncivilised and chauvinistic.

For instance, Ms Tan says when people find out her boyfriend is from China, they would make sweeping statements such as, "Oh, he must be a male chauvinist" or "Is his family back in China poor?"

Such stereotypes usually crumble as a couple get to know each other better, but they can deter Singaporean women from befriending Chinese men.

Ms Natasha Koh, 38, a Singaporean sales executive and social sciences graduate, says she will not date a man from China unless they share common interests and he speaks "some English and is quite localised".

She has yet to meet such a man. "So far, most of the mainland Chinese men I have seen are blue-collar workers.

They seem quite loud and prefer to mix with their own people."

Mr Shi Cang Yuan, 27, a mechanical engineering graduate from Jinjiang city in Fujian province, admits that he tends to hang out more with women from mainland China.

"But it's not intentional," he says.

The people who take part in clan activities he is involved in tend to be from mainland China.

He came here four years ago to pursue further studies and says he would like to meet more Singaporeans.

"It's good to know more about the people of the country you are living in."

Mr Shi, who spent a year here doing a postgraduate diploma in systems analysis at NUS, now works as a software engineer.

"I find the women here quite friendly. They are also more sociable and worldly than women from mainland China," he says.

"But women from China tend to be more willing to work hard, maybe not so much because they are from China, but because they are migrants and feel they need to prove themselves."

If he were to date a Singaporean, he would prefer her to be Chinese with a decent command of Mandarin "so that our cultural and language differences wouldn't be so great".

For Singaporean account director Tee Yen Ching, 35, and her Shanghai-born businessman husband, 45, such differences are negligible.

They met when she went to work in China in 2004 and became friends.

Love blossomed in 2011 and they got married in May. The couple are currently based in Shanghai.

Although her husband does not speak much English, she says language is not an issue as she is fluent in Mandarin.

"I think it helps us argue less as I'm less quarrelsome when I have to argue in Mandarin. I am much more sarcastic in English," she quips.

His nationality has never been an issue for her. He just happens to be someone I get along with and want to spend my life with," she says.


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