updated 24 Dec 2011, 07:10
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Tue, Dec 29, 2009
The New Paper
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Love does not always need to come first
by Crystal Chan

BY CHANCE and a little design, I’ve become a Vietnamese bride watcher of sorts.

It’s fascinating, really.

A man walks in, and five to six eager girls line up before him, all hoping to be Cinderella.

And who’s their prince? Just a guy who paid the matchmaker a fee of up to $8,000.

Is he a male chauvinist pig who thinks he can “buy” any bride of his choosing?

Or is he an eternal optimist who thinks love can materialise from such a brief encounter?

As an officer from Vietnam’s Women’s Union put it (in an AP report): “How can you live happily ever after when you’ve met your husband three weeks before the wedding?”

Ah, this is love in a borderless world.

Two parties freely entering into a union, each driven by their private need.

Practical folk who believe that once you’ve made a commitment, love will bloom later.

How different from the cosmopolitans who insist on love of a certain kind first before they take the plunge.

This is why I don’t sniff at the matchmaking industry.

They fulfil a need, or rather two needs – the comfort that a homespun wife can provide and the security that a hardworking husband can give.

Out of poverty

Many of these brides are village girls and their marriages have lifted their parents out of poverty.

The late Mr Alvin Lim, the great-grandson of pineapple king Lim Nee Soon, gave his Vietnamese wife’s farmer parents money to build a brick house.

He also bought his father-in-law a scooter.

While I have seen some men who make do with having a solemnisation in the matchmaker’s office, there are those who spare no expense for their big day.

Ms Nguyen Thi My Tien, 19, got married on 30 July to a sales executive 10 years her senior.

When I spoke to her in her matchmaker’s office on Tuesday, she was happily showing off her wedding album which she had downloaded into an iPhone her husband had bought her.

Her wedding attire included a traditional Western bridal gown, an evening gown and akimono.

AP recently reported that with money from foreign sons-in-law, many residents in the Mekong Delta island of Tan Loc – where most Viet brides are from – have replaced their thatch-roof shacks with brick homes.

These families have also opened small restaurants and shops, creating non-agricultural employment.

The luckier families received enough from their sons-in-law to build ponds for fish farming.

The remittances were enough for Western Union to open a branch in Tan Loc to cater to newlyweds.

Yes, I have also seen cases where the marriages ended badly.

One Singaporean man filed for annulment after his wife ran back to Vietnam to get back together with her ex-lover.

There are two sides to the coin. But for many, it’s a tale of heads leading the way, and hearts following.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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