Seeing a Vietnamese woman hand in hand with a western man is definitely not a rare sight here in Saigon, not anymore. White males dating Vietnamese females is pretty common now. And you could say the same for the rest of Vietnam, as well as the rest of South East Asia. Thailand, Cambodia, Philippines, Laos… well maybe not Laos, but you get the picture.
I’m a Vietnamese woman, and I’ve been dating an American guy for almost 5 years. As far as I can tell, our relationship is normal. It has its ups and downs just like any other relationship would. I certainly find it to be different from dating men of my own culture, but the differences don’t necessarily define the relationship. The differences are just there.
However, that is not why you clicked on this article. Either you’ve come here to get endorsement of your already formed opinion, or just out of curiosity, you’d like to see a firsthand account of this matter, as written by a female Vietnamese who just so happens to speak (and write!) fluent English.
Keep in mind that all the things written down here are based fully on my own personal experiences and observations about couples (or in this case A specific couple) where it’s a male Westerner, and a female Vietnamese. I recognise that every relationship is different, so what I say here may not apply to everyone. Therefore, if you get upset that this article doesn’t represent you or your opinion, feel free to share your story below with us, we’re happy to get feedback from our readers.
Public Perceptions About Dating Vietnamese Women
When I tell someone I’m dating a westerner, there are generally 4 reactions that I receive:
- The “IDGAF” – Those who couldn’t care any less about my relationship. Most of these people are used to seeing inter-racial couples and usually have lived abroad for quite some time. More often than not, they’re also in relationships that cross national boundaries, so it’s really nothing special.
- The “White Boys are THE BEST” – Those who like to talk about how Western guys are better than Vietnamese guys. Some of them are women who aren’t very traditional, and probably dating a foreigner themselves. There are also a few others who think that I’m lucky to have a rich western boyfriend (because westerners are rich obviously), which leads us to…
- The “Skeptics” – Those who quietly, or worse, vocally, question the legitimacy of our relationship, who think I’m either a malicious woman who is just taking advantage of the sexualisation and fetishisation of my own race to get my boyfriend’s money and relocate to the US, or a submissive Vietnamese (or otherwise generic Asian) girl who fell into the trap of a predatory American (or otherwise generic westerner). I’m the later, in case you’re wondering! Lol. And lastly…
- The “Curious Cats” – Those who can’t stop asking questions about how our relationship works. The questions range from being innocent to borderline obnoxious and annoying. Like they’ve never seen a white person before, or are probably just Bi(racial) Curious.
Everyone on earth will have their own biases and preconceived notions about everything, including other people’s relationships. It would be ideal to take a few steps back and try to see through these biases to understand each other’s positions more fully.
The Difference in Perspectives
For anyone who knows both my boyfriend and I, they see that we are worlds apart in terms of our personalities, preferences, and world-views. One may say “opposites attract”, which is quite accurate in describing our initial attraction. At least, that was how I was attracted to my boyfriend in the first place. Its common to have many differences in an interracial relationship. We’re simply raised differently.
My boyfriend, in my opinion, is a typical progressive capitalist white American guy. He’s opinionated, head-strong, straight-forward, can be quite loud sometimes (by this I mean most of the time). If you know an American, you know what I mean. Just casual stereotyping here. He’s very vocal, and maybe, well, selfish if judged according to Asian standards.
Meanwhile, I am a not-very-traditional socialist yellow-toned Vietnamese woman. I’m also opinionated, but not vocal about it, non-confrontational (usually at least… I can get very confrontational if I have to), tend to be passive aggressive, and go with the flow most of the time.
Majority of Vietnamese people you know will be more similar to how I am and most Westerners are, from my own experience, going to be more similar to my boyfriend. These are just well established differences between Collective societies and Individualistic societies.
And because of our differences, we’ve struggled quite a bit to have a healthy balance in our relationship. This is also probably why many people question the stability of Western-Vietnamese couples – and it’s a fair point.
I know some friends (both Vietnamese and Western) who broke up with their partners because the differences were too big, and seemed insurmountable. Meanwhile, for the same exact reason, a few other friends simply treated their interracial relationships as a short-term fling that was inevitably going to end.
However these differences, I strongly feel that it is also thanks to our differences that we’ve been able to learn a lot from each other.
We have very different approaches to how we address life issues. While my boyfriend wants concrete solutions with proven success and individual responsibilities, I look for harmony, human-centric, win-win strategies, and through communication, we can work out a solution which works best for each unique problem. I can take care of some issues that he can’t as effectively, and vice versa.
My boyfriend brings me fresh perspectives on different topics, ones that I might never consider by myself. Having never lived abroad, there’s definitely something to learn from the different perspectives of those who have. Especially from someone you’re close with.
Not only that, and perhaps more importantly(!), I get introduced to new cultures, cuisines that I am now obsessed with. Before I started going out with my Western boyfriend(s), my only knowledge of Western foods consisted of KFC, Pizza Hut, pasta, and steak. Now, I simply can’t have enough international stuff like Mediterranean food and my all time favourite, tapenade.
He’s also shown me that Western culture is definitely not just Christmas and dressing up as a sexy bunny for Halloween. It’s also the dynamic of a Western family, in the way a Westerner views their relationship with their parents, siblings, and relatives, and how different it is from how Vietnamese people (or Asians in general) will approach family gatherings.
BBQ gatherings… they certainly all seem to love it. And there’s such a deep significance of football in American culture, which (along with the beer and grilled meats) almost hedges on a shared religious experience with your family. And there I was thinking that it was only big during the Superbowl.
For his part, my boyfriend has also been able to have a glimpse of how Vietnamese people view not just our immediate family, but also how important the extended family can be as far as day to day life is concerned – but also when it comes to big issues (like health, death, money, etc).
He has personally seen how hard-working Vietnamese women actually are, that they can oftentimes be more responsible and better decision makers than Vietnamese men.
And yes, he now knows a lot more authentic Vietnamese restaurants that serve food which aren’t just Pho, Bun Bo, or Com Tam. I cannot speak much on his account but I believe he has developed a gut because of me.
Our differences show us a different world from our own. I personally find that I can have a deeper understanding of Western society in general (and American culture in particular) without necessarily having to live in the US, and it makes me want to visit his country even more.
Even though there are many good things about coming from different backgrounds, it’s also undeniable that this difference brings a lot of challenges to the table for a Western-Vietnamese couple.
My boyfriend and I yell at each other a lot.
Mostly because we tend to have opposite ways of thinking:
- Behaviors he finds to be independent, I may find selfish
- People he finds confident, I may find egoistic
- Shows I find interesting, he may find overly dramatic
- Solutions I see as fit for purpose, he may see as not particularly beneficial
That being said, I feel that within the general spectrum of relationships, what we have is still quite normal. I have a friend who broke up with her western boyfriend because she couldn’t stand that he was not “reporting” everything he did. He didn’t text her enough, in her opinion, and that he only introduced her to a few of his friends – even after they’ve already been dating for months.
Those are normal things for a Vietnamese couple. You are expected to introduce your 4-month girlfriend/boyfriend to all of your friends, to set a relationship status on Facebook, and to be a bit more (for lack of a better term) possessive, and involved in each other’s life. If you don’t do so, your partner may think you don’t love them enough.
My friend and her ex might have loved each other a lot, but not only did they have to work through the problems of actual spoken language, the Love Language they each had didn’t translate very well to their partner and most probably due to the cultural differences. Therefore regardless of how much they tried to explain themselves, they misunderstood each other.
There are a lot of other things that can also get lost in translation. Down to the most minor things for example: your tone of voice. There are times that my boyfriend’s intent was just to give me a suggestion, but through my ears, it turns into him “lecturing” me what to do. Despite my fluency in English, there are still differences that I don’t catch on to quickly enough or in the right way.
From these tiny little issues, a lot of resentment and contempt toward each can rise up, and this can slowly eat away at the quality of a relationship if the involved parties don’t have the right approach to conflict resolution.
As I said before, the differences don’t necessarily define the relationship. However, if it’s a relationship that is worth pursuing, in your opinion, then the differences are worth not just noting but understanding. This can strengthen your relationship by;
- Learning and understanding different perspectives on life, love, family and a myriad of other topics.
- Showing genuine interest in each other – everyone wants to be understood, right?
- Avoiding misunderstandings. Or at least helping to overcome the inevitable misunderstandings more quickly