Sunday, March 30, 2008

Crossing Cultures

How could a woman bring herself to marry someone who spoke not one word of her language and then go to live with him in a country far distant from her birth country? I just read an article in the New York Times about Korean men who are marrying Vietnamese women a few days after “choosing” them.

It seems there is a glut of single men in Korea right now as that country has a preference for boy babies, sort of an odd way to describe female infanticide. So the eligible Koreans are traveling south to Viet Nam to find a bride.

The story chronicled the experience of two different couples who had both arrived back in Korea at the same time and given birth to their children at roughly the same time – both girls.

There are huge problems because of the lack of communication. He refuses to learn Vietnamese. She finds Korean extremely difficult to learn and impossible to understand. The mother-in-law with whom them live says that foreigners will destroy their society and won’t even look at her female grandchild.

I always felt sorry for both parties in arranged marriages. But at least in those cases, both persons usually could communicate in a common language.

It’s unclear how these beautiful young Vietnamese girls will fare in the long run – whether they will adapt to their new homeland and devote themselves to raising their children or whether they will be subjected to abuse from husbands who treat them more like purchased property.

And what about those little girls? Will they prove to be the translators for their parents, if they manage to stay together with the divorce rate for these marriages on the rise? Will there be a KSL program for them when they are school age since they will spend most of their early years with their Vietnamese mothers? Will the Korean society accept them as equals to fully Korean children?

Any differences I might have with my spouse seem trivial when compared to this story. And at least we can discuss them in a language we both understand.


Blogger Kristin said...

I might be better off not understanding the language. I put too much emphasis on words... Not to make light of the situation, though. I find it hard to believe that either party (the choser or the chosen) would find happiness in such a role. Maybe that's not the goal?

11:32 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- This sort of marriage, whether it is Korean-Vietnamese or American-Russian provides a spouse and the means to have legitimate children, but it is sorely lacking in the area of communication, something that is so vital to the good health of most relationships. I suppose people find happiness in a variety of ways. Maybe through their children...

1:15 PM  
Blogger media concepts said...

I hope that photo isn't from one of Wack Job Reverend Moon's mass weddings.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

MC -- The photo is from a 2007 NYT article "Korean Men Use Brokers to Find Brides in Vietnam."

9:20 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Great post on something I knew nothing about. Seems very sad and pretty unromantic. Some will grow to love each other and maybe even communicate but their best bet is to hook up with others in the same situation so they don't feel so alone. (Mostly the women I should think)

hey, I made the couscous last night on my new stove and it was great! It'll last all week for us but what a great dish to take somewhere! It's a little like barley and tapioca and I can almost imagine making a pudding with it. Thanks again!

8:08 AM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

There are cultural factors at work that Americans can only guess about.

Interesting story.

I often thought it would have been great if someone had arranged a marriage for me. I suck at romance, but maybe my parents or one of those Jewish marriage brokers would have chosen someone suitable and compatible.

8:43 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

MOI -- I'm sure these Vietnamese women are happy to have others in the same situation around for company. I wonder if any of them will ever see their homeland or parents again.

Glad the couscous worked out! And especially glad you had your new stove to make it on!

Reya -- I'm always amazed at how many arranged marriages actually work out well, but they are usually not between people who don't speak the same language. Sometimes our hormones cloud our judgment in matters of romance!

9:21 AM  
Blogger DC Food Blog said...

That's freaking disgusting.

2:52 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

People don't all have the same view of marriage (and views may change as they stay married).

Obviously it has nothing to do with love and more to do with expectations (probably fairy tale and imagined, rather than real).

As long as both have the same expectations, then it should work out well.

7:14 PM  

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