Love knows no borders

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A lack of gender prejudices keeps the knot tied tight when a Vietnamese celebrity weds a foreigner

Ask almost any Vietnamese female celebrity who has married a foreigner or a Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) and she will say she did it for love and is happy with her choice and her life.

But it doesn't always work out. Ngoc Thuy, who was crowned Vietnam's Top Supermodel in 2004, split with her wealthy Vietnamese-American husband one month after giving birth to their second daughter and two years after their lavish wedding in Ho Chi Minh City.

Thuy, however, is an exception to the norm as most marriages between Vietnamese women and men from outside the country seem to work out well.

When Nguyen Dieu Hoa, who was crowned Miss Vietnam in 1990 and finished in the top five at the 2008 Mrs. World pageant, announced she would marry her Indian boyfriend, some people said it wouldn't last.

"He was poor when our love bloomed, but we decided to get married anyway.

Why do people disapprove of a beautiful woman marrying an expatriate or foreigner? We are normal women who yearn to marry the man we love," she told reporters.

She has been happily married for more than 10 years and has three kids.

After breaking up with her Vietnamese husband, model and mother Ngoc Nga had a nervous breakdown but was saved by an Australian man she wound up marrying.

"We were destined to be together. I'm the luckiest woman. He makes me and my kids happy and respects my past. We get on so well that I haven't got upset about anything since we got married," Nga said.

"I don't understand why people see so big a difference between marrying a local man and a Viet Kieu or foreigner," Nga said.

Model Truong Ngoc Anh with her Vietnamese expat husband and their child

Phan Y Ly and her son from a previous marriage to an Australian

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Model-turned-actress Truong Ngoc Anh is blissfully married to a Vietnamese-American man and has a beautiful daughter. Her professional life has been even more successful since her wedding.

"Viet Kieu are Vietnamese anyway, so there is little difference between them and local men. Sharing points of view, about educating children for example, helps cement the relationship. Besides, fate has a hand to play when two people get hitched," Anh said.

Model Van Anh's family had always warned her against marrying an expatriate as he might have trouble adapting to life in another country.

"Then I met my husband, a man of Vietnamese descent who was born and raised in Canada. He is kind and loves me more than himself," she said.

"Many people have said we are following a fad by marrying a Viet Kieu or foreigner. It was hurtful at first but now I shrug them off. We are normal people. It's destiny, not we, that decides whom we wed," Anh said.

"Many think that we beauties only want to marry Viet Kieu or foreigners. That isn't true. No matter who she is, a woman yearns to marry the man she loves and who loves her," said model Kim Hong.

"I don't see much difference between my British husband and Vietnamese men, except that he respects my freedom and never makes me do something I don't like. He supports me in everything I do, even when he may not like it," Hong said.

Phan Y Ly, who holds a master's degree in Theater and Media for Development, was among the first exponents of the Latin dance known as "salsa" in Vietnam.

Ly studied in India and Britain and worked for the United Nations Development Program and other non-governmental agencies.

During this time, she dated several foreign men, married an Australian, had a son and got divorced.

Now her salsa partner is her first Vietnamese boyfriend.

Ly wrote to Thanh Nien about the differences between local and foreign men.

The society a man comes from, the education he receives and his character all influence his role as a husband, she wrote.

A man who grows up in a traditional society with many rules and gender prejudices has different views about the wife and husband's roles from a man raised in a society where individuality is respected, Ly wrote.

A Vietnamese woman, who is taught from an early age to sacrifice for her husband and children, usually has to learn English to communicate with a foreign husband and generally adapt herself to his ways instead of trying to make him change his habits and fit in with her.

The wife's parents, on the other hand, often look upon her husband as an outsider, an attitude that can widen the gap between them.

However, they are mindful of the cultural differences and are generally tolerant of their son-in-law's social gaffes and other mistakes.

Most Western men are attracted to Vietnamese women for their charming, considerate, emotional, tactful and caring nature.

Though there may be conflicts down the road, the couple can reconcile their differences as the husband is proud of his wife for having these virtues, Ly wrote in conclusion.

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