They say love knows no reason, no boundaries, no distance, and that it could withstand all storms for two people to be together. But love requires work – hard, infinite work — especially in interracial relationships.
While it has become common to see a Vietnamese-foreigner pair walking hand in hand, many still get suspicious glances (if not a straightforward disapproving look), usually from the elders. The traditional cultural values and lack of exposure to different races and cultures result in unwarranted judgments.
Is it just about sex and money?
Do they even understand each other?
What kind of family does that woman come from?
These questions, and many more that are asked quite blatantly, make it harder for people to love freely and openly.
But love is love, especially when it’s pure and true. Amidst challenges, interracial couples who are meant for each other work to break barriers and overcome differences. They learn each other’s languages and respect their cultural distinctiveness. If anything, it’s their differences that make their relationship stronger.
As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, Vietcetera asked interracial couples about their love stories and how they make their relationships work.
A journey of love and self-discovery
Jorge, born and raised in Spain, joined the popular TV show “Người ấy là ai?” about four years ago. The show, which translates to “Who is single in Vietnam?” was a reality dating show helping single girls find their one true love. It mainly was scripted, Jorge revealed. But there was one girl he shared true feelings with.
“We danced and talked behind the scenes for a while and became friends after the show. A year after our first meeting, we officially became a couple,” the Spanish gentleman shared. He’s been happily in love with Kim Binh for three years now.
Growing up in different countries with distinct traditions tested their relationship. But it’s also through their differences that they learned so much about themselves and each other.
“Although it could bring some challenges to the table, there are some amazing perks related to self-discovery and learning that we honestly think we could not get from a person from the same culture. We guess it is similar to traveling abroad, and that's why we also love traveling together.”
Both Jorge and Kim don’t pressure each other to adopt any specific traditions. They’ve learned to respect and allow each other to freely practice religious and cultural traditions.
I’d take a bullet for her. She’d kill a spider for me.
Swiss national Olivier Garessus and his now-fiancee Trương Hy Dư met through Facebook Dating in 2020. It was Dư’s profile picture that caught Olivier’s attention: a lovely girl playing the piano.
“I thought she could play the piano like me. Later on, I found out that she just posed for the camera and didn’t play the instrument,” Olivier shared. It wasn’t so much of a dealbreaker, though.
They exchanged messages for two weeks before deciding to meet up. Dư didn’t speak English, and Olivier wasn’t yet fluent in Vietnamese. But it wasn’t the language differences that made Olivier hesitate.
“I could only spare one hour per day for her because of the pressure in my job. But then I lost that job eventually. I was at my lowest point, but Dư stayed with me and helped me with my struggles.”
Now two and a half years later, Olivier and Dư are getting ready for their wedding set to be held in Quang Ngai, where Dư grew up. They’ve already been through a lot of ups and downs, that they know they’re the perfect pair.
As someone who’s been in love with Vietnam even before he got himself a Vietnamese fiancee, Olivier has always been open to embracing the local culture. In fact, Olivier has quite a following on Tiktok for singing Vietnamese ballads. Adapting to Vietnamese culture wasn’t so much of a challenge.
It also helps that Dư is always ready to teach him Vietnamese traditions and customs and never tolerates when he makes the same mistake twice.
But there’s something else Olivier loves about his future wife: she’d always willingly kill a spider for him.
“I am terrified of insects, especially spiders. But for some reason, many Vietnamese don’t have any problem dealing with insects. Every time we see spiders, my wife immediately takes them out.”
Olivier and Dư have already met each other’s parents and have gotten their blessing for their wedding in May. They are now excited to embark on the new chapter of their love and can’t wait to build a little, happy family.
Block out that Vietnamese nosiness
When A.N.J. first visited his now-husband’s home in Stockholm, her Vietnamese upbringing was evident: she took off her shoes and socks before coming in.
“It’s a normal practice in Vietnam as a show of respect to the house’s owners,” she said. But his boyfriend told her she didn’t need to take off her socks in Sweden.
It wasn’t a big deal, really, and it’s something the couple now laugh about, but it made A.N.J. realize that things as trivial as taking off or leaving the socks on could signify cultural differences.
“Beyond that, I learned the meaning of being a feminist when I moved to Sweden. Especially in relationships, men and women have equal roles and say in things. That was the challenging part because of the underlying cultural aspect that affects your perception and behavior,” she said, noting that women play more submissive roles in her home country.
With everything she learned and adapted to in Sweden, it was difficult for her to explain why Vietnam remains very traditional and conservative. Her family was initially upset with her relationship with a Swede, saying communication would be complicated.
“I think it’s good that my family can’t communicate that much with him. That way, we can block out some of the very nosy Vietnamese questions, and he doesn’t need to feel offended or know about the drama.”
What’s important for the couple is that they understand each other well.
A.N.J. admitted that life is better in Sweden, where interracial couples aren’t frowned upon. No one questions her intentions or educational background when she’s seen with her husband.
“My husband talks about coming to Vietnam more than I do. But every time we’re back home, we’d get second glances. I could tell people were judging me and thinking I was only hanging out with a foreigner because of money. Some close-minded people in Vietnam think about foreigners as sex partners they can get money from. People assume Vietnamese women with foreign boyfriends are stupid and uneducated. I find it really weird and upsetting.”
In Sweden, A.N.J. said many think coming from different cultures is a “cool thing,” as each can learn something and discover new things.
“Here, I feel more respected. I don’t feel degraded because I’m with a white guy.”
Finding common ground
Like A.N.J, Claire Nguyen found her soulmate outside Vietnam. She’s currently pursuing her Master’s degree in London, where she met her Chinese British boyfriend
While they’re both Asians, Claire admitted they grew up in different settings and had very different habits. “Things as simple as him having muffins for breakfast, while I can’t start the day without noodle soup.”
The relationship’s still new, but the young couple is determined to make it work. It’s about finding certain beliefs that connect them together, like their attitudes towards relationships and finance.
“Difference requires couples to be even more open to sharing their thoughts. We started sharing openly since day 1, and it helped us a lot in understanding each other, even though it wasn’t easy in many cases,” Claire shared.
They express interest in each other’s favorite hobbies — Claire on working out and her boyfriend on eating fast food. These simple gestures can deepen their connection and give them a closer look at each other’s lives.
To Claire, it doesn’t matter whether they’re in the UK, Vietnam, or China. “It always takes hard work for both when adapting to each other's lifestyle, no matter where you came from.”