Vietnam Academy Of Social Sciences

Experience in foreign land – Cultural experience of Vietnamese women married to Chinese men in Wan Wei (Dong Xing – Guang Xi – China)



Recently, cross – border marriage is an attractive research topic with both local and international cultural researchers. Vietnam’s border region has been being influenced by economy and culture at various levels through marriage. The book on “Marriage in foreign land – Cultural experience of Vietnamese women married to Chinese men in Wan Wei (Dong Xing, Guang Xi, China) by Associate Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thi Phuong Cham of Institute of Culture Studies, VASS) has basically explained some aspects related to this issue.

Apart from the Opening chapter and Conclusion, the books contains 7 chapters including: Chapter 1 – The road to Wan Wei; Chapter 2 – Jobs and Family life; Chapter 3 – Marriage Life; Chapter 4 – Being Mother and taking care of children; Chapter 5 – Social Communication; Chapter 6 – Back to hometown; Chapter 7 – Worries and future plans.

The opening chapter is an autobiography linked with the social circumstances. By entering into silent life, the author has brought readers into stories which are the memories of Vietnamese brides about their own life. These stories are many pieces of brides’ life which gave readers a clear picture of life, people, cultural characteristics of each region and even stories which are related to economy and society so on.

Chapter 1 is considered as the next part of the stories which have not had endings yet. Readers will learn about the family background, clearly understand the personal stories and why Vietnamese girls decided to get married through this chapter. For sure, some stories really catch the attention of people such as the calculation of life reality and heart – breaking circumstances, the limitation of information, and marriages without any formal ceremony or even they don’t know how their husbands look like.  Also, some marriages are even illegal and the one who are lost and hurt are women.

Chapter 2 has specifically analyzed the living conditions and daily housework of brides who got married in foreign land. The aim of this analysis is to understand difficulties of looking for a job and setting down the family life. It goes without saying that language is a barrier and how Wan Wei people look at them is challenges which these Vietnamese brides need to overcome for the purpose of living a peaceful life for their own.  

Chapter 3 has drawn the picture of marriage life of these Chinese – Vietnamese couples for readers. It is the passivity of Vietnamese brides in their first days, how they adapted and have to actively adapt to the new life as well as emotions and feelings when deciding to have a long term marriage with many difficulties they might face off.  This may be the most difficult time for any woman and they will not be able to forget because they used to have dreams or expectation about a better life before they really feel and know about the imperfect reality.

Chapter 4 contains most interesting information when Vietnamese brides have become mothers. They have experienced the pregnancy, giving birth, taking care of themselves as well as children. They have to look after the study for kids including teaching them Vietnamese, settle down family works. Especially, these Vietnamese mothers have now had the responsibility of building the solid connection in Vietnamese – Chinese families. Via this chapter, readers have seen the living circumstance of Vietnamese brides when they are living in a foreign land, especially through stories about their daily life.

Chapter 5 has deeply analyzed the life of Vietnamese women who got married to Chinese. The daily issues are which readers can find out via words of insiders about the relationship with neighbor. At first, they lived within family only because they could not speak Chinese; however, they had to gradually expand the social relationship. So what were the issues they have to face up with? How did they create, maintain and strengthen those relationships? These all issues were answered and analyzed in the book. Also, author has listed out some matters related to the communication with local authorizes, between Vietnamese brides with each other, and issues they have experienced during the talks with press and researchers so on.

Chapter 6 – Back to hometown – is always the important thing for these women. By analyzing issues related to cross – border travelling, going back to hometown, and relatives in Vietnam, author has expressed feelings and emotions of these Vietnamese brides when they come back home. Also, there are stories about the living conditions, worries about families and happiness they could have in cross – border marriage.   They somehow are viewpoints about the life reality for Vietnamese women who get married to foreigner all over world. Every cloud has a silver lining and ultimately, it was their decisions and choices to live a happy or unhappy life.

Chapter 7 told stories about worries and future plans of Vietnamese brides. They have worried about things such as not be able to take care of their own parents due to distance, to take care the future of children or  how to settle down the work and life. This chapter also describes the loneliness and unhappiness together with agonize of future life which only readers of this book can feel and understand.  

This is a touching book for all readers. As ending words written by Associate Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thi Phuong Cham for the book, the story about women who got married to Wan Wei men (Chinese) is a story which author herself feels lucky when she had chance to write about their life. These women came to Wan Wei to become a wife, a mother and to create a small community of Vietnamese who married to Chinese and live in a border region.  From a far away country, they came here to live as a normal person so would they have their own voice in that society? Will the bloom of researches on autobiography of authors who do researches on humanities, society and literature in the last decade be the solution to gaining the voice in society? This is a practice which everyone expects to get recognition./.

Pham Vinh Ha

Author :
  • Nguyen Thi Phuong Cham