Dating, Marriage, Income & Background – Why They All Matter

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Itching to move out

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this on my blog, but I have a little sister.

She’s 24 years old and currently lives in Vietnam.

Recently, her company asked her if she wanted to be transferred to their office in Malaysia.

She was thrilled to be offered that opportunity for two reasons.

First, my sister is eager to explore the world, but given the fact that I’m already in America, my parents want her to stay in Vietnam with them.

They don’t even let her travel on her own anywhere.

Since this is work-related, she has a legitimate reason to leave Vietnam.

Second, my sister is not supposed to move out of my parents’ house until she gets married, according to Vietnamese culture.

And she was itching to be independent (aka not getting yelled at or criticized by my parents and grandparents) every single day.

Related: The Pros & Cons Of Living With Parents

The pressure to get married

After she announced the news of her transfer, she received different opinions from my family. My dad, my uncle, and I support her decision.

However, my grandma, my mom, my aunt, and my uncle’s wife think that she should get married as soon as possible given her age of 24.

Every time I call my mom, I would hear the same rant of “Your sister is not dating anyone. Since you are her older sister, maybe you can put some pressure on her to just get a boyfriend and start a family.”

I normally just keep quiet, but our last conversation went something like this:

Me: I think you should let her decide. I told her to just focus on her work and enjoy life if she can’t find the right guy.

Mom: Will you be responsible if she can’t get married?

Me: It’s her decision. I can’t force her.

End of the conversation.

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I understand that every parent wants their kid to be happy, and a major part of that happiness is to get married and have kids. However, I don’t know if my parents’ insistence on my sister to find a boyfriend is effective.

As far as I know, it’s just annoying to her, and that’s one major reason why she wants to move out of the house in the most legitimate way possible: moving to another country for work.

After much arguing, convincing, and yelling, my mom finally gave in under the condition that my sister can only be gone for one year.

But I think deep down she knows that my sister can just meet someone, get married, and settle down somewhere else. At least, my mom was willing to negotiate.

In a way, I understand my mom’s concern. If I keep telling my sister to explore life and not worry about marriage, she might be single in her 30s and 40s all lonely and sad. And I don’t want her to feel that way.

After all, I got married at 26, so I have no right to tell other women to just be carefree and happy in their 30s. I just hope that my sister will be able to find a man who will love her and take good care of her. In a way, I want my sister to find someone like Mr. FAF: my frugal husband.

But finding a good husband is like entering a lottery. You never know what you are going to get when you purchase the ticket. You will find out later in a couple of weeks, months, or even years if you think you’ve found the right person and have won big.

I was tempted to ask my mom a similar question but decided not to since I didn’t want to be rude: Will she be responsible if my sister is unhappy in a marriage she’s pressured into?

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It’s alarming to be 30 and single

Being in your 30s and single can invite a lot of unsolicited advice and even judgement.

In America, it’s pretty normal for women to be single, get married, or start having kids in their 30s.

But in Vietnam, the parents are alarmed when their daughters approach their mid-20s and are still single.

After the daughter turns 25, she’s compared to a ticking bomb in the house that the parents need to “get rid of” or “marry off” as soon as possible to avoid “unimaginable” consequences in the future.

My sister just turned 24, so she has about two years before my parents start losing serious sleep over her marital status.

While waiting for her salary package from the company, my sister went through a lot of matchmaking thanks to my parents.

The matchmaking

Usually, the guy and his parents would show up at our house “unexpectedly” when my sister is supposed to be home. If interested, they might exchange phone numbers and go on a date. If not, there will be more matchmaking going on.

One time, my dad told my sister that his friend had a daughter who needed advice on how to apply to her company (a relatively well-known tech company in Vietnam). It turned out to be a 28-year-old doctor who came to our house with his uncle.

They went on a couple of dates, but my sister wasn’t interested. She said that his stories/chat about what went on at the hospital didn’t interest her.

Now everyone loves to have a medical doctor in Vietnam. In a country where connection is extremely important, especially in emergencies like those at the hospital, a relative who’s a doctor can put you in touch with his colleagues who will treat you better with care.

Once I heard about the doctor and saw his picture, I thought my parents would really like him. However, my dad said he knows the doctor’s parents and extended family, and doesn’t think their background is good. He only accepted the guy’s mom’s offer to introduce them since they’re neighbors.

That’s when I realized that when the parents do matchmaking for their kids in Vietnam, they look not only at the potential daughter- or son-in-law’s profession, income, and personality but also his extended family, especially the parents’ background.

When you marry someone, you marry into their family. It is somewhat different from individualistic nature in America.

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The investment

Instead of giving up, my parents decided to purchase one of the most expensive things they’ve ever bought for my sister: an Iphone 8 Plus for a little more than $1,000.

To put things into perspective, it could be two months’ worth of my parents’ income. Both my sister and I were shocked at the gift.

And we guessed that the phone is an investment from my parents for my sister to look more fashionable, which might help her find a good match faster. All the while, my sister is still waiting to get the salary package from her company and leave Vietnam any time.

My dad once refused to spend $5 on a tube of hair dye and wanted to squeeze out the last drop from the old tube for his gray hair. My mom still uses old clothes as wash clothes and brings water every time we go out so that we wouldn’t have to buy juice or soda.

But they went shopping for the phone together. They must be itching for my sister to tie the knot with someone.

I told my sister to return the phone and get the money instead. She could use it to buy clothes or put it in her bank account or something, but she said the store wouldn’t accept the return.

I’m not sure I understand my parents’ logic, but the phone was not a good use of money and thus not a good investment in my opinion. Oh well, parents. What can I say?

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If the salary package is good, my sister will leave Vietnam for Malaysia. She might stay there for years or get transferred to another country. I’m just excited for her to explore the world and build her career.

My parents might want her to settle down and find happiness right there at home in Vietnam. But at the end of the day, it’s still up to my sister to decide. And I’m glad my parents let her make that decision.

It would be so tragic if they forbade her from leaving home or forced her into an arranged marriage, which used to be the case for many girls and women in Vietnam decades ago.

But the world is changing. And I’m glad my parents are open-minded enough to let my sister decide what future she wants to make for herself.


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9 thoughts on “Dating, Marriage, Income & Background – Why They All Matter”

  • Oh nooo that iPhone is just the most overpriced gift ever! Is the culture really that she could land a better match by using a name brand phone?

    My mommy told me in the village we came from, it was normal to be 23 years old, married, and have a kid already.

    When I turned 22, fresh out of school, I was dating a guy. I can see she was starting to wonder if it was going anywhere (ie marriage.) Then she loosened up after we broke up. Then I ran away and met up with my hubby Hippo without saying much to my mom. Then a year later we got married. Another half a year later I told my mom…the timeline is very hazy but it’s kinda what happened. She was shocked, relieved, shocked and relieved.

    I thought it was all very amusing. I did it because it was fun but thinking back now….that was just me being young. I personally think I got married way too young. I got married at 23ish.

    We probably could have waited 😐😐😓 wish we did but oh well here we are! Youth!! Young and dumb.

  • Thanks for sharing. It’s interesting to read about life in other countries. I’m sure Vietnam will develop a ton in the next 20 years. I think Thailand used to be like that, but people aren’t too worried about daughters being too old much now. Not much matchmaking anymore either.

  • Good for you on being a supportive big sis. As a younger sister, I can say that even if you think you don’t have much influence, I bet your sister appreciates your insight and thoughts on the situation. It sounds like a fantastic opportunity and I’m sure seeing you go off and explore another country and find your own way may have helped to inspire your little sis to some traveling and exploring of her own. That being said, I can only imagine how scary it is for your parents to see both of their children going off and making their own lives elsewhere. I hope you keep us updated on what happens. It’s really interesting to read about the cultural expectations in Vietnam.

  • This was really interesting to read! As an Irish reader, this all sounds completely alien to me, my parents would have been very against me getting married so young, they’ve always pushed me to focus on my career and my own independence. It’s cool to see how other parts of the world work.

  • I can definitely understand why your mother would be hesitant to support another child moving far away, and it’s hard to fault her for wanting to be close to her kids! It’s somewhat surprising to me that your parents still feel like there are no other options for happiness considering your own successful career and life in another country. Good for you for continuing to encourage that your sister pursue happiness on her own terms.

  • I always like reading about other cultures. As someone born In the USA most of the things in your post are fairly alien to me, even if I’ve seen it while traveling. Conversely my own family would have pushed hard for me not to get married in my early 20s

  • Thanks for sharing that story about your sister. I believe a lot of Asian countries have that culture where the parents expect their kids to get married in their mid 20s and get really antsy if they don’t have a SO when they get close to their 30s.
    But like you, I believe it’s up the person to if they want to pursue that and should just live freely without any expectations. Hopefully more countries will have a culture where parents let their kids be more independent instead of giving them expectations where it may not be in the best interest of the kid(s).

  • 剩女和相亲 。。。 🤦

    Malaysia is an awesome place. Weather’s what gets me, but being Vietnamese you’re all used to it, and then some.

    I used to be opposed to this stuff, but as I get older I see how it does have its benefits and I’m more open to this sort of stuff. My family has never done it to me, but I have experienced it with my social circle and their families. In Asia, it’s more of a marriage of families; screening by parents, friends, and the community can also minimise encountering any unscrupulous people.

    In China it’s getting much more relaxed; certain checks are still there, but it’s less pressured. My experience with the upper class Chinese, the concept of 剩女 (spinster???) is less prevalent. It’s seems their fathers are more looking for someone who is upstanding and will treat their daughters well; background plays less of a role once a basic requirement has been met.

    In my opinion, the worse thing that can be done is not screening well enough, and making a poor choice just because of external pressures.

    We meet people at different times of life, and that’s nothing to be afraid of. Just make sure to love them and remember to make the most of it when they come.

  • Wow. My jaw dropped at the iPhone thing. That’s… wow, I don’t know what to say. Then again, that’s the same with my parents. My mother’s telling me to get married at 27– I told her I don’t want to get married until I’m financially free… which, at this rate, probably won’t happen before I’m 30. It’s just a few years difference anyway, so I don’t know what they’re so worried about! Asian parents, huh?

    I’m so happy that I discovered your blog, by the way! <3 Excited to read all your other posts!

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