An American guy, Vietnamese ‘bia hoi’, and the story of getting married

31st Dec 2011 and it was during winter season in Ha Noi. There is no other perfect way to hang out with your best high school mates and we (3 of us) haven’t seen each other for 5 years. One studies in Australia, one in America, and another one plans to settle her life in this capital city. And we ate all the local food & snack here, and we went clubbing till early morning, and we went crazy. Everything is like yesterday…

We stayed right in the middle of The old quarters Ha Noi, with walking distance to ‘Bia hoi corner’ – the intersection between Ta Hien St & Luong Ngoc Quyen St. This is the perfect spot to enjoy what the vibrant and happening atmosphere, with vehicle noise, street vendors, etc.

After trying almost every single local food sold at street corners, we decided to go to ‘bia hoi’ corner to relax and have some beer. If you don’t know what ‘bia hoi’ is, click on the link above. If you already know, you might agree with me that ‘bia hoi’ is too light, not for ‘real’ ‘serious’ drinking purpose 🙂

And we had a chance to hear the story of an American guy. We met right at the Bia hoi corner, when we was looking for some available chairs, and he sat right next to us.

His name is Mark Jolly, based in Hawaii. He came to Vietnam mainly to visit his Taiwanese girlfriend but they never met before (?!), and he planned for the trip just 1 or 2 week ago (?!) He didn’t have any expectations when coming to Vietnam, and what he has known was just about the Vietnam wars, and the very underdeveloped country (?!). He didn’t expect that the city was so lively and happening. He told us about the story of his life, never settling down and been living in San Francisco and Los Angeles before Hawaii. He told us about his career-wise and how he got involved in the career of properties. He told us about unpredictable stories, and he was living the life that way… I told him about some personal traits of typical Vietnamese, very traditional and obey to the parents. I told him about bad manners of Vietnamese (e.g. rip off foreigners or corruption). I told him about my dream of developing the tourism industry, to be sustainable and not too opportunistic. I told him about our so-called fixed life-paths that every parents expect us to follow. I told him about our wish of breaking-the-rules.

It was not the first time I was exposed to the cultural difference between Caucasian and Asian. The more exposing to it, the more tolerant I have.

3 months later, I received an email from Mark. He told me about the story of meeting a Vietnamese girl in Phan Thiet, and they planned to get marriage. Mark is about 60 years of age, and currently has a stable career to earn the living. His future wife is 30 years old, and she is an English teacher. This will be the first time both of them get married. I wonder why a man, who never wants to settle down, now accept to live his life with a Vietnamese lady. They haven’t known each other for long. Mark just met her during his road trip in early January…

It’s quite ashamed that many Vietnamese girls, especially from the South, are ‘sold’ to get married to Taiwanese and Korean guys. Hence, in general people don’t have positive attitude to this kind of marriage. But if this is a true love, why bothered? Mark was correct to wonder and hence he asked me for opinion. On the side of the girl’s family, they have their own business so maybe there’s no digging-money purpose involved here.

Anyway, I feel happy for them. I’m happy for Mark because he can do whatever he wants in life. What I really admire is that at his age, his life is still never settled down =)

Not being discriminated, but why would us Asian are expected to have a stable life, stable job, married and have a typical family? Why an adventurous and not-knowing-the-end life never be appealing to the majority of Asian people?


3 thoughts on “An American guy, Vietnamese ‘bia hoi’, and the story of getting married

  1. “Why an adventurous and not-knowing-the-end life never be appealing to the majority of Asian people?”
    Hmmm.. Well, there are a few root causes in my opinion

    1. The very first reason starts with education. We are taught, since young, that there is just one fixed and true answer to match a problem. One specific number for mathematics or even ridiculously, one way of interpretation for literature! We aren’t allowed to criticize or go against the mainstream. The so-called Asian education system , while producing hard-working and discipline person, gradually leads the the conforming mentality and stifle the sense of adventure. Out of ordinary or stability is a big no-no.

    2. Strong family tie – Being an Asian, I’m proud myself on this traditional value. And so it’s difficult to live a nomadic life when you are deeply rooted in one place and tied down with many responsibilities. Your life isn’t your own life for you to decide. While the West prioritize individualism, we emphasize on collectivism. When we make our OWN decisions, OTHER PEOPLE’s interests , feelings and opinions are heavily weighted in. A stable life, a well-paid job and a happy marriage may not be on your wish list but those are what your family and friends wish for you. I feel like a typical Asian don’t live to make himself happy but rather to make others happy.

    3. Simple logic – If you have never heard or know what is an Ipod or a hamburger, why the hell on earth would you want it? We are often cocooned in our own little space and not familiar with concept of gap year,working holiday or overseas relocation. We don’t really know such an awesome alternative lifestyle exists and it’s not everyday that we have a chance to a traveller and learn about his experience (like you did). Exposure creates desire. Ignorance breeds contentment.

    4. And even for those who have the urge to see the greater world and courage to break the rule, the BIGGEST barrier is …finance. I can work here in Australia as a cleaner for a month but can still save enough money which can allow to to have a splendid life in Asia for a year. A white-collar worker in Vietnam can work hard for a year but can he save up just enough for a plan ticket??? Sad but true. 😦

    P.S I love reading your blog. It really makes me reflect back on myself. Keep up the good work!


    1. Thao, your comment is FANTASTIC. I think you hit the very key issues, including education or strong collectivist culture, or money. I may not fully agree with you with regards to ‘money’ because those who strive for earning as much money as they can would prefer a stable and well-paid job. And it’s difficult to define how much money enough to have an adventurous life.

      The biggest obstacle, in my opinion, is how the Asian tend to put their values based on the society, including their family. Their value/position/identity is defined by how their family expect them to be, how the society see them, and what status they want to be recognized by the that society. Some people make important decisions of their life (choosing majors at university, getting married, etc.) because of their parents. For example, my 11th-grade student wants to be a nurse because her elder sister and her mom said so… Sometimes, we just don’t know whether what we do is what we really want, or that’s what other people expect us to achieve.

      And once there is an Asian wants to be different, this person was against by the society because he/she is breaking the rules. How many people would have the passion to live what they dream of? How many people, with that passion, would finish the journey? It seems that the pressures for Asian to live their own life are much more than Caucasian’s…


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