for a spouse
A woman's plea for government help to stop
Singaporean men marrying foreign women spark off nation-wide
debate on a new phenomenon. By Seah Chiang Nee.
Nov 26, 2002
FACED with a rising number of Singaporeans seeking wives
abroad when more women here remain unmarried, one local
lady has appealed to the government: Please help
us keep our men.
It wasn't a frivolous call but one that touches on a serious
am very alarmed that women here are losing their appeal
with some Singapore men, who are going abroad in their search
for mates," wrote Melissa Foo.
not help, she added, that the men were held in high esteem,
especially by women from China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines
"This would not be a problem if not for the fact that
many Singapore women are still unmarried."
second dilemma, she indicated, comes when foreign brides
marry Singapore men with ulterior motives, such as for money
or just to get permanent residency or citizenship.
(There were recent cases of foreign wives seeking a divorce
after being granted citizenship or when they became entitled
to their husbands' assets.)
letter has raised a wide, lengthy discussion in the media
and the Internet, provoking some finger-pointing at both
well-written letter, Foo said there were only so many Singaporean
men. She asked the government for help to reverse the trend.
the men to seek their brides locally, she suggested: "Why
not give a large bonus to the men who marry local spouses,
like the national-service allowance or baby bonus?"
me for my nationalistic fervour, but if we don't fight for
ourselves, no one else will."
as if a giant gong had just been sounded to signal the start
of a no-holds-barred debate.
response was: "What's wrong with foreign spouses?"
suggestion for financial incentives was shot down very quickly.
"Marriage is about love and love is not economics,"
said one person.
subject of men - and women, too - marrying foreign spouses
during recent years has become a worrying trend to some
- and welcomed by others.
not hard to trace its causes. One reason is, of course,
globalisation that sends tens of thousands of single men
abroad to study, work and do business for a long period.
That increases the chances of them finding a spouse there.
But the main reason is rising educational standards (especially
of women) and changing values.
a stereotype view is that Singapore women are materialistic,
unlike overseas brides who are likely to be satisfied with
a roof over their heads, three meals a day and love from
is that local women, highly educated, tend to want husbands
who are better skilled or higher earning than them, thus
narrowing their choices.
web posting declares, Singapore's men have been raised to
believe that if they study hard, get a degree and a good
salary, girls will flock to them.
That means, they believe, they can choose a wife who is
demure, obedient and ready to cater to their needs.
better education and high earnings, women tend to be, on
the other hand, more self-reliant, assertive and demanding.
contrasting expectations of marriage are pushing many men
to go global in seeking a wife.
die hard. Some men see local women as being too calculating
want a car, a condo and other comforts of life. If you're
poor, forget about marrying a Singaporean girl," said
one exaggerated posting.
by maids and parents, many do not even know how to cook
or sew, unlike most girls from China or Vietnam."
foreign girls from less wealthy countries generally do not
possess the same level of education of the Singapore women,
declared one message.
This is due to their deeply-rooted cultures and social mores
and their perception that Singaporean men are "better."
are potential pitfalls, too. Some marriages fail after the
initial curiosity wears off on both sides.
the men, they have not abandoned their traditional gender
roles despite their higher Western education.
put it: "Singaporean women are being caught in between
the demands of traditional Asian cultures and modern economic
hand, he said, they are expected to perform the traditional
housewives' roles their mothers played while, on the other,
the society needs them to contribute to its economy.
men, however, choose a Vietnamese bride because they want
one who believes in the value of family, rather than one
who believes in career.
Singaporean women are marrying abroad, too, mainly to Westerners
who are ready to grant their spouses the freedom to pursue
their own careers and individual interests.
trend has become so hot that a number of matchmaking agencies
are flourishing to cash in on the China brides business
What's more, while Singaporean men used to travel to China
to seek wives before, the mainland ladies are now seeking
out Singaporean men through local agencies.
to press reports, six out of seven agencies report this
agency reported a five-fold increase in clients from China
compared to two years ago. Some girls have been studying
here, looking for husbands because they want to remain in
agency said half of the 1200 clients are Chinese nationals.
Many of these men taking foreign brides are "heartlanders,"
a term used to describe the non-English speaking, 40-plus
people who live in housing board estates.
For a long time, these people have been finding it difficult
to marry local girls as a result of their low incomes and
poor education. Many are forced to look for brides in China,
Vietnam and India.
as I am writing this, the Streats newspaper had a report
of a 62-year-old Singapore bachelor finally fulfilling his
wish to get married - to a 21-year-old Vietnamese bride.
S$1800 (M$3960) a month in a hotel, Ho Park Tong said: "Vietnamese
girls are more honest and are not as demanding as Singapore
increasingly, such bridegrooms are coming from the ranks
of the better educated and professionals.
But the number of China girls registered with matchmaking
agencies in recent months is said to have fallen as the
Singapore economy declines and the mainland's fortune booms.
seems to bear out what Foo fears - a financial motive among
some foreign brides - is not entirely baseless
(This article was published in the Sunday Star, Nov 24,