Today, my Vietnamese friend asked me for some advice. While we were riding on the back of her motorcycle she shouted that she had argued with her boyfriend because she wanted to go and study English in Ho Chi Minh City. He was angry, telling her that if she went away, he would break up with her. It had made her realise she wanted a boyfriend who let her do what she liked. Just like women in Australia and England, she is starting to realise the many options open to women. We want to be free to be independent, but we also want to fall in love.
“I would like a foreign boyfriend,” she said. “They are kind and not selfish. My boyfriend is selfish.”
I have met her boyfriend. He is a sweet boy, with a gentle smile. At a restaurant the other day, I watched him cut up her food for her. I thought of nightclubs in Australia and England and imagined To going there to look for love.
“Not all Western men are kind,” I told her. “Some are grumpy and arrogant.”
She looked confused. “I think they are all very nice,” she said. “I think I would like a foreign boyfriend.”
I tried to explain to her that maybe her boyfriend was just upset because he cared about her and perhaps he would change his mind. I told her he seemed like a nice, caring person.
She was thoughtful.
Then she pointed at my hair. “I think I would like an Australian boyfriend because they have blonde hair and blue eyes,” she said.
I laughed. “Well you might have to go overseas for that,” I said. I told her to concentrate on learning English and perhaps one day she can come to Australia, which is not too far from Kon Tum. I told her I would help her with her English.
I suppose it is a case of the grass is always greener. It is easy to imagine that in a foreign land, all the men are kind and thoughtful and let their women be independent. It is true that in Vietnam they still have traditional ideas about marriage, with many women staying at home and cooking and cleaning for their husbands. I would understand if To did not want a life of only that. She is very strong-willed and independent, and I think she has the determination to go far. I am excited to see what happens to her, though I feel a little sorry for her boyfriend…
I think Sophie and I will leave feminists all over Kon Tum by the time we leave!