(Financial) expectations in intercultural marriages
Is LOVE or romance the main motivation for intercultural marriage just as for any marriage? Or, are there, sometimes, more pragmatic considerations?
Last month, an article in the New York Times (also published in the International Herald Tribune) mentioned the story of Korean men, usually from rural areas, marrying Vietnamese women. The article describes that, in the Vietnamese countryside, some families accept intercultural marriage as an (economic) opportunity
A Vietnamese couple in a rural area is described as follows:
« The couple, like many others in the Vietnamese countryside, had prospered in recent years, thanks to daughters who, driven by dreams of better lives for themselves and Confucian filial piety for their parents, had emigrated to marry South Korean men. The money they and others earned in South Korea, wired regularly to small towns in Vietnam like Quang Yen, often manifested itself in telltale new homes…».
Far from labelling people in developing countries as intercultural marriage predators for a better life for them and their relatives, such marriages also appeared to be the interest of “wealthier” Korean men who experienced difficulty marrying a person of their own country.
« The young Vietnamese women typically married older South Korean men who, because of their low incomes or previous marriages, had difficulty finding a Korean bride. South Korea’s fiercely competitive marriage marketplace gave birth to a booming industry of marriage brokers who took these men on tours of Vietnam and other developing nations, where they chose wives in hastily arranged meetings. »
Similar matrimonial situations actually exist with European or American men. The point is not to stigmatize a particular group or country. The point, is to remind us that, finances in intercultural marriage will ultimately expose two cultures and ways of managing finances that will be displayed in daily life choices: a Western individualistic way and a non-Western collectivist culture. For example, while a spouse may want to spend extra money on a celebration, the other would rather send extra money earned to his relatives living in his or her country of origin. Cultures add tremendous financial pressures and suggest prescribed behaviour on their subjects which will inevitably affect intercultural couples. For example, when parents become unable to support themselves a given culture may suggest grown up children to provide for their care. In another culture, parents will be sent to a retirement home. Or, as the article illustrates:
« With their daughters in South Korea, the family began thinking of building a new house. It was not only the father’s dream but also the daughters’.“We wanted to do something for our parents — that was the plan,” »
Often, romance blurs the future challenges intercultural couple will face. There is nothing wrong about providing for one’s family and relatives. Similarly, there is nothing wrong about being financially independent. The point is to be aware of cultural expectations and differences before problems occur. It may be useful to think of the following topics and questions and discuss them with a counselor or simply between spouses.
- Describe your relationship with your family of origin. How close were you and how close are you? Who is providing for the family? Who is/was managing finances in your family?
- What are the expectations of your relatives and family of origin once you are married? Do they have any financial expectations? Are you expected to provide? In what circumstances?
- How are children expected to care of their parents in you culture when they become older? How will you take care of them?
- Will you be supporting your relatives and how? Have you discussed the nature and the amount of this support with your spouse?