The Greatest Love of All?

“Explosive diarrhea?!!!”

Really?

Turned out no, just an excuse to get away from me!…

Though this was, admittedly, an unusual ending for a first date, the image of this handsome man feigning illness as he stumbled down the street clutching his stomach is for ever etched in my mind.

(And what an ego booster!)

Far more endemic to Hanoi’s young expat community than diarrhea, however, is the phobia of commitment, and two years into my stay here, I feel it fair to state that the dating scene is harder for women than it is for men.

The expat woman holds little appeal for many of the expat men who only want local women, and apparently very little for the local men.

The expat man who does date expat women, has few qualms of playing the field.

Why stick to one woman when you can have (so) many…at the same time?

Many of my male friends have admitted to me that they know they would never be able to get away with such behavior at home but that “it’s different here….”

And unless they want to totally forgo male company, women here tend to turn a blind eye to such behavior, always hoping to meet the ‘exception.’

To be brutally frank, dating everywhere is practically obsolete, a formality used merely as a prelude to sex, with the emphasis on fun and rejection of those pesky commitments that a proper relationship entails.

In Vietnam, it’s even more extreme for expats:

“Hey, since it can’t come to anything, why even pretend?”

Many expats say their time in Hanoi reminds them a lot of their university days:

Being in a city for a fixed amount of time, out to experiment with impunity, with no intention of being tied down in a serious relationship.

It’s the three F’s rule:

Freedom, Fun and the other F word….

It’s 5am, the music is blasting, and couples on the dance floor are crossing over into the realm of indecent behavior.

The person with whom you’ve spent all night downing vodka tonics romantically slurs in your ear about “getting out of here” and with hazy vision and a polluted mind you trudge after them.

The following morning you slip out, hail a taxi home, looking and feeling a little worse for wear.

The scene above could describe any given night at university, but it’s also an accurate portrayal of a typical weekend night for many of the foreigners who have chosen to make Vietnam their temporary home.

Am I being unfair?

Am I generalizing?

Maybe.

There are couples who have come over together or who meet here and have long standing, successful relationships.

There are also couples who are in long distance relationships and stay the course

(And in fact, the lack of viable options available here enhances the appeal of rekindling or starting a relationship with someone at home despite the obvious drawbacks and difficulties!)

There is also constant attraction and hope.

Hope does spring eternal but bubbles inevitably burst and while living in the expat bubble, couples from different parts of the world can ignore reality and live for the moment.

When it’s time for each to go home, what happens?

Will the relationship be able to transition seamlessly into a new environment even if there is a consensus about whose environment it would be?

Will it be Sydney or London?

Paris or Singapore?

Is it even worth the heartache?

Do you leave the relationship behind, cherishing the memories?

Do you romanticize that what you had was real and will live on where ever you are?

Of course these factors aren’t unique, just more inevitable in expat formed relationships….

When we begin a relationship with someone at home, we assume that, despite other challenges, at least there’s the security of them being in the same city as us.

And what about the Vietnamese women left behind by their foreign boyfriends?

Did they truly believe the promises, the serious plans, the glittering future?

Are their hearts broken immediately when their boyfriends leave or slowly, over time, when realization dawns that their love affairs, passionate as they might have been, were little more than a mirage?

Do they manage to keep happy memories?

This is not to suggest that all expat men are callous beasts who deliberately mislead innocent local women, only that distance and a different environment relax the rules and sometimes completely rewrite them.

While I’ve decided that Hanoi may not be the best place for enduring love affairs, I have found it the perfect place to fall in love.

In just over two years, I have fallen in love in so many ways.

I have fallen in love with the culture of Vietnam, with the people and the food and the sights.

Most importantly, I’ve fallen in love with who I’ve become and isn’t that the most enduring?

The’greatest love of all?’

 By ALICE CARNEY

Source: Tuoi Tre Online

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