Remittance by marriage offers northern commune taste of the high-life

By Pham Nga   February 18, 2020 | 08:30 pm PT
International marriages allow families in Dai Hop Commune, northern Hai Phong City to thrive on remittance, but at a cost.

In the coastal commune, daughters are prefered over sons. Many families here believe they can ensure a comfortable life because of remittances received if their daughters marry foreigners.

Adjoining two- and three-storied villas line the road leading to Dai Hop Commune in Hai Phong's Kien Thuy District.

Chatting with her neighbors on a street corner in Quan Moi 4 Village of Dai Hop, a woman said she received Taiwanese dollar remittances worth over VND20 million ($860) from her daughter to spend during Tet (Lunar New Year). Adding to the boast, her neighbor spoke of receiving $1,000 while another said his daughter had sent him money from South Korea to buy a city house.

Nearby stands the two-storied, over 60-meter-square home of Pham Luong Thuc, 73. Inside, the husband and wife were glued to Facebook.

Pham Luong Thuc and his wife using the smartphone their daughter bought last year. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Nga.

Pham Luong Thuc and his wife distract themselves with a smartphone bought by their daughter in 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Nga.

Thuc has four daughters and one son. The third and fourth daughters married foreign husbands and are both enjoying "a good life, a loving husband, and stable job."

"Both are tour guides. One even competed in a beauty pageant for Vietnamese in Taiwan," he said proudly.

This year, each sent home $1,000, which Thuc and his wife placed into a savings account.

In the past, Thuc's family was considered poor and struggled to make ends meet. But just one year after their 19-year-old and 20-year-old daughters married Taiwanese, each sent home over VND10 million (over $430) per month, five times the average fishing commune income.

In 2010, his family was able to build a VND1.2 billion (nearly $52,000) house next to their old shack.

"If my two eldest daughters had not passed their prime at the time, my family would probably have had Taiwanese sons-in-law all round."

Both older girls married Vietnamese husband, while Thuc's granddaughter married a South Korean, providing another source of support.

In Quan Moi 4 Village, there are about 120-150 households with daughters married to foreigners.

According to Thuc, only three poor households are left.

"One includes an HIV-infected couple, another a disabled child and the third a single mother with two daughters, who unfortunately also passed their prime. If they could have gone abroad, they could have changed her life."

Nguyen Van Tan, head of Quan Moi 4 Village, married off his daughter to a Taiwanese, 15 years older, via a marriage broker. But they divorced a few years later.

"About 70 percent of Vietnamese brides will divorce their first Taiwanese husband and later marry another. At the time of divorce, my child was in great crisis, but she never intended to return to home. She married another man only four years older," Tan said.

Remittances from Taiwan helped Tan repair his tile house built nearly 30 years ago and snap up a three-storied home over 100-meters-square costing nearly VND3 billion ($130,000).

"I knew my daughter might suffer by marrying a foreigner. Taiwanese are not as affectionate as local men. But if I had another daughter or niece, I would still support them moving abroad," the village head admitted.

About 100 meters from Tan's house stands the one-story house of Nguyen Tien Hung, 53.

Hung and his wife hoped their second daughter would change their lives via international marriage, though their dream was thwarted. The couple sometimes feels sad as they watch the neighborhood sprout with new villas.

Houses on a road in Quan Moi 4 Village, Dai Hop Commune, Hai Phong City. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Nga.

Houses along a road in Quan Moi 4 Village, Dai Hop Commune, Hai Phong City. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Nga.

Nguyen Van Thien, chairman of Dai Hop Commune, said over 70 percent of allegeable women have married Taiwanese or South Korea husbands, subsequent remittances boosting the Dai Hop economy. Daughters can even sponsor their parents to move abroad themselves and find better jobs.

Serving Dai Hop Commune as judicial officer for 10 years, Hoang Van Dong said he has signed thousands of applications to certify single status women across the commune so that they could get married.

"In 2017 it was 50 girls and in 2018 it was 27. Without the knowledge of their parents, many are very miserable and flee back to Vietnam, though not to their own village in order to protect their family’s ‘dignity’."

After dealing with many painful cases, he often visits households to propagate not letting children get married abroad.

"If we do not let our daughters marry foreigners, would the government create jobs that allows me to build big and spacious homes like these?" Dong asked.

On a bus trip to Dai Hop, three people sitting next to each other discussed how much their daughters sent home in Tet remittances.

Next to them, Nguyen Van Thanh, 55, sat quietly while holding VND2 million ($86) in his hands.

He also had a daughter that married a Taiwanese husband. But instead of sending remittances home, she handed him two grandchildren instead. One is currently in first grade while the other is learning to walk.

After divorcing her husband, she brought her children back to their grandparents in Vietnam, returning to Taiwan to work.

In addition to income earned from selling construction lime, the single grandfather draws an average allowance of over VND2 million per month from his daughter to help raise her children.

"There are many cases like my daughter’s in this village," he said after a sigh.

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