Category: Advice Column

How Do I Know If My Partner Is The Person I Should Marry?

He Said:

Ok, the first hurdle you need to clear is to ask yourself if the partner you are referring to is me. If the answer is, “no, you idiot”, then you can move on to step two. This step is to decide if your partner ticks all the boxes of what you feel you need.

Now, you have to remember that what people feel they need in a partner differs wildly. For some, it might be a guy’s financial security and the potential to be a good father. For others, it might be her ability to suck a golf ball through a garden hose while being able to balance a beer on her head. Different strokes and all that.

So, the bottom line comes down to whether or not this person possesses the characteristics you want in a partner, and if they add up to you feeling you can build a life with them. All that said, being single isn’t so bad, so also keep that in mind.

She Said:

Let’s elaborate on step two a bit more. While a man’s finances and a woman’s sucking power are important factors in making the decision on a life partner now, however, ask yourself: Will you still want to be with this person if the money’s gone or when it’s more wheezing than you know what? I know what my answer is; I’ll always choose my heart over hard cash.

I assume you are both living together? If not, then do not even think about marriage until you’ve done a dry run first because if you can still love him/her after sharing a bathroom and discover snoring is your new bedtime music then you guys are golden and you better put a ring on it. 

He Said:

This might be slightly off-topic, but can I just say that the single most important thing for a successful relationship is separate bathrooms. Seriously, guys, women are kind of weird about bowel movements (they don’t want us to think they have them), and for us, it is just so much more relaxing to be able to crack one out in the morning without feeling judged.

Ok, so how the hell did we get here? Right, marriage. I’ve done it once and almost done it two other times. The only honest answer is it is a total crapshoot. You just simply do not know and you will never know, even if you are together for decades.

But here is the thing: it’s all about the ride, not the destination. Marry them, see what happens. You can always get divorced. But the key fact is that you are taking a chance, going along for the adventure, come what may. The only thing you will ever regret is sitting on the sidelines of life.

She Said:

Thanks, M, for the gross visuals. Always keeping it classy. 

Unfortunately, the concept of marriage doesn’t always actualize into happily-ever-afters — not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’ve almost done it once and, honestly, getting married wouldn’t have changed the eventual result.

Again, I cannot emphasize this enough, ask yourself: Why do you want to get married? Is it for religious reasons or because spouses can’t testify against each other in court? But, either way, not even God or a judge can guarantee it’ll last.

So, my advice is to just enjoy being together regardless of any label you or society place on the relationship. If you want to get married, go ahead but don’t expect the certificate to make it last, that’s on both of you.  

And, M’s right. Being single isn’t all that bad, either.

By Matt Campbell and Tina Nguyen

Image © Pinterest

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6 Ways to Focus on Self-Growth as a Woman

We can get so caught up in all that we have to do that sometimes we miss out on opportunities to grow. At times it’s because we completely blow past them in our effort to complete that to-do list and other times we are just too tired to put in the effort.

Growth looks different for every woman because we’re all in completely different stages and places in our lives, but below you’ll find a few things that have really helped me grow as a woman.

Spend Time With Other Women

Invest in female relationships because they will be a wonderful tribe of women who will constantly inspire and challenge you to be the best version of yourself.

Friends will walk you through life seasons with their prayers, their laughter and their encouragement. Allow yourself time and space to invest in worthwhile friendships with other women. For many of us, we may not have a dozen local ladies that we get to take cute pictures with for Instagram, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a tribe! All we need is a few ladies who get us, that are willing to listen, and always push us towards our best. (Bonus, you’ll get a chance to be the same kind of support back!)

Join Saigon’s Fexpat Facebook group.

Take Pole Dancing Classes

Okay, this may sound crazy for some of you ladies, but hear me out. Some of us have spent our lives trying to blend in, to hide ourselves, to stay out of the center of attention because of insecurities. Stop that and go bold. Pick something new and that will embody all that you aren’t and go for it.

What if you never get any better? It doesn’t matter because just showing up every week makes you a Wonder Woman. For you, maybe it’s not pole dancing. Maybe it’s rock climbing or writing a blog or joining a yoga class. It could be anything! Find something that interests you and seems out of reach and go for it!

Take Time For Books

Unplug, sit down and read, even if it’s just for 10 minutes every day. Books are perfect for taking to the beach or to the park for when you want to escape into a magical world of characters and stories.

Listen To Podcasts

Whether you’re looking for educational content, entertainment, sermons, or just something encouraging overall, podcasts can be downloaded or streamed to your phone. We would be remiss if we did not plug our very own podcast (coming soon).

Go Travel

It’s a true saying that wherever you go, there you are. You won’t magically become a different person overnight by changing locations, but it’s difficult to remain unchanged when you’re exposed to new places. With each place you visit, whether it’s a new coffee shop in town or a new continent entirely, you will meet new people, try new foods, hear new sounds and music, and see something you haven’t seen before. Going to new places, especially in Vietnam, means experiencing things differently—laying the foundation of opportunity to develop a new perspective.

Volunteer

This is a really great and simple way to help you grow as a woman. There are so many fantastic organizations working towards any and all causes you can think of. Dedicating time to give back to others and to work towards a common goal can create a sense of purpose and balance in our otherwise hectic schedules.

Even further than that, it’s a chance for us to gain perspective and compassion towards others who may be in a different stage of life than us or who may think differently. It’s a discipline to think of others and to put them first, and one that we all should frequently practice.

I think sometimes we make personal growth this distant and unattainable thing when often all we really need to do is intentionally make the most of our opportunities. Sure, taking a cooking class feels like more effort than listening to a podcast on the way to work, but they both take the same amount of intention.

We either live with intention or exist by default: Which one do you choose?

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Work Hard. Push Yourself. Glow Up

We must seek out and protect our balance between the pursuit of self-improvement and the practice of self-love.

If you have an appetite to become more of what you are, go for it. Set goals. Try new things. Work hard. Push yourself. Glow up.

Alongside working on your goals, invest in accepting who you are here and now, with all your flaws, shortcomings, sensitivities and fallbacks (because they’ll always be there). Develop a kind of self-love that is unconditional of your achievements and pursuits.

On your quest for betterment, remind yourself that you are good enough.

Because our brains are always on energy-saving mode and will focus most of their energy on our pursuits, it’s easy to forget what we’re doing right. That’s why we need to make a conscious and continuous effort to remind ourselves of it.

Next time you’re thinking of all the things you want to become, I invite you to take note of all the things you already are. To ponder on all the things you are doing well and wonderfully. To marvel at the things you are blessed with, things you have achieved, barriers you have overcome, struggles you have endured. To realize how much you have to be proud of, and grateful for. All this is yours.

A simple but effective way of doing this is a pride journal. It’s a variation on the gratitude journal. Instead of writing 3 things you’re grateful for, write 3 things you’re proud of today. Things you’ve done well. It can be anything from I didn’t start an argument when I got upset, to I delivered an awesome piece of work, to getting a compliment from someone else, to getting up and having a shower (some days, even that’s a challenge). Integrating this habit will help shift your thoughts.

Challenging as it can be, I believe keeping our balance between the pursuit of self-improvement and the practice of self-love is what will lead us to sustainable growth. To enable a blossoming that is fueled by acceptance, rather than by disapproval, of oneself.

Here is also a list of 10 simple things you can do to find balance and work towards self-improvement:

  • Take a short 15-minute walk
  • Volunteer
  • Spend time with people who inspire you
  • Learn a new language
  • Eat healthy
  • Read every day
  • Acknowledge your flaws
  • Start a new hobby
  • Download the Fika app and make a new friend
  • Wake up early

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Financial Independence Starts Now and With You

Imagine hitting the gym in your 20s and 30s and never having to lift a single weight ever again, but still having a bodybuilder’s physique in your 60s. Would you do it?

This is exactly how future financial planning works, and it is the only thing I can think of where you can front-load your efforts and reap the rewards later. Imagine being financially free at 55, 60 or 65, simply by putting effort in now. 

The sad reality is though, most people don’t have a financial plan. Their ‘plan’ is to ignore it for now and hope for the best. They think that when they earn more later on it will make up for their indifference now. I know that’s what people think because that’s what I thought! But that’s not how it works.

If you don’t know anything about personal finances, if you don’t have a plan, a guide, targets or try to learn now, then years will go past without you doing anything about it. Then, when you realize you have to act, it will probably be too late. The only thing we have on our side to build real wealth for ourselves and our family is time.

Where to Start?

The first thing that comes to mind when people think about financial independence is investing, or winning the lotto. The first step, however, is becoming financially literate. That is, to learn slowly but surely how to manage your money in the best possible way. The younger you start the better, but it is never too late.

When it comes to financial literacy, Google is your friend and I recommend you start with ‘Personal Financial Health’. Once you know what your financial health looks like you can start making a financial plan. Make it as simple as you possibly can.

First, write down a few financial goals you have for the future: saving money for a house, a dream wedding, a worldwide trip, or a specific retirement age. A quick tip: one of your goals should be to have 3-6 months’ worth of expenses saved. You know, just in case! The second step is to take a month and track your cash flow. All your money coming in and all your money going out – this provides you with a baseline.

Armed with the above and a little bit of math, you will be able to calculate how long it will take you to hit your goals. Whether it’s a 20% down payment on a house worth US$400,000, or using William Bengen’s four percent rule to calculate how much you need to retire comfortably, a good financial plan will provide you with an exact roadmap as to how, and when, you will achieve your targets.

If you’re making a financial plan yourself, remember to keep it SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.

Once you get going you’ll learn quickly how to build your financial plan and re-work it to hit new goals and targets as life changes. Along the way, you’ll also see that you start gaining financial literacy and that it is easier for you to make the right financial decisions. Like if you should get a 15 year or 30-year mortgage?

Despite what we’ve been taught and raised to believe, talking about our finances isn’t taboo. It’s not a bad thing. You shouldn’t care if someone knows how much you make, or how little you save each month. Equally, you don’t need to be embarrassed that you’re paying off bad debt or have a negative net worth. The only thing you need to know is that if you don’t take charge of your financial situation, no one else will. So make a plan.

By Patrik Shore. Patrik Shore is a Tenzing Pacific risk and financial planner and specializes in helping clients with their financial literacy, as well as setting and achieving future financial goals. 

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He Said, She Said: Shy when it comes to moving in for a first kiss?

Should it be the first date if things go well or should I wait? Should a guy ask for consent first (I literally had a girl tell me that was a turn-off and just to kiss her)?

He Said:

The key is to actually just pay attention to what is in front of you. Human beings give off all sorts of very obvious non-verbal cues; you just have to be aware of them.

If you have been paying attention, don’t doubt yourself. Just don’t be too aggressive. Moving in for the slow, romantic first kiss is a solid move. And if you are wrong, she will back off so fast you will be in no doubt she is not down with it.

Totes agree with the girl. If there is an old-fashioned element to women in Vietnam it is wanting their men to be men. Be respectful, for sure, but also bring some testicles to the game. Brother, in general, my advice is just stop being so precious, and stop treating women like they are these fragile, delicate creatures. When a woman wants to be kissed, she’ll let you know in her own way. The best thing is to just get out of your head. You will both be happier for it.

She Said:

Asking can be very sexy and this 100 percent depends on the delivery. If the question was proposed in a low, husky voice as you gazed into my eyes, then I would definitely consent to a kiss… and maybe to a lot more, too. However, if you asked as if you’re doing a survey I’ll probably check no. 

Women aren’t difficult to read as you have seemed to psych yourself up to believe. There are some obvious signs when we’re interested in a guy (print this list and carry it with you on your next date):

  • Flirty laughter
  • Touchy
  • Makes eye contact
  • Gives you undivided attention
  • Leans in close
  • Licks her lips

If you notice any of these then just shut up and go for it. Dating and dodgeball are similar sports and women follow the same 5 Ds when we’re trying to avoid an unwanted object coming at us: Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive and Dodge. And if this happens to you, laugh it off, go home and download Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story — Christine Taylor’s lesbian kiss will make you forget about your bad date. 

He Said:

I didn’t know about the licking the lips signal. Does that still count if there are peanuts or pretzels on the bar?

Ok, I do take the point about how maybe asking in the right way could be very appealing to her. But I would suggest adjusting it slightly and (using that same husky voice) saying simply “I’m going to kiss you now”. Rather than a question that could come off as kind of timid, it is a simple declaration of intent, and also brings some more of the aforementioned testicles to the game.

Hey, and once you have made the statement, she can also tell you there is not a chance in hell that is going to happen. However, I would hazard a guess that most often she will be down with it. Ok, maybe two out of three, like “The Naked Man” gambit from How I met Your Mother.

Bottom line is, you need to find a balance between being respectful and being respected.

She Said:

Yes, salty peanuts and pretzels count.

Aircraft engineer Kelly Johnson’s aptly named K.I.S.S. principle (or Keep It Simple Stupid) states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made overly complicated. And this, my friend, applies to your questions as well. 

As much as M insists on bringing testicles into this, please keep them in your pants (or for the second date) — your lips and tongue will do just fine for kissing.

He Said:

The ‘testicles’ in question were purely metaphorical.

By Matthew Campbell and Tina Nguyen

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4 Minutes, 20 Women: Does This Math Really Match Up?

As I walk into the venue I’m given a name tag and tread apprehensively across the bar floor, quietly attempting to discern those looking for love from the people merely supping post-work beers and cocktails. I’m apprehensive to approach anybody.

“Hello sir, are you here for speed dating?” asks a waitress. A moment’s hesitation is quickly followed by a nod before she reveals that I’m entitled to two free drinks — presumably for Dutch courage and to help alleviate any pre-date jitters.

Clutching my drink, I eventually head over to my fellow speed-daters. The scene resembles a junior high school prom with the men and women grouped separately in opposing corners. Apparently, I’m not the only one feeling a tad self-conscience.

Minutes of awkward small talk pass before the organizers bring the two tribes together to explain the rules and format of the night’s event. It’s straightforward stuff — ladies stay stationary, men rotate every four minutes and both are given a piece of paper to tick boxes of those they’d like to meet again. If any matches are made, contact details are emailed the next day and everyone presumably lives happy ever after. We’re told to have fun and are encouraged to be as offbeat as possible in order to avoid repeatedly asking the standard questions such as “What do you do?”, “Where are you from?” and “What do you like to do at the weekend?”

And with that we’re off. I take a seat opposite my first date and catch her off guard by immediately asking what animal she’d like me to be and what color she thinks Tuesday is. Obviously confused by my unexpected line of catechism, date number one gets off to more of a stutter than a canter.

Proceedings gradually improve over the remaining dates, with an array of disparate personalities providing a variety of conversation. The four-minute time limit increasingly feels shorter with each girl I meet, leaving some encounters on a tantalizing knife-edge that could provide the right amount of bait required for a second rendezvous. Also, the pensive atmosphere that initially smothered the evening has dissipated; the room is full of chatter, laughter and smiles, and everyone appears to be having fun.

Micro Dates

Interestingly, a majority of the women participating are Vietnamese and all of the men are foreign which, unfortunately, means that those clichéd conversation fillers inevitably arise.

“A lot of expat men complain that they find it difficult to find women who are independent, interesting, attractive, and who they can converse with,” she says.

Adding, “The role of women is also changing rapidly in Vietnam, particularly in urban areas. There are more professional, educated and financially independent Vietnamese women than ever before. Some of these women actually face challenges with Vietnamese men who are not prepared to let go of traditional and aging ideas about the role of women”.

Following the end of my micro-dates, I can’t say I’ve made a true love connection, however, a few trends have been spotted. Most of the participants are young professionals working in high-pressured and long-hour jobs such as sales, marketing, events and advertising, and are generally in their mid-to-late 20s and 30s. While finding it generally easy to meet people in Saigon’s chaotic bars and nightclubs, most struggle to make meaningful connections with people, either romantically or otherwise, in a relaxed setting.

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As Anyone Involved In A Cross-Cultural Relationship Will Tell You, It’s Not Easy

A recent survey revealed that two thirds of Vietnamese living in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City believe it’s acceptable for foreigners and locals to get married. While this demonstrates a marked change from the more conservative attitudes of the past, there are clearly still a number of challenges facing cross-cultural relationships.

The Family

For one, the family unit in Vietnam is much more extensive and closely knit than that of the West. Familial traditions play a huge role and regardless of religion, ancestor worship remains sacred.

Scott, an Englishman who first visited Vietnam 10 years ago, married Hien eight months ago and recalls, “I went to the family to ask permission to marry Hien and was sat down by both her mother and father who explained what they expected of me.”

According to Scott, Hien’s mother told him about how the family should be treated and how in Vietnam you should act towards your elders with respect. “She said she wasn’t bothered about religion,” he continues, “but that the only thing she expected of me was to partake in the ancestral worship.”

This doesn’t pose a problem for Scott because he enjoys seeing an aspect of Vietnamese life that is different to anything he’s used to.

Acceptance

Tuyen and Hank tell a different story. At first, both their families disapproved of the marriage.

“I remember when I first approached Tuyen’s father to ask for her hand in marriage,” recalls Hank. “He refused point blank. I was so devastated because I knew that the family played such a vital role in Vietnamese life. If we didn’t have their blessing, things would be a lot more difficult.”

“I was so worried about her,” explains Tuyen’s father. “I didn’t know what Hank’s intentions were. I was scared that he would take what he wanted from her and then leave her high and dry. I also didn’t want her to leave Vietnam.”

“My father tried to tell me that Hank didn’t love me,” says Tuyen, “and that he would leave me when he was bored with me. I was so angry that I decided to get married anyway out of spite.”

It wasn’t just Tuyen’s family that caused problems, either.

“Hank comes from a wealthy English family,” she explains, “and they were scared that I was marrying him to get my hands on their money. I had met them and didn’t get along with his mother at all. She didn’t respect me and then wouldn’t let me marry Hank without signing a pre-nuptial agreement. I was horrified but what could I do? I ended up signing it.”

Thirteen years later, they are happy and have two sons. Furthermore, both families have accepted their relationship.

Patrick, an Australian married to Van, sometimes finds the closeness of Vietnamese families a little claustrophobic, but accepts that they are very much a part of his life.

“The family was forever turning up on our doorstep with no notice and with suitcases in hand expecting to be put up for a night which invariably turned into a week,” he explains. “Then, one day, just before we set off for the airport to go back to Australia for a month, about eight of them turned up to see us off. This was the last straw – I lost it! Now, they usually phone before they come.”

The Expectations

Traditionally, the role of a Vietnamese wife is to stay at home and look after the house and the children. Although this attitude is changing, there still remains a large segment of Vietnamese society that believes the wife should be subservient. Sarah is well aware of this but insists that if her and long-term boyfriend Hung were to get married, she would not adhere to these traditions.

“I’m my own person and no one is going to change that,” she says. “I’m willing to conform to some things, but I want to maintain my values and way of doing things. I like my freedom and independence and no-one is going to take them away from me.”

She believes it’s harder for a western woman than it is for a man in a cross-cultural relationship in Vietnam. Traditionally the woman is expected to stay at home “whereas the man can do pretty much what he wants.”

Fortunately, Hung and Sarah both lead very separate lives and Hung has few problems with Laura not being a conventional Vietnamese girlfriend. The only thing that bothered him once was when Sarah drove him home on the bike one night.

“I didn’t think twice about it. I had driven him home on numerous occasions and it had never bothered him before,” she says. “But, this one night, we had an argument about it.” However, this doesn’t just apply to Vietnamese men. It seems that men the world over have issues with women driving them places. Hung’s excuse was “It looks nicer when I drive”.

Van is of a completely different opinion.

“Patrick does not help around the house as much as a Vietnamese man would,” she says. “I was horrified when, after I gave birth to our son, Patrick went out to drink a few beers to celebrate with his friends. A Vietnamese man just wouldn’t do that – he’d stay at his wife’s side and take care of her.”

“I was completely oblivious to this,” responds Patrick. “I mean, to go out and drink a few beers with friends after the birth of a child is something that is completely normal in Australia. Many other countries are the same.”

The Language

There’s no doubt about it — European languages and Vietnamese are about as far apart as you can get. You would think, therefore, that there would be a massive language barrier that would have to be overcome in a cross-cultural relationship. Where would you start when trying to express your emotions and deepest thoughts?

However, for the couples interviewed, language has never been a problem. Take the story of Patrick and Van.

“When I first met Van, she didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Vietnamese,” he explains. “I had Google translate which we used to get our messages across. Then when I went back to Australia, we used Zalo and somehow we managed to communicate.”

It’s obviously worked. They’ve now been married for a year and he speaks fluent Vietnamese without having really taken any formal classes.

“Pronunciation and the tones are key aspects of being able to be understood here,” he explains, “and they are the hardest things for English-speakers to grasp. I don’t know how, but Van always understood what I was trying to say, without me having to repeat everything over and over again, when others didn’t.”

Meanwhile, Sarah and Hung communicate in English.

“Hung’s English is excellent, and it’s only occasionally that he’ll ask me what some word or expression means,” she says. “In fact, there’s only been one time when we misunderstood each other. We were chatting on Zalo one day while I was on holiday in England, when he asked me what I was doing. I said I was in bed with my two best friends Ben and Jerry to which he replied ‘WHAT? WHO?’ Any Westerner would have realized that I was talking about eating ice cream!”

Sarah realizes that she’s in Vietnam and in a serious relationship with a local man. So, learning Vietnamese has become a necessity.

“I’m fully aware that my Vietnamese should be a lot better than it is especially considering how long I’ve been here,” she admits. “I’m now taking Vietnamese lessons three times a week.”

Hung says he would love for Sarah to be able to communicate with his family and friends in Vietnamese. His family has also made it quite clear that they want her to learn the language.

“Every time I go see them, they comment on how my Vietnamese hasn’t improved since the last time,” she says.

Relationships are tough — you have to work at them. Every one faces problems and marrying someone from a different culture will add new obstacles. But, they are not insurmountable. Quite the opposite. People who marry across cultures and marry for the right reasons tend to be open to new ideas. They enjoy rather than resent the challenges thrown at them.

(Images are for references only)

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He Said, She Said: What does it mean when none of a guy’s profile photos on his dating app show his face?

He Said:

Well, the obvious conclusion to jump to is that the guy has a face that looks like a bulldog chewing a wasp. Or a dropped pie. Or a smacked ass. Take your euphemisms as you choose. But that is only one of the possibilities and so it is worth considering some of the alternatives. 

First of all, it could be a fake account. I have no idea why any sentient human being would waste their time creating accounts like that (see: catphishing), but I guess everyone needs a hobby. 

The other reason is that the guy might be married or in a relationship and is wanting to test the waters without being stumbled upon by someone he knows. Although if that person happens to be his current partner, questions could be asked as to why she is cruising a dating site.

Or, finally, it could be as simple as the fact that women do not have a monopoly on being self-conscious when it comes to their appearance. A female perspective, T?

She Said:

Men are feral. They refuse to understand the simple etiquette of online dating, which is to post a photo of yourself. So, if you swipe right on a no-face profile then expect a dick pic coming at you. Even a self-conscious woman will have her mug up there, albeit, filtered as hell, but at least there’s a semblance of a human underneath.

A self-conscious man in Vietnam? Please introduce me to him and I’ll match him with the spotted unicorn I just met.

He Said:

Look, I still think the likelihood with a no-photo guy is they just have no confidence in how they look. But here is the thing, actually read their profile. If you listen to what the guy says, you might just find him funny, charming and engaging. Then you can move on to photos. Just don’t make pictures a priority.

So, to our questioner, I would say this: Talk to the guy, get to know him first, and then see what he looks like. Sure, looks are important, it would be disingenuous to suggest otherwise, but it is a balance between looks and personality that prevails.

Finally, guys, and this goes to T’s point, here is a hard and fast rule: Never, never, ever, ever send a dick pic to a girl who has not seen your penis in real life. Just no arguments on this. A dick pic with someone you have been intimate with is kinda sexy and fun, but someone you have never been naked with is just seven kinds of creepy.

I’m not kidding around here, listen up.

She Said:

I agree with M, what’s important is a balance of looks and personality; however, with so many profiles to swipe through men should want to improve their chances. He’s got a face like a bulldog? I love dogs, I have two. Even a dropped pie gets a second chance. Remember the five-second rule? There’s a face for everyone and, of course, no one can tell from a photo alone if they’re the one for you but it’s a good start.

Guys, here’s some solid advice: Women love a confident man so, go ahead, turn the camera around and take that selfie (pose with a cute pup or kitten; this will guarantee a swipe, trust me).

(Shameless plug: All Fika users are 100 percent verified.)

By Matthew Campbell and Tina Nguyen

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