Expats Looking For Love Locally

Photo taken several years ago. Mariah is wearing a baju kurung and I am wearing a kurta pajama.

It’s been a week since Valentine’s Day and the airing of the BFM 89.9 interview with Meera Sivasothy on The Bigger Picture. The topic of our conversation: Expats Looking For Love Locally.

As a Chinese Malaysian man married to a Caucasian expat woman, I sometimes feel like I have a right to speak about the expat-local intimate relationship. However, when I consider the many different expat-local couple clients whom I have seen, I would have to maintain that not all expat-local couples are the same.

In my doctoral research, I used a methodology called Classic Grounded Theory.

Oops! I think I’ve just tripped off the geek-alert warning system. Proceed at your own risk! (Or scroll to the bottom to listen to the BFM 89.9 interview podcast.)

Putting my grounded theory lens on, I could begin by classifying us expat-local couples according to different categories and see if there are specific repeating patterns within each of these categories, and thereby begin to generate some hypotheses.

Here are some categories of expat-local couples that come to mind.

1)   The gender categories: Male and female.

  • Expat-male & Malaysian-female
  • Expat-female & Malaysian-male
  • Expat-male & Malaysian-male
  • Expat-female & Malaysian-female

2)   The national categories: Where the expat comes from.

  • Australasia, Europe, Asia, North American, Africa, Middle East, others.

3)   The “exposure-to-culture” categories: How exposed are the partners to each other’s cultures?

  • Can they speak each other’s mother tongue? At what level of facility? And is the facility of languages one-way or both ways?
  • Has the couple both lived in the home countries of each partner?

4)   The religion categories: What types and levels of beliefs does each partner possess?

  • Are they of the same faith background?
  • Is there conversion to one partner’s religion?
  • How devout is each partner to the religion?
  • If the couple embraces different religions, how open are the religions of each partner to other faiths?

5)   The family “openness-to-diversity” categories: How open are the partners’ family members to the other partner’s culture/religion/language?

  • Has the family lived in the expat partner’s country (e.g. the sibling members of the Malaysian partner may have all studied in Australia where the partner comes from)
  • Has the expat partner’s family visited or lived in Malaysia before?
  • Are the families open to having an in-law who is an expat or a Malaysian (foreigner to them)?

6)   Marital and parenthood status categories.

  • Married couples without children, with children, and/or with children from previous marriages
  • Seriously partnered couples without children, with children, and/or with children from previous marriages

7)   Other demographic variables where similarity or difference between the couple may be a significant factor.

  • Educational background
  • Occupational experience
  • Leisure interests

Well, that was interesting!

And now the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question: when will I have the time to actually do some serious grounded theory research on expat-local couples?

As we wait for that answer, have a listen to the interview with Meera on the BFM 89.9 podcast below.

(Click here if you cannot see the link above.)

And here is the article in The Economist that I had mentioned in the interview: link.

Going Deeper

Are you in an international (expat-to-local) relationship or marriage? Which categories do you belong to and what has your experience been like?

© Johnben Loy, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Johnben Loy and www.johnbenloy.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

One Reply to “Expats Looking For Love Locally”

  1. Here is a comment from “La Cucaracha” submitted on Feb 14, 2013 @ 15:04, and my reply. I’ve moved the comment and reply here as it pertains to the topic.

    La Cucarcha’s comment:

    Buenos tardes, Dr. Loy. Out of curiosity, I caught your interview this afternoon on the BFM radio. It was very interesting throughout, although I have no problems with my marriage (well so far!) and ergo, don’t require counselling. I only thought that your assertion that you are ‘patriarchal’ a little disingenuous, as that’s a euphemism which most of us use to hide behind the fact that we are in reality, male chauvinists! So, buenos noches, amigo.

    My reply:

    Thanks for listening to the interview and also for finding me and commenting.

    Regarding patriarchy and disingenuity, I don’t think I was hiding (or excusing) my patriarchal bias so much as I was trying to say that admittance is a first step towards movement. In the instance that I cited on that interview (aired Feb 14, 2013), I was admitting my patriarchal bias in a PhD class in front of a very accomplished and globally recognized female professor, and flanked by very strong feminist classmates, all equally if not more capable than I in many respects. I risked being intellectually slaughtered by them when I chose not to pretend to be feminist, but to admit that as much as I wish I could be more “equal,” I had to admit that I was not. I explained to them that admitting where I was at was the only authentic way I knew how to move towards feminist equality. Rather than to call me out as being disingenuous, my professor thanked me for risking being honest and vulnerable, which I greatly appreciated and will never forget.

    Having listened to the podcast of the interview again, I can see that someone listening without my fuller explanation above could easily regard what I said as being disingenuous. Oh well. I can only do my best. Thanks for dropping by though, and for taking the effort to keep me honest!

    Buenos noches to you too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *