How are couples making marriages work when they’ve met online, lived in different countries and don’t share a common language?
Airdate: 
Tuesday, March 6, 2018 - 20:30
Channel: 
SBS

Mei was a 40-something divorced mother of two living in southern China when she decided to join an international marriage agency. 

Barrie, a 62-year-old living on a hobby farm in coastal New South Wales, first saw Mei on an online dating site that connects Chinese women with Western men. Eight months later, Barrie was flying to China to meet her - they were married within the week.

“It was quite fast,” Mei admits to host Jenny Brockie on this week’s episode of Insight.

Seeking out a foreign husband or wife is nothing new – hopeful singles have long looked overseas for a suitable spouse, and maybe a better life. But thanks to the boom in online and mobile dating, it’s never been easier to look for love further afield.

And while local dating sites and apps mean you’re only ever one swipe away from your next hookup, the stakes are considerably higher when you’re wooing someone in a foreign country whom you’ve never met and don’t share a language with.

Lin Lan, 51, had been single for over 20 years when her friends convinced her to join a similar agency. 

Six months after joining she met George, a 64-year-old builder. “I was looking for a companion, in due course a wife, somebody that I could share the rest of my life with,” George says.

Encouraged by friends and family, Lin Lan married George and moved to Brisbane. But once she arrived, she often thought about going home.

“In China I was busy. Coming here I couldn’t do everything,” Lin Lan tells Jenny. “I [was] feeling very worried, very sad for a long time.”

Not all is fair in love and visas. Marrying someone after a short period of time can be a big risk, and it can be difficult to know if you’re being taken advantage of. And getting to know your new partner when you don’t have a common language can be a problem that persists for years.

With international dating sites reporting growing subscriptions each year – along with the rising number of couples meeting and marrying through them – Insight asks: Why do people look for a partner overseas? What happens when they find one? And how do they make it work?

Credits

Presenter: Jenny Brockie 

Producer: Rose Hesp 

Producer: Nicola McCaskill 

Transcript

 

VIDEO PLAYED.

 

BARRIE:  We fell in love by writing letters for a long time.  We decided to meet and talk about getting married. When we met at the airport, we knew that we'd made the right decision and we had been together very close for a few days that we had met and we decided that the day would be our special day.

I'd like to thank you all once again for being here and we hope to meet you again because as I said, the world's a small place and when we're living in Australia, we will be coming back many times. Thank you very much. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Mei and Barrie, that's your wedding. How long had you known May before you married her? 

BARRIE:  Oh, it was a fairly short time but there was a lot, a lot of correspondence. We started writing in May and then got married in August, I think it was, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how long after you met her did you marry her, met her in person? 

BARRIE:  Probably seven days. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   You live in a coastal village in New South Wales. You met Mei on-line when you were 62. What were you looking for? 

BARRIE:  Someone to spend my life with and a best friend and as a wife. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And why did you choose a Chinese website to do that? 

BARRIE:  I don't know really. I just, it was after the Beijing Olympic Games and I see all these nice ladies on the TV so I …

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you saw a whole lot of nice Chinese, nice looking Chinese women?

BARRIE:  Yeah, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What about women in Australia? 

BARRIE:  Ah, I, I, yeah, I had relationships but it didn't work out and in my age group there was a lot of ladies around.  They wanted to keep their place, you know, and just have a friend to go out with and I wanted more than that. I wanted to have someone to live with. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Had you been married before? 

BARRIE:  Yes.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Mei, you were in your 40s, you were living in southern China when you started looking for a husband via the same agency. Why were you looking for a husband overseas?  

MEI (Through interpreter):  I find Westerns are honest. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Why do you think that? 

MEI (Through interpreter): Their quality is better. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Would you care to elaborate on that a little bit more? What do you mean? 

MEI (Through interpreter): They don't drink that, they don't gamble and they don’t bet.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Have you met many Australian men? 

MEI (Through interpreter):  I haven’t met many of them but in my workplace, many of my workmates neither drink, nor gamble.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what type of man were you looking for? 

MEI (Through interpreter):  This is my second marriage.  I’d like to find a companion, so we can help each other and care of each other. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And were you specifically looking for an Australian husband? 

MEI (Through interpreter):  No, I didn’t insist on finding an Australian man.  I’ve found him through an agency.  It was by chance that I met him. Maybe this is destiny. When I first saw him he looked very honest to me, he didn’t look violent to me

JENNY BROCKIE:  Barrie, what appealed to you about Mei in the beginning? 

BARRIE:  Oh, it was very hard I think because there would be, hundreds of replies over the time, so I sort of had to switch my profile off. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Hundreds of replies from? 

BARRIE: Hundreds of replies. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  From other women? 

BARRIE:  Other women, yes, and I picked four ladies.  And then, because I live on a farm, I had to get someone compatible to that. And that's how I decided Mei. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Was that the main reason you decided Mei or were there other things as well? 

BARRIE:  No, that was the main reason, just for someone who wanted to live where I lived and adopt my life. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Mei, when Barrie eventually came to China and you saw him in person, what was your first impression of him? 

MEI (Through interpreter):  At first he looked good to me.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Why did you think that? 

MEI (Through interpreter):  How to put it? When I saw him, I was nervous and felt the chemistry.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And Barrie, what about for you, what were your expectations going in to meeting Mei? 

BARRIE:  I was a bit scared in one way. I didn't know how the language difference would go.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So how were you communicating?

BARRIE:  Well, a lot from body language.  But I also bought an electronic translator. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Was it very important to you both to be married?  That was what you were looking for? 

BARRIE:  Yes. 

MEI (Through interpreter):  About marriage, I’m a simple person.  I didn’t want to find someone who only wanted to be a boyfriend and didn’t want to get married, I want to get married, so life is more stable and we can look after each other. I like to live a simple life where we care for each other.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Lin Lan, you're 51, you managed a photo agency in China? 

LIN LAN:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Why did you use an international dating site to look for a husband outside China? 

LIN LAN:  This is a very funny story. I was working in photography shop.  My customer one day come and she make some photo. I say why you make a photo?  I think you using the photo make, want to find a boyfriend.  She said  ‘yeah, why you look?”   I said “Oh, this photo not good for you to find a husband, because the photo so, so, so natural”… I said you want to choose a husband my friend, can help you find a boyfriend.  So she said no, I want to find a western person. I said oh, really? I said there's dangerous, you can't speak English she said no, I couldn't. I said you should be careful not go outside. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Not go outside China? 

LIN LAN:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you were warning her not to look for a western husband? 

LIN LAN:  Yeah, I said to her “Very dangerous.”  She said western man very gentle man.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So why did you, why did you eventually decide to go on an international dating site to look for a husband? 

LIN LAN:  My co-worker say oh, my manager is single too, can you help my manager. I say yeah, yeah, yeah and single too. Then she rung her friend up, talk on the phone. I say okay you can help her, I want to be polite. She say can you give it to me some photo? I said oh, which photo, I don't know yourself, you choose. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So she chose the photo from your web page, yeah? 

LIN LAN:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You were in your 40s at the time, were you looking for a husband? 

LIN LAN:  Yes. I was 27 about with my ex-husband there. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  When you split up from your ex-husband? 

LIN LAN:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you'd been alone for a while? 

LIN LAN:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And why not Chinese men? 

LIN LAN:  Same. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Same reason? 

LIN LAN:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  There's going to be a lot of Chinese men watching this who are going to be very unhappy about this generalisation, but go on.  So same reasons, what reasons? 

LIN LAN:  For me, second marriage very important, yeah, I don't want to just make a boyfriend. So I don't want to smoke and play games.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Gambling? 

LIN LAN:  Yeah, I don't want to. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  When you went on that website, were you expecting that you would have to move countries, or were you hoping a husband might come, a potential husband might come to China and live in China? 

LIN LAN:  I don't know why I want to go.  My daddy asked me what is your sweetest dream?   Oh, I said my sweetest dream, I want to go to western, my daddy asked me why you want to?  I said I want to drink milk and eat bread. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you couldn't drink milk and eat bread in China? 

LIN LAN:  Before, yes, was born 1966, before in China very hard, no. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  When you were growing up? 

LIN LAN:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  George, you're 64, you have a building and renovation business in Brisbane. Why were you looking for a partner overseas?

GEORGE:  Well I was actually looking for a partner locally in Australia and I wasn't really targeting another country but all of a sudden this box appeared in my inbox and it just said Chinese. So I said okay, I just followed that. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What do you mean it just said Chinese? 

GEORGE:  Sorry, Chinese ladies, meet Chinese ladies so I thought okay. So I just followed the link and then started following that. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What were you looking for? 

GEORGE:  I was looking for a companion, in due course a wife, somebody that I could share the rest of my life with.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Lin Lan, how did you choose George from the men that responded to your profile? 

LIN LAN:  My niece and then my sister very interested George, they say that's a good man.  I say Really? Yeah, I like the guy. Okay, you like it, okay I like it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you liked him because your family liked him? 

LIN LAN:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  George, what appealed to you about Lin Lan? 

GEORGE:  Well obviously at the start it's the photos. You go off the photos and then you write to each other and I mean that's another story but you get a feel for who they are. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You didn't share a common language either when you met. How did you communicate with one another at first? 

GEORGE:  I wrote an email, it was translated into Chinese, that was read by Lin Lan, and then she wrote back and that was translated and, well that's what I thought. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And Lin Lan, was it you, were you writing those emails to George? 

LIN LAN:  Well I keep on laughing because I never writing email for George. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You never wrote one? 

LIN LAN:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Who wrote them? 

LIN LAN:  I'm very sorry. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Who wrote them? 

LIN LAN: The worker people writing. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  The agency was writing them? 

LIN LAN:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And were you reading his emails? 

LIN LAN: I never reading. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You never read his emails? 

LIN LAN:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  At all? Okay, so were you falling for her who wasn't really her? 

GEORGE:  Well I didn't know this until a lot later but I think what happened was this translator did call her occasionally and said he's writing again. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  He's interested? 

GEORGE:  He's interested. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What were they saying when they were ringing you up to give you a report on what was happening? 

LIN LAN:  The guy is very kind and the guy want to find one lady marry, very good man because the man nearly every day writing email. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So they were telling you he's a good man, he wants to get married? 

LIN LAN:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what were you saying to them at that point? 

LIN LAN:  Important no smoking, no drinking and no play game. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  No gambling? 

LIN LAN:  No gambling, yeah. The guy said didn't gamble. I said okay, keep going you can talk. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You finally met six months later?   What did you think when you first saw George in person? 

LIN LAN:  He’s a very gentle man and very kind.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Was there a spark? 

GEORGE:  For me, yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Was there a spark for you? 

LIN LAN:  First date, no.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Not at first? 

LIN LAN:  Yeah, yeah, sorry. 

GEORGE:  We're together now. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Was physical attraction important? 

LIN LAN:  Just feeling the man safe for me, with me. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You just felt he was safe for you? 

LIN LAN:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So was that more important than being physically attracted to him? 

LIN LAN:  Yes, yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  George, when did you decide you wanted to marry Lin Lan? 

GEORGE:  Probably, it was about seven days after we met. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how did you react Lin Lan when he asked?

LIN LAN:  My family and then my church brothers and sisters agree and support me, this guy for you. You need to marry. I said really? 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you weren't sure but your family was? 

LIN LAN:  Yes.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So how did you feel going into it though if it was everybody else wanting you to do it but you weren't sure? 

LIN LAN:  I wanted it but I had no power, I couldn't make a decision.  So family friends make a decision.  I say, okay, okay, okay, listen, and very thankful for my son.  My son say mama, I said sorry my son, I need to tell you, people help me find one boyfriend from western and I don’t want to be far away for you. My son say no mama, doesn't matter how far, I want you to have a good husband better with you for your life, I want you by yourself so he made the decision. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how do you feel about that decision now? 

LIN LAN:  Oh, thanks. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Was being in love important or not? 

GEORGE:  Very important. 

LIN LAN:  Mmm. I think is not 100 percent important, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what is important?

LIN LAN:  Obey each other. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Obey each other? 

LIN LAN:  Yes, and be kind, learning love. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Learning love? 

LIN LAN:  Yes, be kind, important.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Linong, you're 61, you're from a big city in southern China.  Why were you looking for a husband overseas? 

LINONG (Through interpreter):  I wasn’t thinking of looking for a husband then, a friend happened to manage an agency. He introduced me to him.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What prompted you to actively look for a husband? 

LINONG (Through interpreter):   Where do I start?  I’d been single for 15 years, I thought about finding a husband after I started a business, and it then failed. So I wanted to find a husband to help.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Ha, ha, okay. So this was a very practical consideration? 

LINONG:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Not romantic as much as practical, you wanted someone to financially help you? 

LINONG (Through interpreter):  Yeah, it wasn't romantic at first, I just wanted to find someone I liked.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Had you tried to find a Chinese partner? 

LINONG (Through interpreter):  Yes I did, but I couldn’t find someone I liked. The good ones were husbands and I didn’t want the bad ones.

JENNY BROCKIE:  You wanted someone your age or younger in China. Why? 

LINONG (Through interpreter):  Someone younger or of my age. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  This is news to you Trevor? Why did you want someone your age or younger? 

LINONG:  Before I first look too old, not handsome! 

JENNY BROCKIE:  When you met Trevor? 

LINONG:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Have you heard this before Trevor? You haven't heard this before? Would you like a few minutes, would you like a few minutes to process it or are you happy for us to continue? 

TREVOR:  No, we'll be just fine.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what appealed to you about Trevor?

LINONG:  Well Trevor…

JENNY BROCKIE:  He's looking very hopeful at this point. 

LINONG (Through interpreter):  The one who introduced him to me was the agency’s manager. He had spoken to Trevor before and found him humorous and cheerful.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Trevor, you're 71, you've been married to Linong for six years now.  Why were you looking overseas for a wife? 

TREVOR:  I didn't have a very good success rate in Australia. I was lucky to get over the two week thing so I did, I had a relationship with a woman here, I can't remember how long it lasted eighteen months or something and then all of a sudden that disappeared and I went why? What's wrong with me?  So I just kind of gave up and for some years, and then I started looking on different sites.  On the computer something popped up one time.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So why the particular focus then on Chinese women? 

TREVOR:  They just seemed to have more integrity and seemed to be more forthright at least.  At least that's what I thought. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  I think you were right about that. 

TREVOR:  It just depends I guess on who was writing the email. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And did you know the story about her business failing? Did you realise that that was a big motivator for her looking for a husband?  

TREVOR:  No, I didn't realise that that was the motivator, I knew that her business had failed. I think it had something to do with the government just taking the land over that her business was on which is what they do.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What were you looking for? 

TREVOR:  I was looking for a mate, looking for a long time partner that we can share things and just grow old together, that's all. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what were you imagining a relationship might be like with somebody? 

TREVOR:  From somewhere else? 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Yeah. 

TREVOR:  Fantastic and it is. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What about the language issue, was that daunting at all? 

TREVOR:  It was daunting, I guess, to start with but then, but then you get used to that. You overcome that. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How? 

TREVOR:  We overcome that in a couple of ways with an app.  Linong already had a hand held translator with a little screen in it. She can write Chinese on it and then it translates to English. So the first time we got together over there we went to a restaurant and we were using this, so.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what was that like for you Linong? 

LINONG:  Before I buy this translation, I don't talking English, I write it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How important was physical attraction in your decision to look for a Chinese wife?

TREVOR: On a scale of 10, I suppose about, I don’t know…8. But you know there are other qualities you must look for.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And Linong, what did you think when you first saw Trevor in person? 

LINONG:  He’s not beautiful, not handsome, old, you’re tired. After I picked him up in the airport, I didn’t speak English and he didn’t speak Mandarin. When we were having a conversation, he made everyone in the car laugh. We were happy.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Whose decision was it to get married?  It was your decision Linong? 

LINONG:  Yes, I asked him “We marry?”  He think no marry, we together, it's okay. I said no, no marry, maybe I find new one. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And Trevor, why the hesitation? 

TREVOR:  The two week rule. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What's the two week rule? 

TREVOR:  Oh well I couldn't get over a relationship in Australia, well generally, you know, a short period of time and I thought oh, what am I going to do? Go to China and find somebody that I'm extremely attracted to and then go there and she says no, so. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you were worried about getting hurt? 

TREVOR:  Yes, of course, yes. But then when Linong said well, come on, we'll go and get married.  I said really? Yes, come on, get on the bus and away we go, okay. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Lin Lan, you arrived in Brisbane after you got married, you'd come from a big Chinese city. What was it like when you first got here for you? 

LIN LAN:  I like at first because people, everyone very happy. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you miss China? 

LIN LAN:  Yes, yes. After coming here and few days, I start feeling sad. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Sad? 

LIN LAN:  Because I couldn't speak English and everything for me is new, when I arrived here I just started worry.  Because in China I was always busy.  Coming here I couldn't do everything.  

JENNY BROCKIE:  You weren't working? 

LIN LAN:  Yes, yes, so, after marrying I some time yes, very sad.

JENNY BROCKIE:  You were sad after you got married for a while? 

LIN LAN:  Yeah, because I couldn't do things and my husband, his business is broke so I thought why I'm coming here making myself too hard? 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So your business was in trouble? 

GEORGE:  I changed work for one company and yes, then virtually had to start again. 

LIN LAN:  So I feeling very worried, very sad for longer time. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How long did that last, feeling sad like that? 

LIN LAN:  Oh, nearly two more years. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  George, did you know that this was going on? 

GEORGE:  There were times when I knew. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what did you say to her? 

GEORGE:  Well, I did point out one time, I said look, if it's too hard you're free to go, but she never did. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How did you react when he said that, what did you think? 

LIN LAN:  I heard a man so kind and no, I couldn't think again, this is my husband, I couldn’t think it. This is wrong thinking.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And when did that start to change? Did it start to change? 

LIN LAN:  Yeah, then for me very important because, every morning I exercise morning, go outside running because why, running for me very important. Morning exercise, we meeting different people, everyone so happy, morning, morning. Go outside walking, people say hello to me, come back why I'm worrying? And got more peace. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Linong, you left a city in China with 7.5 million people to meet Trevor who was working in Mount Isa. What did you think when you saw Australia for the first time?

LINONG (Through interpreter):  It was a big contrast but as I love Trevor I can accept everything. I think I am strong in adapting to life. If I love a man, I love everything about him. That’s me.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And when did you fall in love with him?

LINONG (Through interpreter):  When I first saw him in the airport, at first sight, he wasn’t handsome. He wasn’t good looking at all, but when he got into the car, he made us laugh. From that time onwards, till now, it’s about six years now, he’s been making me laugh, so I love him.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Mei, once you got married you then had to wait for your daughter to finish school in China and then you had to wait for a visa.  What was it like the night that you finally arrived in Australia? 

MEI (Through interpreter):  When I landed I really couldn’t adapt to it. I found it very quite as we lived on a farm. My daughter who was 17 then, couldn’t adapt to the new life and cried every day.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Are you still finding it difficult? 

MEI (Through interpreter):  No, I am now used to it and I am very happy. I have a job so I have responsibility, I find life has substance, I don’t feel bored as I have a job. Besides, I attend classes two days a week, I go to TAFE to learn English.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what about your daughter, how does she find it now? 

MEI (Through interpreter):  My daughter is also happy, she doesn’t live with me now, she lives somewhere near Newcastle, she works in a restaurant with some Chinese friends. She is very happy too.

JENNY BROCKIE:  That unhappiness that you felt to start with, was  that something you expected might happen? 

MEI (Through interpreter):   No, in China where I lived there are many people, there are very few here. At first, I wasn’t used to it, I didn’t mind after I settled down, I found the air is fresh here. The water is fresh. We live a healthy life.  Back in China where I lived, the air isn’t good and the pollution is high.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Barrie, what do you think it was like for Mei when she first got here? 

BARRIE:   I suppose it was like me when I arrived in China, I didn't know whether the plane went up to Mars or it was just different.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And Mei, what was it like for you having your daughter that unhappy after a decision you'd made which had changed her life? 

MEI (Through interpreter): At first, she wasn’t happy because just before we came over, my brother-in-law passed away. He died all of a sudden from hypertension. My daughter was brought up by my sister and my brother-in-law. So she was very sad and unhappy when she came to Australia. After a while she settled down and felt better.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And why did they raise your daughter? 

MEI (Through interpreter):  At that time China only allowed you to have one child in a family, I secretly gave birth to my daughter. I gave birth secretly and hid from my working unit. If they found out, I’d lose my household rights so I left her with my sister. Besides, I was running a salon and could not look after her.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Isabelle, you met your husband Adam on-line six years ago and you moved from Ho Chi Min City to the New South Wales Central Coast. Why were you looking for a husband from overseas? 

ISABELLE (Through interpreter):   Before, I didn’t think of looking for a partner, but when I was getting older, my friends and family said that I should look for a partner to share the ups and downs of life with me later. Otherwise, being single is very boring.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How old were you? 

ISABELLE:  49. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  49 now? 

ISABELLE:  Yes, 49 now. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Had you been in a serious relationship? 

ISABELLE (Through interpreter):  Yes, before I had some boyfriends for short periods and things didn't work out.  We were just friends.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Why did you decide on Adam, to marry Adam? 

ISABELLE (Through interpreter):  When we got to know each other, Adam come to Vietnam to visit me and I realised he was the type that I was looking for.  He wasn't smoking or drinking, he was easy going, which suited me. So I CHOSE HIM.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What was it like for you Isabelle after you married Adam and you first got here? 

ISABELLE (Through interpreter):  At that time, when I first came to Australia, everything was new and it was very hard for me. As I spoke English just a little, some words were very difficult. I had to open the dictionary to look for words.  He said things over and over again then gradually I started to understand.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What did you do in Vietnam? Were you working? 

ISABELLE (Through interpreter):  I was seamstress. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And here? 

ISABELLE (Through interpreter):  Here I haven’t got a visa yet so I can’t work. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what is life like for you here Isabelle and is marriage what you expected it would be? 

ISABELLE (Through interpreter):  Yes, life here is like I thought it would be? 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And are you happy here? 

ISABELLE:  Yes, I'm very happy. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You're happy? 

ISABELLE:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Adam, what do you think it's been like for Isabelle? 

ADAM:  It's very difficult, very, very difficult. I basically always had to look for her like my daughter who is sitting next to me, it was just very difficult. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You're 70? 

ADAM:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you'd been married twice before? 

ADAM:  That's correct. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You had five adult children, is that right? 

ADAM:  I had four sons and my daughter. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So why were you looking for a wife overseas? 

ADAM:  Actually I wasn't really looking for a wife or a partner overseas.  One day her picture appeared on the screen. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Another pop up? 

ADAM:  Just a pop up while I was actually working on my computer with people in Germany.  I was working on a new documentary about cancer, I’m a film composer, so when I've put it a bit closer I've noticed that the lady was absolutely, I don't know if she had, she had something in her, her personality that I never seen before. Her vision, her eyes, her look, it was like, you know, I'm here, I need someone that can help me in something. It was almost look like looking for somebody but also the humble part of it. It was one week before I actually said to my daughter that I met this lady on-line.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how long after that before you got married? 

ADAM:  Four months.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how did you feel about that Melody? 

MELODY:   Well, it was a long time ago so I was in my early teen years at the time. I didn't really think much of it. I know that as I saw that it became a reality, I was quite excited actually to be honest with you. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Why? 

MELODY:  I think because at that time I suppose my dad was very lonely at home.  There was adult children around who had their partners and they didn't really say much to dad or you know, look out for him and I was very young at the time so I was actually quite excited for him to meet someone as I think I could see that he was getting a little bit lonely yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how do you get on with her? 

MELODY:  Very well.  Yeah, at the start I was sort of shy towards Isabelle because I was younger and as I've grown a bit older knowing her, it's been easier.  Isabelle makes a big effort in my life and, yeah, she's very special. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  George has your marriage to Lin Lan been what you expected? 

GEORGE:  Yes, and much more, much more than I could ever expect. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  In what way? 

GEORGE:  Well, we've actually become very close together. We're not just husband and wife but we're, we share our faith, which is very important to us.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And for you Lin Lan? 

LIN LAN:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Same? 

LIN LAN:  Same, yes. 

 

VIDEO PLAYED. 

 

GEORGE:  Normally we wake up 5 to 5.50. 

LIN LAN:  Morning.  

GEORGE:  Morning.  Go for a power walk that may take thirty, forty minutes. 

LIN LAN:  I like morning exercise because helping me wake up. 

GEORGE:  And then come back and we do like to spend some time reading. "Be addressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning." At the moment we're reading Genesis so we're trying to do a chapter a day. Then I go to work and if I'm lucky enough I can work from home.

They're a tumbled brick, probably to match about thirty years old.

I'm mainly involved in renovations and smaller home builds.

COMPUTER:   "She was born in South Africa." 

GEORGE:  Lin studies English, either from home or she does go to a school where she studies about three days a week. 

COMPUTER:  "Excellent work." 

GEORGE:  As far as the household chores are concerned, we share everything, I probably take out the garbage more. Normally Lin Lan does all the cooking, only because I can't get anywhere near that quality so I just sit back and enjoy it. 

LIN LAN:  When I miss my friends or family, always can use the WeChat because the WeChat very easy.  I like George because he's very kind and more patient for me.

GEORGE:  What I like about Lin Lan is that you always know where you stand. There's no time that you need to second guess. Sometimes she's very forthright and she's so very caring. 

END OF VIDEO. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  I find it fascinating that you say there's never a time you have to second guess when you've had so many language difficulties in this relationship. Why is that, why do you say that? 

GEORGE:  I think the language thing is there initially, but body language is very important and I think you just go to a level higher than the language issues. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Trevor, how does it work in your house? How do, you know, the distribution of chores and the way that you have actually organised your lives, how does that work? 

TREVOR:  Very well. Um, Linong does the inside, I do the outside, we do the garden together. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  When you say she does the inside and you do the outside, what's the outside? 

TREVOR:  Well, well, well, the garden and cleaning up, maybe washing the car and stuff like that, so…

JENNY BROCKIE:  Barrie, who does what in your house, how have you worked out those things? 

BARRIE:  Oh, with cleaning and that, Mei does all the cooking, unless she's not well or something and she says she's not hungry and I might cook something but I very seldom cook now. So I'm always out doing things and I just get the call that dinner's ready. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what is dinner usually? 

BARRIE:  Well, when Mei first came it was mainly Chinese, Chinese and then I sort of, I'm sort of getting over Chinese, I want Australian, so now she cooks me Australian meals.  Cooks me my T-bone steaks and fish and chips and things like that. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And do you eat those things Mei or do you still eat Chinese food?

MEI (Through interpreter):  I like Chinese food. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So do you cook two things?  

MEI:  Yes, cook different…yes.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Every day? 

MEI:  Yes.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Barrie, you're a retired professional fisherman? 

BARRIE:  Yes.  

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you're not working but you drive Mei to work? 

BARRIE:  Yeah, I drive 140ks a day. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How many days a week? 

BARRIE:  Six days a week.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Six days a week? 

BARRIE:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What do you do Mei, workwise?

MEI (Through interpreter):   I work in an abattoir, I arrange BBQs for the workers and I also do the cleaning. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what's that like? 

MEI (Through interpreter):   I’m happy, people are nice to me, the boss, the factory manager, HR people, are nice to me. They are very good people.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Barrie, what is it like for you when Mei is specking Cantonese or Mandarin with her friends?

BARRIE:  At home it doesn't worry me. I sort of don't like it much - we've had a couple of discussions about it when I pick Mei up from work and then she is talking all the way home in Chinese and I say, "I am not just the driver. We are going to stop this. You can talk as much as you like when we get home but when you are in the car, go to sleep or talk to me."  It’s been hard at times.

JENNY BROCKIE:  But her whole life is like that here.

BARRIE:  Her whole life is like that, I know that. I am very tolerant because I mean I have been over in other countries and you know, you long to speak English where in China you get everybody talking and you are sitting around and you are not saying anything. You want to get back home to have a conversation with someone.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Lin Lan, what are you doing work wise here? You'd been a manager of a photo company in China? 

LIN LAN:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What are you doing here? 

LIN LAN:  Now, at first time I'm coming here and George’s friend, wanting me to  help her because his friend has one massage shop, and the people coming in, welcome, help the people, take a seat, make appointment. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So a receptionist job? 

LIN LAN:  Yes, yes. After I went to the TAFE to study English because I want more and more spend time to understand what I can do in Australia? I find the one job cleaning people's house. This was for me very hard make a decision. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Because you'd had a very responsible job in China, yeah? You were managing a lot of people? 

LIN LAN:  Yes, was 152 people working in the company, so cleaning easy but is not easy because when customers talk to me I need to listen carefully, listen, learning. This is very good, customers are very good and more patience and more humble, helping me, trust me. Customers always giving me some little present, making me very excited. I later start thinking, I later enjoy your life, so cleaning nearly ten months after I start to open my business.

JENNY BROCKIE:  For ten months? 

LIN LAN:  Yeah, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Lin Lan, are there any advantages to the language barrier? 

LIN LAN:  Yes, yes. Because George is very kind, so every people talking ever since George trusts. Sometimes some people talk wrong things, George still trusts, still believe. Many times I shout at George “No, you should be careful.” George say “No Lin, you worry too much.”  I wanted, to use English, to seriously tell him but it's not easy find which words. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you can't find the words to explain to him what you don't like? 

LIN LAN:  Okay, you keep going and when you fall, I'm the one to tell you now.  Yes, so sometimes language hard is good because you want angry, you wouldn't choose the word to talking. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So when you get angry you can't find the words and you can't get angry? 

LIN LAN:  Yeah.

 

VIDEO PLAYED.

 

LINONG:   Careful my flower.

TREVOR: The house has been sold and so we've got to have everything packed up and out of here.  Then we are going travelling around Australia with the caravan and doing the tourist thing until whenever.

Linong, you're helping me change this one, quick, quick. 

LINONG:  Okay, I’m coming. 

TREVOR:  I've had two major surgical procedures late last year.  I had colorectal cancer removal which means that I don't have a bottom any more. 

LINONG:  Okay, you ready? 

TREVOR:  It's been very stressful for Linong but we are still together. 

LINONG:  Maybe thinking too worried, like worry, you don't worry, maybe slowly, slowly think maybe all is okay. 

TREVOR:  I could not have found a better person to help me through this journey. 

LINONG:  We together, happy more time, I think very good.

Too much rubbish? 

TREVOR:  Once we pack the house up then we can start on a new adventure which is what I'm hoping for. 

LINONG:  Oh, too heavy. 

TREVOR:  Are you okay? 

LINONG:  I okay, are you okay? 

TREVOR:  I okay. 

END OF VIDEO. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Trevor, you only got your cancer diagnosis last year, sort of towards the end of last year. How long had you and Linong been married when you found out? 

TREVOR:  Oh, well five years, I guess. I guess cancer is always a shock to anyone. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How are you now? 

TREVOR:  I'm fine. I'm well within myself. They have told me I'm cancer free, it's not in writing, they have told me I'm cancer free. But there's one little issue that, that's why I'm fidgety in this chair because I've one little area that won't heal.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how are you feeling within yourself? 

TREVOR:  I feel good in myself, I just wish this pain would go away. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you've had a huge change to your life, haven't you, in a very short time? 

TREVOR:  Two major surgeries, one in the end of October and one in the end of November.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And why are you moving out of your house? 

TREVOR:  Oh, well, there's no work so at my age and no work and no money coming in, so I had to sell the retirement home.  That was our retirement home.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So where are you going to live? 

TREVOR:  We're going to travel, we're travelling, we're going to be grey…

JENNY BROCKIE:  Grey nomads? 

TREVOR:  We're going to be grey nomads. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And Linong, how do you feel about that? This must have been a big shock for you too, yeah? 

LINONG (Through interpreter):  As we are sick and old there is no need for us to keep the property, so I said let’s sell the property and travel. Now he is thinking like that and I don’t want to do it anymore. I think he will feel very tired.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What has it been like for you? You know, Trevor getting ill and such a big change to your life as well? 

LINONG (Through interpreter):  I don't know, I just want him to be well and happy. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And Trevor, you've said that you feel guilty. Why do you feel guilty? 

TREVOR:  I feel I've let her down. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  But you haven't. But you haven't. 

TREVOR:  I feel I have. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Yeah, but things like this strike people any, you know, can strike people at any time. 

TREVOR:  I used to be a strong man, I'm not now. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You're probably a lot stronger than you give yourself credit for.  

TREVOR:  I feel as though my strength has gone and I feel as though now is the time to smell the roses and …

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what do you want from this stage in your life now, the two of you? 

TREVOR:  Happy, happy, happy, happy, we always wanted happy but unfortunately our society dictates that we must earn to make money to pay the mortgage or buy the retirement home, or whatever it is that we're doing. So okay, thing have changed for us now so let's not do that, let's do it another way. It's very hard to, translate that or to convey that to Linong but I think she's, I think she's getting better with the idea. It might feel to her like she's going to move to another country again because she's made friends where we are. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Where you are? 

TREVOR:  Where we are.  Okay, if you make friends you've always got those friends and it just means you can't see them every day. So the other side of the coin is well, you can go and make some new ones, so, but…

JENNY BROCKIE:  And do you both have good family support? 

TREVOR:  Um, yes, my, all my family is in South Australia. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And Linong, what about your family? 

LINONG:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Are you in regular contact with them? 

LINONG:  Yeah, every day. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Every day? 

LINONG:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Lin Lan, how do you see your future now? 

LIN LAN:  Now I heard their story, it’s a very serious story but…what I saw is they both… love each other more and more.  Enjoy now is important, loving each other, that’s very important. What happened for the next second we didn't know, but now is important. And for me I need more and more care for George. He is not only my husband, we're Christian, he is like my brother, my sister too. So I learning more patience. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And George, for you? 

GEORGE:  I see the future, yeah, well I'll always keep working. Together, to utilise the skills that she has, sales and marketing and management, areas that I probably lack in to a degree. But I think once Lin Lan has English under control then the world is open to her to develop.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And Barrie and Mei, how do you see your futures? 

BARRIE:  Oh, very good. Yeah, we're fairly compatible and happy and yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What about you Mei?

MEI (Through interpreter):   We are quite happy at the moment and haven’t thought about our future We’ll play it by ear. He is quite healthy, he drives me to and from work.  I’m grateful to him. Regarding what will happen in the future, we just don’t talk about it. We live our life happily every day and don’t want to worry about the future.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Thank you all so much for sharing so much of your lives with us tonight. It's been really good to talk to you all, thank you very, very much, and that is all we have time for here but let's keep talking on Twitter and on Facebook. Thanks everyone, thank you so much.