An interesting story at BBC’s Magazine:
Wives wanted in the Faroe Islands
There’s a shortage of women in the Faroe Islands. So local men are increasingly seeking wives from further afield – Thailand and the Philippines in particular.
There are now more than 300 women from Thailand and Philippines living in the Faroes. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but in a population of just 50,000 people they now make up the largest ethnic minority in these 18 islands, located between Norway and Iceland.
In recent years the Faroes have experienced population decline, with young people leaving, often in search of education, and not returning. Women have proved more likely to settle abroad. As a result, according to Prime Minister Axel Johannesen, the Faroes have a “gender deficit” with approximately 2,000 fewer women than men.
This, in turn, has lead Faroese men to look beyond the islands for romance. Many, though not all, of the Asian women met their husbands online, some through commercial dating websites. Others have made connections through social media networks or existing Asian-Faroese couples.
For the new arrivals, the culture shock can be dramatic.
“When our son Jacob was a baby, I was at home all day with no-one to talk to,” she says.
“The other villagers are older people and mostly don’t speak English. People our age were out at work and there were no children for Jacob to play with. I was really alone. When you stay at home here, you really stay at home. I can say I was depressed. But I knew it would be like that for two or three years.”
Then, when Jacob started kindergarten, she began working in catering and met other Thai women.
“That was important because it gave me a network. And it gave me a taste of home again.”
Krongrak Jokladal felt isolated at first, too, when she arrived from Thailand. Her husband Trondur is a sailor and works away from home for several months at a time.
She started her own Thai massage salon in the centre of Torshavn. “You can’t work regular hours with a baby, and although my parents-in-law help out with childcare, running the business myself means I can choose my hours,” she says.
It’s a far cry from Krongrak’s previous job as head of an accountancy division in Thai local government.
Thai massage salon? Hmmm…
Kristjan Arnason recalls the effort his Thai wife Bunlom, who arrived in the Faroes in 2002, put into learning the language.
“After a long day at work she would sit reading the English-Faeroese dictionary,” he says. “She was extraordinarily dedicated.”
“I was lucky,” Bunlom adds. “I told Kristjan that if I was moving here he had to find me a job. And he did, and I was working with Faeroese people in a hotel so I had to learn how to talk to them.”
So, these Asian brides them yellow-fever men sought are manifestly NOT becoming homemakers, but are working outside the home… Not so traditional, then…
But Antonette Egholm, originally from the Philippines, hasn’t encountered any anti-immigrant sentiment. I met her and her husband as they moved into a new flat in Torshavn.
“People here are friendly, she explains, “and I’ve never experienced any negative reactions to my being a foreigner. I lived in metro Manila and there we worried about traffic and pollution and crime. Here we don’t need to worry about locking the house, and things like healthcare and education are free. At home we have to pay. And here you can just call spontaneously at someone’s house, it’s not formal. For me, it feels like the Philippines in that way.”
“We actually need fresh blood here,” he adds, “I like seeing so many children now who have mixed parentage. Our gene pool is very restricted, and it’s got to be a good thing that we welcome outsiders who can have families.”
He acknowledges that he’s had occasional ribbing from some male friends who jokingly ask if he pressed “enter” on his computer to order a wife. But he denies he and Antonette have encountered any serious prejudice as a result of their relationship.
Well, isn’t that what he did? Got himself an email-order bride? Why wouldn’t he get teased thus?
“Look,” she says, as we step into the garden overlooking the fjord. “Jacob plays next to the beach. He is surrounded by hills covered in sheep and exposed to nature. And his grandparents live just up the road. There is no pollution and no crime. Not many kids have that these days. This could be the last paradise on earth.”
Easy to see the appeal of an isolated first world land to the Thai and Filipina newcomers; easy to see the appeal of any women, particularly mostly apparently grateful ones, to lonely local men with decreased options since their own women have left them, no doubt seeking more alpha men abroad (and work, not being traditionalist).
But while currently only 0.6% of the population, that’s sure to grow.
And no doubt, for good and/or ill, they will change the Faroe Islands.