Over the years many Singaporeans have lived in Cambodia and married a local spouse. By and large their marriages are successful, with a happiness in family life that often spreads into every other realm of life.
Andrew Tay is Singaporean. He is the director of Himawari Hotel Apartments in Phnom Penh, and his Cambodian wife, Lim Alicia, also works there. They are a poster couple for cross-cultural marriages. They sat down for a special interview with the Post to talk about their lives and the blossoming of their love.
They both say their “love comes from a very special diplomatic arrangement”.
Tay recalled getting a phone call in 2008 from the Cambodian Embassy in Singapore to discuss and sponsor a Cambodia Independence Day event, to drum up interest of national and international guests living in the city-state.
“After I signed on, I often went to the Cambodian Embassy to offer ideas, support, sponsorship and to fulfil obligations for Cambodia Independence Day,” he said.
Alicia said that when the Cambodian ambassador to Singapore held the event on Cambodia Independence Day on November 9, 2008, she was a scholarship student in Singapore.
“I volunteered to help prepare the event in the name of assistant to the event committee [chaired by Her Excellency Sin Serey, Cambodian ambassador to Singapore],” she said.
She said during the events, Tay and she “got to know one another as a working group and sponsor and we met while having a meeting, and then we were performing our duties for the event in the differences field”.
The event was very successful for Cambodia, with many diplomatic guests in attendance. Visitors from major countries praised it for helping them get to know more about Cambodia, according to the couple.
But for love to bloom, it took the steady hand of a seasoned diplomat to get them together.
“When I saw her, I was interested in her right away, but I did not approach her at the time,” Tay said. “One day the ambassador wanted to know whether or not I was single or married” so that she could advise me to court her in the proper way.
“Later on, Alicia’s godparents persuaded her to get in touch with me, and we began our relationship through text messages to one another, and we got together sometimes,” Tay said.
“We soon started getting to know each other better, and we our relationship grew even stronger.”
“At the beginning, the ambassador played a very important role,” Alicia said, gently interrupting.
“One time she prepared lunch for me and other Cambodian women studying in Singapore. At the lunch, the ambassador hinted to all of us that we would be lucky to marry him.”
Eventually the relationship was ready for that final step, and the two got married. Twice, in fact. The first one was held in Singapore and the second one was held in Phnom Penh at the end of 2010.
“The [Cambodian] wedding day was one of the greatest days of my life,” Tay said.
“We dressed in many styles [such as a prince and princess] in accordance with Cambodian culture. We were damn busy from dawn to dusk and lots of relatives and guests came to join it. It was a great day and also a bit of a tiring day for me.”
Today, they have two children – one boy and one girl – and they live happily (ever after, perhaps?) in Phnom Penh.