I’ve been told a lot that I sound just like an American and look like I’ve lived here all my life. So when I tell people I am from Vietnam they look at me very weirdly. “Like no way! How can you be from Vietnam your English is so good!”
I truly believe that because of the way that I talk, look and carry myself, that people assume that I am an American born and raised here.
But deep down inside it’s the opposite.
I feel like an alien in a new planet. At times I feel like I belong here and at times I don’t.
Los Angeles is fascinating because within this big city there are micro-communities. It’s kind of cool. When you step foot in the tiny communities or areas like Venice, DTLA etc. you feel like you are entering a new world. That’s why I love living here because there’s a bit of everything and no one is truly from Los Angeles. Most people who live here are from other parts of America who come to LA for work.
When I meet Americans for the first time, I have no idea what to tell them in terms of where I am from. Should I tell them the whole story of me going to school in New York then dropping out then relocating to California? Should I tell them I moved from San Jose to LA? Or should I just tell them I am from LA? But that makes no sense because I did not grow up here. In the end I usually just tell them I am from Vietnam but then I kind of have to tell them a bit of a back story of how I ended up in Los Angeles.
Being Vietnamese in Los Angeles = I feel like I am in my own American movie.
Because every corner that I turn to looks like a road or house I’ve seen in an American movie growing up. It’s funny because I remember watching those movies and wanting to live in America and now my whole life is here.
I still cannot believe I am in America. I miss the noise of the xe oms and street vendors back in Vietnam. Those sounds are the sounds of my childhood. It almost feels like yesterday when my mother picked me up from school on her black vespa motorbike. I can even picture vividly what she was wearing and how she would always carry an umbrella because she was scared of the sun. I’ll never forget the supermarket across the street of my high school that sold all these delicious oreo cheesecakes that I would buy right after school. The owners of that cute store were Malaysian and they always had the best food. Oh and I can’t forget about the Vietnamese fish meatballs called ca vien chien! Oh those were so good. This is all bringing back memories of growing up in Ho Chi Minh City.
Just thinking about the sound of xe oms already makes me think of so many things from my childhood.
You know sometimes I look outside my balcony and envision the xe oms and Vietnamese street vendors outside my home, pretending that I am in Vietnam. I play some Vietnamese pop music like Son Tung MTP and Binz and immediately I am transported back home. Also google maps helps a lot with my visualization. I just place the yellow man on the road where my family lives in Vietnam and just like that I am home for the day. No flight needed, no ticket no cost! It’s always fun to be in touch with my Vietnamese side. I have to remind myself how lucky I was to be brought up abroad and how I would never want to change a thing about it. I don’t think my childhood would have been as fun and diverse had I grown up in America.
I worry about this kind of thing and worry if my kids will be too westernized. Maybe I should move back to Asia so that they could have the same upbringing that I did. I think about this a lot.
One of the biggest culture shock coming here was the highways packed with cars bumper to bumper. Los Angeles traffic is 24/7. It does not matter if you are driving at 5am or even in a pandemic, the highways are still packed at all hours. Just seeing all the cars when I drive here makes me miss the Xe Oms back in Vietnam. All the motorbike drivers in Vietnam are quirky and have a personality. Here you can’t see the person, you just see the car. And that’s what I miss most about Vietnam. There are less cars in Vietnam and more motorbikes. I love it! It’s always fun going out in Vietnam because you are always seeing new people each day. America is a routine.
I am so sick of driving in Los Angeles and seeing cars everywhere. As someone who grew up surrounded by Xe Oms at every street and corner, you have no idea how much I miss seeing a motorbike. Seeing people on a motorbike in Los Angeles is rare. Hehe that’s why I posted a photo of me on the blue vespa.What do you guys think of it? I like the color of the vespa but it was small for me. Maybe because I was wearing heels that day.
For some reason I feel lonely when I drive on the highways here in LA. I just feel small and the highways here are so big with so many lanes. In vietnam the lanes are a lot smaller. Haha I’ll never forget the sight of my driver and father trying to squeeze the car in the small lane along with the motorbikes. I miss seeing that.
I like living in Los Angeles because I know I have a myriad of opportunities here compared to Vietnam. But at the same time there is this longing to be back home. I cannot believe I left home when I was 18 and came to this country thinking it would only be temporary. I remember how much I hated living and going to school in New York. I just thought that college was something I had to just “do” to get by and then go back to Vietnam and work.
And now I ended up living here longer than I thought. I think it’s a good thing that I am here in America.
A lot of growth here for me, mentally, physically and emotionally.
I think with the recent issues on race people in America are starting to become more open and empathetic to foreigners and immigrants.
I am so glad that there is a shift. I remember back in 2017 when I told people I was from Vietnam no one had a clue where I was from. There was complete silence in the room every time I introduced myself on the first day of college.But now things are changing. People in America seem to be open and wanting to travel outside of America more.
It’s refreshing to meet an American that knows a thing or two about Vietnam. That always makes me smile. And I love it when Americans talk about Vietnamese food and wanting to travel to Saigon.
Being Vietnamese in Los Angeles can be hard at times but I always try to make the best out of it. I blog, I read, I write and call my parents and my grandma when I miss home. I also connect with other Vietnamese friends who live abroad and we always find so much in common which makes me feel less alone.
If you are Vietnamese living alone and abroad I just want to tell you that you will be okay. It is difficult to adjust to a new country and make new friends. At times you will feel lonely and sad but I am confident that overtime you can overcome anything if you set your mind to it.
Whether you are studying in England, America, Australia, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Canada or anywhere! Just know that all the sacrifices you had to give up for an education abroad is not a waste. It will be worth in the end. Why? Because studying abroad makes you GROW. Staying in Vietnam well….I”ll let you decide on that.
You are so much stronger than you think. And if you think that you need money to be where I am, well I disagree.
I think you can do a lot with what you have been given. Don’t ever blame your family for the situation you are in. You can always start by working at a restaurant, retail or any job you can find. My first job was a hostess and waitress at this Sushi restaurant at Stamford, CT. The owner was Chinese and she was very sweet to me. I think that period of time when my parents weren’t doing financially well made me grow a lot and forced me to get out of my comfort zone. I look back at those times and feel proud of myself. I worked at sushi restaurant, went to community college during the day and worked at Zara in Greenwich CT on the weekends 🙂 I still don’t know how I did it.
So if you are reading this and your family is going through some financial problems with money. First of all, don’t be ashamed and don’t hate your parents. If you can, I encourage you to work. That would alleviate some burden and stress for your parents. I’ll have to share with you more on how I dealt with my family’s financial problems in my next blog post. I carried so much shame for so many years and tried to make my social media look rich and perfect.
I just feel sad that I felt that way. That’s the one thing I dislike about Asian values. That in order to be happy you have to look rich, successful and perfect. Well that’s not true at all!
That is a myth.
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post. I laughed a lot while writing because I was thinking a lot about my childhood memories growing up in District 2 Thao Dien. I can’t wait to travel back home again and give my grandma a big hug! I miss her.
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Goodnight from Los Angeles