Cultural Spotlight [Part I]

Junior Visits Vietnam to Celebrate his Family’s Culture


Provided by Thinh Nguyen

Thinh Nguyen and his family walk over a bridge in Vietnam. This is the third time Nguyen has gone to Vietnam to visit his family and friends.

John Park, Managing Editor of News and Feature

The sounds of laughter and the smell of food fills the air as trays of Pho, Banh Xeo and Banh Mi are passed around the table throughout the night. Nights like these are what junior Thinh Nguyen looks forward to almost every week with his Vietnamese friends and family.

Nguyen recently visited Vietnam over the summer with his brother Vuong and other close family members. The main reason for their visit was to attend a special event, but they also visited family and went to different locations around Vietnam.

“This past summer [we] went to one of my cousin’s wedding,” Nguyen said. “We stayed there for a month, and it was a really great experience.”

Nguyen has been to Vietnam three different times throughout his life. His mother’s side of the family all still lives in Vietnam, while his dad’s side of the family has almost entirely moved to America.

“During the Vietnam War, [many] political changes happened and a lot of things changed,” Nguyen said. “My dad’s side of the family moved to America in search of opportunity and freedom, [but] my mom’s side of the family didn’t really have that much of a problem with the political changes, so they stayed in Vietnam.”

The first time Nguyen visited Vietnam was when he was about three. He stayed there for about a year and a half while his parents got settled in America.

“When we moved here to America, we left everything behind in Vietnam, so my parents didn’t have much money. They immediately started to work,” Nguyen said. “Working and taking care of two babies [at the same time] wasn’t working out for them, so for the time being they sent us to Vietnam so that they could work and get some money to establish a home for us.”

While he and his brother stayed in Vietnam, they attended daycare and began to learn the basics of Vietnamese. Their parents taught them the rest of the Vietnamese they speak today.

“When I started preschool in North Carolina was when I was first introduced to English,” Nguyen said. “Coincidentally, [the school] had a Vietnamese translator that taught us English, [but] as time has progressed I’ve learned a lot more English and forgotten some Vietnamese. I am slowly trying to regain that fluid Vietnamese back.”

Nguyen’s parents have tried to make sure that both he and his brother keep their knowledge of their culture and their language and other Vietnamese traditions and values.

“There was a point in time when I started forgetting some basic Vietnamese words, and it was super frightening for my parents, so they spent a whole summer trying to reteach me Vietnamese,” Nguyen said. “I hated it at the time, but now, I look back and appreciate it because when I came back to Vietnam I was able to speak Vietnamese more clearly and understand more.”

While they have been in America, Nguyen and his family have established their own Vietnamese community in and around Lindale. A lot of the people have been connected with through Facebook and other social media.

“We have gotten many people to come to Lindale to work for [our] nail salon, and it’s kind of like our own small little Vietnamese community in Lindale,” Nguyen said. “During times of holidays that we would have in Vietnam, [everyone] comes over and we have a big feast. It’s kind of like Vietnamese’s Thanksgiving. Everyone’s eating together, they’re passing around food, and it’s just a really great time.”