Overseas Vietnamese try life in a land they once knew

July 15, 2006

 
08:06′ 15/07/2006 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet – More and more overseas Vietnamese (viet kieu) are coming back to live in Vietnam. But settling down means adapting to life in a culture that they haven’t called home in a long time.

 

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Le Trinh (middle) and her friends

Moving to America with her family when she was just child, Jacqueline Trinh’s memories of Vietnam are vague. To her, it was so far away, although she was asked to speak only Vietnamese to her parents and siblings back in the US. Vietnam in her imagination was a poor country, but she finally made the decision, initially just an experiment, to come back. As soon as she arrived at the airport, she says, she felt something of the home she once knew.

 

During the first trip, Trinh spent a lot of time visiting museums and relatives, and sometimes just walking along the streets of Saigon. All these things have helped her to understand more about living in Vietnam and the lifestyle. She then decided to settle there, a big change that required revisiting memories of the city form her childhood.

 

“Growing up in America, I was accustomed to American lifestyle, speaking English all day, eating Western food. Coming back here I had to change a lot, such as ‘scanty’ or low-necked clothes are put in mothballs, trying to speak Vietnamese colloquially, learning how to drive a scooter and so on. All of these things have helped me to adapt myself better,” Trinh recalled.

 

She is now director of Babi Company Ltd, running advertising campaigns and organising performances. She has organized many free performances for charity.

 

Elvis Phuong is a famous singer among overseas Vietnamese. Phuong and his wife, Le Hoa, decided to move to Saigon in 2001. “Though having better living condition in other countries, I still prefer to live here. Even if it is not a rich country or not as developed as others, it is my country,” he said. Now the couple live in a small house and every night they are busy singing to audiences.

 

Life for Dr Nguyen Chanh Khe in Japan and America was not as hard as it was for other Vietnamese. Khe used to work in the most modern research centres where he was provided with good working conditions. But he all that behind to work in a ten-by-ten metre office at the HCM City Centre for Hi-Tech Research and Development. The space isn’t large enough for his research documents and bottles full of materials.

 

After a long time living and working in other countries Khe says it is interesting to live an everyday life in Vietnam, eating Vietnamese food and speaking Vietnamese. His daily routine includes getting up early and exercising or going out to buy some flowers for the house. He says he has adapted the habit of going to market everyday. Ben Thanh Market, Ba Chieu market and many others are places Khe usually stops by. “It is wonderful seeing all the fishes like Ca Loc, Ca Tre and many more wriggling. In the US I could only see these fishes frozen,” Khe said.

 

Like a person who has been away from home for a long time, Khe has tried to visit many places in the Southern countryside, taking photos of the landscape in places he used to visit before leaving Vietnam.

 

According to Mr Nguyen Chon Trung, Chairman of the HCM City Committee on overseas Vietnamese, the number of people ‘repatriating’ is increasing. Most of them accept the more difficult conditions. The daily life here may be familiar to older overseas Vietnamese but totally new for many second generation viet kieu. Re-adopting old habits for the older crowd, and picking up new habits for the younger, though, still seem to be very interesting for many.

 

(Source: NLD)

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