The Pham family recently moved to Wake Forest after living in Vietnam their whole lives. While they believe the change has been for the better, it has not been without hardship.
“The immigration process, called EB-5 was very long. They called for foreign investors to invest in a project called The Manhattan Project. The aim of the project was to build the Hudson Towers in New York to create more jobs for Americans. The required investment had to be at least $500,000. At first my parents were concerned that we would not have enough money to move, invest,” Linh Lan said. “But then one day my parents got the news that a piece of land that they’d bought ten years before was now held for $500,000. They sold it immediately.”
In their search for a new life in America, the family was forced to leave many of the people behind.
“We miss our house, our friends, our relatives and our cousins especially,” Linh Cuc and Linh Mai said.
The children had to prepare to be ready for the types of classes and expectations of American teachers.
“Back in Vietnam we had to stop going to school and study at grade 11 and used the whole summer to prepare to go to the USA. There is an English teacher who helped us study English and prepare for the SAT. He left an impact on me because he understood how hard it was to learn English and was always very nice,” Linh Truc said.
The move ushered in cultural changes, along with practical needs.
“It was rough at first because my mom had to get her drivers license, social security number, and settle down everything to create the best living for the four of us. In Vietnam, it’s not common for people to bump into each other and apologize afterwards, and it’s not common for people there to hold the door for others either. It’s hard for some of us to try and adapt to a different culture. It takes mistakes to learn a new culture. Of course initially it was interesting and exciting for us, but things became boring as we got used to it,” Linh Lan said.
Linh Lan also embraces fully one aspect of American culture.
“I like the American way better. In Vietnam, we don’t really have freedom of speech. As a very stubborn and opinionated person, I like to voice my thoughts and say hey, that is wrong without being, like, hauled into jail. Yes, that’s happened in Vietnam but not to me. I also like hugging, even if I’m hugging a stranger, which is something most Vietnamese would be weirded out by,” Linh Lan said.
Linh Cuc and Linh Mai enjoy many things about America, but one especially.
“We like the weather. In Vietnam it is really hot. We really want to see snow. People here are very friendly,” Linh Cuc and Linh Mai said. “Living in America it is very convenient, like just going to the supermarket is a lot easier because before we had to go a long way to get food. Traffic is also a lot better here. In Vietnam it is very crowded.”
Snow was also a welcome delight.
“It was awesome, snow was so soft, and it was our first time seeing snow. I feel like when it snows it’s not as cold as when there’s no snow. We expected it to be a lot softer. The first time we saw it, we were screaming and it was really fun.”
Now that the family calls America home and they are living the American life first hand, the day to day country feels a little different for Linh Lan than when America was looked at from afar as a hopeful destination.
“Vietnamese view America as this land of promises and fortunes. Only the Vietnamese who come here know what America is really like. It’s not as easy here as many domestic Vietnamese people would think. If you asked a lot of Vietnamese people what country they would like to move to, they would probably say America,” Linh Lan said.
Linh Truc witnessed one difference.
“In Vietnam we are not allowed to choose subjects. There’s no freedom for studying in Vietnam,” Linh Truc said.
As the Phams become comfortable in an American high school, they acknowledge some differences between U.S. and Vietnamese schools.
Linh Lan really notices a change in the way students behave here compared to in Vietnam.
“I’ve been blown away by the culture shock of students vaping in class. There is a huge difference between Vietnamese students and American students. As far as I’ve seen, many American students prefer to hang out in cliques, and won’t try to make new friends. The etiquette in class is also very different between the two countries. I suppose it’s the way teachers carry out discipline for students, but a lot of students here feel like they can do whatever they want in class. ” Linh Lan said.
Yet the Phams are gaining friends and assimilating.
Linh Cuc and Linh Mai said, “Our social interactions are awesome. It’s getting better and better.”