Coming to a better life in America: Vietnamese Immigrants in the United States. Part 4: Encouraging Understanding

Thứ Tư, 22 Tháng Mười 201400:00(Xem: 13716)
Coming to a better life in America: Vietnamese Immigrants in the United States. Part 4: Encouraging Understanding
Recently, we’ve been talking about the differences in culture between the younger immigrant and their sponsors, and how this can sometimes create misunderstanding.

In fact, there are three different cultural parts that need to be considered:

-The way that younger immigrants think after being raised in post-war Vietnam
-The way that older sponsor think after experiencing the war
-The way that Americans think, compared to both younger and older Vietnamese.

When American youths turn 18 or 20, they want to be independent and their parents encourage this. When Vietnamese youths reach that age and after they finish college, they want to move back home to help their parents.

· An American youth who does not feel gratitude towards his parents may say, “I did not choose to be born”. 
· Most youths who are raised with Vietnamese values would say, “I am grateful to my parents for raising me and I want to pay them back for everything they’ve done for me”.
· Many Vietnamese Buddhist youths would add, “I also owe my parents a lot for giving birth to me so that in this life I can make progress towards gaining enlightenment and ending the birth/death cycle.

What are the ties that bind a Vietnamese family together? They are Love, and a shared belief system, and, in some ways, poverty. If you are Vietnamese, you don’t leave home at 18 just because you have reached 18. You live with your family until you're married and even then you might not have enough money to buy a house for yourself and your spouse. So you create a three-generational family and to do so you must learn to suppress your individualism. You cannot get everything you want because you have to share resources to survive. You learn to live well together and you learn to suppress your own desire. You learn to sacrifice a lot to live in harmony with a large family. But in return, what you get is a kind of comfort that many Americans don't have. You know you'll never be alone. You know that you will be taken care of no matter what. You make that kind of promise to each other. You make that kind of promise to your ancestors' spirit. When you break away from all that, you are seen as selfish or unfilial, and of course, anti-Confucian.

Vietnamese elders tend to keep their thoughts and memories to themselves because some of these memories may be very painful. But it is the responsibility of the older generation is to let the new immigrants know about life in re-education camps, boat peoples' experiences and adjustment to American life in the 1980’s and 1990’s. In that way, the elders’ lives and their struggles are accessible to the new generation, and the new generation can understand better why and how all of the Vietnamese have reached America.

Americans rarely teach their children the value of becoming successful for the sake of future generations, while Vietnamese always consider their ancestors and how to make life better for their descendants.

Thus, it may be extremely difficult, often stressful, for the younger new immigrants to try to behave correctly according to Vietnamese teachings, but at the same time be successful in integrating into American culture. This is something that an older generation may forget, but something that is a very real, very daily challenge to many new immigrants. 

The older generation must keep this in mind, and not allow it to cause discord between the generations.

Vietnamese elders expect younger people to do what they are told, without asking why, but the American culture says everything should be discussed and some agreement should be reached.

Maintaining Vietnamese traditions is a major concern in most Vietnamese American communities and adult Vietnamese Americans often worry that their children may be losing distinctive cultural characteristics. Unfortunately, this may be true, at least partially true. Some things will be lost but with mutual understanding and a consensus of ideas, there is a chance for the vital elements of the Vietnamese culture to survive.

Many older Vietnamese suffer from the strains of war and exile. Younger Vietnamese, sometimes find themselves trying to satisfy two cultures, so they may be confused by the expectations of their parents compared to the expectations of American society.

When younger immigrants or young Vietnamese born in America adopt the mannerisms and cultural traits of young Americans, this may lead to inter-generational conflict, and to complaints by older people that the younger people are "disrespectful."

The relationship between Vietnam and the United States is the major political issue for most Vietnamese Americans, and it is a highly divisive one. Some Vietnamese Americans favor closer relations to Vietnam, feeling that this will lead to greater prosperity for their parent country and contribute to its liberalization. Others strongly oppose any relations between the United States and Vietnam, in the belief that any relations between the two countries help to support the current socialist Vietnamese government.

It must be accepted that immigrants who were born and raised in Vietnam after 1975 have only seen one Vietnamese flag, the one with the gold star on a red background. They need to be in America for some time before they can understand why the red-striped yellow flag is so treasured by their elders.

Q1: There are rumors circulating around the Vietnamese community that sponsors have received funds reimbursed from the US government for sponsoring a relative from Vietnam. Is this true?
A.1. It is absolutely false. Long ago, when a lot of refugees came from Vietnam, the government provided some financial assistance directly to the refugees while they settled in to their new lives. Sponsors have never received any money from the government for refugee or immigrant relatives coming to the US.

Q2: Would the new comers be put in a rental house when they set foot on the US soil? Or is it better for them to live with the sponsor to save money before moving out?
A.2. Even very simple aspects of life in America can be puzzling to new arrivals. They should be staying with the sponsors until they have a chance to master the way things are done in daily life in America.

Q3: How to transfer funds from Vietnam to the US under the Vietnamese immigration law? And how to legalize the transferred money with the US government?
A.3. This question has come up frequently and the answer depends on which bank is used for transfers. There is no standard procedure in Vietnam. The main point is that there must be a clear paper trail showing that the money was obtained legally through business or property sale, and the money must be transferred by a reputable financial institution.

Immigration Support Services - Tham Van Di Tru 

9070 Bolsa Ave., Westminster CA 92683 (714) 890-9933
779 Story Road, Ste. 70, San Jose, CA 95122 (408) 294-3888
6930 65th St. Ste. #105, Sacramento CA 95823 (916) 393-3388
Rang Mi - 47 Phung Khac Khoan, Q1, HCMC (848) 3914-7638

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