Asian Squad

One of the things I always had problems with was getting along with fellow Vietnamese. At some point I actually hated them. It's hard to name the main reason, so I'll try to talk around it instead. We start with the context. Many Vietnamese (at least the ones I know) came to the Czech Republic from Russia after the split of Czechoslovakia, because it was relatively easy to slip though the borders. They mostly had a similar background - not particularly educated, but with a ruthless (they are fucking brutal  and will stop at nothing to succeed) business sense and a desire for financial security. The main income was selling fake  brand clothes at the market, smuggling other Vietnamese and tax evasion. My parents sold vegetables and fruit, which was at the time kinda good (after 10 years, we had our own flat, even though we came with 1000$), but could not compare to clothes. As a comparison, there was a family who lives next to us that arrived at the same time with the same amount of money. They now have their second BMW while we could barely afford our used VW.

Now this might be  gross  generalization (similar to  "all  computer scientists  have aspergers") and I  will say  this mostly applies to the community centered around the sapa marketplace in Prague and people we met there during the last 15 years.

I think my main beef was actually their education. Some of them were from Vietnamese villages (actual peasants) brought by their more established relatives. I mean you can have a good heart , not all people are the same  and shit, but some mannerism were borderline unacceptable. They were the most judgmental (would constantly compare their children and try to oneup each other with their childrens achievements, though I was mostly safe there), smug(at some point THEY got mad for being caught doing something wrong) and plain manipulative people I have ever seen. Their children were not particularly better and I had really few Vietnamese friends (Those I did consider very good and close friends, however). My mother taught medicine at a University in Hanoi so there was a certain rift between us and "the community". I disliked them because I considered the way they made money wrong and, bluntly said, sometimes I thought they were stupid.  (Altough most Vietnamese excelled  at  highschool, they soon stopped giving a fuck  after the first semester of university and ended up  doing economics and then working at their parents shop) They disliked me because I was awkward and we were dirt poor. Money was an actual tangible reason.

Times changed and marketplaces lost their popularity. Thus some Vietnamese moved into actual shops, others switched to doing nails (I think almost every nail shop I have seen is Vietnamese) and a couple started making grocery stores with extended selling times (so called večerky), those were insanely popular due to convenience and competitive pricing. Few Czechs could compete with "our" work ethic which included working until 22 in the evening. It also required a certain cunning to make it more profitable, such as buying discounted items in bulk in supermarkets.  (mostly really early in the morning too, there was a running joke that  seniors can't afford food because the Vietnamese would buy all the discounted wares) They usually had a item limit, which the  Vietnamese circumvented by bringing along their children and switching cashiers. They even told each other which cashiers were "nice" and let them buy  more. Everybody knew they did it and I also had to do it a couple of times. I hated it. I felt ashamed everytime I had to go, because I would also shop for my own food there. But you can't really reject the way your parents make money and live with them at the same time, so I went along with it. It was a constant struggle though, It felt two-faced when you judged  others for being  POS but then doing the same. You could argue that the reasoning  for doing so was different but I  used to think that wrongness  was boolean.

 I also had to work at our shops, which I found honorable and thus something completely okay. I acquired a certain skillset which I later used in Germany as Tutor, making mad cash for the dorm.
. But I always disliked the shady parts. I wish I stayed ignorant of those.

So this is why I don't particularly like my Vietnamese heritage. While the stereotypes included "hardworking", "good customer service", "friendly", I only saw the bad parts, such as "evades tax", " cheats" or "rips people off". It drove me insane. I tried working doubly hard on being honorable/competent /good just to prove those wrong, but it seemed forced to some people.

I still desperately wanted to actually meet other Vietnamese, despite my combination of self-hatred and shame. And I did. Slowly. Awkwardly. And it was amazing.


We first presented Vietnam together, something  I  got approached by the international  student office

 Selling Banh mi at the Campus
 Me in a traditional vietnamese dress, with sneakers and a fanny pack. The ultimate Czech-Vietnamese fusion
I didn't see any VN university students in my uni (it seems I was the only one in the whole year) so it was a pleasant surprise. Well educated, normal, fun people. Amazing! They accepted me right away and we hung out despite my rather limited conversational skills. I must say that Erasmus did ease my prejudices a lot and made less angry at other people.

 Hotpot

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