We The People – Van’s Story

For our fourth installment of immigration stories, we’re sharing a story from Vietnamese interpreter Van. Van’s story is honest and very relatable, and she brings up an excellent question: Why doesn’t the U.S. use the metric system? Thanks to Van for sharing her story with us!

The moment I sat down to write my story to share with you marked one year and four months of me living in the U.S. I liked Helen’s story a lot, and I probably don’t have as many positive experiences as her. Perhaps if I hadn’t studied abroad in Lithuania and traveled around Europe, I would still think the U.S. is heaven, as many Vietnamese people still do.

I got to the U.S. thanks to my mom who worked tirelessly to sponsor me here. I waited six years and seven months for the legal paperwork. There’s not much to say about it, except that it’s a lengthy and costly process. I worked as soon as I got to Dallas. I worked for a few days in my cousin’s nail salon (of course). My cousin soon shattered my dream about the “promised land” (which never existed) by saying, “You think money falls from the sky? Our aunts and uncles in Vietnam think we must be really rich, but in reality, we work our arses off. We work very hard here to put food on the table. If you work hard, you’ll be rich soon.”

Fast forward to August 2017. I ended up in Arizona. I don’t want to overwhelm you with my story, nor do I have much to write. Long story short, after one year here, there are two things I still can’t get used to (many of you probably won’t like what I have to say): the tipping culture and the imperial system. As for the tipping culture, it was never a MUST at restaurants where I went to in other countries. If you gave a tip, they were grateful. If you didn’t, they were not going to bring it to social media and trash talk you. I read a story about some high school girls who did not have enough change to tip the waiter. They felt bad and came back to give a tip with an apology. They got praised like some kind of living saint. I was even judged for expressing my opinion about tipping culture. About the imperial system, I can’t get a sense of how hot 100°F is, how long 5 inches is, etc., and I always convert measurements to the metric system.

Even though the U.S. is not heaven or the greatest country in the world in my opinion (unless you enjoy paying bills), I can’t overlook the fact that this country has given me two things my home country did not: courage and opportunity. Courage because, being here, I dare to dream big, and this country gives me the means to pursue my dream. Opportunity because this country gives me opportunity to be myself, to learn how to drive, and to improve myself professionally and personally. The U.S. also helped me discover my inner artist.

The U.S. is not the greatest, but the U.S. is great. The U.S. has people who tell you that you are great and not to let anyone make you doubt yourself, or people who tell you that your dream is great and encourage you to pursue it, rather than give up.

I end my story here with the hope that in the U.S., education will be more affordable and accessible to many people, and there will be no more shootings.

Don’t forget to check out the other stories we’ve shared, and watch We The People, a documentary web series that highlights the experiences immigrants face when they move to the U.S.