Growing Up a First Generation Asian-American

In pre-celebration of the Lunar New Year, I found it most appropriate to share my story. I would always cherish anytime each of my parents told me about their childhood or journey to America. With the current immigration controversy and the politics surrounding the topic, it only felt right to share my experience as a first generation Asian-American. Both of my parents were born and raised in different parts of Vietnam, but escaped around the same time after the war ended. Like most immigrants, they came to the U.S. to start a new and better life.

I can’t imagine being raised in a small, growing community with your two parents and grandpa is comparable to most other childhoods. I was born in Virginia and raised in various towns of its northern region. There was a lot to be thankful for as a young girl that grew up surrounded by family. At home, we primarily spoke Vietnamese (which seemed much easier to learn back then). I was quick to learn the language since my mom and dad expected me to practice it as much as I could before elementary school. The school system was not as diverse back then, but I was always proud of my Vietnamese roots. Every evening after both my parents would come home from work, my mom would make an authentic Vietnamese dish and we would all eat together. 

 

Family was a very significant piece of my adolescence. It continues to hold a precious place, but most of the memories of my childhood consist of video games and adventures with my cousins. I have four or more cousins on each side of my family, and the best part of that is we're all first-generation. Birthday parties, family beach trips and sleepovers were the peak of my favorite moments as a kid. If there is one takeaway from it all, I know that the love of a Vietnamese grandparent is a feeling like no other. Thanks to them, I can recognize the pungent smells of fish sauce and durian wherever I go. If you ever get the precious opportunity to eat homemade Vietnamese food, do me a favor and never give it up. 

There were some funny (yet genius) things that my family did growing up. For example, we always washed dishes by hand. It’s a chore that will never go away in my household. Dishwashers were either a storage space for dishes or used as a handy-dandy drying rack. I’m not sure if anyone else’s family also does this, but shoes in the house are not common. It became a routine for me to always take off my shoes whenever I entered a friend's house. My grandma was always super anti-food-waste. Throwing away leftovers is completely absurd to her and she will never tolerate it. To this day, I continue to try and be less wasteful. Another thing I’ll always remember is when my parents started to develop my spice tolerance as a child. It's still in progress.

In the tradition of the unified Asian-American lifestyles during the time of the Lunar New Year, I’ll always enjoy sharing my personal take on Vietnamese customs. Though there are some that have grown up without the same family orientated and culture driven childhood, the legacy of the first generation Asian Americans will continue to live.

 

Image Credits: 1, 2, 3