I’m sure many members of the Vietnamese diaspora can relate to Belgian singer Phạm Quỳnh Anh’s “Hello Vietnam” (“Bonjour Vietnam” in the French original):
All I know of you is all the sights of war.
A film by Coppola, the helicopter’s roar.
One day I’ll touch your soil.
One day I’ll finally know my soul.
One day I’ll come to you.
To say hello… Vietnam.
My family is ethnic Chinese from Vietnam. Like the collective diasporic voice for which Quỳnh Anh sings, I have never been to Vietnam and know it only through the food and the occasional Paris by Night video. I will make it there some day soon, as long as I can convince my mother that I will not bring back an unexpected daughter-in-law.
The last time I brought up the possibility of going to Vietnam my mother issued a resounding no, not because she thought I would get food poisoning or run over by a cyclo, but because she was convinced that I would be attacked by green-card-seeking local women who’d cling on to me to swindle a ticket to America. I thought my mother was being unusually paranoid until I found out a few days ago from the San Jose Mercury News that this is in fact a common fear among Vietnamese American women, to the point where it has become a running joke in the community.
“All the girls in Vietnam are aggressive. They attack!” said Ha Tien, 38, who owns an accounting business in San Jose. She said she lost her man to such a love guerrilla a few years ago.
The tension over this issue has reached epic proportions in the Bay Area Vietnamese community and elsewhere. Vietnamese comedy skits poke fun at the household strife and pop performers sing about it. It’s the No. 1 topic for women, Tien said. Any time a man travels back alone, she added, it’s assumed he’s not just going to visit Uncle Vu or Cousin Thuy but to play in a country with an abundance of attractive young women. “There is not a Vietnamese family (in Silicon Valley) that doesn’t know a man who has done this,” Tien said.
I’d be curious to hear from other members of the Vietnamese diaspora to see if this happens outside of California. Could the relative affluence of California Vietnamese Americans and the frequency of trips to the homeland have some effect on this? I would imagine that this is not such a salient fear for Vietnamese women in communities that are less settled and affluent and in far-flung communities where going back to Vietnam is so prohibitively expensive that people rarely make the trek.