Vietnamese in Media


I came from an Eastern country where there are only two tropical seasons – either rainy or sunny, Vietnam. It was a blessing opportunity for me to legally immigrate to the U.S seven years ago. I never noticed what would be so much of a difference between others and me besides my accents and looks. My high school classmates often called me “dumb” because I couldn’t pronounce the words and talked too little. I understand that my name is difficult to say, but I never expected them to name me “that Asian”. “Do you eat your own dogs? Can you pronounce this words for me without ‘s’? Shut the f* up! Asians are always good at Math!” were what I frequently received throughout my three years attending high school here.

I often questioned myself about why they kept treating me this way because I thought that racism was banned in the U.S. I understand there are some differences between Western and Eastern cultures, but it seems harsh for them to view each other normally like their own human kind. Even though Vietnam is considered as an Asian country as a whole, and we do share some similar traits, each country has their unique traditions and daily life actions. Vietnamese identities are mostly portrayed as nail-salon owners, poor English speakers, and dog-eaters.


How are Vietnamese known as nail salon owners? According to Step Glaser, a teacher from Colorado, the first Vietnamese nail salon network started in the mid-‘70s by the Nguyen family. They opened Advance Beauty College (ABC) in Orange County, California in 1987. As of today, ABC is considered to develop one of the largest manicuring programs in the country.

“When you build such a huge network in one industry, it will be able to help future Vietnamese Americans,” maintains Nguyen. “So any Vietnamese Americans who came in the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s, clearly had a family member or someone close to them that was already in the industry.”

It explains why nail salons are very common opened by Vietnamese because we have had a whole set up network, and it doesn’t require many skills or studies to actually get a job there. However, you all may notice that most of the old Asians do not have a high key job because they are not fluent in English – which is the most primary requirement from all the industries. “One of the main reasons why many immigrants work in low-paying jobs in the service sector is because U.S.-born workers don’t want them” (Le, C.N.). Therefore, usually, the owners and workers from these shops are newly immigrants or mid-30-and-40 women, so they do not have much of a chance to enroll in school for proper education and English.


This is Anjelah Johson’s (an actress/stand up comedian) first experience at an Asian nail salon. The Asian lady was portrayed with small eyes and black hair (common looks).

In Anjelah’s talk show (stand up comedy), Asian (Vietnamese to be specific) business is a lot different from the ones that are owned by White people. Vietnamese ladies couldn’t speak and write English properly – “Beautiful Nail – only one nail?” She also described how nicely those ladies talked her into getting more treatments, but it actually costed her more each time they suggested. Vietnamese people actually sounded like “ching ching chong chong” to others, and they talked also behind her in their own language. She frowned a lot and somehow wasn’t very satisfied with her experience (Anjelah Johnson).

I agree that was very rude of those ladies, but I have to say that their English might not be rich enough to hold a long conversation with Anjelah. I highly believe that she thinks that a Vietnamese owner doesn’t require many communicating skills from her workers. The Asian people probably would find it normal for a Vietnamese to act so because this actually happens in real life, rather than that, other nations may have the same point of view as Anjelah’s. This presents that Americans cannot patiently tolerate Vietnamese accents or their ways of speaking. This news may be very upsetting to those who speak English as their second language because they will not have the sense of being welcomed or belonged here.

In “American Born Chinese”, released in 2006, Gene Luen Yang has potrayed the typical Asian stereotypes that each of us, Asian, has experienced such as being called F.O.B (fresh of the boat), viewed as dog-eaters, isolated if speak some languages other than English, etc. There are three stories contained in this graphic novel, but the second one is about second-generation immigrants from Eastern countries – Vietnam included. Jin Wang and Suzi (two Asian Americans) were assumed to be each other’s relatives, but once people found out they were not, rumors began to spread that kept they from talking to one another. Jin Wang was eating dumplings when the other white kids made fun of his traditional food. He was pushed to change his lunch to sandwiches.


It’s very depressing when Asian kids feel ashamed of their own kinds and prefer speaking English more than their mother language. These kids were portrayed to have same physical looks and tend not to become close to each other due to the embarrassments. (Pg. 37 & 31)


Should we stop eating our traditional food and go with hamburgers to feel more fit in? Does everything we eat contain dog meat? (pg. 32)

Wei-Chen, a transferred student from Taiwan, was trying to make friends with Jin Wang by speaking Chinese to him, but, in return, Jin Wang did not hope to be grouped with Wei-Chen. He ironically expected a newly immigrant to communicate with him through English even though that person literally could not. All the Asians are drawn almost the same with black hair and small eyes. With their shirts always carefully tucked and pants pulled up till the point they couldn’t be any higher, the kids appeared very nerdy and old-fashioned.

I’m actually disappointed with some native Asian American students here. They viewed me as a disgusting alien and ignored all of my questions while kept shouting for Asian power and rights during the school activities. There is a VSA (Vietnamese Student Association) at PSU, but they actually draw a lingual border between the native and fobs – whereas inner groups are formed, and many members are not even Vietnamese. I wonder why physical looks and fluency in English mean much more than national spirits.


It is considered as a crime if one kills or eats any animals instead purchasing them from the farms or markets here, but the most sinful one is eating dogs, human friends. Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese (and many other races) people do eat dogs, but it is one of our normal cultural traditions back in our countries. This so-called tradition has caused most Asians to lose their humanity credits when other people keep viewing them as criminals even though they may or may not ever eat dogs. One wonders if anyone ever thinks of other animals as lovable as dogs and why dogs are superior to them. It is not that they are not as smart, cute or loyal as dogs, but humans never actually give them all a chance to be.

“Is it because we spend so much time with dogs — looking into their eyes, talking to them, walking them, picking up their crap — that we understand that they are living, breathing, feeling beings? Would we feel that way about other animals if we could hang out more? Or would the beak-y, frowny face of the chicken still stop us short of empathy?” writes Slate’s William Saletan (John D. Sutter).

In February 2012, a North Carolinian middle-aged man shot three Muslim college students, and the police claimed it as “an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking. The father of one victim confessed “I am sure my daughter felt hated, and she said, literally, ‘Daddy, I think it is because of the way we look and the way we dress’ ”(Karan Mahajan). If people could randomly apply justice on an outsider, then this whole world would never be able to escape from drama and unwanted deaths. I honestly  do not understand why physical difference would make a huge impact on righteousness and human rights while some animals are viewed even higher than a person with color.


Gordon Ramsay tried to drink cobra guts and wine in Vietnam because the guys said that it helped with sex and maintaining health. He used a lot of F-words to express his fear and disgusts.

In “Gordon’s Great Escape: Vietnam”, directed by Emma Sayce, Gordon expressed his feelings about how Vietnamese killed animals cruelly, but the people there did not find it provoking or disgusting. He proposed that he usually got to pick the vegetables and meat loafs from the markets, but he never actually got to prepare all the ingredients this freshly – especially he got to observe and kill the animals that he would cook. Gordon also gave Duck lady (a female chef) a kiss as out of sudden just because he found her food so great, even though it was inappropriate to do so in a traditional country. He discovered that the people there partied a lot, especially men, while women had to wake up so early to prepare meals, take care of the kids, and go to work to earn a few dollars a day. He was so welcomed, but he still had some little complaints on Vietnamese accents.

I don’t know how you will feel about killing an animal fleshly yourselves, but that’s how the meat is prepared before nicely getting packed. Imagine if all the killings are stopped, there will be no more hamburgers, tacos, Pho, etc.  Will you all want a life completely without meat?  Besides the vegetarians, even kids would want some mcDonald’s.

There are many reality shows about how the chicken are raised and killed, how hotdogs are made nastily, frozen soups been using for months, etc. I’d stopped eating poultry for a week after seeing a presentation on how the poorly the chicken were taken care of in the U.S. In Vietnam, everything is fresh and cooked daily to make sure the authentic taste remains, and they do not add any unknown artificial flavors rather than M.S.G (which I don’t find in many restaurants here). We value qualities more than quantities, and that’s why a running chicken costs more than the industrial type.

Throughout this course, I learn how to make connections and analyze subjects deeply. I really appreciate that we get to work with many social media sources to have better thoughts and views about the topics that we have chosen besides those boring literature sources. We were assigned to read some texts and explained what we found interesting or odd and why we thought so. It helps a lot when you recognize which source is good enough to apply into your papers.

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We eat pre-packed beef, lettuce, tomatoes, and rice like other normal American families. We do not own a nail salon, and, instead, we are running a grocery store like 7eleven.  

I am a pure Asian – Vietnamese, and I do not mind being called a F.O.B because there are many things that I am still learning. Stereotypes do not naturally come from a person’s boredom, but they are related to some facts. I understand that there are many things that we have done in order to get those listed titles above, but it does not mean that we all are alike. I have lived here long enough to adapt some American traits, and I would like to mix them up with my Vietnamese ones. Every race has its own stereotypes, and I believe that nobody likes to be judged based on them. We have been taught at school to respect other people, and it also means we should not disgust any traditions that we are not used to.

I eat the same food as others, my family runs business too but not nail salons, and I think my English is okay enough while writing this essay. I am not doing these normal acts because I live here, but I had done the same things when I was in Vietnam. I hope that society can present more bright sides of Asians instead of feeding people negativity from the stereotypes. Every part of this world is beautiful and deserves the same compliments; do not ruin the images in others’ minds just because you personally do not have a good time.




Anjelah Johnson. “Nail Salon Uncut (Stand Up Comedy)”. February 1, 2008. Youtube Channel: Comedy Time

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Emma Sayce. “Gordon’s Great Escape: Vietnam (S02E02)”. May 16. 2011.

TV Show – Documentary.


Gene Luen Yang. “American Born Chinese” – graphic novel. 2006. First Second

ISBN 978-1-59643-152-2. Pg. 30 – 40, 87 – 106, and 163 – 192.

John D. Sutter. “The Argument for Eating Dog”. CNN. July 24. 2014.


Karan Mahajan. “The Two Asian Americas”. October 21, 2015. The New Yorker.


Le, C.N. 2015. “The Impacts of Immigration” Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian

America. November 8, 2015.


Steph Glaser. “Why Vietnamese Americans Rule the Nail Salon Scene”. January 16,

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4 thoughts on “Vietnamese in Media

  1. Nguyenthoa94:

    What an amazing post! I consider myself Vietnamese-American since I was born in the U.S. so I can somewhat understand from your perspective. I did not know that Vietnamese people commonly open a nail salon because it doesn’t require many skills to get a job there and how other jobs do not want to hire them. Thanks for sharing that! I am also very impressed with your English since you came to America seven years ago. You’re a much better writer compared to some people who were born and raised here. So good job, seriously!
    P.S. Near towards the end, you stated “I understand that there are many things that we have done in order to get those listed titles above, but it does not mean that we all are alike”. I wrote about Asians in Media for my post, so if you’re interested feel free to read mine! I talked a little about why we’re given these stereotypes and how Asian-Americans are affected by it on a daily basis. 🙂


  2. Hi Thoa,

    I’m sorry that you were treated so poorly by not only your high school classmates, but by other people of your own ethnicity. I am half Vietnamese myself, I feel ashamed that people for what they did/said to you. They’re just hypocrites. I have quite a few friends and relatives who are FOBs and they are some of the nicest people in the world. I’d say that you’d just ignore and block out these people from your life. Don’t let their hate get to you and bother you. They’re beneath you; you’re better than them.

  3. Thoa,

    I love how you brought up the point between “native” Asian Americans and “fobs”. As a “native” I can guarantee you that we don’t view you as a “disgusting alien”! I think naturally, people group with people who are similar to them. A lot of “natives” group with “natives” and “fobs” group with “fobs”. I think this is because we are comfortable with what we know. However, I am not (and I know my native friends) are not against making friends with fobs at all! In fact, I have made a few fob friends. I come from a traditional family, so it makes it easier for me to relate to them! I just want to let you know that don’t be afraid of making friends with us “natives” (sounds so weird to say). I have learned from past experiences that the only thing holding me back from being friends with people is myself and my own preconceived notions, NOT the other person! Hope you can relate.


  4. Nguyenthoa94
    I love this! I was born in Vietnam as well but I’ve been here for 21 years that I have pretty much adapted to the American culture but I try not to forget the Vietnamese culture as well. It is very frustrating to be new to a country with different customs and to be made fun of and insulted is merely evil. I am sorry that people were so mean to you. I didn’t get treated that badly but maybe its because I usually just ignore it and shake it off. Which doesn’t help because then people think its okay to treat us that way. The weird thing though is that people supposedly love our food or at least they say they do. I agree with you that every part of this world is different and unique in their own way and it should be embraced and cherished not insulted or bashed. We should treat every culture preciously, just because its different and we don’t understand it doesn’t mean that we can make judgments about it. GREAT research!

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