Lan Vu's Story as a Vietnamese American in San Francisco


Migrating to a foreign country is an experience that involves being able to adapt to a new environment as well as learning new things. Under AAPI Voices, stories from the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders community will be featured. In this first article, meet Lan Vu who is a Vietnamese American living in San Francisco for 20 years since 2002. His story is quite an adventure filled with perseverance and hard work that led him to his life in the present.


Born in Vietnam to Vietnamese parents, Lan Vu migrated to the United States mainly because of educational purposes. Lan is a bilingual who can speak French and Vietnamese since 6th grade having been enrolled in an extensive program. He studied more courses in French than other classes. Lan also spent a year studying in France before coming back to Vietnam for a vacation.

Afterwards, he got an application approved for studying at the City College of San Francisco. An interview had taken place and he got a visa. He decided to change his course of education in America. He was 18 years old when he migrated to the United States after living a long time in Vietnam. He said that it was an exciting experience because he has never been that far from his family. Continuing his education in America, he took up Business Administration in San Francisco State University after eventually transferring from the City College of San Francisco.


“Unlike a lot of people who think of international students who have money to go to America. I didn’t come because of money so basically it was hard to try to live by myself with the money that I have. I had to worry about keeping up with school and trying to find a job to maintain a normal life.”

Although Lan was alone in migrating to America for his studies, many of his relatives from his father’s side are living in the United States. His parents migrated following Lan after 10 years since he first left Vietnam to continue his studies in America. Lan first stayed with his aunt in Southern California for a few weeks before actually moving to San Francisco.

“Life in Vietnam is a lot more comfortable than life in America. When you go to another foreign country, you have to learn everything from the beginning. From the language, to the culture, behavior, you have to relearn everything. You have to adapt to a new life.”


Upon first arriving in America, Lan had to take English classes and got to meet a lot of people from other countries like South Korea. Eating different foods such as Thai and Korean for the first time became memorable to him living in San Francisco. He even remembers his South Korean friend teaching him how to break an egg while cooking instant noodles as well as going to see the movies with his friends who are mostly Vietnamese in a mix of Asian friends.


San Francisco is popular for its Asian American and LGBT community. Lan found it difficult being gay and having conservative Asian parents in growing up in Vietnam. Nonetheless, he has supportive friends and even remembered the time he first came out to a co-worker in San Francisco. He realized that sexuality was not a big thing since people are open minded when his co-worker wasn’t surprised after telling her he is gay.

Living in a foreign country, Lan had very few times of experiencing hate and discrimination since California is home to many Asian Americans, he only gets yelled at by homeless people. Despite not living in Vietnam anymore, Lan still eats Vietnamese food when he can and practices Lunar New Year.

    


After 10 years since first migrating to America, Lan’s parents came after him. There was a big gap in terms of time and development like personal growth as he grew apart from his family for a long time. Within those 10 years, he learned to be by himself, be independent and cope with things without parents by his side. Currently, Lan owns a nail salon in Maryland that is managed by his brother. A lot of nail salons in America are owned by Vietnamese people. He remembered his humble beginnings as he used to work for the bank starting as a teller, then a banker and a mortgage loan officer. Using his income as a mortgage loan officer he bought a house, sold it and bought a nail salon in Maryland.

Along with that he also owns a fan business named FabulousMe ® which sells fans that are very popular now in America especially in party culture since it gets hot in those kinds of venues. They put wordings and pictures and memes on a fan to make it funny. FabulousMe ® was established in 2018 as a startup business with an idea to become a retailer of anything fun that is party related. Its mission is to bring a piece of Asian culture to the world’s doorstep using every aspect of life from parties to tourism and the like. The business kept doing better over time and has a website (FabulousMe.com). There are only a few fan companies in America that do well and he feels lucky to be one of those companies. The business is a certified LGBT business enterprise.


Recently, he also started to promote and throw parties and is the owner of the ClubLand ® party website (ClubLandSF.com). Its mission is to be an inclusive space where everyone is welcome to have a fun time and be themselves while being accepted as who they are without judgment.


Reminiscing about life back then, he mentioned that there was not a lot of Vietnamese presence back then and as time went by and more people immigrated, it became a lot easier to find his fellow people. When he first came to San Francisco, in order to get Vietnamese food, he had to go to San Jose (an hour away) or Los Angeles (6 or 7 hours away). Now, in order to find (Vietnamese) food he can find it in San Francisco. In the present time during the pandemic, Lan said that life in San Francisco is getting back to normal because the restriction on masks was lifted recently. People can go to places without proof of vaccination and without wearing a mask in public.


After a long period of time from living in Vietnam up to the present time in San Francisco, Lan considers himself as Vietnamese American because half of his life is spent in Vietnam. There’s a portion of his life that he can’t completely forget or ignore (accent, teachings and principles). He learned and adapted to American society with a more liberal mind and thinking. He hopes to come back and go to Vietnam soon after his last visit in 2020. Lan’s story is definitely an adventure where he found his way living by himself and meeting people that led him to where he is right now.

Written by Jan Marbella

Jan Marbella is a Digital Marketing Intern of PS Media Enterprise and a 4th year Bachelor of Arts in Communication student of De La Salle University DasmariƱas.

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Lan Vu's Story as a Vietnamese American in San Francisco
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