How do you think of Vietnamese
If you are in Vietnam, you are the kid.
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You live in two countries that are decades apart. The injustice of globalization runs through your family like a rift. Is there more that connects you or more that separates you? Even if the language barrier didn't exist - could you ever understand each other?
You think you have to know people to like them. That you choose who to relate to and that the more you know about each other and the more you appreciate each other, the deeper they become. It doesn't matter to your relatives. It doesn't matter who or how you are. What matters is that you are related. You don't have to question each other, you just have to be together. Eat together or sit around together, it doesn't matter. That's why it doesn't matter that you don't see each other for years and have no contact during this time.
This is how your relatives think, and this is how you think after you arrive in Vietnam. Your life in Germany is fading. It doesn't matter that you work, live alone and travel often. If you are in Vietnam, you are the kid.
Like a child, you will be asked what your favorite food is. Did you enjoy going to the market? Which film you want to see in the cinema and whether you are tired now. As a child, you don't have to decide anything, just nod in satisfaction when your needs are met. And be silent when you hear the adults talking about you. When they comment on your appearance, character, or Vietnamese while you stand by.
You learned the order in which your aunts were born and that there is a difference between the mother's family and the father's. You have learned that there are different positions within the family: older brother of the father, maternal grandmother, wife of the younger brother of the mother, older sister, nephew, and so on. You also address strangers on the street as your older sister and grandfather.
You have learned that it is forbidden to speak of yourself in the first person in front of persons of respect. You speak of the other person and yourself in the third person:
"Does your aunt still do yoga?"
"Yes, the aunt is still doing yoga. Does the niece also do yoga?"
"No, the niece doesn't do yoga. She thinks it's boring."
When you are in Vietnam you forget that there is an I. You are never alone and you have neither the calm nor the language to think that way. Thinking in first person form is self-centered and presumptuous. Who am I? That's a question you can't answer in Vietnam.
If you were born here, you would be someone else. You would be used to the younger obeying the older and the woman obeying the man. You would speak in a high, soft voice, like the women here. You would start every sentence with "yes", even if it continues with "no" afterwards. You would hope to meet a man who doesn't drink and has a job. Maybe you would dream of going abroad one day. The world would have a natural order, and you would have your place in it, determined by fate like your shoe size.
When you are in Vietnam, you forget yourself. You speak in a high, soft voice, like all women here. You start every sentence with "Yes", even if it continues with "No" afterwards. When you see that your aunts are doing without something for your uncles, you do the same. When you hear that women are cheated and beaten by their husbands, you keep silent. It is normal for women to suffer. Why complain that cannot be changed?
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