Tuesday, April 3, 2012


The Story of Vietnamese Integration in the Czech Republic

By Michal K.

Name: Vu Tuan Anh, a.k.a. Bob
Country: Vietnam/Czech Republic
Year Born: 1990
Major: Communication and Mass Media
Hobbies: motorsport, cars in general, drawing and sketching, martial arts, breakdancing, house dancing, extreme martial arts tricking (acrobatics)

Bob doing what he loves - Martial Arts
UNYPRESS: Both of your parents are Vietnamese, but you were born and raised in the Czech Republic. Who do you feel to be?
BOB: To be honest, I am both. I love Vietnamese traditions and I was raised in the Vietnamese way. But I have lived here for all my life. I know Czech culture just like any Czech person would, and I accept it. I am pretty open, but I am proud of my roots.

UNYPRESS: What do you think is the main difference between the Czech and the Vietnamese mentality?
BOB: I think Czech people are more individualistic, they are solo players. Vietnam has a much more collectivist culture which plays a role in everyday life – people are more open towards each other and do little favors to help each other. I could be wrong, though. Maybe it is just a reaction to the communist era here, and Czechs learned to be cautious of who they believe.

UNYPRESS: The Czech Republic is ethnically quite homogenous, but it also has a large Vietnamese community. How did this happen?
BOB: Younger readers might not know this, but the migration from Vietnam to the Czech Republic is rooted back in the time of communism here. The Czech government had a special deal with the Vietnamese: They would send a cheap workforce to the Czechs, and in return, the Vietnamese would acquire industry know-how and bring it back. But they were better off here than in Vietnam, and after the fall of the Iron Curtain, many took the opportunity to stay. Over time, they invited more and more family members, and the community grew. They started to have children who were born in the Czech Republic and lived here as Czechs.

UNYPRESS: Czechs are known to be not overly welcoming to immigrants and minorities. Do you come across this often? And how do you think Vietnamese people are perceived here?
BOB: I think in the past it used to be quite good.  We were seen as quiet and hardworking people. Recently it got a lot worse. I do not deny that there are problems, but the media really inflates them a lot, and now people think we are all involved in the drug trade. You really feel the negative attitude sometimes. I do not mind that I am checked by the cops all the time, they are doing their job. But I do mind that they never show any respect. They always act in a very derogatory way. I try to ignore the insults and negative views when addressed to me, but I cannot stand when people treat my relatives without any respect and insult them because of the stereotypes.

UNYPRESS: So how often do the police stop you? And how exactly do they behave?
BOB: Recently, the police started checking the IDs of all Asians to see if they are here legally or not. When they see me, they will stop me. In the last two weeks, it happened twice. They often use the impolite form “ty.” I try to show respect to them, as I respect their job and authority. But if they show no respect to me, do I need to be kind? If they treat me bad, I treat them the same way. It is just the matter of word choice, though.

UNYPRESS: Sometimes I feel that if a few more Czechs worked as hard as much of your community does, the country would be a better place. But we also have to acknowledge that the percentage of Vietnamese people involved in crime here is on the rise. Why is that happening?
BOB: The Vietnamese community in the Czech Republic is divided into groups – the older generation, and the new ones. The first wave has been here since communism. They are well-settled, and happy to be here. It works for them because their immigration was done properly. The new immigrants are causing a lot of trouble because there are agencies that bring them here and misuse them, forcing them to commit crimes for them. Sometimes these people were promised a lot, but the agencies took away all their money and passports. The victims then had no other choice but to work for them. So now it is a shady business.
On the other hand – and this is entirely their fault – some just have the mindset to make quick money and leave. They do not wish to integrate at all. They might incline toward organized crime in order to make fast money. This is why the first wave disapproves of them totally. We were raised in the spirit of working hard and being grateful for the chance to show people that we can be a value to the community. In fact, we are very pissed off toward them, because they ruin our reputation.

UYNPRESS: Do you think things will get better? Right now it seems to be getting worse.
BOB: In a way I understand the Czechs, we are also angry about the bad things going on. But what people do not realize is that their negative attitude toward us will only make things worse. It will not make the drug trade go away. But it will make many good people bitter and unwilling to integrate. It is very hard to stay positive when you know that you are working hard, living your life, and all the society can do is to mark you as an Asian drug dealer.
Right now I am at a university and I have good future chances. So do many other kids of the older-generation immigrants. I hope that sooner or later this will become visible to the Czech people, and they will realize that we are not as bad as they think. It all takes time. We just must not let the negativity put us off.

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