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When Nguyen Met Nguyen

Updated: Sep 24, 2020

Where do Vietnamese people go in America?

In ‘Chapter 3: When Nguyen Met Nguyen’ we delve into our family’s past by telling the story of how our parents and grandparents came over to the United States. We start to uncover our family history in just 30 minutes, piecing together how we arrived here at our present.

Hedda Hieu: I think people take for granted the privilege of knowing your roots and where you came from. After all, if you don’t know where you’ve been, how do you know where you will go?

While we each carry a different voice on the Vietnamese experience in our podcast, we are using the Storyboard to curate four reads on the same topic: the Vietnamese Diaspora. Each resource covers a different aspect of the same topic. They are (1) the geographic spread based on census data, (2) stories of refugee camps in America, (3) how food really serves as the connection between one country to the next, and (4) another storytelling podcast Vietnamese Boat People.

1. Geographic Spread Based on Census Data

We knew the Vietnamese diaspora in the United States was huge and according to the last census, roughly 2.2. million individuals were born either in Vietnam or reported Vietnamese ethnicity or ancestry. Did you know that three of the top four destinations for Vietnamese are in California? We didn’t know, but not surprised by the information! Take a peep at this Census table compiled for Top Concentrations of Vietnamese by Metropolitan Area from 2012-16. The Bay Area represents!

Table 1. Top Concentrations of Vietnamese by Metropolitan Area, 2012-16

Source: MPI tabulation of data from the U.S. Census Bureau pooled 2012-16 ACS

2. Stories of Refugees Camps

We have yet to hear a story where a refugee’s journey was not turbulent, tumultuous, and teary-eyed. Rarely have we heard anyone have a direct flight to the United States. Refugees have had to wait to be resettled from temporary camps - in Guam, the Philippines, and other parts of the Pacific - and from there, they were placed into processing centers in the U.S. The four processing centers were Fort Indiantown Gap, PA, Camp Pendleton, CA, Fort Chaffee, AK., and Eglin Air Force Base, FL (2).

Huong: Once someone leaves their home country, I think there is a sense going back to the way things were, but over time, each individual realizes it’s not possible. So they start to form new groups, becoming friends with other refugees, reconnecting with other high school friends that fled their home country, similar to how Bo found Hoi Cao Thanh. It’s all students from his high school and together they are moving forward, both by finding fondness with similar school memories and having a network of support as they build their lives here in the United States.

3. Food as the connection from one country to the next

A refugee’s journey may seemingly conclude when they arrive in their new country, but rather they face the pressure to conform and assimilate. In this pull to be more American, one of the things that never leaves us is our food culture. San Jose is one of these Vietnamese food epicenters where you can find the homeiness of our culture in a bowl of pho, bun bo hue, or bun rieu. Where you can see the generational mixing and intermixing (3).

4. Vietnamese Boat People Podcast

As we were working on our podcast, we came across another Vietnamese podcast that tells stories of different Vietnamese boat people. Their mission, in interviewing various refugees, is “to preserve and carry forward these stories for younger generations to be inspired by the history of resilience in our Vietnamese community.”

All of this makes us realize that nothing is ever truly lost, unless you let it be. Our family’s past is a testament to our family’s strength and resilience. Thanks for listening to Growing Up Nguyen and stay tuned for episode 4.

Where have you and your family come from and how did they get here? Are you inspired to unravel your stories with us?


Growing Up Nguyễn is a story of four siblings holding onto our identity while fulfilling our parents’ dreams: the blessings and challenges of being Nguyen in America.

You can listen to Chapter 3 of Growing Up Nguyễn Anchor, Spotify, Apple, Google, and other podcasting platforms.

For the Chapter 3: When Nguyễn Met Nguyễn transcript, click here. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @growing.up.nguyen @huong.kong @karinflair @heezy_nygen @its_benguinooo

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