Love speaks louder than past war
He sometimes talks to her in his mother tongue, Vietnamese, and she responds in her native language, English. S. N., who is from Vietnam, said K. L. G., who is from Minnesota, reads Vietnamese quite well and is able to understand when he uses simple Vietnamese sentences.
“For example, when I say ‘Anh đi tắm’, she understands that I will go to take a shower,” N. said at his home in Worcester, where his family has been living since May 2010.
N. and G. have been enjoying their cross-cultural marriage since they tied the knot in 2008, three years after they first met in a chemistry lab at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. They will celebrate their son’s second birthday in July.
Both said neither they nor their families have questioned the fact that their countries were involved in a fierce war more than 50 years ago.
“My family does not care much about politics. We think American and Vietnamese are alike, so long as they are good people and respect each other’s customs,” said N., who came to the United States for his graduate studies in chemistry in 1999.
He said his mother and sisters felt a bit sad knowing that he was going to get married in the United States.
“It’s mainly because of the distance, not because of who I married. If we come and live in Vietnam, I think they’ll be happier, but my career [N. works for a bio-pharmaceutical company in Worcester] and the economy have yet to make it possible.”
N.’s father, who died before he introduced G. to his family, only expected him to teach his wife and children to speak Vietnamese.
G. spent one month in the summer of 2007 with N.’s people in Vietnam, which she described as “a happy place with friendly people.” She said his family has made a good effort to teach her about Vietnam and Vietnamese culture, despite the language barrier.
Born in California and raised in Minnesota, G. said she did not have any trouble introducing N. to her family. Her father, who is a pilot and a former naval officer, has spent a lot of time in the Orient and gained a deep respect for East Asian cultures.
“My dad expressed concern that S.’s family would perceive me as the ‘evil’ American, but I have reassured him that Vietnamese nowadays have a friendly and welcoming attitude toward Americans.”
G. said “At this point, there’s no need to continue to harbor bitter feelings.”
Meanwhile, her father, C. G., said he was just concerned that “S.’s family, having lived in the north of Vietnam during the war, would hold animosity for Americans.”
G. senior, who has not been to Vietnam, was also concerned whether S.’s family might have negative feelings toward him marrying somebody who was not Vietnamese, especially somebody who was not from that part of Vietnam.
For his part, G. said he didn’t have any negative feelings about S. and his daughter’s marriage with a Vietnamese.
“She was an adult that point. Unless something is obviously a bad idea, I am not going to object to it. I certainly didn’t think there was really any negative risk for K. about her and S. getting married as long as two of them were comfortable with it,” G. said on the phone.
As N.’s niece, Linh Bui said she witnessed N.’s comfortable married life when staying at his home for college.
“I usually saw them exchange hugs and kisses. They care well for each other. That made me proud that a Vietnamese man can bring happiness to his American wife,” said Bui, now of Dorchester, who sometimes visits N.’s family on weekends.
But like any other cross-culturally married couples, N. and G. had some interesting cultural experiences.
“One of the things could be like Vietnamese people, we like to burn incense for our ancestors and K. is Catholic, so some little bit strange because they don’t do that,” said N., whose home has a small room to worship his father.
Hearing her spouse talk about burning incense reminded G. of her first cultural trouble in Vietnam.
“The first time I went to Vietnam, I got in trouble because I think I touched one of the fruits on the altar when the incense was burning. I didn’t know people were against that so I got scolded. I had to turn it back to the altar. I never knew all these rules.”
When asked about how to keep her marriage happy, G. said cross-cultural marriages came with special challenges, but the most important thing was that the husband and wife had similar values and were able to work well together.
“Love, understanding and cooperation can overcome almost any hurdle,” said G., who learned Vietnamese cuisine to serve her husband and his Vietnamese friends.