Vietnamese Community in Houston is Growing

23 October, 2016

Houston, Texas has the largest community of Vietnamese in the United States outside of California.

Only a few hundred Vietnamese were living in Houston in 1975, at the end of the Vietnam War. Today, the city is home to more than 100,000 Vietnamese-Americans.

The population growth comes from births, immigrants from Vietnam and from Vietnamese moving to Houston from California.

Many of those arriving from California are seeking jobs and a lower cost of living. Housing, food and transportation can be very costly in the state.

Some Vietnamese have been able to sell homes they have owned for a long time in the Los Angeles area for several hundred thousand dollars. They are then able to buy a new, larger home in Houston for much less. They use the money they save to start a business or pay for a child's education.

Many Vietnamese in Houston work to strengthen their culture.

Recently, thousands of Vietnamese and Vietnamese-Americans gathered for an event designed to raise money for a local church and charitable groups. The performers and the food were almost all Vietnamese.

This 18-year-old woman was in the crowd.

"You still can have Vietnamese food, Vietnamese activities like church and charities. So, just come (to) Houston."

Vietnamese come to Houston because of the warm weather, among other things. This young man recently moved to the United States from Vietnam. He spent some time in a few northern U.S. states before coming to Texas.

"Houston has the weather like Vietnam, so I think I can live here easier."

Keith Robinson Nguyen is a lawyer. He says Vietnamese living in Houston can easily find others who speak their language.

"You have Vietnamese doctors, Vietnamese teachers, Vietnamese lawyers, so we can help them from A to Z without having to use an interpreter."

Nguyen was raised by an American family in New Jersey. He never learned to speak the Vietnamese language. He moved to Houston to study in the 1990s and returned there to live in 2006. He said he felt like an outsider when he first entered the Vietnamese community.

"I couldn't interact with the Vietnamese people here ‘cause I didn't know the language, I didn't know the culture. Even though I look Vietnamese, even though I am Vietnamese, I was at a disadvantage."

Nguyen is now able to communicate in Vietnamese and continues to learn more from community leaders like Kim Nguyen.

"We all get involved to help each other."

She says many older adults speak very little English and many younger people do not speak Vietnamese. But they all strengthen their culture by attending events that bring them together.

"Even (if) they don't understand much (of) the language, but they choose (to) go to (a) Vietnamese church because they want to show the people that ‘I am a Vietnamese.'"

I'm Christopher Jones-Cruise.

VOA Correspondent Greg Flakus reported this story from Houston. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted his report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

cost of living – n. the amount of money that is required in a particular area or society to pay for the basic things that people need (such as food, clothing, and housing)

charitable – adj. done or designed to help people who are poor, sick, etc.

from A to Z – n. expression including everything

interpreter – n. a person who translates the words that someone is speaking into a different language

interact – v. to talk or do things with other people

disadvantage – n. something that causes difficulty; something that makes someone or something worse or less likely to succeed than others