Award-winning Vietnamese blogger says “never miss a chance to dance”

Do Thu Trang, photo: archive of Do Thu Trang

Why do Czech men want to date Vietnamese girls? What do Czechs hate about the Vietnamese? And what to expect at a Vietnamese wedding? This and many more questions are the subject of a blog called Asijatka, which offers sharp as well as light-hearted observations on the coexistence of the Czech and Vietnamese communities. Written by a young Vietnamese Do Thu Trang, the blog recently received an award for journalists under 33 years of age, as well as a nomination for the Magnesia Litera Award for Best blog.

Do Thu Trang,  photo: archive of Do Thu Trang
I met with Do Thu Trang to talk about her blog and her experiences of growing up as a Vietnamese girl in the Czech Republic, but we first spoke about her family, which moved to the country in the early 1990’s when she was just four years old:

“It was the time when a lot of Vietnamese people moved to Czechoslovakia because of business. My dad used to work at the market, as most of the Vietnamese people did, and that’s why he earned some money so that my mom and I could move in.”

But as far as I know, you actually grew up with a Czech family…

“Yes, that’s right. It was kind of usual, because my parents worked from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and they didn’t have time for me and they wanted me to have a better education and to learn Czech and that’s why I grew up in a Czech family.

“I lived in the Czech family for seven years and it was a very nice time. I had a very nice Czech childhood. On the other hand my parents didn’t expect me to forget my Vietnamese roots that quickly.”

But you did…

“Yes, language-wise, definitely, because I learned Czech quite quickly because there were no Vietnamese friends around and I didn’t see my parents much, only during weekends. Most of the time I used to speak Czech, so it was quite easy to forget as a child. You forget the language quickly, if you don’t use it, right?”

And nowadays, do you feel more Czech or more Vietnamese?

“I do feel more Czech but at the same time I feel that I have strong Vietnamese roots thanks to my parents. Even though they didn’t spend that much time with me when I was growing up, I feel like what they put in me when I was a child is really deep inside.”

What was the trigger for you to start writing a blog?

“A lot of people of my age started the blogs to open up the Vietnamese community.”

“It was 2008 when I started writing this blog and it was the time when a lot of Vietnamese, youngsters and people from my generations started presenting the Vietnamese community.

“It was the time when Vietnamese minority did have some problems with Czech majority. Lot of Vietnamese people lost their jobs in 2008 due to the economical crisis and there were certain tensions between the nationalities.

“A lot of people of my age, Vietnamese people, started the blogs to open the Vietnamese community, because the Vietnamese community few years back was really closed and there were a lot of myths about our community. And in 2008 I started my blog to join the conversation as well.

“Since I was a child I always liked writing in Czech and I love Czech and I also like commenting about the situations that happen to me or still are happening to me as a Vietnamese girl growing up in the Czech Republic. I like the differences between our nationalities. That’s what was the main trigger.”

Who are your typical followers? And do you get lots of feedback from your readers?

“I do, but most of them, about 90 percent, are Czech. It is mostly positive feedback, I would say, which is great to hear, that people are interested in Vietnamese culture, even though it’s just a small tiny piece of what Vietnamese culture offers, right?

“But most of my followers are people in their twenties and thirties who are mostly interested in Vietnamese food, they have a lot of Vietnamese friends or they travel to Vietnam or they just are interested who the people in večerkas (late night shops) are.”

And what is the reaction of the Vietnamese community? I believe in Vietnamese culture you have to show respect to your elders and here you are, making fun of the Vietnamese…

“I don’t get that much feedback from the older generation but when I talk to people who are my age they usually laugh at it as well. But most of the posts are based on what I hear. Vietnamese people, the younger generation, would usually make fun of themselves so it is mostly based on what I hear from them as well.

Illustrative photo: Vendula Kosíková
“And concerning my Czech friends they are exactly the people that make even more fun of Vietnamese people than I do, because it is what friends are for, they are making fun of everything that you do.

“I would appreciate more feedback from Vietnamese people, because even though the posts are dedicated for the Czech people, I would also appreciate if the Vietnamese people discussed about the differences more.

“The main aim of this blog is that people should not take themselves that seriously. So this is what I would appreciate, that Vietnamese people would add something more to the dialogue between our nationalities.”

You often mention your parents? Do they mind? And do they follow your blog?

“My mom doesn’t speak Czech that well and the blog is written in Czech. My dad would read some posts from time to time and he doesn’t comment. He knows that I know that he reads. He is the kind of a person that sits somewhere in a corner and watches what’s happening.

“But he won’t ever comment. He usually says: Does someone read this? Or: Are people interested in a blog like this one? And this is the moment that I know that he reads it but he won’t ever support me.”

But at the same time your parents never discouraged you from keeping the blog?

“No, even though my mom is sometimes worried that I am too open. She doesn’t want me to write about everything that’s going on around me or around our family, which is kind of legitimate.”

The motto of your blog is: never miss a chance to dance? Does that summarize your approach to life?

“Yes, that’s exactly what my life is about because missing a chance means that you are not having fun in your life and also a lot of people need to get drunk in order to start dancing, which I think is not healthy. Dancing means that you are not taking yourself that seriously. So having fun and not taking myself that seriously is exactly what I am aiming at in my life.”

You said that one of the triggers for staring blogging was to open up the Vietnamese community. Dou you think you have succeeded and how has it changed since you started?

“The main aim of this blog is that people should not take themselves that seriously.”

“The situation has change I think significantly, also thanks to Vietnamese food, because there are a lot of original Vietnamese restaurants. I like the saying that love goes through your stomach. Vietnamese community has opened towards the Czech society and also the younger generation is more integrated: we have a lot of Czech friends and most of my Czech friends are interested in Vietnamese culture.

“So it is not just about the Vietnamese opening towards the Czech society but it is also vice versa, the Czech people are more interested in travelling got Vietnam, eating out in Vietnamese restaurants and also they see that Vietnamese people are people who are integrated.

“We have a lot of Vietnamese concerts here, we like to eat out together, so this might be an interesting fact for Czech people so that to are more attracted to understand us, the Vietnamese community.”

Aren’t you worried that your generation has integrated to a point when you are actually losing touch with your Vietnamese community?

“I am not saying I am afraid, because it is something natural that happens when you have a second generation growing up in other country. For example in Germany, people of my generation are even more integrated and most of them have German nationality.

“And this is the process that has started in the Czech Republic just few years a ago, so it will take some time, and I am definitely not afraid of it, because those who really want to keep their Vietnamese roots who want to stay in touch with Vietnam, they definitely can. Also thanks to the Sapa market we can stay in touch with the real Vietnam.”

What does it mean to you, to receive the Novinářská Křepelka award for young journalists?

“I was about to reject the award before the announcement, because I don’t think feel being a journalist. But my mentor said that it is not about journalism but about bringing new topics and new ideas, which my blog does, he said.

“Looking at the list of nominees it is kind of big deal because the people are real big-name journalists and the blog was and is still just for fun and I am surprised that people take it that seriously which is by the way what I don’t want them to do.”

Illustrative photo: Filip Jandourek
Your blog was also nominated for the Magnesia Litera Award…

“I didn’t tell anyone that I would like to win Magnesia Litera one day, even tough it was kind of a secret dream but it was a big deal, because it happened quickly and because it showed me that even these micro stories are interesting for people and that I should continue to pursue this even though it takes a lot of time. Because even writing short stories means that you really have to elaborate it. I really like playing with Czech words and from time to time it takes me two to three hours to get a blog post done.”

Where do you see your future one day? Is it going to be here in the Czech Republic?

“I don’t like to predict my future, but I like living in the Czech Republic so in a short time horizon I definitely want to stay here and work as a community manager and I would like to continue writing the blog, so my plans are kind of clear.”