Han Cam and Chahn Tran are Connected by Their Relation to Vietnam


Credit to Kamryn Bell

Juniors Han Cam and Chahn Tran pose together by hugging. The girls have been close friends for about 10 years. “It gave us a connection stronger than just friendship,” Tran said, “It made the experience of adapting to America as new American citizens easier.”

By Gracie Bowman

Chahn Tran walks down the crowded streets of Vietnam. Food stands line both sides of the street where foods like pho, cha co and banh xeo are sold. Before her eyes, her whole world is turned upside down, and she is sitting on a plane next to her mother. She prepares herself emotionally and mentally for her new life in the U.S., where she will unexpectedly meet one of her closest friends.

Whe juniors Han Cam and Chahn Tran realized they speak both Vietnamese and English, the girls introduced themselves to each other in first grade. The girls related to something they couldn’t relate to with many people other than their family: they both were born in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

“Moving was a total new experience,” Cam said. “Chahn and I shared that. Not only with language, we bond culturally and with family things.”

The girls bonded over speaking Vietnamese, family traditions and culture. Their friendship grew, and their families also connected through their daughters’ friendship. Even when Tran switched from Becky David Elementary School to Harvest Ridge Elementary School in second grade, the girls managed to stay connected and continue their friendship. One of the largest factors of becoming friends was their communication through their language.

“I don’t know a lot of Vietnamese people here,” Tran said. “The language thing is very unique because she’s the only person I can talk to in Vietnamese.”

Cam moved to the United States when she was about one year old, while Tran moved when she was about four. Both families moved to seek out better opportunities for their families. Job opportunities and healthcare is relatively better here than in Vietnam, according to Cam. While their family had the chance to create a happy and successful life in the U.S., both Tran and Cam had to leave a large majority of their family back in Vietnam, along with old family traditions.

“Our traditions are close to family, and our family was divided when we came here,” Tran said. “It’s hard to go back to traditions when half of your family is somewhere else.”

Vietnam is divided into North Central Vietnam and South Vietnam. Vietnam’s cities are small and crowded, with a young demographic. According to Cam, traveling to Vietnam is like a culture shock in her own country. Cam’s family tries to visit every seven years, while Tran’s family doesn’t go very often. Vietnam is expensive to travel to, averaging at about $22,440 for one person. Cam and Tran both agree that one of the reasons they’d both go back to Vietnam is to study and embrace their culture individually.

“It feels more exotic,” Tran said. “I like that it’s different. I like to feel like a foreigner in my country.”

According to Tran, learning formalities was difficult for her when she first moved to the U.S. and can be hard to understand completely. Formality is very important to the Vietnamese; age plays a large role. When addressing someone older, the younger person talks in third person and when a younger person addresses an older person by their name, they have to say “Chi” for older sister or “Anh” for older brother. When two people become closer the formality may be dropped if chosen to do so; Cam and Tran would address each other by name if they lived in Vietnam. Traditions are also different in Vietnam. People in Vietnam celebrate Chinese New Year, so most people take nearly a week off to celebrate. They enjoy time with family and friends and have parties filled with music and food.

“Understanding different cultures is kind of like stepping over boundaries and getting to know them so you can become closer,” Cam said. “It’s never a bad thing to learn more about others.”

Tran and Cam were born in the same city, but there is no way of knowing they would have met if they didn’t move to the United States. They view each other not only as close friends, but as family.

“We have that bond,” Cam said. “I don’t think we would’ve met if we both stayed in Vietnam. If we didn’t have this cultural bond, I feel like we’d still be friends, but not as close. It’s the small things that make you feel more familiar. I do have somebody who understands.”