Thanh Tran

Vietnamese American from Boston, MA  

“I knew being Asian was part of my heritage but I was curious to hang out with other cultures and see what they were all about.  Thanh Tran is a good friend of mine from my hometown of Lynn, MA. I was able to catch him quickly in the Boston Commons to talk about the importance of having a diverse group of friends. Thanh shares with me his desires to try new things, meet new people, understand different cultures and what he has gained from those experiences. Thanks Thanh!

“I grew up with very strict Asian parents that came here from Vietnam during the Vietnam war. My parents had a little bit of Cambodian influence and I actually grew up speaking Khmer because Lynn has a very large Cambodian community. My parents worked a lot. I have 3 sisters and an older brother. My older brother took care of us till I was in the 8th grade and then he joined the Army. After he came back, he became a police officer and then my sister helped me out until half way through high school. By then everyone was becoming their own person and I was kind of on my own to make my own decisions. Midway through high school, I was pretty independent.”

“My parents dealt with a lot of prejudice. They didn’t speak English and were judge to assimilate quickly.  Growing up I would hear ‘Ching Chong’, the Godzilla reference, or people would assume that my family only eat ramen noodles all day.  But I eat everything! I have tried Spanish food, Bosnian food, Ethiopian food, French . . .  I love trying new food from different cultures. I remember sometimes people would also say that whole Asians eat dog and cat stuff and sometimes it’s funny, but it’s just more annoying if anything. I mean the French eat snails and in the southern part of the US they eat guinea pigs. It’s just a different culture.

“In freshmen year of high school, I knew being Asian was part of my heritage but I was curious to hang out with other cultures and see what they were all about. I started branching out and tried to make friends with Americans – kids who had parents that were born here.  It was really interesting to see how different they were from my family, and it was almost like seeing into an entirely different sub culture, but I learned so much. Today, I have friends from all backgrounds – Asian, European, African, American, Spanish and that’s really cool.”

“I like being open to everything –  new crowds, dance, art, religion, anything!  I want to meet all the different personalities, subcultures, and groups in this country!  You can learn so much by meeting people that are different from you. I remember when I first met someone who was gay. It was in college and he was a member for one of my group projects. He was very cool.  Now, one of my close friends is gay and it just really puts things in perspective and has helped me to be better in understanding our differences and similarities. Especially now a days, when people always think in the mindset of “us vs. them” for no reason at all. I rather see us all live harmoniously with each other than against each other.”

Advice he would give to those feeling a little bit stuck. . . 

“We grew up in what people think is a ghetto part of Massachusetts, and I think everyone there or anywhere can get a little lazy or feel stuck. But you just gotta motivate yourself. If you see one person succeed,  you can succeed yourself. At least for me, nothing was ever handed to me. I worked extra hours to go study abroad in Italy and Japan. I think sometimes when you realize that you need to make some changes in your life, you just have to do it or else everything stays the same.

“I think the people that I surround myself really impacts my way of thinking. If you hang out with negative people they’ll bring you down. If you surround yourself with positive people they’ll empower you to move up in life. I don’t like to compare myself with others in a judgmental way but instead, I would take the positive things that everyone is doing and see how I can apply that to my life.



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