Assimilation, 2016-Style: Come to America, Learn Vietnamese

East meets South in Orange County, California.


A story in the Los Angeles Times describes a cultural crossroads that would have sounded like science fiction 60 years ago. It's about immigrants coming to California from Latin America, getting jobs in Orange County restaurants, and deciding to learn the language to get ahead. And by "the language," I mean Vietnamese.

The basic reasons for this are simple enough. Orange County has more than 10,000 Vietnamese-owned businesses; a great deal of the available labor pool came from Mexico and other points south; the businesses hire who's available; the workers know a useful skill when they see one. But there are a lot of culturally specific details as well. My favorite:

For Vietnamese restaurant owners there's an added benefit, though few like to admit it openly: They worry less about Latino workers, especially chefs, taking what they've learned and being able to become rivals in hypercompetitive Little Saigon.

"In the Viet owner's eyes, it's easy to understand how they can rely on Latino workers to keep family recipes within the family," [restaurant consultant Andrea] Nguyen says.

The reporter speaks with several Latinos who have been working on their Vietnamese, including the Mexican-American head waiter at a place called Song Long, who appears to have mastered the language. Naturally, their comments to the paper are all in English.