One day when walking on a street along with a lady friend 15 years ago Nadis heard some people talk about “a woman dating a black guy.”
Nnadozie Uzor Nadis, who is from Nigeria and works as an English teacher in HCMC, says he first came to Vietnam in 2008.
He was walking on Dong Khoi Street one time when he heard two Vietnamese women speak with each other and point at him and his friend, a woman.
He noticed his friend had an unhappy look on her face and realized that whatever they were saying was not nice.
When he asked his friend, Linh, what they had said, she brushed away the question at first.
“It was nothing, don’t worry,” she said. But when he walked towards the women to ask them, Linh stopped him and said what they had said: “Why is she dating a black guy? Why doesn’t she date a Vietnamese or even white guy? Why does she go with a black man?”
It greatly saddened him.
Nadis says he came to Vietnam for emotional healing after he lost his mother, the pillar of his life after his father had died when he was young.
He says he felt unsafe and wanted to go back to his own country after that incident.
A few months later Linh called and told him that a school in HCMC wanted him to teach English. Nadis accepted the offer, but said he would only be around for six months at most.
He realized instead of being affected by gossip he needed to learn everything about Vietnam. He knew the only way to understand a country was to immerse oneself into its culture and daily life.
He started learning the language at a center in District 1, spoke to tour guides, watched movies, and listened to music.
Whenever he came across a new word, he would note it down.
As his Vietnamese got better, Nadis began to interact more with people and make more friends.
He says people were more willing to open up to him and help him after knowing how hard he tried to learn about Vietnam.
“I began to fall in love with the country.”
His friends and students began to call him “Teacher Nam.”
He set up an online group of 600 Nigerians living in Vietnam.
He says the racial situation in Vietnam is now vastly different from what it was. More Vietnamese are learning English now, and many people of color tell him it now feels safer and more comfortable to live in Vietnam, he says.
“Communication is key.”