If our American friends don't have to do it, why do I have to do it?: Becoming Minnesotan

Male silhouette.
  • Name - Yang Cha Ying
  • Age at interview - 56
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Refugee
  • Date of Interview - 11.20.1991
  • Yong Vang Yang family on their first day in St. Paul, June 20, 1979.
    Hmong men's soccer team in Milwaukee, 1970s.  Photo courtesy MayKao Hang.

    Essential Question

    Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

    Problems in America: What could have helped this person’s adjustment in the U.S.?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    The Hmong in Laos typically had large families, and the children spent most of their time helping the family with farming and household tasks.  When they immigrated into the U.S., most Hmong settled in urban areas, where they must rely on other kinds of jobs that don't require family effort and that take them away from home during the day.  Often times these families struggle with adjusting to an urban life that includes diverse neighbors and children gaining more independence from their parents.  

    To learn more about Hmong history and culture, visit our Hmong Community page.

    • Chapter 1
    • Chapter 2

    Download Yang Cha Ying 2
    1:58 Minutes | 1.9Mb


    Note: Original interview was conducted in Hmong.  Excerpt is read in English by Lu Hang.

    Narrator: Yang Cha Ying (YY)

    YY:  It's really hard because in this country the laws say we cannot punish our children. I don't like it, so I don't punish my children and when they go to school they become like punks. They don't listen to us anymore and it makes me really afraid.

    In this country is it nice. You can raise your children to grow up healthy. But it's really hard to talk with them, and communicate with them, to tell them what to do in this country. This is the hardest thing for me, to ask my children not to do this or that. The way I would think in my mind, it says that, the children in this country do not want to be good, because they do not take the mother's milk, they take the cow's milk. The second idea is when they go to school they listen to the teacher and talk to their American friends, and they have house chores they need to do at home. Their American friends say, "I don't have to do that, my parents pay someone to do that. I do not do house chores, I do not mop the floor, or wash the dishes because we have a dishwasher. I do not."

    A lot of things, when they get home I tell them to do those things, and they refuse to do the chores. This is a really big issue. You have to learn to do it, to be perfect in your life, so when you grow up and get married you know how to do it. But this doesn't work for us, because our children go to school and learn how to refuse to do things inside the house. They ask, "If our American friends don't have to do it, why do I have to do it?"

    Right now I have two young sons, thirteen and ten. They spend a lot of time playing with American children rather than Hmong children because the American friends stay home and don't have to do anything, just watch TV. They say, "Why are you so strict, you make us do chores all the time, you never buy us anything? Our friends, if they do something, they get something."

    See Chapter 2 for original Hmong interview.

    Download Yang Cha Ying 2 (Hmong)
    4:36 Minutes | 4.41Mb


    Excerpt of Original interview in Hmong language.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Verb:  To express or convey ideas, either through verbal or nonverbal methods.  (communicates, communicating, communicated)


    Noun:  Debate; controversy; problem.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
    nid: 482