[i] Hello.

[r] Hello.

[i] Can you tell me where you were born, please?

[r] Yes, I was born in Cambodia. I am 58 years old. And… I left Cambodia at the age of 16.

[i] What city were you born in in Cambodia?

[r] In Phnom Penh.

[i] In Phnom Penh?

[r] In Phnom Penh.

[i] Okay, what year was it?

[r] In Phnom Penh, in 1960.

[i] 1960 ?

[r] Yes.

[i] And your family was of Chinese origin?

[r] Of Chinese origin, yes. My father, he was Chinese. In China, there was the Second World War, he entered Cambodia.

[i] Okay.

[r] So…. Well, I was born in Cambodia. My mother was also born in Cambodia.

[i] And… Are they Teochew?

[r] Teochew, yes.

[i] Okay. So they’re the ones who went to Cambodia?

[r] That’s it. Because there was World War II. That’s why I….

[i] Okay.

[r] They left China to go to Cambodia.

[i] Okay. And in Cambodia, what did they do?

[r] With my grandmother and all that. Oh, but we had a little… business with my father who was a food salesman, all that.

[i] Okay, he had a grocery store?

[r] Grocery store, yes. It was in… what do you call it? In French, what do you call it? In a market[en teochew].

[i] A deal?

[r] At the market… It’s a… a little bit of a deal that’s… next door to me.

[i] Okay. And you were talking teochew at home?

[r] Yes. Well, in Cambodia, we only talk about teochew, don’t we? But… At school, we speak Cambodian.

[i] Did you go to school with Cambodians?

[r] Yes, with Cambodians in… in the Buddhist camp.

[i] And what memories do you have of that moment?

[r] But then, at the age of 5, I had studied Chinese. But after that, it’s forbidden to learn Chinese. At the age of 7, I went to school in Cambodia.

[i] There was a ban on speaking Chinese?

[r] That’s it. To learn Chinese, rather.

[i] And that was the government’s decision?

[r] That’s it. Because at that moment, I was told that Mao is too dangerous. That’s why they don’t want us to… that we… that we… How are we going to say this? Let’s learn Chinese. It’s too much…. It’s too communist. There you go. That’s why…. I stopped Chinese and learned Cambodian.

[i] And…

[r] But when I was a kid, I learned French too. In Cambodia. But it was a private school.

[i] Was there any hostility towards the Chinese at that time? Did… did you feel that in Phnom Penh, it was difficult to be Chinese?

[r] Oh no… No, not at all.

[i] Did you get along well?

r] Because I was still a child, so you know, I didn’t understand anything at all, because it was my parents who decided that we were leaving Cambodia, that’s why we left at 16. But I didn’t know anything about it. It’s the parents’ decision.

[i] And you had brothers and sisters?

[r] Yes.

[i] How much?

[r] I had two brothers and two sisters. So during the war, my sister, she couldn’t leave Cambodia. And… she’s gone, we can’t find her anymore… And… I had two brothers who are there, in France, there. We left, the three brothers for France.

[i] And how many of you were in all? There were five of you?

[r] There were five of us. My two sisters are missing. Even my father… during the war… he disappeared too. We can’t find him anymore.

[i] And how did you get to France?

[r] That’s it. I had left Cambodia. I went to Thailand. And I had entered the refugee camp in Thailand. For seven months. After that, it was Valéry Giscard d’Estaing who brought us to France. So it was the month of… the year 1976.

[i] You arrived in France in 1976?

[r] That’s it. It’s at what time that… at what date that you went…

[r] November 23rd.

[i] November 23, 1976?

[r] Yeah.

[i] Do you remember the date well?

[r] Yes.

[i] And when you went to Thailand,

[r] Yes.

[i] Was it just before the Khmer Rouge?

[r] Before the Khmer Rouge. Only one month. A month. A month before the Khmer Rouge. I left at a month, that’s why I… My parents are… My father…. We didn’t even find it. And then there’s my grandmother and my two sisters.

[i] And you knew that… you had to leave, then?

[r] Well, yes, it’s my parents who decide. Because in Cambodia, we had family who… who were military, all that, they knew it. When they found out, they told us that we must… we must leave Cambodia. That’s why we left before. It’s only a month. It’s unfortunate, my father couldn’t leave… because… My father couldn’t leave because he had stores all that stuff to sell. It was too late to…. That’s why we’re here in France.

[i] And you went to Thailand with your mother?

[r] With my mom, yes.

[i] And your brothers?

[r] That’s it.

[r] My mom brought three… three boys to leave… We stayed in Thailand for seven months. Then we came to France.

[i] And you were in a refugee camp in Thailand?

[r] Yes. In Chonburi.

[i] Chonburi?

[r] In Chonburi. It’s not Chonburi, it’s… Chonburi. Chonburi.

[i] And there were only refugees from Cambodia there?

[r] Yes.

[i] And how was life in the refugee camp there?

[r] The refugee camp, well, every day… But we’re not doing anything… We have to stay in the camps, and we wait… for the results to come to France.

[i] Was it France or were there other countries as well?

[r] No, there are no other countries. There are no other countries. There are only Cambodians. All of them, all of them, all of them Cambogdians.

[i] But to go to France… Were there other countries of destination, or was it just France?

[r] Normally, there are… There are in America, and… France. And… and in Canada too. But we chose America and France. But at that time, it was good that Giscard d’Estaing wanted to take us… us, that’s why we came to France directly. We didn’t want to wait there for… without work, without… without anything, how do we live? In the camp… it’s hard in the camps.

[i] And why did you choose France?

[r] It’s not just us, we decided on France. We decided to…. to go… to a country that takes us. So it’s a good thing that France is taking us. So…. After a month, after a month…. In America, they… they looked for us to go there too, because… Because we asked for both countries. But it was France first, so we came to France. But it’s a good thing I learned French in Cambodia. Well… I can talk a little bit anyway. That’s good, that’s why. Let us come to France.

[i] And your brothers, are they younger or older?

[r] I have an older brother and a younger brother.

[i] They knew how to speak French too then?

[r] Yes, yes, yes. But we learned together, all together. In a… private school.

[i] And you had family in France?

[r] The family after that, I have my aunt in France.

[i] But did they arrive before or after?

[r] After me.

[i] Were you the first to arrive?

[r] That’s it. When I arrived, there was no one there. So I was… I was in the provinces. They sent us to the provinces.

[i] Where exactly?

[r] In Rennes. 35. There you go. So I lived in a home for a year. After that, they… they found a job for me, to go work in Saint-Malo. I went to work in Saint-Malo. Afterwards, my mother decided to come and join my brother in Paris. And that’s why we’re all in Paris.

[i] How old were you when you arrived?

[r] I was 16 years old.

[i] 16 years old?

[r] Yes.

[i] And what did you do in Rennes and Saint-Malo?

[r] Well, I worked in a hotel. I was a diver. I worked for… for 2-3 years. After that, I left. It’s my mother, she thought too much about my brother. She wanted us all to be family together. That’s why we’re… we came.

[i] But you were… you were put on… Were you sent to different places?

[r] Yes.

[r] Yes, that’s why.

[i] And where were the others?

[r] Well, my brother’s still in Paris. He hasn’t left Paris. And me with my mother, and with my brother-in-law in the provinces. So, my brother, he’s lucky, he can go to school. But not me. I can’t do that.

[i] Why?

[r] Because it’s too old. Too old, we can’t go to school. But my brother did. That’s the point.

[i] So he went to school there, in Saint-Malo?

[r] Yes.

[i] No, in Rennes rather. But my brother, who also came to Paris, has the right to go to school. In Paris, we asked. But not me. I can’t do that. I was too old.

[i] And you regret that?

[r] Well, yeah, because… I didn’t learn… Because I learned French, right? Speaking fluently is thanks to my boss. Because I worked in a hotel. And he taught me French. One day, one day, he showed me something. For example, “a glass”. He taught me that this is called “a drink”. And I have to remember. The next day he asked me, if I can’t call, he pinched me. That’s why I keep in my head to learn French. That’s why when he taught me something, I had to keep it in my head. So as not to forget. Even while I was sleeping, I had to…. But I was alone in… I was even sleeping in the hotel. I worked there, I slept there. Absolutely. But… once a month, I went to see my mother in Rennes. Because I worked in Saint-Malo. Taking the train is 45 minutes, that’s all. That’s why I lived there alone, like a… Like an unfortunate man. Without a family.

[i] Were you unhappy?

[r] Well, yeah, I’m all alone. In the hotel, I couldn’t leave. At the hotel, there was nothing at all. No walks. No weekends. Work every day.

[i] And how long were you there?

[r] Three years. Three years. And then I left. So when we arrived in Rennes, my mother decided to come to Paris, so that we could come to Paris. To join my brother. So, when I’m… I’m in Paris until now, I’ve worked until now.

[i] And where did you arrive in Paris?

[r] In the 13th. Definitely in the 13th grade. Because at the time, in the 13th, there was no… there was no Paris Store. The Paris Store, there is only a small shop. There is no Tang Frères, there is nothing at all. And I lived in the Helsinki Tower. Do you know Helsinki? That’s it, I lived in the Helsinki Tower. And I was working every day.

[i] All this time, you’ve been living there?

[r] That’s it. But now I left the 13th a long time ago. After that, I lived in Crimea, after that. In Crimea, I lived for 20 years, in Crimea.

[i] You first lived in the 13th?

[r] Yes.

[i] After that in Crimea.

[r] That’s it.

[i] What now?

[r] Now I live in Belleville. Because I have my wife and all that… I live with my wife. With my wife and all that.

[i] And… how did it feel to come from Brittany to Paris?

[r] Oh….. I like Brittany anyway because Brittany is… it’s a quiet city. There are no stories. In Paris it is… We work hard. Paris we work hard, but…. In Paris, it’s good… to live. To be happy is very good, because when you work hard, you are tired, you can relax a little, to go for a walk… on the Champs-Elysées, all that… But in the provinces, no. At 5:00 in the evening, we go home, and go to sleep, huh, after that.

[i] While in Paris?

[r] In Paris, we can take a walk.

[i] Where do you like to go for a walk?

[r] It depends. Depends on the friends. Sometimes we go to the Opera House… sometimes we go to the Champs-Elysées…. We walk around everywhere.

[i] Do you like it?

[r] Work is work. Walking is spending.

[i] And what about in Rennes, or Saint-Malo, being a refugee, how did you feel about that? Were there other refugees from Cambodia?

Yes, there is a lot there, yes, there is a shelter for refugees. And all the refugees that Giscard d’Estaing, the President, is bringing. They shared… they shared the… refugees who go to Rennes, who go to Metz… Depends who wants to stay in Paris, they were sending him to the suburbs, I don’t know what. But I was far away.

[i] But were you well received there or not?

[r] Yes, of course, of course.

[i] They were nice?

[r] Yeah, they’re nice, every day, we have a canteen for all that, to eat. For a year. For only one year. After that, they… they found work for us. We were forced to leave the… the home. So when we left the home, we found an apartment to stay alone. But my mother, she stayed in Rennes, because my brother had to go to school. But I had to go to work. That’s why once a month, I went down to Rennes to see her.

[i] And when you arrived in Paris, where did you work?

[r] At first, I worked in…. In Paris, I worked in[as] a temporary worker… to go work at Renault. I worked at Renault because it is Renault that hires as it pleases. You see, sometimes… a month, sometimes… two weeks. After that, I found a… a job, a job in a factory that makes balloons. I worked there, I worked there a little longer. For two years, over there. After that, I have…. I left the factory. I worked in a restaurant. I worked in Montparnasse.

[i] What kind of restaurant was it?

[r] A Vietnamese restaurant. There you go. Oh, at the time…. In the 15th, it worked well. In Montparnasse, it used to work well.

[i] You were a waiter?

[r] Yes, waiter.

[i] And then you did several… jobs?

[r] Then I left the restaurant. There was a time when I was self-employed. Actually, I was working in the clothing industry. It lasted for two years. And I had…. The house has…. The house has been demolished. Because I worked in the…. the apartment was demolished. We have… we had to leave. That’s it, so far, I don’t work anymore. I’ve worked at the restaurant until now.

[i] You had to stop your business?

[i] Well, yeah, at that time it wasn’t working anymore. That’s why I stopped, totally.

[i] And so since then, you’ve been working as a waiter?

[r] Yes.

[i] Where? Where?

[r] Well, there. Chinatown Belleville. Since the year… 1994.

[i] Since 1994?

[r] Yes. That’s it, so far. I’m still here.

[i] That’s where we can…

[r] Next door.

[i] … singing karaoke?

[r] Yes.

[i] And do you like it as a place to work?

[r] Oh, anyway, you like it or you don’t like it, that’s the way it is. It’s a matter of work. Even if we find another place, it’s the same. I prefer to stay… without moving. I don’t have to worry about getting a job. And my boss, he’s… he likes me… That’s why I’ve stayed until now.

[i] And you live next door then?

[r] Yes.

[i] In Belleville?

[r] Yes.

[i] How long has it been?

[r] In Belleville? Since 2000. Since 2000. I lived in Crimea for 20 years. After the year 2000, since the year 2000, I’ve been here. In Belleville.

[i] You live with…

[r] With my wife. I’m married to a Chinese woman. Well, so far, I’m still in Belleville.

[i] And you like living in Belleville?

[r] Oh….. Because…. I like living in Belleville because I don’t need to take the subway. I don’t need to take the subway to work. Waste of time for nothing! So I’m next door, I like it. More like work.

[i] And do you prefer Belleville or the 13th?

[r] In the 13th, how am I going to say, in the 13th… for…. To eat, to dine all that, in the 13th arrondissement, you can easily find it. But Belleville is a little… a little different.

[i] Why?

[r] Because there was a time when there was no security here.

[i] Don’t you feel safe?

[r] No. Well, now it’s fine. It’s okay, now it’s done. It’s all right. We’re used to it. That’s why I stayed. In the 13th…. It’s good in the 13th. Over there, when we… when we go out outside, we see friends, all that. And there, it’s for… to eat, for all that, to have fun at night, you don’t have to go far. In Belleville, it’s something else. It’s not the same thing. In Belleville, there’s no… there’s no good restaurants, huh. In the 13th, yes, there is…. There are quite a few.

[i] And what do you like to eat then in the 13th?

[r] Well, eat Chinese food. Well, if I want to eat French, I’ll go to the opera house for all that, huh. I don’t want to eat in Belleville with French cuisine. Because… it’s not the same! It’s not the same thing.

[i] And… at home, do you cook too?

[r] Yes, of course. Of course.

[i] You cook…

[r] But every day, I eat at the restaurant at work. Only on days…. May the days[when I] rest. When I rest, I have to…. to cook at home with my wife. Oh sometimes we go out for… to eat. But most of us… we don’t eat much at home. Not much at home.

[i] You eat mostly Asian food?

[r] Yes. Oh, I like everything, huh. I like everything. Most of us, if we prefer to eat Thai, we eat Thai. French, we eat French.

[i] And your brothers, do they live in Paris too?

[r] Yes, yes, yes.

[i] Which neighbourhoods do they live in?

[r] My brother, he lives in the 13th floor. And my older brother lives in…. in the 77.

[i] Where? Where?

[r] In Lognes. To Noisy-le-Grand. Because he bought an apartment there. And he’s over there.

[i] And do you see each other often?

[r] Of course. Of course. Because my mother. My mother…. We’re three brothers. We have three apartments. My mother goes as she pleases. Sometimes she’ll stay with my older brother, sometimes with the younger brother, sometimes she comes to my house. That’s why I’m here. Well, that’s why we always get together.

[i] Are you close?

[r] Yes.

[i] And… do you have children?

[r] Uh… yes, I have a child I adopted with a French girl. In the provinces. But now they live in the provinces. My child, he is already 30 years old. He’s old enough, he wants to live alone. There you go.

[i] And your brothers, do they have children?

[r] Yes.

[r] I have my nephew… three nephews.

[i] How old are they?

[r] The tallest one is 30 years old. The tallest one is 30 years old. The smallest is 26 years old. And my nephew, the great nephew there, he got married, he already has a child.

[i] And do they ask you questions or not about your story?

[r] No.

[i] How did you get here, all this, you say?

[r] No, no, no, no, no. Not at all.

[i] You don’t talk about it much?

[r] No. Oh, we forgot about Cambodia. We forgot. I don’t even like to go back. It doesn’t ring a bell. I didn’t even….. For 41 years, I have been in France. I didn’t even set foot in there.

[i] Don’t you want to?

[r] No. First of all, we have no right. To return to Cambodia. Now we’re allowed, but I don’t feel like going. It doesn’t ring a bell.

[i] Is it too painful?

[r] Yeah, it’s gonna remind me of my… my sister and my father and my grandmother, all that. This will disgust me.

[i] And… did you go to the countries around or not even?

[r] But yes, we did the tour in Belgium, Holland, all that. Because if we go to Holland, it’s not… it’s not far. We can go by car. It’s only two hours long, that’s all.

[i] But I’m talking about… in Asia?

[r] In Asia, no. I haven’t left.

[i] You didn’t go?

[r] No. I didn’t[go there]. Even in Thailand, I[didn’t] go back, huh. I go to European countries.

[i] Are you staying in Europe?

[r] That’s it. I like Europe.

Where did you go to Europe?

[r] In Europe, well, I go to… Holland, Belgium. Because before… we had friends who lived in Belgium, all that, that we often went to Belgium. We were going to the border with Belgium.

[i] How are you getting there by car?

[r] By car, yes. It’s not far away. Then there’s Lille, we can pass, right? And in France, I like to go to the provinces to walk around La Baule, all that. Dinan, Dinard, all that, I like to go for a walk there. Especially La Baule, it’s very, very beautiful there.

[i] Do you like La Baule?

[r] Yeah. The sea is… it’s big. Very clean. The landscapes there are… very, very well. Even in La Rochelle. There you go.

[i] And what are the other places you like in France?

[r] Oh, I don’t remember, I’m old now, I’m not going for a walk, are I? You know. I’m already 58 years old, I’m tired of going out. When I was young, I often went to nightclubs, so you know. When I was young.

[i] Where? Where?

[r] Ben… First in the provinces. At a nightclub. After I arrived in Paris, I was in… I was going to the Rex. In Opera, over there.

[i] Do you like to dance?

[r] Before yes, when I was young, I liked to dance. I like to dance. I like it…. have a drink with friends. There you go.

[i] And your friends are mostly… Teochew, Cambodian?

[r] Teochew, Cambodians and all that.

[i] There’s everything?

[r] Yeah. A little bit of everything, French people, all that. There’s a little bit of everything. Even Thais. Even Thais. Because I can speak Thai, that’s why. Because I lived there for seven… seven months, I learned. So…. And I arrived in France, I worked in a Vietnamese restaurant. I learned Vietnamese too. When I was young. It’s easy to learn.

[i] And how many languages do you speak then in all?

In all, I speak Cambodian, Thai, Vietnamese, Laotian, Thai. In Asia, let’s say.

[i] You speak teochew.

[r] Yeah, of course, teochew.

[i] Mandarin?

[r] Mandarin, Cantonese. A little bit of everything. Well, I understand, I understand.

[i] And when you think, what language is it in? In your head?

[r] Me? Well, I think in… in Mandarin instead. Because most of us… we work in the restaurant. We only speak Mandarin. French, Mandarin, French, Mandarin, French, Mandarin. Especially the Chinese, they do…

[i] And you, you feel more like… what’s the point then? Chinese, Teochew? Cambodian?

[r] Teochew, we don’t speak him much. Except with my boss, my boss, all that. But… We often speak Mandarin with our colleagues and all that.

[i] And you, you feel more like…

[r] I feel that… Oh, I don’t care. I feel like I’m part of everything. But, how do I mean, in the work, that we have Thai, Chinese… There are Hong Kongers, we already speak three languages. They are used every day in all three languages. That’s it, that’s why.

i] But in terms of your identity, do you consider yourself Cambodian or…

[r] I still consider myself to be of Chinese origin. I was born in Cambodia, and my parents are teochew. But… I’m a Chinese Teochew! There you go.

[i] And do you feel French too or not?

[r] French doesn’t ring a bell. That doesn’t ring a bell. Honestly, I don’t think so. Because I’m disgusted. Because I… I went to put a request with my colleague to have French nationality. They refused me it. But my colleague, he doesn’t speak French, I translated for him, he’s the one who has it… He has it, but I didn’t get it. It disgusted me, that’s why I don’t want to ask.

[i] And you know why you didn’t get it?

[r] Oh, I don’t know, it’s…

[i] Didn’t they give you a reason?

[r] Not at all.

[i] And when was that?

[r] Oh, there’s… 30 years ago. I made a request, didn’t I? With my colleague, huh, he… He got it, and I translated it for him. He got it, and I didn’t get it! Ah, I don’t understand a thing. That’s why I’m here. I don’t want to understand, I want more.

[i] You didn’t ask anymore?

[r] That’s it. So far, I haven’t even thought about applying for French nationality, because…. I am a refugee. It’s the same thing! I live, work, do the same. The important thing…. The important thing is to stay in France, to work. French nationality, or not French nationality, is the same. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.

[i] Doesn’t that change anything for you?

[r] It doesn’t change anything. There are people who like to have French nationality. But, me… in my opinion, it’s… In my head, it’s the same. It’s the same thing!

[i] Did your brothers have French nationality?

[r] Yes. Everyone got it. Except me. Even my mother. Even my mother. She is 82 years old.

[i] And they went back to Cambodia?

[r] Yes, them, yes. Yes. My mother, she comes back to Cambodia often.

[i] And they tell you what it’s like there, or… ?

Yes, she told me, but there, in Cambodia, it’s a little… to live… it’s not easy. Today, in Cambodia, there is no security yet. To live there, to work there, it’s even harder than working in France. So to live there, it’s…. It’s a dangerous city. My mother says… she advises me not to go. But yet, we bought a house there. My mother likes hot countries. That’s why she’s going back and forth. Because she likes to live in hot countries. She doesn’t have a health problem. In cold countries, it often hurts here, it hurts there… That’s why she prefers winter, she goes there, in summer, she goes back to France. That’s why I’m here.

[i] And she goes there regularly?

[r] That’s it.

[i] And your brothers too?

[r] Yes. Oh, brother, it’s just for a walk, that’s all. A month and he’ll be back. He doesn’t want to live there. My brother, he doesn’t want to either. He thinks it’s… it’s not a country… Anyway, it’s not a safe country. It’s a country, you can’t know the next day how it’s going. That’s why he prefers not to go there. Besides, he has a house here, he bought a house in Paris, there. He doesn’t want to leave France, does he? His children who live, grow up here too. His children, they don’t want to go there either. My nephew, especially him… He’s a bit of a maniacal boy. [Laughs] Because he doesn’t know Cambodia, he doesn’t want to go there. Even to go for a walk.

[i] Doesn’t she care?

[r] No. He prefers to go to… Thailand, all that… It is a well-known country. In Thailand, in….. In Belgium, all that. To go[to] walk there, to[walk] there. Abroad, he prefers to go to Spain, it’s not far… It’s not far from France. Yeah, next door, the countries….

i] You talk very little about… well… never in fact in your history, with your family?

[r] No. We don’t have any history with family, we’re… We like each other…. We don’t have any history with family.

[i] But you… don’t tell yourself about the… the front, the life before, the past?

[r] No. No, I’m not a…. I’m not a chatty man… who tells this, that… I don’t like it. I don’t like it. Because if anyone asks me, I answer. But if I haven’t been asked, I’ll… I’m not saying anything. I prefer to live in peace. There you go. In fact, even with my friends while we’re having a drink, I don’t even say a word. I’m quiet there, I drink, and… people who talk, I listen. There you go. If… If it makes you laugh, I’m just laughing a little bit, that’s all. There you go.

[i] You’re rather discreet.

[r] Yeah, I don’t like to talk too much. I don’t like to talk too much. I’m not the type to talk too much.

[i] And do you have religious practices?

[r] Oh, no, I love all of me. I like everything.

[i] Are you going to the temple? Or… ?

[r] Yes, at the Thai temple, all that. At the Chinese temple. Thai. My mother, she’s a Buddhist. She’s a vegetarian. So…. We often go to the Thai temple.

[i] Where is it?

[r] It’s in 77. 77 over there.

[i] Where exactly?

[r] It’s next door, what do you call it? I can’t remember how…. The place I… I don’t remember. But we go at least three or four times a year, right? Because I bought the… the temple for my mother when… When she’s dead, we’ll put her there. We bought there.

[i] And where is that?

[r] Bah 77, in the Thai temple. My mother, she likes it. That’s why we often go there. So my mother, all the… Every week, she goes to the Chinese temple. And in the 13th floor, next to her house, there’s…

[i] There is a temple?

[r] That’s it. She goes there every week.

[i] Is this the Teochew temple?

[r] They’re not Teochew, they’re Taiwanese. Taiwanese people. Teochew, Teochew, only in the 13th, that’s all. But my mother, she’s going… she doesn’t like it there.

[i] Oh, yeah, why?

[r] I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. She’s used to the Taiwanese temple. That’s why she’s going to…. She often goes, every… every week, she goes there to do the prayers, all that. Especially if there are holidays. She goes there to help… to work a little, all that…

[i] Does it feel good?

[r] Yes. She likes it. She likes it. Well, my mother… she’s 82 years old, you shouldn’t move too much, though. But she likes it, she says it’s… She feels good, she likes to move. That’s why, well, I’m leaving her.

[i] And you, do you pray too?

[r] Oh, I don’t have time. I don’t have time for this. I work… I work every day. A day off is a short time. Not even the time…. Not even time to go to lunch with my wife…. I prefer to rest, it’s better.

[i] Are you resting?

[r] Yes. At home, I rest… In the morning, we go down to the café, have a drink… Drink coffee, meet friends, have a chat, then come home. Hop and dodo! Oh, I’m not going out…. I haven’t even left Belleville since 2000. Since the year 2000, huh! Can you believe I didn’t leave Belleville? Except here, on the subway. Work, home, and at the subway, there, Paris Store, to buy something to eat. That’s all. That’s all.

[i] Since 2000, the neighbourhood has changed a lot?

[r] Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

[i] There are many young people now coming… out to Belleville.

[r] There was a time, yes. A time, yes. At one time, I lived in the neighbourhood, there were not many low-rent apartments. HLM there, for….. There weren’t many Chinese people. It means that the Wenzhounais, all that stuff here… After that there were many Wenzhounais. That’s why, there was a time, always we go out, there’s an attack afterwards. That’s why we don’t go out much. There you go.

[i] But there are many new bars and… and new restaurants that are open right now.

[r] Oh no, that’s… that’s after, that. It’s after 10 years. It’s after 10 years. Even before…. How do I mean, the President, he’s not there yet, when I arrived. In Belleville. The President, he wasn’t there, was he, the President. The President is next. See, that big restaurant there? The restaurant where I work until now, it opened in 1988. I arrived in 1994. It was a time when karaoke worked well, that’s why there were so many people there.

[i] And who then comes to the restaurant to sing karaoke?

[r] Well now there? Now they are French, Europeans. There are…. There are not many Chinese people. There are only…. On weekends, there are only the heads, the heads of Europeans. We work… with Europeans. But before, before, when we started karaoke, we worked a lot with Chinese people. Every day, always, always, armored, armored. Well, now, the Chinese, that’s it, they’ve left. It’s not the same thing. There was a time when there were three places. Three karaoke here. But now…. Now he stays with us.

[i] The others, they closed?

[r] Well, yeah, they’ve gone bankrupt. Everything is bankrupt.

[i] This one works well?

[r] Yes, there are Europeans, we have… The restaurant is… it’s famous, right? Even Europeans who live far away… they live 200 km away, they come here for an evening, that’s all. They drive for….

[i] And what do they like then?

[r] Well…. Especially the… the music. We have all the music we need. And the sound of[the] music, in our country, is not bad. There you go.

[i] And… even there in the summer, there are people?

[r] No, summer doesn’t. Not many people.

[i] Is it quieter?

[r] It’s quieter. Two months. From July and August. There are many less.

[i] And it’s still open?

[r] Before, we never closed. For the last two years, my boss has decided to close in August. That’s why we have time to rest.

[i] Now you’re on vacation?

[r] But no. Just a week ago. One more week.

[i] And you, do you sometimes sing?

[r] Well, yes…. We sing a lot. Often, discreetly. The problem is that when there are customers, we are not allowed to sing. These are the rules of… from the restaurant. And when…. When there are no customers, oh… we have a little fun. For 5 minutes, 10 minutes. [Laughs]

[i] And what do you like to sing?

[r] Oh, in Chinese, in French… But I don’t know English, I don’t speak English. For example, what kind of songs do you like to sing?

[r] It depends. I prefer…. I prefer the songs of the 70s, rather.

[i] For example?

[r] Because now the new… songs, it’s a little hard. Maybe I’m a little… a little old… I’m not used to singing new songs like young people. I don’t know what they’re singing. It’s not like the 70s, it’s not the same. They were sweet songs. But now it’s songs that… I don’t know, it looks like he’s talking. It’s not singing, it’s talking. It’s talking. [Laughs] That’s why I don’t like it!

[i] And… What do you like about the’70s? For example, singers, or singers?

[r] Oh, there are many singers. Singers, there are not many, but singers do. Especially us, we like Hong Kong singers.

[i] Yeah?

[r] That’s it.

[i] Who? Who, for example?

[r] Law Man. Tsui Siu-Fung. Mui Yim-Fong.

[i] So these are songs in Cantonese?

[r] In Cantonese. But Tsui Siu-Fung, she also sings in Mandarin. Even Law Man. It’s the same thing. They also sing in Mandarin, too.

[i] And this is music that you have already discovered, that you already knew before or that you have known here?

[r] Oh no, we’ve known here before.

[i] Did you know these songs here?

[r] Yeah. Because at the time, I was still young. [Laughs] I was still young. That’s when we arrived in France. We met in France. And we often looked at… soap operas… Chinese, from Hong Kong. There you go. There are singing shows, all that, in Hong Kong, all that. At the time, it was a tape. We rented the tapes to watch this. Well, she likes to sing Cantonese too. But… Unfortunately, we don’t know how to read much in Chinese. Because I only studied for a year in Chinese. And then it was the ban. I didn’t learn Chinese.

[i] So you can talk, but you can’t write?

[r] No. No. For…. So far, to read, well, I… I can read enough… Enough. Enough. But to write, hard, hard, hard, hard. I can’t write. Reading is fine. Because we often learn by… by watching Chinese soap operas. And at the same time we learn, you see speaking your language, all that… But now, most of the soap operas we see on the Internet are… they speak in Mandarin. French films, all that… I don’t like it very much.

[i] Don’t you watch French movies?

[r] No. Not even the TV.

[i] Do you watch the news?

[r] The news, every day in Chinese, here. Because in my house, there’s the Freebox. We only look at Chinese, not French.

[i] Don’t you watch information in French?

[r] If, in the morning, in the morning, at the café. At the café in the morning. Every day, we watch.

[i] Are you interested in politics in France?

[r] Oh no, I’m not interested at all. It’s a pain in the ass. I don’t even… I don’t like talking about it either. I’m telling you frankly, I don’t like to talk about politics either. Same Chinese politics, same politics…. Any politics, I don’t like to talk about it. I like to talk about the present we’re living in. The present. Now I’m interested in talking about it. But, politicians, that’s…. people who don’t do anything at all, which is why they like to talk about politics. Not me. I prefer to talk about tomorrow, how we’re going to… how you’re going to make a living, that’s all. Why talk about politics? It’s no use. They are elderly people who have nothing to do, chatterboxes…. To speak politics, this this that, this that that… There’s no point in that.

[i] And… Before coming from France, do you… How did you imagine life in France?

[r] Uh, I was young, I didn’t even think about that, you know. I’m only my mother, my mother brought us here, we followed… the mother, that’s all. We don’t think about France, how it is…

[i] And so, when you arrived, you were… Were you surprised by… the habits of the French?

But you know because we lived in the refugee camp for 7 months, we used to be… a little sad in the camps. Even when you arrive in France, it’s the same. We live in the home, we don’t go out anywhere, it’s the same. That’s the day we found work and left… the home, that, that, that, that, that we have fun. That’s it, that’s it. Otherwise, we lived in homes and all that… It didn’t ring a bell. In the home, you know that… We don’t have to do anything every day when we go down to the game room to play…. There’s nothing to do.

[i] Is there… you… Things that have you… That you found strange, for example, or that… For example, the cheese, did you… you see…

[r] Well…. The cheese, all that… I was used to it because I was working in… in a French hotel there. There was cheese every day. You know the French people that… a starter, a main course, a dessert and cheese. That’s for sure. But I don’t eat cheese. Because I can’t drink milk. I don’t drink milk at all. That’s why I don’t know it. At that time, when I was a kid in Cambodia, I drank milk. I drank milk at home. Maybe I drank too much and when I arrived in France, I felt, I smelled milk… a little… a little weird, that’s why I don’t drink it. I don’t even drink a drop of milk.

[i] No dairy products?

[r] No. If, if, if, if, if. I eat Gruyère cheese.

[i] Well, it’s cheese.

[r] Yeah, cheese, it’s the Gruyère I can handle. That’s weird. Even the camembert, all that, I… There, that doesn’t ring a bell. Well, of course, when you eat pizzas, there’s cheese. Well, I can handle it, there’s not too much smell. And for…. To eat whole cheese, in large pieces there, I can’t make it. A glass of milk in the morning… I can’t drink. I only have black coffee. Not even chocolate.

[i] You don’t eat in the morning?

[r] No.

[i] Only coffee?

[r] That’s it. Because by the time we drink coffee, it’s time to go to work. And then, as we have lunch at the restaurant….

[i] You do the lunch and dinner service too?

[r] Yes.

[i] And you have the break in between?

[r] Yes, there is a cut. There’s a power outage for four hours. 4 hours of shutdown! That’s why we can… We can[rest].

[i] And in the evening, what time do you finish?

[r] It depends, it depends, it depends, the week, we have… We finish at 12:30. On weekends, sometimes we finish at 2:00. But most of us now, it’s a little hard, we finish at 2:00 instead. More like it.

[i] And in the morning, what time do you start?

[r] At 11:30. By the time we get into the restaurant, we prepare a little, after lunch, after… The restaurant’s open, we’re working.

[i] And what day is your day of rest?

[r] It’s today.

[i] Monday?

[r] Yes. Yes. Yes. The restaurant, when you work in the restaurant, there is no public holiday. We have a day and a half, a day and a half. A day and a half of rest is not bad enough. So we take our time to enjoy[resting] at home, instead of walking around, it’s useless. Waste of time! Tired! Tired!

[i] And so now you have a week, two weeks of vacation?

[r] Yes, we have a month’s vacation.

[i] Ah, a month’s vacation?

[r] If you will.

[i] What are you going to do then, during your summer holidays?

[r] Well, there…. I haven’t taken a vacation in a long, long time. Sometimes I only take a week off. At home. Two days at the beach, and that’s it. Most of them, I go to Deauville. And I’m coming back with my wife… to rest at home. For a week, that’s enough. If you take a month’s vacation, you prefer to go abroad, that’s better. Instead of staying here. But that doesn’t ring a bell. I’m like a pigeon!

[i] What do you mean?

[r] It means I’m not going anywhere. I’m not going anywhere. I have a lot of family, huh. I have family who… in Australia. Family in America. In China. In Taiwan. I[I] didn’t even go… [me] walk over there. There’s my aunt and all that in Australia. My mother, she goes there often. She flew for 48 hours. [Laughs] No, 24 hours, rather, yes. It’s not 48 hours. My mother, she likes to go for a walk. That’s why she’s taking advantage of it now.

[i] And you, don’t you want to go there?

[r] I don’t know, because I left… my aunt all that, since I was a kid. They didn’t know me, and I didn’t even… know me. How do I get there? I can’t go there. Even my uncle, I don’t know all that. But my mother, she called them often, we talked to them often, but we never met face-to-face.

[i] And they sometimes come?

[r] My aunt, yes. My aunt, and my uncle…. He has his family, he is old and he… He doesn’t want to move.

[i] And your brothers, they will… Do they travel to see your family?

[r] They do, my brother does.

[i] Are they going?

[r] My older brother, yes. My little brother…. He prefers… I don’t know, I don’t know what he wants. Travel as he wishes but…. I don’t know what he wants. But my brother, yes, he likes it. Every year, he leaves. My brother, my big brother.

[i] And what do your brothers do for work?

[r] Well, they work… They work in a…. to Orly. He’s a driver for… of delivery. My two brothers. Same here.

[i] Are the two brothers doing the same thing?

[r] Yeah. One of them works at the Paris Store. There are some who work in… at Rungis, there. Because…. No. To work in… on our own account, it’s a little hard. There is the crisis. We’re not even thinking about….. to do something. I prefer to work like this to get through life.

[r] And you, what would you like to do?

[r] Me? I’m still at the restaurant.

[i] Yes, but what if you had a choice before?

[r] Yeah.

[i] What would you have dreamed of doing for example as a profession?

[r] No…. Well… the restaurant.

[i] At the restaurant?

[r] Yes.

[i] Do you like it then?

[r] But yes. The restaurant. But my brother, he likes… He likes to do the market. Not the same, he likes to do the market, but I prefer the restaurant. Because I know very, very well since the…. For… almost 40 years. That I work in a restaurant. Before that, I worked in the clothing industry. It’s even harder, that Clothes are… I worked on my own in the clothing industry. After that, I stopped.

[i] And you… so you know how to make… Do you know how to make clothes?

[r] No, not me. I have… only mechanics who know. I don’t know anything about it. To come back, yes.

[i] And what… how do you look at your own journey? Are you… You are quite happy with your journey or…. ?

[r] I’m happy with… I’m going to stay like this every day. On my day off, I go to see my friends, to talk… For a little fun…. I’m happy like that. I don’t think much of myself. I don’t like to think too much. It’s no use at my age. Even when you think about it, what’s the point? It’s no use. My son, he’s already grown up. I didn’t even think about him, by the way. So…. He lives his life, I live… on my side. I prefer to spend a day being happy, rather than thinking too much. There you go. I don’t think so much. I’m not a…. not a man who’s racking his brains about it.

[i] And your son you sometimes see him or… ?

[r] Well, he’s at the… campaign. But my son is a peasant! Really peasant! He doesn’t want to come to Paris. I’ve since asked… that he come to Paris to see me. He doesn’t want to come.

Where does he live?

[r] In Rennes. And he likes it there. He prefers the Bretons. Because his mother is Breton. Well, I said, “When did…”, I asked, I asked the question, “When are you getting married?”. He says, “I am still young now, for the moment”. “But 30 years old, are you still young?” Young people, you know. There’s nothing we can do… You can’t blame anything. He does whatever he wants. Well, I’ll leave him alone, huh. One day, if he thinks of me, he’ll come to me. If he doesn’t think… it’s… I ask for more. I don’t even want to ask. Not even ask the question. Either I want to, I’m going to see him. There you go.

[i] And you haven’t seen him in… for a long time?

[r] Oh, a few years. Only a few years. Before, I used to go often. I’m a little old, now I’m… I don’t want to… move too much. That’s why I don’t want to go. Oh, but I’m going to go, aren’t I? It’s… it’s not far. Three hours by train, that’s all.

[i] It’s an hour and a half now.

[r] In TGV, yes. There was a time…. At the time, I was going back and forth, back and forth, there… There was no TGV, huh.

i] Are you attached… to the city of Rennes or the city of Paris?

[r] Oh….. More like Paris. More like Paris. Because…. In Rennes, I was bored. A little. In Paris, when… when we… When we get bored, we have a lot of friends. We call each other, we see each other, to go for a drink, to eat. In Paris, it’s better. I prefer Paris to… than the Bretons, huh! [Laughs]

[i] And… Do you… feel attached to the City of Paris? Is this your home? You feel….

[r] Yeah, yeah, I feel like I’m at home here. There, I feel it very much. That’s why I didn’t leave. And I haven’t even thought about my country, it doesn’t ring a bell. I like Paris. I like it better.

[i] Do you have dreams for the future?

[r] At my age… having dreams, what’s the point? Well, of course I… I had a dream about touching the lottery, touching the trifecta, yes. To spend life. Well, apart from that, nothing. I didn’t even think about it. Everyone. Everyone dreams of touching the lottery, all that. [Laughs]

[i] And if you win the lottery, what are you going to do with all that money?

[r] Well, now I’m going to spend… Spending my life with my wife, with my family, all that…

[i] No need to work anymore?

[r] Well, yeah. It’s no use. You have to enjoy it. If… I win the lottery, I’ll take advantage.

[i] Do you play often?

[r] I play the trifecta, yes. I play the trifecta every day. Every day. Minimum two euros.

[i] And you sometimes win?

[r] Well… the bonuses. [Laughs] The bonuses. Every day, you know, when I get bored, I go down to the café, sometimes… sometimes when… sometimes when… when we talk, we… we walk with friends, we go to the restaurant, eat, drink, all that… That’s all. That’s all. You have to spend your life, that’s the way it is. Anyway.

[i] Your friends, are they mostly in Belleville?

[r] No, not all of them in Belleville. There are people living in the suburbs, there are people living in Belleville, but there are quite a few. Belleville, there are quite a few. Anyway, I go down to the café, everyone knows me. [Laughs] Everyone knows me. Even… the elderly, all that. Even the young ones. Even the young ones.

[i] Are you known in the neighborhood?

[r] That’s it. Oh, I know a lot about Arabs and all that here. [Laughs] Oh, I have friends, huh. I have friends, real Arab friends, all that stuff.

[i] And among your friends, so there are… There are…. a little bit of everything… as origins?

[r] Yes. Laotians, Vietnamese, even Hong Kongers. There’s a little bit of everything. Arabs. Oh, but I love everything about myself. I’m not, I’m not a racist. I’m not a racist at all, I like it, I like everything. Anyway in my life how I thought, in my head, that having a friend, instead of an enemy. There you go. That’s all. That’s all. I’m not difficult.

[i] You have lots of friends?

[r] That’s it. That’s why we’re not bored. Even my…. When you don’t go on vacation, you don’t get bored in Paris.

[i] You have your whole life… your social life, is it there?

[r] That’s it. That’s the point. That’s why I said I haven’t left since 2000, I haven’t left Belleville. All the bars, I’m going to walk around here… [Laughs]

[i] And sometimes it feels good or not… also to leave? For….

[r] It’s… But no, no, no. I go to the bar to talk in the evenings when friends ask me to eat, I go to eat them, that’s all. That’s the way it is. To spend life. We only have one day. We only have one day, it’s useless. I prefer to enjoy this, that… Instead of going far. Well, in Belleville, there’s a lot of them. Even the 13th, since then, for 10 years, I haven’t been in the 13th.

[i] You haven’t been there in 10 years?

Yes! I didn’t go there. Since I left him. Before, I used to go to the 13th grade a lot, it’ll remind me of the 13th grade. I used to go there a lot. And now I don’t know anything about it. It means I don’t know… it… it… it doesn’t make me want to move. I mean, I mean. There you go.

[i] You’re fine here.

[r] That’s it.

[i] OK. We’re coming to the end of the interview.

[r] Yes.

[i] Do you have anything to add?

[r] Oh, no, no, that’s it. I told it all.

[i] Thank you very much.

[r] You’re welcome.