[i] Hello.

[r] Hello.

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

[r] Yes. I was born in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In 1953. No need to say the month? In 1953.

[i] And your… Were your parents Chinese?

[r] Yes, my parents came from China. At home, there were five of us. No, five brothers and sisters. I had two older sisters and two older brothers.

[i] You were the smallest?

[r] I was the smallest.

[i] Are these your parents who went to Phnom Penh from China?

[r] Yes, they left China to go to Cambodia.

[i] Where?

[r] We’re Teochew. My father is from Jieyang. My mother from Chaoan.

[i] What year did they leave?

[r] As I left home young… I forgot. Probably during the Japanese invasion. During the war. In the 1930s. Yes. I didn’t ask them to. When I was young, at 19, I left home. When I was young… I never asked them. At the time, I was young.

[i] And in Phnom Penh what did they do for a living?

[r] At home… At home… we sold products at the market. We had a bazaar, we sold everyday products, toothpaste, soap, etc…. We had a small location at the central market. When I was young, as soon as I left school, I helped my parents at the market. I was helping to sell things. Until 1972, after the political change, I went to Macau.

[i] And in Phnom Penh, did you go to school?

[r] I studied until the eighth grade at the Cantonese school. The last school…. I have attended several schools. Because we moved around a lot. The last school was the Cantonese school. I studied Chinese. Until the second grade. After the second one, I didn’t study anymore.

[i] And in addition to Chinese, have you studied other languages?

[r] No. There was also Khmer, but I couldn’t do it. Once a week, or once a day, I don’t remember. Once a day or not a week, I don’t remember.

[i] Did you study French?

[r] In college, they taught us the alphabet. I remember “ABCD”. We learned some simple things, “Coco” which means coco. [Laughs] I remember that. The rest, I don’t remember.

[i] And you… At what age did you work with your parents?

[r] I left school, I remember, in 19… 1967, I had… 16 years old. I didn’t want to go to school anymore. So I helped at home. At the market, I helped to sell, to sell things.

i] With your parents, you were talking…

[r] We were talking teochew at home.

[i] Can you speak Khmer?

[r] Khmer, I forgot everything, when I came here, I learned again. [Laughs] Here, I made Khmer friends. I am of Chinese origin. They don’t speak Teochew. Since I don’t speak Khmer, we helped each other. They learned a little teochew, I learned a little Khmer again.

[i] And before, there, you were mostly dating Teochew?

[r] Yes. Because in Phnom Penh, the majority were Teochew. At the market, when we bought things, we all talked teochew together. That’s why we didn’t really speak Khmer. We were mostly in the Chinese community. The classmates, we were all Chinese. Sometimes we spoke Mandarin, sometimes Teochew.

[i] And before, there, between the Chinese and Cambodians, there were stories?

[r] In general, there was no problem. It was going well. In general, there was no problem. Sometimes there were conflicts, they insulted the Chinese, they told us to go back to our country. They could tell us to return to our country. But generally, this did not happen.

[i] And with your brothers and sisters, how many years apart were you?

[r] With my sister, we had a cycle of gap. That’s 12 years. She was the tallest, I was the shortest. I still have a big sister, who now lives in Siem Reap. Siem Reap, Cambodia.

[i] Today, she’s there?

[r] Yes yes, in Siem Reap. This year, she is 78 years old. I have 60… On my papers, I’m 64 years old.

[i] And your big sister, has she always stayed there?

[r] Yes, yes, yes. During the Khmer Rouge…. Because at the time, she married Siem Reap. We lived in Phnom Penh. She married Siem Reap, at the time of the exodus, she did not leave with my parents. She fled to Siem Reap. She’s still alive. My parents, I heard they went to Kampot. At the end of this road, there was no way out. There was the sea. They stayed there. They couldn’t leave, they were killed by Pol Pot.

[i] And you… went to Macau?

[r] Yes, in 1972, to escape military service.

[i] You left alone?

[r] I have an older cousin who had left before. He wrote me a letter to say that life there was not bad. At the time, I don’t know why, I asked my parents if I could go abroad. They agreed. They thought it was good to send one abroad. I knew that once I left, I couldn’t come back and see them again. I went to live in Macau for 10 years. From 1972 to 1982.

i] So your family is…

[r] I’m single, I didn’t get married.

[i] Your parents, they couldn’t leave?

[r] No, because they left… When Pol Pot arrived, they took the road to Kampot. In this direction. They couldn’t get away. If they had taken the road to Vietnam, they could have gone to Vietnam. If they had taken the road to Battambang, they could have gone to Thailand. They went the wrong way… the wrong way. That’s why they all disappeared. My older sister was lucky, she left for Siem Reap.

[i] And she left alone?

[r] Who? Who?

[i] Your sister.

[r] With my brother-in-law…

[i] With my brother-in-law and the children.

[r] When she ran away, she wasn’t with my parents. She wasn’t with my parents. She didn’t take the same route.

[i] When you went to Macau, there, how…

r] At that time, I was young, I remember, I was 19 years old. When I arrived, to earn a living, I worked in a factory. When I arrived in France, I also worked.

[i] Where did you work in Macau?

[r] In a knitting factory, I don’t know if you know it. Wool clothes. We would make them one by one, pull them by hand. In Macau, I made my living like that.

[i] There, you were with an older cousin?

[r] Yes, we were in contact, my cousin was there. Then he went to Hong Kong.

[i] You lived together?

[r] No, I was living with friends. I was renting a room. Life was quite difficult there. And it was cold, I wasn’t used to it. In Phnom Penh, it was hot. I remember that year, it was 9 degrees. I really wasn’t used to it.

i] And what was difficult was work or… ?

r] Work, at that time, when I was young, I was doing well. The salary was very low. I was paid 7 patacas. Macau currency. 7 patacas. It was cheap to eat. A pack of cigarettes was only 40 cents. A glass of coffee with milk, 40 cents. A plate of fried noodles, 80 cents. There were large, medium and small. A small dish was 80 cents. Then 1 pataca and 1.20, I remember that. That’s about it, I don’t remember. Seven patacas was enough to live on. The rent, I remember, was a few dozen patacas. 40-50 patacas. I earned about 200 a month. Patacas. That was enough.

[i] For 10 years, you did the same work?

[r] Only this work. I had the opportunity to do something else, but I couldn’t do it. One day, I worked in a kettle factory. Do you know what it is? For hot water. It was too hot. I couldn’t handle it, I left after a day. [Laughs] So I didn’t stop working in the knitting factory.

[i] What language did you speak there?

[r] I had no choice, they were Cantonese, I spoke Cantonese. I only dated Chinese people from Phnom Penh. There were many people from Phnom Penh. At most, there were 6 to 7,000. At the most, when there were the most. I heard there were 6 to 7,000.

[i] It was Teochew from Phnom Penh, people who lived in Phnom Penh who went to Macau?

[r] Yes, who went to Macau. It was during the war. At the time of the political change, some left for Macau.

i] Today, there are still many of them there…?

[r] Many of them, like me, came to France. Some of them went to Hong Kong. Not many of them stayed. Those who remained are few in number. Many came to France.

[i] You stayed there until….

[r] 1982. It was in 1982 that I came to France.

[i] And how did you get the opportunity to come to France?

[r] At the time… It was said that in France, you could come as a refugee. France welcomed them. That’s why I came here. Because I was born in Phnom Penh. So there are many people from Phnom Penh, how to say, who were born in Phnom Penh, who went to Macao and came to France. Because at the time, they said that we could, how could we say, that we could have refugee status. Some of them got it. Others did not get it. I didn’t succeed. I did not obtain refugee status.

[i] Some of them got it?

[r] Some of them got it.

[i] You know why some people got it and others didn’t?

[r] A matter of luck or bad luck, I don’t know why. They said that my supporting documents were not enough. Because I’m not a real refugee. I’m not a real refugee. I left before…. How can I say this? I left before Pol Pot came to power. They did not consider me a refugee. The French administration must have proof that we were born in Phnom Penh.

[i] Why did you choose to come to France? Was it bad in Macau?

[r] Because… I heard that there is more freedom in France. That there was more freedom.

[i] Not in Macau?

[r] It wasn’t that great. Life was more… how can I say this? The country is too small. I had the opportunity to go abroad, so I… I was hoping to come to France. At least France was a prosperous country. With more freedom.

[i] And in Macau, life was difficult?

[r] It’s not that, but at that time, daily life was different. For food and so on, it wasn’t like there[in Cambodia].

[i] Before coming to France, did you have any idea what France was like?

[r] Before coming to France, I didn’t know. I had no idea about France, I just knew that this country existed. I knew that many people went there, that the French state accepted them. So a few of us came at that time. Some of them got it, they were lucky, I think. They were granted refugee status. At the time, I had an interview at OFPRA, they told me that my supporting documents were not sufficient. Because I didn’t leave as a refugee. Those who got it were because they had papers from before, from Phnom Penh. Student cards or driver’s licenses.

[i] When you came to France, did you have family here?

[r] No, until today, I was single.

[i] You had… an uncle… or…

[r] Where? Where?

[i] In France.

[r] I came before my uncle. I came a year before him. A year or two, I don’t remember. I arrived in France in 1982.

[i] When you arrived, you didn’t have an extended family here?

[r] A younger cousin. He came to study here. My uncle’s son. He came to study here. When I arrived, I lived with him. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have dared to come.

[i] He came before?

[r] He came before that, in 1976. He came to study here. In 1976, he came to study.

[i] You first arrived in Paris?

[r] When I arrived, yes, I came to Paris. I first lived in the 95. Because my cousin lived in 95.

[i] Where in 95?

[r] In the 95, in Cergy-Pontoise. Mourning the Bar. The name of the city.

[i] How long did you live there?

[r] Until….. I lived there for about ten years, then moved to Paris to live alone.

[i] Where? Where?

In 1998, I moved to where I live today. Paris 11th arrondissement.

[i] Where you live today?

[r] Where I live now.

[i] How long have you been living there?

[r] I’ve been living here since… 10… Since 2000. This year it’s been 18 years. More like 17.

[i] And when you came… to France, where did you work?

[r] Work in France?

i] When I arrived, to earn a living, at first I was a kitchen clerk in a restaurant. I was a dishwasher, I did a little bit of everything. After a while, I was ironing in a clothing workshop. For about ten years. Until 2000. Then, after a period of unemployment, I worked in a French company. In a laundry room. A company that cleaned… cleaned… cleaned… A company that cleaned, how to say, hotel linens. Sheets, blankets, pillowcases… For four years. Then I didn’t have a job anymore. In 2011. Since then, I haven’t worked since.

[i] Why?

[r] Because I’m old, they don’t want to hire me, it’s hard to find. I have health problems. My back still hurts. I hurt my back. I have no strength left.

[i] Did you hurt your back at work?

[r] No, I don’t know why I hurt my back. I can’t carry heavy things.

[i] Do you often go to the doctor?

[r] Yes, right now, I see him a lot.

[i] How do you think life in France is?

[r] Life in France? How can I say this? That’s good. That’s good. To earn a living, you have no choice, that’s the way it is, you have to do everything. You could say that again. Because I don’t speak French. I don’t have a degree. “Diploma” do you know? “Diploma”, right? I don’t have a diploma and I don’t speak French. I can only work for Chinese people. There are only three kinds of work among the Chinese. Only three sectors. Clothing, catering, trade. At the time, I was in the wrong sector, I joined a clothing workshop. In the garment workshop, I didn’t work there for long. Then that area disappeared. This area has disappeared. The reason is that there are too many imports. Products imported from China, much cheaper than the products from here. That’s why there’s no more work.

[i] And living in Paris, you find that… Do you like it?

[r] It’s the same everywhere. But in Paris, I’m used to it, it’s easy. It’s easier to do that. If you tell me to move back to the suburbs, I can’t do it. In Paris, I have many friends. [Laughs]

[i] Your friends live…

[r] They all live near here. In the morning, we have coffee together. Time passes faster. It occupies my time.

[i] And living here in Belleville, what’s it like? Security is not very good. It’s getting worse and worse. Security. In terms of security. It’s always been like this, we don’t have a choice, the state can’t… how to say, can’t manage everything. It’s hard to say. When the police are there, I feel safer to walk, when the police are not there, at night, I don’t dare to go out.

[i] Are you afraid?

[r] In the evening, I don’t dare to go out. I’m afraid.

[i] Have you ever had any problems?

Yes, once I was annoyed, someone wanted to steal my money, by pushing me around. Two people pushed me around and stole my money. I didn’t realize it. They were very agile. They pushed me and stole my money. I had money in my pocket. Just like that. It wasn’t a robbery. One of them’s pushing you, the other one’s stealing your money. Just like that. Even my…. What do you call it… the subway pass…

[i] Navigo?

[r] Yes. They took it. Now I’m being careful. You shouldn’t put anything here. And when I go out, I do like thieves. I look everywhere. [Laughs] Like I’m a thief. Like I’m a thief, I look everywhere to see if anyone follows me.

[i] You heard if there are people in Belleville…

Yes, yes, there are often robberies. It happened to some friends. I have a friend, he works in a restaurant, when he comes home, the attacker was tall, he lifted him up like that. He’s not dead, fortunately. Luckily, there were passers-by, so he left it. The money he had on him, we stole it from him. Asians have a small build. We grabbed him by the throat and lifted him up. This kind of story often happens to friends.

[i] Today, it still happens?

[r] Now it happens less.

[i] There are fewer?

[r] There are fewer. There’s a lot of snatching. Theft of bags, cell phones.

[i] And in Paris, there are neighbourhoods where you go for a walk, that you like?

[r] No, only in Paris… The neighbouring countries, I didn’t go there, in the surroundings. That is, Belgium, Italy, I didn’t go there. The most important thing for me is to go back to Cambodia to see my relatives. I went back three times.

[i] Did you go back?

[r] Three times. The first time, I returned 35 years after leaving Cambodia. To see my big sister. Now she is Siem Reap.

[i] What does she do for a living?

[r] She is old, she is over 70 years old. His children are in business. They support him. I think his life today is pretty good. She has a house, as long as she has a house, that’s good. As long as she has a house, no problem. To eat, his children help him.

[i] And his children… Does she have any grandchildren?

[r] Yes, she has nine grandchildren. My big sister is lucky! Today, she has 9 grandchildren. The oldest is 24 years old.

[i] They all live there?

[r] They were all born in Siem Reap. Do you know Siem Reap? There is Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is very well known. Have you ever visited it before? If you have the opportunity, you have to go! “Like that! Beautiful!” [Laughs]

[i] Have you ever been there?

[r] Yes, every time I go there, I go to visit.

[i] When you went back there, after 35 years…

r] The first time, I went there 35 years after leaving Cambodia. In 2006. 34 years later. 2006.

[i] And the first time you went back, did you find out what it was like? Had it changed a lot?

[r] No, always the same. It hasn’t changed much. Always the same. I found that the population was larger. There are more people than before. Today, there are 10 million inhabitants. In Cambodia. Before, it was 5 or 6 million. Pretty much. I remember 5 or 6 million. Now there are 10 million of them. 13 or 14 million.

[i] And your big sister, her children all speak teochew?

[r] They don’t want to speak it. Usually, they only speak it at home. They usually speak Khmer together. With their children, they don’t speak Teochew. No choice, later on, her grandchildren will all be Cambodian. They will only speak Khmer. But the advantage is that the children learn Chinese. So as not to forget that we are Chinese. It has an advantage to learn Chinese. It’s easier to find a job. Today, Chinese is useful. With Mandarin, it’s easier to find work. It’s easier to find a job. Chinese and English. It is useful in Cambodia.

[i] So you went there…

[r] Three times. The last time was in 2016.

[i] Do you want to go again?

[r] Yes! Yes!

[i] My heart… is there. But I have no choice, I have my papers here. I live here, I’m used to it. Even if I were to go home, it would be… For health care, it wouldn’t be so great. I’m a certain age. I have health problems, it’s complicated. That’s why I have to… I have to stay here. But in my heart, I would like to go back and live there.

[i] And your friends here, where do they come from?

[r] Teochew from Phnom Penh, for many. The majority are Chinese from Phnom Penh. Chinese from Cambodia, not just from Phnom Penh.

[i] Did you know them here?

[r] I met them all here. I met them here. One or two of them came from Macau, I was lucky enough to find them. I’ve known them for 40 years. From Macau to today. It’s been 40 years. With my parents, I lived with them for only about ten years. There are friends, it’s been 40 years. I found them here. We’re still in touch. I’m going to drink some water, sorry.

[i] Where do they live?

[r] They all live nearby here, in the four boroughs. 19th, 20th, 11th, and 10th. My friends all live near here. There are about ten of them. In the morning, we have…. Time passes faster. At the café, we meet, we talk about this and that.

[i] Do you see them every day?

[r] Every day, every morning.

[i] And in Paris, intramuros, there are places where you like to walk?

[r] No, I’m not leaving, I’m staying in France. I’m not going anywhere.

[i] And inside Paris?

Yes, I went to Marseille, I went twice to the South. I’ve been there twice.

[i] But here, you’re going to walk around in other neighborhoods?

[r] Yes, yes, when I have time, I go for a walk.

[i] Where are you going?

[r] Montparnasse, to walk around. Pompidou. Châtelet, when I have time, I walk there. I’m walking and I’m taking the subway home. In order to, how can I say… do sport, walking slowly. It takes about 50 minutes. To walk to Châtelet. To go to Châtelet by walking. Sometimes I go to the suburbs. To see friends in the suburbs.

[i] And what do you like to do?

[r] What is it?

[i] Do you like walking, watching TV, reading books?

[r] No, just walking around. Walk around, look around.

[i] And the kitchen, do you like…

[r] Cooking… I mostly eat rice. Sometimes, at breakfast, I eat bread. When it’s hot, I mostly eat bread. When I don’t have much of an appetite. I eat like the French. Chopsticks etc…. Bread, chopped steak, that’s one meal. It’s easy to do. With vegetables, tomato and salad.

[i] Do you like French food?

[r] I like it a lot! The rib steak is my favorite. [Laughs] Because I’ve lived here for a long time. How to say… it has an influence. About the food.

[i] When you arrived, did you think the French were nice?

[r] Before, I thought the French were very warm. They were kind to Asians. Maybe there are too many people coming here. We Asians. Asians, including the Chinese, there are too many who have come, so perhaps, how can I say, that they no longer accept it. Maybe it’s disrupting their lifestyles. I find that now they are…. We can’t blame them. That’s the way it is.

[i] Have you taken French classes?

[r] Yes, yes, yes. When I was unemployed, when I was no longer working, I took French classes, I took several years. At least 10 times. I have integrated French classes at least 10 times. I studied here and there, always around the same level.

[i] Which one?

r] Around level B2. Always around level B2. I couldn’t make any progress. That’s why I can’t speak French. Always around this level, B2, B2, B2. At first, I couldn’t speak, I started from the alphabet. Today, I am able to take care of my papers. For simple steps, I dare to go alone. Before, I had to be accompanied. Now I go to the bank, the bank, the hospital, I go alone. Before, I used to ask people. What I needed to say. I was asking people first. How to say such a sentence.

[i] Where did you take French classes?

r] In several schools, in the 13th, 11th, in several places, in all, in six or seven schools.

[i] Are you the one who…

[r] I was the one you wanted.

[i] Who have you been looking for yourself?

[r] Yes, that’s right. Because not speaking French is really not practical. When I was working, I didn’t realize it. When I was out of work, and had to do some administrative work, I saw that begging others was very complicated. Every time, I would beg people. Begging them to come with me. There are people, friends, some work, they can’t come with me, how do I do that? You can only rely on yourself. So you have to go yourself. I like learning French. Learning expressions is useful for yourself.

[i] Do you know how to speak languages… which ones?

[r] Conjugation? I know a little about conjugation. I know how to use the compound past a little. I know a little about the imperfect.

[i] Can you speak any other languages?

[r] Ah, languages. Besides French? Apart from French, I know a little Khmer, a little Vietnamese, Vietnamese, I know a little. Because when I was a kid, I lived in the Vietnamese neighborhood. Do you know the Vietnamese district? Where the Vietnamese lived. And I speak Cantonese, I lived in Macau for 10 years. The teochew of course, I am of teochew origin. I also speak Mandarin. I don’t speak English. Not at all.

[i] So….

[r] I know several languages.

[i] Are you going to the temple or… ? To pray….

[r] Religion? No, I don’t believe in anything. When I was a kid, I remember that at home, we didn’t have any religious practices. At home, we didn’t pray. My mother was a Protestant. My mother was a Protestant. When I was a kid, I used to go to church with him. I had no choice, she dragged me there. To accompany him. [Laughs] Every Sunday, I went to church with my mother. When I arrived in France, I did not practice any religion. I don’t go to church, I don’t pray Buddha. But today, in memory of my parents, I plant an incense. Every morning, I plant an incense. In their memory. Every morning, so as not to forget them, I plant an incense. In their memory. But I don’t pray. I have no religion. I don’t have an altar, I don’t make offerings.

[i] Here, you have an uncle?

[r] I have an uncle and first cousins. Germans. You know that term? German cousins. They are the children of the brothers and my father. That’s what we call them. I have…. He has several brothers. In all, I have 7 or 8 cousins. My younger cousins are my uncle’s two children. Today I have an uncle and an aunt in France. They have two children.

[i] When did they come to France?

[r] My younger cousin arrived in 1976. The second one came a year before me. In 1981. Me in 1982.

[i] Do you see each other often?

[r] Yes, yes, yes. At the very least, we call each other, we call each other to give each other news. Once in a while, I call them to check in. Recently, I called my uncle. Every year, I will wish them a happy New Year. At least once. And generally, generally, generally, I go to see them from time to time. A couple of times a year. They live far away in the suburbs. It’s not that far, but you have to take the train. It’s not very practical.

[i] Where do they live?

[r] In Epinay-sur-Seine.

[i] They all have children?

Yes, my cousins’ children are all grown up, they have grandchildren. My cousins all have grandchildren.

[i] What do you do on a daily basis?

Nothing, my life today is routine. In the morning, I have coffee with friends, in the afternoon, I go for a walk. I walk as a sport. Sometimes I come here, I have just met[name of a person from the association]. I come here to keep busy. To discuss. At night, I watch TV at home. That’s the way it is. Life is like that, I don’t have a choice. Life in France is not… I don’t know how to say this. That’s the way it is. Summer is good for walking. In winter, it’s too cold, I stay home.

[i] And on TV, you watch…

[r] I only watch the news on TV.

[i] Do you watch the news in French?

r] I look at the information, so I don’t forget, to know some expressions. In general, I look a lot on the laptop, on the laptop. I watch YouTube. On YouTube, I watch the shows I like. Because inside, there are lots of shows. The information in Chinese, there is. There is cinema, there is. There are also series.

[i] When you were a kid, do you remember when it was your happiest time?

[r] Yes! The happiest moment? In my opinion… I don’t think my life has been very good. I left home when I was young. The moment when I was happiest…. It was when I lived with my parents. When I think about it, it was good. Today, this is no longer the case.

[i] Have you ever been to China? In Chaozhou?

[r] Yes, when I lived in Macau, I went there several times. Because it was close. We could go by boat. By boat, we arrived there after one night in Guangzhou. I’ve been there a few times. Six or seven times. I went to visit Guangzhou. And I went to my hometown a couple of times.

[i] You still have…

r] I went mainly to my mother’s hometown, she still has a little brother there. I have an uncle in my hometown.

[i] How many times have you been there? Three times. Three-four times. I can’t remember.

[i] Where do you consider yourself to be from? That you’re Cambodian? Teochew?

[r] About the territory? I can’t say, I consider myself Chinese. But I was born in Phnom Penh. Often I think of…. I miss my hometown. I want to go back. But my origins are Chinese. In my heart, I am Chinese. On my papers, my hometown is Phnom Penh. So I have Cambodian nationality, I am from Phnom Penh. I still have an attachment. I was born there.

[i] And do you consider yourself… a little French?

[r] Ah, on this subject… I never thought about it! There’s still a connection. Now I consider myself half French. I have lived here for several decades. I’m used to it. The food… When I go out, “Bonjour”, I speak a little French. Half French. You could say that. Half French. I’ve lived here for so long. There has to be an influence. In terms of culture, in terms of….. How can I say this? How can I say this? It’s not coming out. In terms of customs. I’m used to the way of life. There is an influence. Yes.

[i] Your papers, today, it’s every 10 years?

[r] I renew every 10 years. I am an “economic immigrant”. A foreigner working in France.

[i] And the fact that… is it complicated to renew every 10 years?

Renewing every 10 years is not complicated. Before, it was once a year, it was very… Because I didn’t speak French before. Every time, I had to beg people to come with me. And my papers were far away, in the 95, in Cergy-Pontoise. At 30 kilometres, you had to take the train. That’s why I changed in Paris. Before, it was once a year. For the extension of the residence permit. At first, a work permit was required. Without a work permit, it was not possible to work. I remember for 2-3 years, when I had just arrived, I needed a work permit. Do you know what a work permit is? Without a work permit, it was not possible to work. Even with a residence permit, you couldn’t work. In addition, a work permit was required. Now all you need is a residence permit. The residence permit allows us to work.

[i] So, now you renew every 10 years?

[r] Yes, once every 10 years. Every 10 years…. I’ve already renewed it twice. In four years, this will be the third time.

[i] So now the process is easier? Now it’s easier. Now, to work the most important thing is to have your passport from your country of origin, whatever your nationality. If you are a Cambodian national, you need the Phnom Penh passport. Not Phnom Penh, the Cambodian passport. To be able to renew. With the EDF invoice, that’s enough. Only these two things. EDF and passport. That’s all. That’s all. EDF, passport. That’s all. That’s all. Compared to before, it’s much easier. Only these two things. EDF, passport, that’s all.

[i] Have you ever been… to countries near Cambodia? In Vietnam?

r] The first time I returned home, I went to visit Vietnam once. It was my first time in Vietnam. I went there for a week. I went there on a tour package. I took part in an organized trip from Phnom Penh.

[i] You went to Thailand?

[r] No, I’ve never been there. Only in Vietnam.

[i] And your sister has been here before?

[r] No, never. Because to come here, visas are complicated. You have to ask for permission. You have to make a request. And they don’t want to come either, I don’t know why. They like to travel in Asia. In nearby countries. Singapore, Thailand, China, to travel. Here, they don’t want to come.

[i] And you said… that your cousins… had children?

[r] Where? Where?

[i] Here.

[r] Yes, they have grandchildren. My two cousins have grandchildren.

[i] Did they ask you about your story?

[r] No, no, because life here, you know, everyone takes care of their own life. From time to time, we spend the New Year together, we call each other to say hello, greet each other, that’s all. Nothing special. And they live… how can I put it, they live far enough away. In the suburbs. We don’t see each other very often. We just give each other news on the phone.

[i] And… in Macau, do you have… happy memories?

[r] Memories? Happy memories, I don’t have any. Sad memories, I have them. For what reason? There are a lot of casinos there. We’re necessarily influenced by that. To tell you the truth, I played a lot. [Laughs] That’s why I ran away to come here. I don’t have anything to play with here, that’s why. Because when I went there, I was young. There were a lot of casinos, I played a lot. Sad memories, so I have them. To tell the truth. As a result, I don’t have any happy memories. I don’t have any. In my opinion, there is no such thing.

[i] Many people play there?

[r] Yes. Yes, that’s right. Especially immigrants. The locals don’t play much. Locals, there are few of them. They don’t play, the locals. It was mostly us immigrants who played. There were 9 out of 10. When we were young. Nine out of ten. There were dog races. It wasn’t horse racing, it was dog racing. Dog racetracks. There were horse races, but in Hong Kong. Whether you play a lot or a little, there is a negative influence. And generally, we played mah jong. [Laughs]

[i] You didn’t go back there?

[r] No, I don’t think I want to go back there. As far as I’m concerned. But if I have the opportunity, why not go back, see what it’s like. So far, I haven’t been back.

[i] You went there in 1972, then you stayed there?

[r] I lived there.

[i] You didn’t go back to Cambodia?

[r] No, I couldn’t come back, it was military service. In Cambodia, in 1975, it was, how to say, the regime was overthrown by Pol Pot. Until…. For a while, my mother told me to come home. She told me not to go to Cambodia, but to go live in Vietnam. But I couldn’t get the papers to leave. If I had managed to get in, I would have… it wouldn’t have done me any good. I stayed in Macau. My family missed me very much. They were hoping I could come back. In 1974. I almost went home. If I had come home, I would have known the Pol Pot regime.

[i] And today, do you have any hopes?

[r] No… at my age… Now, at this age, I can only hope to be healthy. May my health be good. As for the money, as long as I live with what I have, that’s enough. If I have it, I spend it, if I have few, I deal with it… As long as it keeps me alive. I hope to be healthy, not to get sick. There you go. The rest is superfluous. Being healthy is the most important thing. Today, I am single, I can no longer have children. I have no choice. Thanks to the state’s help, I can live. I consider myself to be… How can I put this… lucky enough. I would therefore like to thank France. I say it again. I would like to thank France once again. I thank the French government, not France. Otherwise my life would be quite difficult.

[i] Do you sometimes go to the 13th?

[r] Yes, yes, I have friends. You don’t always have to stay at home. I try to go once or twice a week. You don’t always have to stay at home. Isn’t that right? Meeting friends, having coffee, that’s good. Eat a plate of fried noodles, chat a little… Yes, in the 13th floor, I have friends.

Where are you going in the 13th?

[r] Especially at Porte de Choisy. And sometimes, as far as my administrative procedures are concerned, I go in the 13th to ask a friend. He’s helping me…. He’s an accountant, he’s good at it. He’s an accountant. Mail, etc., I show him. I’m lucky to know this friend. He helps me a lot. Making requests, filling out forms, he’s always helping me. So I thank him too.

[i] And in the 13th, what do you like to eat? What dishes?

[r] Always the same dishes…. I eat Vietnamese dishes, I eat… I eat in all-you-can-eat buffets… It’s more economical. You can eat as you wish, for about ten euros. After that, nothing special… I eat phở, noodle soups, classic dishes. Nothing special.

[i] What is your favourite cuisine?

[r] My favorite kitchen? No, I don’t have a favorite. I always eat the same thing.

[i] And you cook yourself?

[r] Alone at home, I cook simple dishes. Yes, sometimes I make sautéed rice. Sautéed rice, fried egg, that’s the easiest thing to do. I cook pork, but I’m lazy, when you’re alone and you cook a lot… you can’t finish. When you make sweet and sour fish soup, you eat it for two or three meals in a row, no more. We eat two meals in a row. As a result, I don’t cook much at home. I eat simple things.

i] When do you plan to return to Cambodia?

[r] I want to go. But right now, my health is not very good. My health is not good. I think I’ll go there, when I get a chance, to see my sister, a few more times. Once, then another time.

[i] And when you go, you go…

[r] One month.

[i] A month? Because when you are unemployed, the state gives you five weeks[of leave].

[i] And when you go there, will you visit?

[r] Yes, yes, I’m going to Kampong Som. Kampong Som[Sihanoukville]. Kampong Som, Kampot. In Kampong Som, there is the beach.

[i] Have you ever been to Battambang?

[r] Battambang, I’ve never been there.

[i] You went back to Phnom Penh?

[r] Yes, every time, because I have a younger cousin in Phnom Penh. I forgot, I also have a niece. The daughter of my second older brother. She’s still there. Every time, I go to see her.

[i] She’s always lived there?

[r] Yes, yes, she has a house, she’s very lucky. Before, she had bought a house. Before, she knew… it’s not her real aunt, but she called her “Ayi”, she helped her buy her house. She helped her…. Since then, she has had her own house.

[i] And she hadn’t fled the country?

[r] Where? Where?

[i] She is still… She used to live there and…

[r] No, she’s always lived there. She hasn’t moved.

i] Do you think that in Belleville, the Belleville neighbourhood has changed?

[r] It’s changed. It’s more lively than before. Compared to before, I remember when I had just arrived, there were Chinese immigrants, but not as many as there are today. Now the shops are all run by Chinese people. They bought the whole neighborhood. The Chinese. The shops, they bought everything. About 80% I would say. It’s changed a lot. We, the Chinese in the diaspora, are more numerous than before. It’s more animated.

[i] There are a lot of young people coming here for a drink, aren’t there? French people. Young people. They come here for a drink…

[r] They come mainly to… eat the kitchen… how can I say this? They come to our Asian restaurants. Especially this. Have a drink, no. I think mostly about eating out. Vietnamese, Asian restaurant. They come for a drink, but in places opened by French people. Now there are many bars for drinks. On the terrace. Until 1 or 2 in the morning. In Ménilmontant, there is a street, I don’t know if you’ve ever been there. Wow, there are plenty of bars for a drink as you say. To drink beer, drinks, there are some all over the street. Go there on Friday nights. They come from the other districts on purpose, on the other hand to meet there and have a drink. It is not only in this neighbourhood, it is also the case in other neighbourhoods. But I know that neighborhood because it’s next door. In Ménilmontant, there is a street. A street. They like that.

[i] Here, on Belleville Street…

[r] Yes?

[i] There are also some.

[r] There are one or two streets, no more. In front of Tai Yuan restaurant, there is a bar.

[i] And in this association, do you come often?

No, it’s only since this year, this year I saw a friend, who introduced me to him. I came here to help[name of a person from the association] to use his phone. His phone… his WeChat wasn’t working. I helped him…. I know this field well. When I helped him, I met[name of the same person], I thought he was nice. In the afternoon, when I have time, I come here. I’ll be here for a couple of hours to talk. There you go.

[i] There are always people here?

[r] Here? What do you mean?

[i] Here, there are always people who come… who can come…

[r] Yes, it’s a… how to say… It’s an association. I don’t know if you can say that. It’s an association. People from Indochina. From Indochina. People from Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, can come. Thailand too.

[i] And the people who come are…

[r] There are also Chinese people. They come to pray. I also prayed several times for good health.

[i] There are mostly elderly people?

[r] No, there are also young people. There are Europeans coming, I have already seen some… Portuguese. From Portugal. They come to shake a box containing wooden sticks. A couple who often came to shake this box. I don’t know how to do that, they’re better than me. Once they have shaken it, they ask if today’s predictions are good. I’ve known this place for a long time, but I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t come. It’s only this year, since I have known[name of the person in the association], I often come here. To discuss. And these days, I often see[name of another person]. [Laughs]

i] You find that within the Chinese diaspora in Paris, there are… of mutual aid?

[r] Mutual aid? On this issue…. A little. I think… only a little. I think… some of them are selfish. There are some of them who are involved in helping each other. Those who frequent associations, they are in mutual aid. There are some of them…. It’s hard to say…. Some are selfish…. It’s very hard to say. But within the diaspora, there is still mutual aid. In my opinion. There are still some.

[i] And when you have requests to translate you ask a friend?

[r] Yes, to a friend in the 13th. When I have mail to translate, I go to see it.

[i] Do you ever go to other associations for help?

[r] No, because I don’t speak French well. If I ask them, and they answer me, I wouldn’t understand, it’s no use. We would have to bring someone to translate, and I would ask the interpreter again. I took classes there in Belleville. To the…. “home”…. At the subway exit. What’s his name? “The house downstairs…”

[i] The house in the lower Belleville.

[r] From the lower Belleville, yes. I couldn’t remember. I took classes there three times. At this location, I registered three times.

[i] French courses?

[r] Yes, French lessons. To learn to listen. Oral comprehension, I’m not good. I know at least “yes”, “no”. If you don’t understand, for the administrative procedures, if you don’t understand, people get angry. They’re… annoyed. They say, “You don’t understand, you have to bring someone who understands”.

[i] And the classes there, who attends them?

[r] Many people. Strangers.

[i] Asians?

[r] No, no, no. Asians, there was me and… Me and a Chinese man. Otherwise, there were Arabs, Africans, Spaniards too. Spain.

[i] Who introduced you…

[r] School? Where? Where?

[i] Did you know there were classes there?

[r] Yes, I knew we could register. I asked. I asked the reception. I said I wanted to learn French. So they made an appointment for me to… for an interview. A short interview, to see if I could express myself. To choose the level.

[i] You used to take classes before?

[r] It’s been several years since I took classes there. Several years ago, I took courses there. And last year, I took two consecutive sessions of classes.

[i] It was once a week?

[r] It was three times a week. Monday, Tuesday… Four days. Two hours a day. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. That’s it, that’s it.

[i] Did you learn to speak, to write?

[r] Yes, write. They forced us to write. They forced us to write, and we learned conjugation. They taught us how to conjugate sentences. Depending on the context.

[i] Do you know…

[r] I can read a little bit. If it’s easy. I understand my own letters. I don’t understand other people’s letters, because I know my own situation. My own letters, I can read them at 50%. Before I ask friends, I look first, I know what it’s about. To get an idea beforehand.

[i] They were giving you homework?

[r] Yes.

[i] To do at home?

[r] Over there… There was homework from time to time. If we didn’t have time to do them in class, we would do them at home.

[i] So to read and write…

[r] To read…. To read, if it’s easy, I can do it. In everyday life, I can read, a little bit. If it’s more complicated, I don’t understand.

[i] When you read, it’s mostly in Chinese?

[r] Yes, in Chinese. Mostly in Chinese. Mostly in Chinese.

[i] What about Khmer?

[r] Khmer, I forgot everything. The Khmer writing, I don’t remember. The Khmer writing, I forgot everything. I know how to speak the language a little. I spoke it again when I came here. Here, I made Khmer friends, I spoke it again. With Khmer nationality, I have to be able to speak. Otherwise, it is not practical to cross the border. That’s why I forced myself to learn it again.

[i] Did you learn this by talking to people?

[r] By seeing each other like that, by discussing everything and nothing.

[i] You don’t read it?

[r] Not at all. The Khmer writing, I forgot everything.

[i] Did you hear about it before?

[r] No, I was learning Chinese, but there was one class a day. I forgot everything.

[i] And today, you don’t want to continue learning French?

[r] My health is not very good… My back often hurts. And…. It’s not easy to learn. That’s why I stopped.

i] Are you on regular treatment?

[r] Yes, I often take medication. I see the doctor once every three months, he gives me medication.

[i] Did you hurt your back at work?

[r] No, it’s because I helped people move. I hadn’t thought of that, I helped people move. I am the one who is… At the time, I hadn’t thought about it, I helped people move, and there was no elevator. It was too heavy. I hurt my back. It was pretty serious. For a month, I couldn’t sleep. It hit me in the nerve. Every time I lay down, it hurt.

[i] How long has it been?

[r] It was in 19… Since 2016. I took an X-ray, and I’m wearing cream. A cream, which heals, in the long term. I’m also starting to take anti-inflammatory drugs. But today, I am not yet cured. I have to be careful. I can’t carry heavy. When I buy water, I don’t dare buy six bottles. From Evian, I buy two bottles of it. I’m wearing two. I’m afraid it’ll come back. If it comes back, it would be difficult.

[i] And this doctor is…

r] When my back hurts, I go to a medical centre for a consultation. A public centre. In Stalingrad. There’s everything. There are all the specialities. Dentist, general practitioner, we can also do X-rays, we can even do X-rays. There are also physiotherapists there, it’s not bad. I’m also going to see a rheumatologist, who told me to take an X-ray. That’s how he knew I had a back problem.

[i] You go alone to consult?

[r] Yes, I’m going alone.

[i] Do you think it’s very hot right now? Do you like it this hot?

[r] I’m not used to it. Because in France, I find that in France, it’s been a lot of years, it’s the first time it’s hot over such a long period. It’s been at least a month. I’m not used to it. But I like it to be hot. I prefer summer to winter.

[i] It is as hot as Cambodia right now.

[r] Yes. It’s even hotter in Cambodia. 35-36 degrees. I usually don’t get a chance to sunbathe. In the morning, I always go to sunbathe. About 15-20 minutes.

[i] Are you going to a garden?

[r] Yes, on the corner near my house, there is a very small garden. A small square for children. There are benches, I often go and sit there. I go twice a day. In the morning, and in the evening, after eating, I go for a walk.

[i] When you arrived in France, how was the weather?

[r] When I arrived, it was summer. In Macau, there were already… I had already experienced winters. When I arrived, I didn’t think it was that cold.

[i] In Macau, there is no snow?

[r] No, it’s not snowing. The coldest is six degrees. Five-six degrees is the coldest thing in the world. In general, it is about ten degrees.

[i] So here, with the snow, you weren’t used to it?

[r] No, it’s not the snow, the snow doesn’t bother me. It’s when the snow melts. It’s…. It’s not a convenient way to get out. When it snows, it’s beautiful.

[i] Do you go to tourist areas? In Paris.

[r] Tourist districts? I don’t go to tourist areas much. I’m going… to the museum. It’s called “museum”, isn’t it? I went there with the French classes, they took us to visit. I was part of it. The tourist districts…. Which ones in Paris? I don’t know. I don’t know. The tourist districts….

i] Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées….

[r] Yes, yes, yes. That’s right, usually when I have time, I’ll take a look at it. The Champs-Elysées, I often go there, because it’s near…. I go there often. I often go for a walk with my friends.

[i] And the Seine?

[r] The Seine, yes. When I go to Châtelet, sometimes, when I have time, I walk, alone, and I sit by the Seine. Sometimes I go with friends. I walk to the other side and there’s an… island, right? Very small. I’m going to go for a walk.

[i] What about Our Lady?

[r] Notre Dame, I often go there.

[i] Saint-Michel?

[r] Yes, Saint-Michel.

[i] And in France, you have already been to… Earlier, you said that you have already been to Marseille?

[r] In Marseille, yes. Marseille, Nice, Cannes…. I’ve been there twice. The French Riviera, that’s it. I’ve been there twice.

[i] And other places too?

[r] Yes, yes, I went to… Lille. Lille, Saint-Quentin. And also…. What’s it called? Yes, these places…. Saint-Quentin, Lille. That’s all. That’s all. And there, what is it called… Mont-Saint-Michel, right? Mont-Saint-Michel….

[i] Did you go on a tour?

Yes, sometimes on an organized trip, or with friends by car.

[i] Do you know how to drive?

[r] I have friends who live in Saint-Quentin, I left with them. I was staying with them.

[i] Do you know how to drive?

[r] I can drive, but I don’t have a license here. In Macau, I had a permit. When I arrived in France, I didn’t need it. I didn’t pass it. Since I didn’t pass it, I don’t drive.

i] In Macau, they drive… On the other side?

[r] They drive on the left. Here it is on the right.

[i] Before, it was…

[r] Portugal was in charge. Portugal.

[i] When you lived there, it no longer belonged to Portugal?

[r] Yes, yes, yes. Until 1999. Two years later than Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, the retrocession was in 1997. I remember it was in 1999, I don’t know, maybe it’s not that. In 1999, China recovered it.

[i] Over there, they talk…

[r] Cantonese.

[i] What about Portuguese? Portuguese is mainly for administrative procedures. Even for the procedures, it was rarely used. The Portuguese were the senior officials… I didn’t have the opportunity to meet any. For the administrative procedures, they were only Chinese from the diaspora. Cantonese was enough. I filled out all the paperwork in Chinese.

[i] And in Hong Kong, did you go there?

[r] Yes, I… I went… several times. Five-six times.

[i] Does it look like Macau?

[r] It’s more prosperous. It is a more prosperous territory. It’s more modern. The apartments are more… how can I say this? They’re newer. I’m talking about before. It’s been a long time since I’ve been back in Macau, I don’t know. In Macau before, the apartments were all old. Hong Kong is more modern. And there are more shops. The shops… Restaurants and so on, there are many more than in Macao. There are many factories too. In Macau, before, there was not… there was not much work. The locals were making firecrackers. The firecrackers we light. The locals used to make this before. Then there were knitting mills. That’s what I was doing. My job was knitting wool sweaters. That’s after it happened. Before, there was none. Before, they only made firecrackers. With gambling, only two things. And fishing. The locals are fishing. Yes.

[i] So it’s very different from Hong Kong.

[r] It’s not the same, Hong Kong is more developed. In Hong Kong, there were many factories before.

[i] There has already been a lot of discussion.

[r] All right.

[i] Thank you very much.

[r] You’re welcome, you’re welcome. It’s simple things. You’re welcome. You’re welcome.