DARE TO ASK: Left out of conversation at nail salon
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
I find it very rude when I go into a nail salon and all the Chinese workers
start speaking to each other in Chinese. If you come to our country, shouldn’t
you be learning our language?
Rhea, 22, white, Albany, N.Y.
I agree. Listening to immigrants chatter in other languages is highly
annoying. It makes me feel invisible.
Sherry, black, Fort Worth
They are not trying to be rude. Sometimes they feel embarrassed because their
English might not sound right. If this stops you from going to an Asian nail
salon, then we are better off not having rude customers like yourself.
Eastern, Cheney, Wash.
As long as you’re getting what you paid for, who cares what they say?
Peter, 21, black, Jacksonville
Why would you spend your hard-earned money somewhere you are not comfortable?
As a black person I often go into businesses that make me uncomfortable. I leave
and do not go back.
Jack, 31, Johnson, Ala.
Let’s give a little respect for these hard-working individuals. We are a
nation of immigrants. Some people act as if their nail tech is invisible. Speak
to that person holding your hand!
Patty, 50, white, Jacksonville
Darn right it would be rude for an Asian nail tech to speak Chinese in front
of you. The least they could do is give you the respect of confusing you in
Vietnamese, their likely mother tongue.
Almost 40 percent of the 380,635 licensed nail techs in the United States are
Vietnamese, according to a 2005 survey by the trade publication Nails. About
two-thirds of the 1,868 nail salons registered in Florida alone are owned by
Vietnamese-Americans, says Tin Nguyen, director of the Vietnamese Nail Care
Should they use English when they feign interest in your kid’s soccer game?
“We recognize that clients often feel uneasy when nail techs speak their
native language,” Nguyen said. “We discourage that type of behavior. But it
often is difficult. Most Vietnamese nail techs don’t speak English besides a few
words like 'Hello’ or 'What can I do for you?’ ”
Hannah Lee, executive editor of Nails, said Vietnamese immigrants took to the
nail tech business about 25 years ago because it didn’t require them to speak
English and didn’t require a lot of startup money to open a salon.
Yes, they should probably speak more English if they know it, Lee said, but
no, they’re not talking about you or making fun of you when they speak their
native language — one investigative reporter who spoke fluent Vietnamese tested
that by pretending not to know the language and found the techs were just
chatting with each other.
“Lighten up, you’re getting a salon service at a price less than half the
average of a regular salon, so you’re kind of getting what you pay for.”
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers, or mail to
Phillip Milano, c/o The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL
32231. Include contact information.