Getting loud about my heritage has shaped my life and career

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Celebrate AAPI month with Atlanta team leader Amy Tep by taking the time to understand the many different types of people who are part of the AAPI community.

At Inman Connect Las Vegas, July 30-Aug. 1, 2024, the noise and misinformation will be banished, all your big questions will be answered, and new business opportunities will be revealed. Join us.

I was just 10 years old when my family left Vietnam for the United States, driven by a desire for more opportunity than was available to us in our home country.

I had a hard time acclimating: I didn’t speak or understand any English, I was bullied for looking different and my only friend was my brother — whom I, thankfully, liked.

Despite that rough start, my experience as an immigrant has shaped my life, both professionally and personally.

Today, I live in Atlanta, Georgia, with my family. I am the founder and leader of a 15-member team of Vietnamese real estate agents who are fluent in English and Vietnamese. We are committed to providing the best possible service to all of our clients but with a special focus on Vietnamese clients who may have language and cultural barriers to homeownership.

Recognizing the lack of quality real estate service and education within the Vietnamese community, we created a series of informational videos to help educate our community about homeownership. We also do extensive community outreach to college student associations, churches, temples and local Vietnamese-owned businesses.

Tradition vs customer service

I know first-hand the ways in which Vietnamese people are brought up. We are taught to back down from conflict or injustice, to not voice our opinions. Part of our culture is to be polite when you are in someone else’s house, and this idea extends to us as immigrants. When looking through our cultural lens, immigrants are living in someone else’s “house.” Therefore, we are polite, so we don’t speak up or stand up for ourselves here in America.

This means that many people don’t know much about people who are from Vietnam or of Vietnamese descent, which can result in bullying, exclusion and other types of discrimination. From my perspective, these negative actions originate in our lack of voice. That’s why I have dedicated myself to giving Vietnamese Americans a louder voice.

Taking action

I use my voice in many ways. My team sponsors and supports community events that expose and educate people to our people, beliefs, customs and food. We also support churches, temples and Vietnamese student associations at local colleges and the Georgia Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce

I am the founder of the Southeast Chapter of the Vietnamese National Association of Real Estate Professionals which serves North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Our mission is to elevate the Vietnamese real estate community through cultural enrichment, advocacy, resource hubs, education and social responsibility, as well as through educating and empowering real estate professionals to drive sustainable homeownership within our Vietnamese communities.

The goal is to yield a gateway to our community by providing a network of professionals who are dedicated to quality services that advance homeownership through education, advocacy, networking and community outreach.

I also host a Vietnamese podcast for Georgia Asian Times called Tam Su Voi. Once or twice a month I interview people who are of interest to the Vietnamese community such as people running for local office, local business owners or even the winner of a local Vietnamese beauty pageant.

I’m active in my local real estate association, and last year I was part of the Atlanta Board of Realtors’ Emerging Leaders program. During AAPI Heritage Month in May, I speak at a number of different events and programs about my experience as a Vietnamese immigrant. I think that when people can hear someone’s personal story, there is greater impact than just reading statistics.

I am grateful that my efforts have been recognized: last year I was named one of the 25 most influential Asians in the state of Georgia by the Georgia Asian Times.

Of course, I am so proud to be named to this list, but I am even prouder of the issues that I am focused on that work to bring the Vietnamese American community together and make us stronger.

How to help your clients find their voice

  • Encouraging Vietnamese people to find and use their voice: Ever since I was young, my parents knew I wasn’t one to keep quiet.  As a child, I remember wanting to fully embrace my position in the Vietnamese community and live it out loud. We are often encouraged to be more American so we will fit in. That was something I never wanted to do, so I encourage people to fit in as the Vietnamese people we are. 
  • Overcoming stereotypes: Common misconceptions about Vietnamese people are that we don’t speak English; that we are passive, submissive pushovers; that we are all good students. (I went to college for a few years but did not get a degree because I realized school wasn’t for me.) 
  • Mitigating bullying by overcoming ignorance: I vividly recall being bullied on the bus one day when I was told by an older, bigger boy to go back to China where I could speak Chinese. I was barely 5 feet tall and maybe 80 pounds, but I stood up to this kid and told him I was from Vietnam and spoke Vietnamese. I always say, if tiny little Amy can speak up, you can, too.
  • Exposing and educating people about the Vietnamese community: If you believe that bullying is the result of ignorance, you can get behind the need for sharing who and what we are about in a broader way. We’re so lucky that our annual Fall Festival is attended by more than 20,000 people and that our Lunar New Year Celebration, Tet, is also a very popular community event.

Final thoughts

My dream is that one day, everyone will fully celebrate AAPI Month and take the time to understand the many different types of people who are part of the AAPI community. Until then, I will continue my efforts as a proud and loud Vietnamese American, truly believing that America is indeed my “house.” 

Amy Tep is a Realtor and team leader with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate in Atlanta, Georgia. She is passionate about supporting her Vietnamese American community and strives to help them become homeowners. Connect with her on Linkedin and Instagram.

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