Nnadoze Uzor Nadis spends several of his afternoons a week waiting outside his house in Saigon for a local street vendor to pass by with a banana cart.
“How are the fruits today?” Nadis asked in fluent Vietnamese.
While the vendor chopped up a few pieces of banana for Nam to sample, the pair communicated as if they had known each other for years.
Nadis, who has taken on the Vietnamese name 'Nam,' is a Nigerian who has spent the last ten years making a home for himself in Vietnam.
'Why did you change my name?'
In his friendly Saigon neighborhood, Nam is simply known for his African roots, his ability to speak Vietnamese, and the business he currently runs.
On the Internet, however, Nam’s life is a totally different story, with over 47,500 Vietnamese and foreign subscribers to his Afro Viet TV YouTube Channel.
Afro Viet TV, started nearly two years ago, is essentially an over-70-video showcase of Nam’s life in Saigon. And of course, in the videos he goes by the Vietnamese name 'Nam' rather than Nadis.
Nam went on to explain the Vietnamese name's origin in the first episode of his over-10-episode series titled 'Welcome to Vietnam,' which told stories about his adapation to life in Vietnam.
According to Nam, his Vietnamese nickname extends back to his first few days after landing in Saigon nearly a decade ago.
After being picked up by a friend at Tan Son Nhat International Airport and driven by motorbike through chaotic Saigon traffic, the pair arrived at his friend’s rental house where they planned to share a room.
Upon their arrival, Nadis was greeted by the landlord with a dish of fruit.
“I am Nnadozie Uzor Nadis,” Nam told the landlord.
For the landlord, the struggle was real. Rather than spend hours trying to remember the foreign name, she decided to begin calling her new tenant 'Nam.'
“I actually didn't find it funny at first,” Nam recalled to Tuoi Tre News, explaining that it took him nearly a year before he finally accepted it as his own. “Why was she trying to change my name?”
Even when his friend began calling him 'Nam,' he refused to give in to the nickname.
“Don't you ever call me that name! Don't you dare call me Nam!” he said.
It was only when his friend explained that 'Nam' means 'manly' in Vietnaemse that Nadis eventually gave in and accepted it.
“Then I was like ‘oh that’s cool’ and decided I could go with it,” he said. "I'm stuck with this name now.”
The videos Nam posted on his channels were filled with tips and tricks on shopping in local wet markets, becoming acquainted with local transportation, learning Vietnamese, and experimenting with local foods, such as hot vit lon or balut.
In a video posted in December, Nam documented the country’s celebration of its gold medal finish in men’s football at the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in the Philippines.
While many of Nam’s vlog entries capture candid, real-life situations, others are filmed using scripts he has written himself.
Regardless of his process, his goal is the same: to show people how fun life in Vietnam can be.
“I want to make people smile from watching the songs I cover and the comedies I’ve acted in,” Nam shared.
“I also hope people see that if a black guy from Africa can live in Asia and do these things in a foreign country, then so can they.”
|Nnadozie Uzor Nadis (L) is seen trying balut for the first time in a video on his Afro Viet TV YouTube Channel.|
'You need to come here'
Nadis, an actor by profession, made his first trip to Vietnam in 2008. Though he liked the country enough to return in 2009 to work as an English teacher, it never occurred to him to make the Southeast Asian country his second home.
It was not until a group of friends back in Nigeria asked him what kinds of products Vietnam produces that Nadis began paying attention to the local market and realized he could make a living exporting clothing and shoes to his home country.
His friends were shocked by the idea.
“Where is Vietnam? There is a war there, isn’t it?” they asked.
To which he simply replied, “Oh, you need to come here and see.”
Nadis is fully aware that many people around the world do not know much about Vietnam, and he has always excited to share what he knows to help them understand his decision to live here.
“I'm fortunate to live here. I've traveled to so many countries, but this is like my second home," he said.
“In the same way I am very proud to come from Africa, I'm very proud to live in Vietnam.”
According to Nadis, one of his responsibilities while living here is to expose others to a side of Vietnam they might otherwise never get to experience.
“A lot of people have the same misconceptions about Vietnam as they do about Africa, but you really need to go there and see things first-hand to understand what is different from what you’re being told,” he insisted.
Even Nadis admits there is still plenty he needs to experience for himself in the country.
“Just creating my YouTube channel has helped me open my eyes to things I might otherwise never have paid attention to,” he added.
Now, Nadis’ chanel has become a learning opportunity for both himself and his viewers, many of whom knew nothing about Vietnam before viewing his blog.
Nam said that he once spent a day touring Hanoi with an Indonesian family whose members were his viewers and discovering the city as well as its delicacies, such as bun cha (white rice noodles topped with grilled pork and meatballs).
“Viewers get to really know about Vietnam after seeing the hospitality and friendliness of the people here,” Nam said, explaining that kindness is one of the things he loves the most about Vietnamese people.
|In a video on Afro Viet TV, Nnadozie Uzor Nadis takes his cousin who visited him from Nigeria to try bun mam (a delicacy from the Mekong Delta) in a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City.|
In fact, the kindness of Vietnamese people is something Nam experienced for himself during his first months in the country.
One afternoon while he was commuting from Tan Phu District to District 12, his motorbike ran out of gas. In the scorching heat, he began pushing his bike, but could not find a gas station.
After about 20 minutes, a Vietnamese man pulled up to him and used body language to signal that he would help push the bike.
“He pushed me for a long distance that hot afternoon. It was crazy. I’m grateful that he did,” Nam recalled. “He didn't ask me for anything, not even my phone number, not even a thank you. He just hopped on and went away. That was one of the loveliest gestures I experienced in Vietnam."
When he started to get along with life in Vietnam, Nam decided to learn Vietnamese himself, but instead of finding a language school, he began hanging out with locals and going to soccer games, doing his best to pick up the language one word at a time.
Now, after ten years, his Vietnamese is good enough to converse with just about any local.
So, what makes Vietnam feel like home for Nam?
“All of the things like motorbikes, the way people shop at wet markets, and the way they hang out with friends bring me that familiar feeling,” he said.
Having a Vietnamese wife and children in Vietnam, Nam also praised the Vietnamese culture of family respect, which is familiar with his culture back home.
However, there is still one obstacle he has trouble overcoming, he admits.
“The unfriendly look they give African people, and this happens not only in Vietnam but also in many other countries, is troublesome because it means people may have a bad experience with someone from my homeland. But I want to find a way to overcome that barrier, to communicate with people, and to show them what kind of person I am,” he shared.
In addition to filming his blog, Nam hopes to continue traveling across the country and show people the beauty of the land through his vlog entries.
“A lot of my colleagues back home want to come here to film, and they often ask me about the location. I tell them ‘many Hollywood names were here to film so it would be great if Africans could come here to film and to explore the beauty of Vietnam’,” Nam said.
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