Diaspora : SINTHAC, being defined as a Frenchman of Chinese-Cambodian origin
Dear readers, today we return to France to meet the comedian SINTHAC. Born in Laos to a Teochew father from Cambodia and a Khmer mother, SINTHAC arrived in France at an early age with his family, who were lucky enough to be able to leave the Srok before the arrival of the Khmer Rouge.
Now an executive by day and a stand-up performer by night, he tells Cambodge Mag about his life path full of trials and sometimes surprising anecdotes, his successes and his projects.
You grew up in Mulhouse and you talk about a childhood full of daily fears. Tell us briefly about that time and your schooling
My memories remain somewhat mixed, with, on the one hand, this low-income housing estate where I was subjected to many rackets and, on the other hand, innocent images of a child going to pick mushrooms or chestnuts.
How did your parents adapt to this new life in France?
Not easy, especially for my father who was totally downgraded socially compared to his situation as a merchant in Cambodia. As for my mother, she became a home-based dressmaker and spent a lot of time sewing.
A radical change took place in your studies when you and your family moved to the Paris suburbs. What was it?
When I was 10 years old, we moved to Noisy-le-Grand and I went from first in the class to last.
How is Khmer culture expressed in your education?
It is passed on daily through the food we eat and through cultural rituals.
You told me a surprising anecdote about the practice of Khmer in your youth. Explain what it is and its consequences.
When I entered the first grade, the school director ordered my parents to speak only in French. This was the beginning of my break with the culture.
As a young adult, your shyness and awkwardness finally become contradictory with the jobs you will choose to do. Which ones are they?
Until then my shyness could be described as sickly.
"I had to fight evil with evil and today I am in charge of coaching and relationship building for a large French company.''
At a certain time in your life, you will obtain your French nationality and there is a rather funny story behind the choice of your French first name. Can you explain it to us?
Well, I had to find a French name that could supposedly help me integrate, so I chose Serge... but my mother couldn't pronounce it at all, so I finally chose Cédric.
So, how do you choose to introduce yourself to people when you first meet them?
Well, this is finally the most destabilizing question for me, because I never know if I should put forward my Khmer name or my French name.
Then comes the time of performing. You will try improvisation and then Slam to finally choose stand up. Your vision of each of these three disciplines ?
I practiced improvisation, slam and then stand up.
⁃ The first one allowed me to develop my sense of observation and my ability to adapt.
⁃ The second allowed me to develop my sense of writing and the habit of evolving alone on a stage.
⁃ The last one corresponds exactly to what I am looking for. It combines the previous advantages while allowing me to add a touch of humor.
The Covid period brought its share of surprises. What happened with your father?
As Covid was keeping the majority of Asians out of the social system and being categorized as "Chinese", I wanted to know more about my origins. I discovered that my father was Teochew.
Another charming anecdote was told to you about your parents' marriage. Can you describe it to us?
My father, who came from the middle class, was promised to another woman, as is our custom. But he decided not to listen and followed his heart by marrying my mother, who came from a peasant background.
Following this, how do you define your current cultural identity?
Today I define myself as a Frenchman of Chinese-Cambodian origin.
You are involved in several projects concerning the Asian community. Which ones ?
Podcasts like Kiffe ta race, Asiatittudes or banh mi. I am since engaged in actions with Asiatittudes, in particular to help in the event.
What is your past and present vision of Srok Khmer?
I would describe my vision as Western, because I only know Srok from what I see in the media, or what I have been told.
Your dearest wish concerning a possible future visit to the Kingdom?
I dream of going there, because I am convinced that this journey will bring the missing pieces to my personal construction.
Finally, do you have any professional projects in progress?
To set up a stand up show by 2025.
Interview by Chantha R (Françoise framboise)