Local restaurateur’s journey to U.S. citizenship at an end

Posted: January 10, 2013

The Winchester Star

Paranee Hopple, whose family owns Winchester Thai restaurant on the Loudoun Street Mall, will become an American citizen today. She moved from Thailand to the United States 12 years ago and is the third in her family to become a U.S. citizen. She is holding a Thai dish of golden shrimp, made from a family recipe. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — It took 12 years, but Thailand native and local business owner Paranee Hopple finally will become an American citizen today.

Part owner in the family owned and operated Thai Winchester and Thai Winchester II restaurants — plus one in Culpeper — Hopple, 45, said she plans to be here the rest of her life.

“I proud to be in U.S.,” she said. “I’m very, very happy to have my life here.”

That life began 12 years ago when Hopple moved to the U.S. from Bangkok and opened Thai Culpeper Restaurant with her mother.

“Twelve years ago when I came, I did not speak English at all,” she said, adding that she still is learning.

The language barrier was hard, but she and her family overcame it, she said.

Her success in learning English came, in part, from working at the family restaurants. She said she learned a lot from American customers, adding that they are “very sweet.”

“When I first came, everyone helping me,” Hopple said, recalling her same spiel early on when taking orders: “I speak English a little bit, can you say the number [on the menu] for me please?”

Hopple said she received her green card five years ago and then applied for citizenship.

She is the third — after her mother and brother — in her family to acquire it.

A long way from the days of knowing little English, Hopple had to study 100 American civics questions for months before passing her naturalization tests.

“I’m very happy I studied that because it made me know the [U.S.] history,” she said, adding that she didn’t know things like the Constitution. “If you’re not from here, you don’t know.”

She also had help studying from fellow owner and fiance Michael Kitt.

In addition to the civics questions, Hopple also had to speak and write English to acquire her citizenship.

She and Kitt will head to the U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg today, where she will take her oath of citizenship.

“In 12 years, running the three restaurants, I think it’s not easy, and I’m very, very happy I can do it,” Hopple said.

— Contact Melissa Boughton at mboughton@winchesterstar.com