Away From The Motherland: Viet Kieu Communities Around The World
Colorful in its personality and diverse in its foods, the Vietnamese culture is truly something to behold. The Vietnamese diaspora takes its journey through more than 20 nations, with the total number of Viet Kieu numbering approximately 4,000,000. For Vietnamese living abroad, it can be tough to adapt. At first glance, the lifestyle and culture of another nation can be intimidating and strange. However the Vietnamese diaspora has evolved into a cosmopolitan identity, letting our culture influence others’ cultures and vice versa. In our upcoming series ‘Away from the Motherland,’ we will be taking a look at notable hubs of the Vietnamese diaspora.
There are quite a few countries that have populations close to or more than 100,000 ethnic Vietnamese people. We’ll see what makes these countries tick. We’ll dive in deep on what brought the Vietnamese to these places, how they’ve come to this country out of all others, and the legacy they’ve left behind in these places so far from home.
Vietnamese population: 294,798
Australia’s booming Vietnamese population is due, in large part, to the fact that Australia signed the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Australia agreed to resettle its share of Vietnamese refugees. Later in 1982, Australia signed an agreement to allow relatives of Vietnamese Australians to migrate to Australia, further boosting its Vietnamese population.
Head to Sydney, and you’ll find a plethora of great Vietnamese eats. From Bau Truong, sporting a menu inspired by the old Saigon markets to Huong Xua, with its signature spring rolls and pho challenge (if you can eat a 2.5kg bowl of pho in 11 minutes, it’s free!) to Marrickville Pork Roll serving up good ‘ole banh mi, there’s no shortage of Vietnamese food in Australia.
You can find many of the best Vietnamese restaurants in Vietnamese enclaves of Sydney like Cabramatta and Melbourne neighborhoods such as Footscray and Richmond.
Vietnamese food in Australia is considered to be hip and trendy, highlighted by many of the boutique style restaurants and chains that serve Vietnamese food, such as the growing chain Roll’d which reportedly has hopes to expand to over 500 stores throughout Australia.
- Australian-born Vietnamese are highly represented in Australian universities and many professions; however, there are also many members of the community who are subject to high unemployment rates, poverty, and crime.
- Spoken at home by 174,236 people in Australia, Vietnamese is the sixth most widely spoken language in the country.
- Of the 294,798 Vietnamese Australians, 69,405 reside in Sydney.
Notable Vietnamese living in Australia
- Betty Tran, fashion designer
- Luke Nguyen, celebrity chef
- Natalie Tran, most viewed YouTuber in Australia, 1.8 million subscribers, 575 million views
- Hieu Van Le, Governor of South Australia and Chairman of the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission (SAMEAC)
- Rob Nguyen, Formula 3000 driver
Vietnamese population: ~350,000
Unlike other overseas Vietnamese communities in the West, the Vietnamese population in France had already been well-established before 30 April 1975. This was due to the fact that France had colonized Vietnam, so France was the first Western country where Vietnamese migrants settled. The first major presence of Vietnamese people in France came from the wave of migrants who came during World War I. However, the largest influx of Vietnamese people arrived in France as refugees after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.
If you’re in Paris, you’ll find many great Vietnamese eats. From hole in the wall Bonjour Vietnam with fragrant caramel pork and crispy nems to Cyclo, with banh khot and banh cuon to Dong Huong with steamed Vietnamese ravioli, if you’re feeling in the mood for Vietnamese eats, you can definitely have your choice of the lot in Paris. France’s Vietnamese population is concentrated in a few areas: Paris and Île-de-France region, Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Lille, and Bordeaux.
- Vietnamese in France on average have a high level of education attainment, a legacy dating back to the colonial era when privileged families and those with connections to the colonial government sent their children to France for studies.
- The Vietnamese population in France makes up over half of the Vietnamese population in Europe.
- One of the few monuments dating back to the earliest waves of Vietnamese arriving in France is the Temple du Souvenir Indochinois, originally erected in 1907 and subsequently relocated to the Jardin tropical de Paris in the Bois de Vincennes.
Notable Vietnamese living in France
- François Trinh-Duc, French rugby union player for RC Toulonnais in France’s top division of rugby union
- Nguyên Lê, French Jazz musician
- Frédéric Chau, Vietnam-born French actor of Chinese-Cambodian descent
- Arnaud Bernard (Onra), hip hop beatmaker based in Paris
- Isild Le Besco, French actress and filmmaker
Vietnamese population: ~300,000
Since Taiwan’s Council of Labor Affairs granted approval for Vietnamese workers’ employment beginning in 1999, Vietnamese domestic helpers have represented a significant proportion of the Vietnamese community in Taiwan. The number of Vietnamese domestic helpers grew by 15 times between 2000 and 2003. By 2004, Vietnam was sending 37,700 labourers to Taiwan each year, the bulk of them as domestic helpers and hospital workers.
In Taipei City, Taiwan, there is no shortage of traditional and contemporary Vietnamese cuisine. Packed during peak hours and near the Zhongxiao Fuxing/Dunhua MRT station, Pho Hoa offers signature pho with all kinds of different meat. If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, check out Lau Viet Nam Hot Pot. Located in Taipei’s Zhongshan District, it offers very hot, tender seafood soup.
- Of the roughly 80,000 Vietnamese workers who resided in Taiwan as of 2006, 60,000 were employed as domestic helpers, 16,000 work in factories, 2,000 in marine-based industries, and the remainder in other lines of work.
- 42% of Vietnamese in Taiwan work in Taipei City, New Taipei City, and Taoyuan City.
Vietnamese population: 157,450
The majority of Vietnamese communities began arriving in Canada in the mid-1970s and early 1980s. Most of these new arrivals were sponsored by groups of individuals, temples, and churches and settled in areas around Southern Ontario, Vancouver, British Columbia, and Montreal, Quebec. In the ten years between 1975 and 1985, 110,000 Vietnamese settled in Canada. As time passed, most settled in urban centres like Vancouver, Calgary, and Montreal.
Offering a sultry butter beef dish and legendary deep-fried chicken wings, Phnom Penh infuses Cambodian flavors with Vietnamese plates, taking the best of both cultures to create culinary masterpieces. According to Yelpers, if you’re headed to Phnom Penh, the dry noodles and shrimp salad rolls are to die for. If we’re talking about food, we can’t forget Viet Sub. With its five dollar banh mis, offered with vegetarian-friendly tofu, barbeque pork, or chicken, Viet Sub is one of Canada’s top ranked Vietnamese venues. Located in downtown Vancouver, this hidden gem is a go-to for many Vancouver residents.
- Based on the 2011 census, Ontario, one of the 13 provinces and territories of Canada, has 100,520 Vietnamese people.
- In Toronto, there are growing Vietnamese enclaves around Chinatown and the York, Etobicoke, and North York districts.
Notable Vietnamese living in Canada
- Nam Nguyen, 2015 Canadian figure skating national champion
- Carol Huynh, gold medalist in wrestling in the Beijing Olympics
- Charles Chi, entrepreneur, chancellor of Carleton University
- Nguyen Ngoc Ngan, host of Paris By Night
- Minh Le, creator of popular first-person shooter Counter Strike
Vietnamese population: 150,000
The Vietnamese in West Germany consists mainly of refugees from the Vietnam War. Several factors helped them integrate socially and economically into German society. They received official aid in the form of social benefits and job placement assistance, as well as broader societal support for their successful adaptation to German life.
In East Germany, Vietnamese students were invited to study and attend training programs as early as the 1950s. From a population of just 2,482 in 1980, the number of Vietnamese residents of East Germany grew to 59,053 by 1989.
Known by locals as the most famous Vietnamese restaurant in Berlin, UMAMI is known for its lightning-quick service and mouthwatering dishes. We recommend trying the Pho Bo and the grilled salmon dish. Another local favorite is banh xeo. A South Vietnamese specialty, banh xeo is the Vietnamese version of a crepe. Located in Berlin, Banh Xeo Saigon is known for a wide range of vegetarian dishes and for making the best banh xeo in all of Germany.
Located in Lower Saxony’s Vien Giac is one of the largest Vietnamese-style Buddhist pagodas in Europe. These temples serve as important focal points for identity formation among Vietnamese Buddhists in Germany.
Notable Vietnamese living in Germany
- Marcel Van Minh Phuc Long Nguyen, silver medalist in gymnastics in London Olympics, Corporal in German military
- Philipp Rösler, Vice-Chancellor of Germany
- Kim Bùi, Olympic gymnast
- Minh-Khai Phan-Thi, actress and former presenter for German music channel “VIVA”
- Denny Pham, Pro Skateboarder
Vietnamese population: 1,799,632
Why the US?
South Vietnamese immigration to the United States began after the Vietnam War ended in 1975, which prompted the first large-scale wave of immigration. During the spring of 1975 125,000 people left South Vietnam. They arrived at reception camps in the Philippines and Guam before being transferred to temporary housing at U.S. military bases. The Refugee Act of 1980 eased restrictions on the entry of Vietnamese refugees, and from 1978 to 1982, 280,500 Vietnamese refugees were admitted to the U.S.
In the US, you have your pick of any Vietnamese food you want, really. In notable Vietnamese hubs like Orange County, San Jose, and Houston, there are a plethora of options. With over 1000 four star Yelp reviews, Pho Y #1 in San Jose really is, number one. San Jose locals claim that it’s one of the best tasting pho places in the whole bay area — fresh broth, delectable meats, fast service, great all-in-all. If you’re headed to Houston, you must try Les Givral’s Sandwich & Cafe. Known for its delicious banh da lon, pork banh mi, and com tam, Les Givral’s is a Houston favorite for many locals.
For something a bit more upscale, our favorites include Slanted Door in San Francisco featuring a fusion menu with spectacular views of the Bay Bridge.
- Vietnamese Americans make up about half of all overseas Vietnamese globally.
- More than fifty percent of Vietnamese Americans reside in California and Texas.
- With 184,153 Vietnamese Americans, Orange County is the county with the largest number of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam. (Vietnamese make-up 6.1% of the county’s population)
- In Westminster and Garden Grove, Vietnamese Americans make up 40.2 and 27.7 percent of the population respectively.
- With 106,379 Vietnamese Americans, San Jose is the city with the largest.