Overseas Vietnamese

Overseas Vietnamese
Overseas Vietnamese
Người Việt Hải Ngoại
Total population
3,700,000 (estimates)
Regions with significant populations
 United States 1,642,950 (2007) [1]
 Cambodia 600,000 [2]
 France 250,000 [3]
 Australia 159,848 (2006) [4]
 Canada 151,410 (2001) [5]
 Taiwan 120,000
 Russia up to 150,000 [8]
 Germany up to 125.000 (2008) [9][10]
 South Korea 98,255 (2010)[11]
 United Kingdom 55,000 [12]
 Japan 41,136 (2008) [13]
 China 20,000 [8]
 Netherlands 18,913 [14]
 Norway 18,333 (2006) [15]
 Sweden 11,771 (2003) [16]
 Poland 10,000 [8]
 Denmark 8,575 (2002) [16]
 Switzerland 8,173
 Qatar 8,000 (2008) [17]
 Belgium 7,151 (2001) [16]
 New Zealand 4,875 (2006) [18]
 Ukraine 3,274 (2001) [19]
 Hungary 1,020 (2001) [20]
 Finland 4,000 [21]
 Brazil 1,000
 Thailand 10,000 [22]
 Laos 150,000
Elsewhere 400,000

Overseas Vietnamese (Vietnamese: Người Việt Hải Ngoại, which literally means "Overseas Vietnamese", or Việt Kiều, a Sino-Vietnamese word literally translating to "Vietnamese sojourner") refers to Vietnamese people living outside Vietnam in a diaspora. Of the about 3 million Overseas Vietnamese, a majority left Vietnam as refugees after 1975 as a result of the Fall of Saigon and the resulting takeover by the Communist regime.

The term "Việt Kiều" is used by people in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to refer to ethnic Vietnamese living outside of the country, and is not a term of self-identification.[23] The Overseas Vietnamese community itself rarely use this for self-identification, instead, most prefer the technically-correct term of Người Việt Hải Ngoại (literally translating to Overseas Vietnamese), or occasionally Người Việt Tự Do (Free Vietnamese).


Vietnamese worldwide

Overseas Vietnamese can be generally divided into four distinct categories that rarely interact with each other. The first category consists of people who have been living in territories outside of Vietnam prior to 1975; they usually reside in neighboring countries, such as Cambodia, Laos, and China. These people are not usually considered "Việt Kiều" by people residing in Vietnam. During French colonialism, some also migrated to France and some French-speaking areas, such as Québec. The second category, consisting of the vast majority of overseas Vietnamese, are those who escaped Vietnam after 1975 as refugees and their descendants. They usually reside in industrialized countries in North America, Western Europe, and Australia. The third category consists of Vietnamese working and studying in the Soviet bloc who opted to stay there after the Soviet collapse. This group is found mainly in Central and Eastern Europe. The last category consists of recent economic migrants who work in regional Asian countries such as Taiwan and Japan. They also include women who married men from Taiwan and South Korea through marriage agencies. These brides usually follow their husbands to live in those countries. Recently a new group of Vietnamese have been emerging. These are naturally born Vietnamese who attended high school and college in the U.S. or other developed nation. After which they stay in those countries and work and live as permanent residents.

United States

According to the 2000 census, more than 1.2 million people who are of Vietnamese origin live in the United States, constituting between a third to a half of all overseas Vietnamese. They tend to live in metropolitan areas in the West, especially in California and Texas. Significant areas where they are well-represented include Orange County, California, San Jose, California, and Houston, Texas. As almost all of them left Vietnam after 1975 to escape the communist Vietnamese government, they are generally antagonistic towards the current government of Vietnam.[24][25]

As of 2007, the Vietnamese American population has grown to more than 1.6 million.[1]


The Vietnamese constitute about 5% of the population of Cambodia, and is the largest ethnic minority. Vietnamese people began migrating to Cambodia as early as the seventeenth century. In 1863, when Cambodia became a French colony, many Vietnamese were brought to Cambodia by the French to work on plantations and occupy civil servant positions. During the Lon Nol Regime (1970–1975) and Pol Pot regime (1975–1979), many of the Vietnamese living in Cambodia were killed. Others were either repatriated or escaped to Vietnam or Thailand. During the ten year Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia from 1979 until 1989 many of the Vietnamese who had previously lived in Cambodia returned. Along with them came friends and relatives. Also, many former South Vietnamese soldiers came to Cambodia fleeing persecution from the communist government. Today, due to the high unemployment rate in Vietnam, many Vietnamese come to Cambodia looking for work.

Many living in Cambodia usually speak Vietnamese as their first language and have introduced the Cao Dai religion with 2 temples built in Cambodia. They are concentrated in the Kratie and Takeo provinces of Cambodia, where there are villages predominate of ethnic Vietnamese.

Vietnamese people are also the top tourist in Cambodia, with 130,831, up 19 percent as of 2011.[26]



The number of ethnic Vietnamese living in France is estimated to be around 250,000 as of 2006.

Vietnamese migrants have been coming to the country since the early 20th century due to the colonization of Vietnam by France, but they only started to become visible after the massive influx of refugees after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Unlike their counterparts in North America or Australia, they have not formed distinct Vietnamese enclaves within the major cities of France (although many Vietnamese-run shops can be found in the Chinatown neighborhood of Paris) and the degree of assimilation is higher than in the United States, Canada or Australia due to better cultural, historical and linguistic knowledge of the host country.

The community is still strongly attached to its homeland while being well-integrated in the French society. As the first generation of Vietnamese refugees continues to hold on to traditional values, the second generation of French-born Vietnamese strongly identifies with the French culture rather than the Vietnamese one and most of them are unable to speak and/or understand the Vietnamese language.[27] The level of integration of immigrants and their place in French society have become prominent issues in France in the past decade, but the majority of the French people views the Vietnamese community in a much better light than other immigrant groups, partially because of their high degree of integration within the French society and their economic as well as academic success. Most of the Vietnamese migrants in France live in Paris and its surrounding areas but a sizable number also reside in the major urban centers in the south-east of the country, primarily Marseille and Lyon.


Vietnamese comprise the largest Asian ethnic group in Germany.[28] Today there are between 100.000 and 125.000 people of Vietnamese descent in Germany.[9][10] In western Germany, most Vietnamese arrived in the 1960s or 1970s as refugees from the Vietnam War. The comparatively larger Vietnamese community in eastern Germany traces its origins to assistance agreements between the GDR and the North Vietnamese government. Under these agreements, guest workers from Vietnam were brought to East Germany, where they soon made up the largest immigrant group,[29] and were provided with technical training. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, many stayed in Germany, although they often faced discrimination, especially in the early years following reunification.


Norway has received Vietnamese refugees since 1975. They numbered about 18,300 in 2006 and are considered one of the best integrated non-western immigrant groups in Norway.


Around 30,000 to 50,000 Vietnamese live in Poland, mostly in big cities.[30] They publish a number of newspapers, both pro- and anti-Communist. The first immigrants were Vietnamese students at Polish universities in the post-World War II era. These numbers increased slightly during the Vietnam War. Most of today's immigrants arrived after 1989.[31]

United Kingdom

Vietnamese residing in the United Kingdom number around 55,000 people, which is fairly low in comparison to other European countries, and goes against the trend of the UK tending to have the largest East and South East Asian diasporas in Europe. In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher agreed to take quotas of refugees and 12,000 boat people came to Britain[32] There are established Vietnamese communities in Hackney and other parts of London. There are also communities in Birmingham, Manchester and other major UK cities.

Recently, the Vietnamese in Britain had risen to prominence in the British press due to criminal cannabis-growing activities and trafficking or facilitating illegal migrants.[33]

Czech Republic

Many Vietnamese immigrants in the Czech Republic reside in Prague. There is an enclave called "Little Hanoi", named after the capital city Hanoi of Vietnam. Unlike Vietnamese immigrants in Western Europe and the United States, these immigrants were usually communist cadres studying or working abroad who decided to stay after the collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe. The Vietnamese surname Nguyen is even listed as the most common of foreign surnames in the Czech Republic and the 9th most common surname in the country overall.[34]

The number of Vietnamese people in the Czech Republic is estimated at between 40,000[35] and 80,000.[36]


In Bulgaria, Vietnamese people have lived since the 1960s, but most left in 1991. However, with recent immigrants their number is at around 1,500.[37]


Vietnamese people in Russia form the 72nd-largest ethnic minority community in Russia according to the 2002 census. The Census estimated their population at only 26,205 individuals, making them one of the smaller groups of Việt Kiều.[38] However, unofficial estimates put their population as high as 100,000 to 150,000.[8][39]


Vietnamese Australians constitute the seventh-largest ethnic group in Australia, with 159,848 the population claiming to been born in Vietnam according to the 2006 Census.[4] Vietnamese is the sixth most widely-spoken language in the country, with 194,863 speakers.[40] They vary widely in income and social class levels. Many Vietnamese Australians are upper-class professionals, while others work primarily in blue-collar jobs. Australian-born Vietnamese Australians have a higher than average rate of participation in tertiary education. In 2001 the labor participation rate for Vietnamese-born residents was 61%, only slightly lower than the level for Australian born residents (63%).[41] Over three quarters of Vietnamese-Australians live in New South Wales (40.7%) and Victoria (36.8%). Being mostly refugees after the Vietnam War, they are generally antagonistic toward the government of Vietnam.

The popular surname Nguyễn is the seventh most common family name in Australia[42] (second only to Smith in the Melbourne phone book).[43]


According to the 2006 census, Canada has 180,130 people who identify as ethnically Vietnamese.[44] They include 83,330 in Ontario, 33,815 in Québec and 25,170 in Alberta. They are similar to Vietnamese Americans in most respects. Some of those lived in Québec before 1975. Vancouver is a major destination for newly arrived Vietnamese immigrants since 1980, including those of Chinese descent since Vancouver has a large Chinese population (see Chinese Canadians).


Many Vietnamese boat refugees landed in the Philippines in post-1975 and, as a result, a community called Viet-Ville (French for "Viettown") was formed in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, making it the center of Vietnamese commerce and culture complete with Vietnamese restaurants, shops, and Catholic churches and Buddhist temples at the time. Its ethnic Vietnamese population of the community has dwindled greatly, however, as many have since been resettled in the United States, Canada, Australia, or Western Europe. Viet-Ville remains a popular destination for local Filipino residents.


Hong Kong

Vietnamese migration to Hong Kong began after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, when boat people took to the sea and began fleeing Vietnam in all directions. Those who landed in Hong Kong were placed in refugee camps until they could be resettled in a third country. Eventually, under the Hong Kong government's Comprehensive Plan of Action, newly arriving Vietnamese were classified as either political refugees or economic migrants. Those deemed to be economic migrants would be denied the opportunity for resettlement overseas.[citation needed]

South Korea

Vietnamese people in South Korea today consist mainly of migrant workers and women introduced to South Korean husbands through marriage agencies.[45][46] There are a small number of Vietnamese people who settled in South Korea before or after 1975. In the 13th century, several thousand Vietnamese fled to Korea following the exile of the Vietnamese Lý Dynasty.[citation needed]


The number of Vietnamese people in Israel is estimated as 200. Most of them came to Israel in between 1976–1979, after prime minister Menachem Begin authorized their admission to Israel and granted them political asylum. The Vietnamese people living in Israel are Israeli citizens who also serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Today, the majority of the community lives in the Gush Dan area in the center of Israel.


26,018 Vietnamese people resided in Japan as of 2004.[47] Some Vietnamese students came to Japan as early as the beginning of the 20th century.[48] However, the majority of the community is composed of refugees admitted in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as well as a smaller proportion of migrant laborers who began arriving in 1994.[49][50]

French Guyana

New Caledonia

Relations with Vietnam

Relations between overseas Vietnamese populations and the current government of Vietnam traditionally range between polarities of geniality and overt contempt. Generally, overseas Vietnamese residing in North America, Western Europe, and Australia (which represent the vast majority of overseas Vietnamese populations) are opposed to the existing government of Vietnam.[51][52] However, there is a smaller population of overseas Vietnamese residing in Central and Eastern Europe, most of whom have been sent for training in formerly communist countries. These populations generally maintain positive relations with the government.[52] Those who left prior to the political exodus of 1975 generally identify their sentiments as somewhere in between the two polarities.[51]

However, relations seem to be improving in recent years. The former South Vietnamese prime minister Nguyễn Cao Kỳ returned to Vietnam in 2004 and was generally positive about his experience. Notable expatriate artists have returned to Vietnam to perform (some are met with scorn and boycott by the expatriate community itself after they have done so). Notably, the composer Pham Duy had returned to Ho Chi Minh City to live the rest of his life there after living in Midway City, California since 1975. The government in Vietnam used less antagonistic rhetoric to describe those who left the country after 1975. According to the Vietnamese government, while in 1987 only 8,000 overseas Vietnamese returned to Vietnam for visits, that number jumped to 430,000 in 2004.

The Vietnamese government, for its own part, had actively tried to woo back overseas Vietnamese, who bring capital and expertise. Its view of the Việt Kiều changed from "cowardly traitors" to "essential elements of Vietnamese people" (or "integral parts of the Vietnamese Nation"). The government enacted laws to make it easier for overseas Vietnamese to do business in Vietnam, including those allowing them to own land. However, some overseas Vietnamese still complain about discrimination that they face while trying to do business there. The first company in Vietnam to be registered to an Overseas Vietnamese was Highlands Coffee, a successful chain of specialty coffee shops, in 1998.[53]

In June 2007, Vietnamese president Nguyen Minh Triet visited the United States, one of his scheduled stops was within the vicinity Orange County, home of Little Saigon, the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam. Details of his plans were not announced beforehand due to concerns of massive protests.[54] Several thousand people protested in Washington, D.C. and Orange County during his visit.[55][56]

See also

  • List of Vietnamese people
  • Boat people
  • Vietnamese Americans
  • Growing Up American


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