What is the reputation of the Vietnamese in China

Vietnamese are the better migrants - is that right?

In his films, Ngo Ngoc Duc, who studies “directing” at the Babelsberg Film University, repeatedly takes up the theme of “home”. He is also privately concerned, after all he was born in Hanoi in 1988 and spent the first five years of his life in Vietnam. He came to Germany with his mother. Family reunification made it possible. The father had previously gone to the GDR as a worker.

Occupational fields opened up

His son Duc learned German within two years and embarked on a - in the best sense - inconspicuous way of life, like most of the Vietnamese. “I think that the Vietnamese are well integrated,” writes Ngo Ngoc Duc in the anthology “Invisible”, which deals with the history of German-Vietnamese migration.

It is estimated that 176,000 people with Vietnamese roots live in this country. They are considered to be sociable, hardworking and reliable. Statistical data support this view. This can be seen, for example, from the professions, says Olaf Beuchling from the University of Magdeburg, who examined the migrant group. The Vietnamese had opened up academic professions in Germany, especially in the medical field as engineers or civil servants.

Shaped by Confucianism

Their positive attitude towards education plays an important role in this. This is also proven by the numbers. “Vietnamese students go to high school more often.” In tests, they performed above average in all federal states. There are hardly any special or secondary school students. There is a reason for this: "For the Vietnamese, education is the instrument to be socially successful," explains Beuchling, who heads the Chair for International and Intercultural Educational Research in Magdeburg.

The driving force behind it is the philosophy of Confucianism, which is deeply anchored in countries like China, Japan and Korea. Vietnam, which was a Chinese colony for around 1000 years, is also subject to this influence. The rulers installed a civil servant training system there that extended from the villages to the imperial court. This path was open to all people. "Those who were committed had the chance to move up."

Pressure from parents

This imprint is present, also among the Vietnamese in Germany. Filmmaker Ngo Ngoc Duc reports that he was a determined student. The parents also put pressure on. He writes: "When I didn't have homework at school, they gave me loads of homework." They even found him a tutor. His conclusion: "I find this upbringing totally exaggerated, which is still present in many Asian families."

However, scientist Olaf Beuchling is observing a change: The fixation on education is decreasing. "Vietnamese children who only have German friends and are culturally influenced by their German environment tend to be less willing to work," he says.

Good reputation, bad reputation

However, their academic and professional success means that Vietnamese are perceived more positively than other migrants. However, according to Olaf Beuchling, this view is not complete. He gives an example: Italian and Turkish school children in Germany are equally successful, but the first group has a better reputation and the second group a worse reputation, according to the researcher. Obviously there are other factors that determine the reputation.

There is also the question of what relevance a positive reputation actually has. "Just because the Vietnamese behave inconspicuously and their children do better at school doesn't say anything about their participation in society or their integration," says Bengü Kocaturk-Schuster. She is co-editor of the book "Invisible".

Better integrated

The example of the Vietnamese shows how quickly the relationship between majority society and migrants can change. “In the 1990s, newspapers talked about the 'cigarette mafia' and 'killer gangs'”, says Kocaturk-Schuster. Mind you, this only referred to the Vietnamese in East Germany. Because what looks like a homogeneous group from the outside is actually two. At the end of the 1970s, the so-called “boat refugees” fled the once capitalist south of Vietnam. In West Germany they were recognized as refugees and quickly integrated. In contrast, Vietnamese from the north had lived in the GDR since the 1980s and had come to the “socialist brother state” as “contract workers” to earn money.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, their employment contracts were no longer valid. As a result, many slipped into organized crime. There were murders, whereupon the West German Vietnamese wanted nothing to do with their compatriots. “They feared for their good reputation,” says Olaf Beuchling. Since then the situation has calmed down and the East German Vietnamese are better integrated into society. At the same time, the reputation of the Vietnamese has changed for the better. They have remained relatively inconspicuous. According to Bengü Kocaturk-Schuster, this is perhaps the secret of their success.

Book reference

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and DOMiD launched the book project “InSichtbar. Vietnamese-German Realities ”realized. The scientific anthology focuses on the comparatively little-known aspects of Vietnamese migration in Germany. It is available from DOMiD (“Documentation Center and Museum on Migration in Germany”) - an association that deals with the history of migration.