By: Chu Wu
Produced and edited by: Molly Nocheck
Among all the Asian immigrants living in Germany, Vietnamese people form the largest community.
Minority Rights Group International shows that by 2004, there were 83,526 Vietnamese, among which 17,893 were born in Germany. The number has increased in the following years, reaching 90,000 to 10,000 in 2008, according to The Voice of Vietnam.
Human rights issues and poverty in Vietnam and relatively better living condition in Germany keep these people stay in this Europe country, away from their hometown.
The first generation of Vietnamese immigrants arrived between 1970s and 1990s.
The reasons for immigration varied between West and East Germany, Melanie Moltmann explains. She is the specialist in Vietnam-Germany political and economic relations at German Federal Foreign Office.
Just as in the case of many Vietnamese immigrants in the US, many of those in West Germany were refugees from the Vietnam War. Others in East Germany were participants in the Guest Worker Plan between German Democratic Republic (GDR) and North Vietnam.
The plan was signed in 1980 to provide training to Vietnamese by East Germany to show its support for the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The population of Vietnamese in GDR surged from 2,482 in 1980 to 59,053 in 1989.
“I moved to Germany in 1996 when I was 8 to live with my father in Dresden,” said Anni Do Thi, a Vietnamese living in Germany, who is now in his 20s.
Dresden used to be a part of GDR before the reunification in 1989. Anni’s father participated in the Guest Worker Plan in 1988.
“The situation in Vietnam (1980s) was bad. If you didn’t have money for school or good connections, it was hard to find work and get money,” Anni says.
Nguyen Hue Nhat wrote in his book – The commission of crimes of the Vietnamese Communists in Germany – “the Vietnamese communist media had brainwashed the people with propaganda depicting the West as a paradise for making money”.
“Vietnamese always think that Europe and America are better places to live and earn money,” Anni explains.
Ngo Xuan Nguyen had been living a poor life in Vietnam before he joined the working plan. He seized the opportunity of working in Germany as the greatest opportunity he could ever get, his daughter Diana Ngo says.
|The Ngo Family. Photo Credit: Diana Ngo. Academic Fair Use.|
He believed there was no way for him to get out of poverty if he stayed in Vietnam. Therefore, he enjoyed the life in Germany without wanting to return back to his home country.
Most Vietnamese in Germany in 1990s held the same opinion. When the Berlin Wall fell and the new government tried to send back workers back to Vietnam, they tried their best to stay.
There would be no way for them to start a good life in Vietnam with the government suppressing political dissent, lack of freedom of expression, and injustice. Everything was about money and connection.
“You can bribe people,” Andi says.
Despite the problem neo-Nazis and their anti-foreigners attitude, the first generation of Vietnamese immigrants chose to stay in a western country where they believed they lived a better life.
Many of the Vietnamese immigrants managed to stay successfully, including Anni’s father and Diana’s parents.
“It is a big community. Every Vietnamese knows about each other. We are polite and hardworking people. We have our nice lovely communities, but we are trying to integrate into Germany as well,” Anni likes Germany.
Young people like Anni were sent to Germany in a very young age for family reunion and more importantly, for a better education.
“After school I had to learn because education is the reason I came to Germany,” Anni spent his spare time studying and helping in the household, like cooking, washing dishes and clothes.
The young generation of Vietnamese immigrants in Germany is more like Germans, not Vietnamese. They were born or grew up in this European country and seldom go back to Vietnam. They like the life in Germany.
|Many young Vietnamese were born and grew up here in Germany, including Anni Do Thi, Thu Ha Tran Thi and Diana Ngo, Photo Credit: Diana Ngo. Academic Fair Use|
Anni will apply for German citizenship in the near future. “I think German is much better than Vietnam. Here in Germany, if you have no job, the state will pay you. In Vietnam, you have to find work or die in poverty.”
There are over 40,000 people like Miss Thi between 1981 and 2007, giving up Vietnamese citizenship and get German nationality.