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Vietnamese culture

It is very complex, in part due to the participation of many groups in Vietnamese history. The earliest known inhabitants of the Indochinese peninsula were Austronesian tribes that migrated north from the islands of the South Pacific.

The Khmer (people of Cambodia) are thought to have migrated east from India, the Laotians came from the highlands of China’s Yunan province, and the Vietnamese came south from the lower Yhangtze valley. The newer arrivals settled in the rich delta areas and coastal regions, forcing the Austronesian peoples into the mountains. Their descendants formed the diverse mountainous tribes. Many of these exist today.

Kinship plays an important role in Vietnam. Unlike Western culture’s emphasis on individualism, Eastern culture values the roles of family and clanship. Comparing with Eastern cultures, Chinese culture values family over clan while Vietnamese culture values clan over family. Each clan has a patriarch, clan altar, and death commemorations attended by the whole clan.

Most inhabitants are related by blood. That fact is still seen in village names such as Đặng Xá (place for the Đặng clan), Châu Xá, Lê Xá, so on so forth. In the Western highlands the tradition of many families in a clan residing in a longhouse is still popular. In the majority of rural Vietnam today one can still see three or four generations living under one roof.

Ethnic Minorities
Refugees from Vietnam include a heterogeneous group of people other than Vietnamese. The divisions and prejudices have continued with relocation to the U.S.Preview
Chinese: The Chinese occupied Vietnam for almost one thousand years, leaving a large ethnic Chinese population in Vietnam. This population spoke Chinese, and was mostly urban. By the turn of the century, about 745,000 ethnic Chinese had settled in the cities of Saigon and Cholon, playing a major role in trade throughout the last 100 years. Many Vietnamese harbor anti-Chinese sentiment and see Chinese as untrustworthy, especially in business.

Cham: With a pre-war population of about 30,000 centered in South Central Vietnam, the Cham had Hindu and Islamic influences. In Vietnam they were associated with Malay people and looked down upon. This has continued in the U.S.

Montagnards: (French for mountaineers). This group was made up of an estimated thirty tribes, or 800,000 people, prior to the war. They lived in the mountains of Northern and Central Vietnam. The groups were migratory hunters who practiced some rice cultivation. During the war they were often linked to the CIA by the Northern army, and were marked for annihilation by the North Vietnamese government. Many fled to the U.S.

Khmer: (Mostly associated with Cambodia). About 500,000 lived in pre-war Vietnam. They maintained their own language, customs, and religion, though many intermarried with ethnic Vietnamese. Most lived in the south around the Mekong delta and adopted Vietnamese customs in addition to their own. They were generally accepted by mainstream Vietnamese.

The majority of immigrants from Vietnam reside in 6 states: California has the vast majority of immigrants, followed by Texas, Washington, Virginia, Florida and Massachusetts (Terrazas, 2008). The metropolitan areas of Los Angeles and San Jose in California are home to the largest number of Vietnamese immigrants.

Names, Naming
Traditionally, Vietnamese people list their family name first, then their middle name, with their first (given) name listed as last. Family members use different given names (first names aren’t passed down), and the name reflects some meaning. Most names can be used for either gender. Many in the U.S. have adopted Western customs of naming or if naturalized, may adopt Western names.

Each family member has a designated kinship term, and these are used when family members address one another.