Most Vietnamese people in Britain are refugees who have fled from persecution in North Vietnam and are Chinese in origin. Their background is roughly 80% Buddhist and 20% Catholic. Ancestor-worship is also practised. The traditional languages are Vietnamese and Cantonese. The elderly may hold on to traditional practices and not speak English. As a result of 30 years of Communist domination, the younger generation has missed out on the traditional formation of religious practices and devotion.

Mother and baby stay at home for the first month after birth. At the end of this period a special meal is held in celebration.

Traditionally, when a member of the family dies, the body is laid out at home for 1-3 days before the funeral. During this period offerings of food and drink to the soul of the deceased are made. For Catholics, masses would normally be said by a Catholic priest in church. White is the colour of mourning.

Vietnamese eat a lot of fresh fruits and salads. Some do not take dairy products and some will not eat lamb. Vietnamese Buddhists are often vegetarian. Vietnamese tend to prefer noodles and rice to potatoes. Those who are Catholics may refuse to eat meat on Fridays. Most have got used to English cups of tea!

Western dress is usually worn but the Ao Dai may be worn on special occasions. This traditional dress is a high-necked, close-fitting garment, with a side slit.

Three generations traditionally live together, sharing responsibility for the care of the young, the old and the sick. The absence of close family networks helps to explain the extreme sense of loss felt by many Vietnamese people in Britain, particularly those that came to the UK alone.

Tet is the Vietnamese New Year, at which time presents and money are exchanged. The Moon Festival (usually late Aug / early Sept) celebrates the new moon, but this is not widely observed in Britain.

The older generation of Vietnamese usually greets with a slight bow rather than a handshake. Vietnamese culture in general is not tactile: hugging and kissing are reserved for the privacy of families.

It is usual to remove the shoes on entering the home. It may be impolite to refuse refreshments.

There are no specific objections to blood transfusions and transplants. However, there is generally great apprehension about operations and the giving of blood samples. In Vietnam, much higher dosages of antibiotics may be prescribed. Therefore Vietnamese people may feel the lower dosage prescribed in the UK does not have the same effect.

Vietnamese women are generally rather shy and would prefer to be examined by a female doctor.

Traditionally the family name comes before the personal name, but in Britain some Vietnamese reverse them. It is not always possible to determine gender from a given individual name. The titles ‘brother’, ‘sister’, ‘aunt’ or ‘uncle’ are often used as a substitute for Mr or Mrs. The relative ages of the people concerned determines whether someone is addressed as ‘aunt’ or ‘sister’, ‘uncle’ or ‘brother’. Vietnamese women do not usually take their husband’s name. There are only about 25 Vietnamese family names.

Vietnamese Catholics would need the ministry of a Catholic priest and would be shocked if a lay woman brought Communion to them. Catholic Vietnamese normally observe Lenten and Good Friday fasts.


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Last updated: 19 Mar 2015 10:21:13.643

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