The Vietnamese population in the UK, certainly in any significant numbers, dates from the period towards the end of the Vietnam War, in approximately 1975. At this point, the victorious communists started to persecute those who had stood up against them during the previous years, resulting in a large number of boat people, fleeing the country in search of a better life. These immigrants often made their way to Hong Kong, where the British were accepted political refugees at that time, and that community forms the basis of the 90,000 Vietnamese now in Britain, of which there are an estimated 25,000 in London, according to the most recent census. Of these, approximately two thirds are believed to originate from the Northern part of Vietnam.
In the years since then, the Vietnamese immigrant experience has remained marginalised, due largely to lack of adequate support networks in reception communities, and without the strong cohesion of the business network operated by, for instance, the Chinese. (ref here)
Although their UK presence is still in relatively small numbers, areas Hackney boast sizeable Vietnamese populations, where groups like the An Viet Foundation form the centrepiece for community relations. During the 1980′s the textile industry, especially in London, formed one of the largest employers for the ethnic group but, since the outsourcing of that industry to the developing world, mass unemployment has forced the community to find new sources of income. Since the 1980′s, Vietnamese has operated many nail salons in London, with many around the Kingsland Road area of Hackney.
Vietnamese Shops in London
Hung Viet on the Kingsland road has a rightful reputation as some of the most authentic Vietnamese food to be found anywhere in Britain. With it’s crispy pancakes, succulent minced pork and traditional glass noodles, Hung Viet is hard to beat. Situated in a longstanding community centre, it’s also a fantastidc place to absorb some understanding of the Vietnamese community in the UK. WIth its slightly cramped space and a lively, bustlign kitchen atmosphere, it’s easy to forget one is in Shoreditch for a while as you’re transported to South East Asia.
Longdan in Shoreditch is the best place for those hard to find Vietnamese ingredients such as galangal, and the Three Crabs brand of fish sauce, an essential for Vietnamese away from home.
UK Vietnamese Network
This useful organisation helps Vietnamese in the UK with a range of issues, and a special focus on mental health. Vietnamese Mental Health Services aims to promote the sound mental health of persons from Vietnam and their dependents; and to promote a quality and culturally sensitive mental health services to people from Vietnam in the UK.
Travelling to Vietnam
There are many excellent tour operators running trips to Vietnam, for those interested in gaining a wider understanding of this fascinating culture. Our company of choice is one of the longest established Exotissimo, whom you can contact here.