Han Dang: The Integration of the Vietnamese community in Poland

The Integration of the Vietnamese community in Poland and It’s contributions to the Poland-Vietnam Partnership

Poland and Vietnam are in two continents, but there are many similarities in history, culture and social changes in contemporary history and current time. The two countries have a history of diplomatic relations of over 60 years. Since its establishment in the 80s has the Vietnamese community in Poland grown rapidly, well integrated in Polish society, and contributed greatly to the relationship of cooperation, as well as mutual understanding and friendly relations between the two countries.

1.    Some important points in the comprehensive  cooperation relationship between Vietnam and Poland.

 There is a comprehensive cooperation between Vietnam and Poland on economic areas such as Trade, Culture and Education, Security and Defense.

a. Diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Poland

b. Economic and Trade relations

c. Cultural and Educational relations

2.    The Vietnamese Community in Poland – a Process of Integration.

The Vietnamese community has been established for nearly 30 years. At first, there were students and then Vietnamese people who came here to work and settle. So far there are about 30.000 people and third generation Vietnamese people are living in Poland. It is a traditional, organized community of which intellectuals living in Poland form the core.

a. History and Features

After the second world war, in 1952, two overseas Vietnamese in France were sent to Poland to study by the French Communist Party. The earliest Vietnamese people who went to Poland were Mr. Phan Cong Minh who studied Medicine in Łódź and Mr. Le Tuan Tu who studied Mining in Kraków. Next, a wave of graduated students from Vietnam were sent to Poland to do research. In its peak time in the 60s and 70s there were 200-400 people. Furthermore, some factories in Vietnam have sent their staffs for vocational training.

During this period (until the end of year 80), Poland provided training for Vietnamese to obtain about 4000 Bachelor Degrees, Doctorates and Postgraduate Training.  After their academic course most people returned to work in Vietnam, some stayed. The higher they get later on, increased numbers, they get married, have children and do business here.

Since the period of the 80s until now more Vietnamese moved to Poland for economic reasons, still many come for study and training. This was an important period for the establishment of the Vietnamese community in Poland. Families, many Vietnamese from Vietnam or neighboring countries such as the  Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Western Europe came to Poland for „bread and butter”. Establishing their own methods they did business in small markets across Poland; probably 300-400 Vietnamese in each province. The rest was mainly situated in Warsaw on the market at the Stadium and the local train station there were around 1200 boxes. Furthermore Vietnamese do business at the markets in areas such as Banacha and Marymont.

In addition, many Vietnameses occupy bars, restaurants located all over Poland.

Since 2002, there were Commercial Centers created in Wolka Kosowska, Maximus Center in Nadarzyn, and Marywilska Centre in Marywilska. Working conditions have improved and are now better than in previous times. Currently many Vietnameses have decided to stay permanently in Poland and there are many families who bought houses in the area of Raszyn and Ochota.

According to Dr. Nguyen Van Thai – Vice Chairman of Vietnamese association in Poland, the Vietnamese community in Poland has four major characteristics, namely 1) the high rate of intellectuals, 2) the diversity of the organization, 3) organized  economic activities, 4) a community which mainly does business in Warsaw.

b.  Organization of Associations in the Community

The Vietnamese community numbers only about 30.000 but several dozens of associations were established spontaneously, with a diversity of names and operating principles and objectives. In the core and of outstanding performance are the Vietnamese community, the Women’s Association, the Association of Those Who Love Buddhism, the Culture and Society  Association, …. The diversity of community organizations is in line with a range of different interests, organizational capacities, their ability to make contributions and the level of enthusiasm of each group.

Therefore, they have promoted the positive side, the strengths of each individuals in their group. At the same time it creates mutual benefits for the entire community. That is suited to the current situation when the community activities are social activities, not wages and allowances.  Another strong point is that although there are many associations, they are united and work together very well in all activities of the community.

c.    Integration Process of the Vietnamese Community in Poland.

During half a century of development, the integration process of the Vietnamese community is considered slow because of a small retail scope, self-contained living, language barriers, habits and culture. There have been non-Vietnamese in elected bodies of Poland, although quite a lot of Vietnamese have Polish citizenship. The voice of the Vietnamese community is considered to be weak and to have little effect the Polish authorities. The relationship with the media is not close.

–          Several factors affect the integration process of the Vietnamese community in Poland.

Language:  Most of Vietnamese of the first generation came from their homeland, European countries, the countries of the Soviet Union to Poland to working and make a living. They do not have the chance to learn Polish. Further, they are used to speak the Vietnamese language in their working and living environment, and Polish is so difficult that many people are actually not very conversant in the Polish language. This is the biggest obstacle preventing Vietnamese to integrate.

Culture: The Vietnamese always working hard, but suffer communication problems, and have little knowledge of the Polish culture. There are many similarity points between the Eastern and Western culture but also a lot of difference. Most of the Vietnamese people in Poland are from the north of Vietnam should enhance learning and focuses on the children to attend school, so Vietnamese students will learn well. Vietnamese community  knows a strong internal influence. Many people came from rural areas, are traders and from agricultural areas and are still living with this „Sub-Farm culture”.

This culture was created by an agricultural society characterized by fragmentarism, self-sufficiency, a defensive attitude, too much attention for personal benefit and no eye for long term investments. They stick to the traditional Vietnamese culture and conservation of these values​, and the influence of Confucianism, Buddhism – such as eating habits, customs, traditional rituals, religious associations.

Economics: Vietnamese people do business mainly in two areas: 1) business in the garments, 2) in the Asian food. They do not participate in other areas of Poland’s economy such as communications, manufacturing, construction and services. Business methods employed are foremost of a small retail scope and scattered over the area. Vietnamese are mainly trading garments, some of them import and export, some are in real estate, others rent sales boxes in Trade Centers.

The food areas: Most of them are established as fast food restaurants, other restaurants and food bars. There are several restaurants in major cities such as Warsaw and Kraków. Polish people love the special products as Saigonki , Kurczak w cieście. The Vietnamese are endeavouring to achieve a better life so all of them keep busy 365 days per year.

Religion: There are many people from many different religions (Christian, Buddhist, Protestant, …) among the Vietnamese, but the majority of Vietnamese practice Buddhism  influenced by Confucius and Confucianism. The Polish are mainly of the Catholic faith.

Compared to other foreign communities, the Vietnamese in Poland are an organized, fast-growing community partaking in all aspects of social life in Poland. Especially, 5-8 years ago, when economic conditions were better, many Vietnamese were determined to make Poland their second homeland.

Unlike the first generation, the second generation students are learning well in schools, universities and vocational schools. They integrate and adapt better. Research results show that there is no „racism”, though places may naturally ethnic discrimination (≈ 3 %). When asked, up to 70% of the Polish said that Vietnamese children have a good relationship with Polish children.

– For example, a Vietnames student (23 years old) told journalists: „I went to Poland with my parents when I was 3 years old, I learned in schools and in college, and have many Polish friends who respect me. I have not come across of any discrimination. Poland will be a place to live and work for my whole life.”

Out of 119 participants in a survey 76.5% of the Polish did not see any problems with Vietnamese who living and working here (see Maria Nguyen). In schools, Vietnamese students are considered good students and well-educated, Though it is a fact that, in schools where there is a high number of Vietnamese pupils, integration is low.

Though low in comparison within the number of Vietnamese, quite many Vietnamese are working in Polish state agencies with success and prestige. In Scientific Education are Prof. Nguyen Ngoc Thanh, Prof. Nguyen Huu Viem, Prof. Cao Long Van, Prof. Nguyen Thi Bich Loc. In Business Agencies: Mr. Tao Ngoc Tu in the Tan–Viet Group, In Finance and Securities Mr. Le Ba Hung, in Literature and Art: translators such as Mr. Lam Quang My, Mr. Nguyen Chi Thuat, Mr. Nguyen Van Thai and Mr. Nguyen Thai Linh.

Enforcement of local laws:

Many Vietnamese do not have a stable jobs. Problems are caused by crime and a negative atmosphere in life. Vietnamese violations of the law mainly consist of economic crimes, such as tax evasion, attempts to bribe tax agencies, illegal companies and the forging documents; with a ratio of charged persons of 4 to 7,5%. Recently, activities in growing cannabis are increasing in Poland.

Furthermore, recently, there was the matter of a large money transfer and tax evasion which Polish security agencies are investigating, causing a dent in the good image of hard-working, law-abiding Vietnamese.

To the Polish people, the Vietnamese are a closed and subtle community. Polish people do not have a high preference for Asian people (except of Japanese) because of their level of knowledge and development; not for their skin color or facial expression (34-49%). The Polish lack information and in-depth knowledge of the Vietnamese (50%). Only 25% of the Polish like their foreign neighbors.

The Polish do not like their children to get married with people of a Vietnamese, Chinese, or Russian origin. 75% of the Polish accept foreign laborers and their support. If asked if the Vietnamese in Poland bring benefits to Poland, the answer is yes in 25% of the cases. Vietnamese were described as being polite, low on aggression, hard-working, energetic, self-constrained. Their weak points: dirty, noisy, sometime rude at the lowest rate.

+ The biggest problem of the Vietnamese community in Poland in the future will be the lack of a „common language” between the generations. Vietnamese elderly people are good in their Vietnamese language whereas the next generation is fluent in the Polish language and do not know the Vietnamese language. Currently, the Vietnamese community seems to be the largest racial minority in Poland but it lacks of Vietnamese schools, Cultural and Artistic activities. There are too few Vietnamese films, cultural activities and festivals to promote. Due to difficult living conditions, the problem of „integration” is still a slogan, a word not yet put into practice. Although everyone is aware of the importance of this issue in the future.


Quantity: The number of Vietnamese increasing annually in Poland is not high because elder people tend to return to Vietnam and many students upon finishing high school  would like to study in other countries, after which that they can stay to work. Other groups who were well-off had much money to invest in Vietnam, and preferred not to go back to Poland. Some find other jobs in Vietnam. The number of illegal immigrants is decreasing as many people returned to Vietnam under the consular agreement.

In terms of quality: This a young community, receiving a good education in Polish schools and colleges, who is fluent in several languages ​​(Polish, more fluent in English than in Vietnamese).They have knowledge of customs and have good relations with native people. The second-generation of Vietnamese overseas have the ability to integrate deeply in the Polish society.

II. Some Important Points in the Relationship of Comprehensive Cooperation between Vietnam and Poland.

Poland and Vietnam have a special relationship, the former Ambassador Miroslaw Gajewski said, although the context has changed, the friendship between the two countries remained. More than 4,000 Vietnamese students study in Poland and more than 30,000 Vietnamese are living in Poland which forms an effective bridge between the two countries. Poland and Vietnam have successful cooperation in the fields of education and training, economics, investment and trade.

1). Economic Trade and Diplomatic Relations

Two countries established the diplomatic relations on 04/2/1950. The two countries have sent high-level state of Government, Parliament and the Ministries, localities and enterprises. In the recent times, the Vietnamese delegations visited Poland: Minister of Public Security (7 / 2003), President Tran Duc Luong (10/2003), Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (9 / 2007), Deputy National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Duc Kien (3 / 2008). Vietnam has welcomed the delegation from Poland: President of the Senate of Poland (1996, 2003), President Jerzy buzek(7 / 1999), Prime Minister Marek Belka (1 / 2005), Minister of National Defense (11/2008), the Minister of Foreign Affairs (05/2009). Prime Minister Donald Tusk (9 / 2010).

The two countries signed several agreements to create a legal framework such as the Agreement on Cultural -Science Cooperation (1992), a Mutual Legal Agreement (1993), the Agreement on the Encouragement of Protection of Investments (1994); the Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation (1994) the Agreement on Shipping Cooperation (1995), The Agreement on Debt Reduction for Vietnam (1991-1996), the Agreement on Revision of the Signed Protocol (2000); the Agreement on Cooperation against Organized Crime (7 / 2003); The Agreement on Transfer and Return of Citizens (4 / 2004), the Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Agriculture, and the Development of Rural and Agricultural Markets (1 / 2005) the Agreement and Cooperation in Education and Training between Vietnam and Poland for the years 2005-2008; The Agreement on Defense Cooperation  between the Ministries of Defenses, the Cooperation Protocol between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, the Agreement on Protection of Confidential Information; the Agreement in the Field of Veterinary.

Recently the Prime Minister of Poland, Mr. Donald Tusk, visited Vietnam. He agreed on major points, among which specific measures to strengthen cooperation between the two countries, particularly in the areas of economy, trade, politics, culture and defense. Accordingly, cooperation between Vietnam – Poland will be elevated to new heights. Both sides agreed that we should further increase encourage visits at all levels, strengthen cooperation, and encourage trade and investment, particularly in areas in which Vietnam and Poland excel.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung stressed, that Vietnam always considered Poland to be an important partner of top priority in Middle-Eastern Europe. At the same time Prime Minister Donald Tusk confirmed that Poland respects the relations and cooperation with Vietnam. Polish people often collaborate with the Vietnamese community who is living and working in Poland.

2). Trade:

Poland is currently the number one customer of Vietnam in Eastern Europe. Over the years the commodity exchange turnover has rapidly increased and mainly with Vietnam in surplus. However, we estimate that economic and trade relations are not commensurate with the potential and expectations of both countries.

The exported and imported turnover between Vietnam and Poland in recent years

Information from General Department of Customs , Units: 1000USD







7 months of 2011






















In recent years, thanks to the credit policy, the export of raw materials, machines and equipment for the shipbuilding industry has always occupied the first position in Poland’s export to our country. In the future, Poland wishes to boost cooperation with Vietnam in the field of tourism. Vietnam mainly exports garments, agricultural products and food to Poland and imports milk powder, pharmaceuticals, retail equipment for the coal industry, shipbuilding, iron, steel and some consumer goods, agricultural products.

Vietnam exported to Poland (7 months of 2011)

(Information from General Department of Customs)



The Value (USD)











Bakery and cereal products


Plastic Products


Bags, wallets, suitcases, hats and umbrellas


Rattan, bamboo, jute and carpets


Wood and wood products


Textiles and garments




Products from iron and steel


Computers, electronic products and components


Telephones and components


3). Investments:

Poland currently has 8 investment projects in Vietnam, ranking 33 out of 81 countries and territories investing in Vietnam. The number of investment projects is not high but the commitment capital is up to USD 99.72 million of which USD 41.66 million of implemented capital. Investments in the field are building materials, manufacturing and food processing, pharmaceutical and herbal products, canned goods and candy, cosmetics, machinery and industrial equipment.

Vietnam imported from Poland (7 months of 2011)
(Information from General Department of Customs)


The value (USD)



Milk and milk products




Raw materials for textiles, leather and footwear


Types of Steel


The iron and steel products


Other metals


Computers, electronic products and components


Machines, equipment, tools and accessories


4). Culture, Education and Training:

For years, Poland has helped Vietnam with training, the restoration of the palace in Hue, the Cham Tower in Hoi An, the Cu Chi tunnels. In 2008, the ODA framework, Poland sponsored Vietnam with 150,000 Euro for three high schools.

Cooperation on Education and Training: Poland provided Vietnam with training for 4000 students and scientific staff – on the job training for 3500 employees, mainly in the coal industry and ship-building. Currently, Poland continues to provide training for Vietnamese and supports them with 10 scholarships. Vietnam received 10 Polish students for a 10-month practice. Poland withdrew from the Multilateral Agreement on Recognition of Equivalent University and Postgraduate Degrees, Science and Academic Titles, signed in Prague in 1972. Vietnam would like to deal with Poland on the issue of mutual recognition of qualifications as well as expanding the paid training.

III.        Integration and Cooperation between Vietnam and Poland

The Vietnamese community in Poland has grown rapidly, and has become deeply integrated in the Polish society. The process of integration has contributed positively to the traditional relations of Vietnam and Poland. There are many fields such as diplomatic relations, economic, trade, investment, culture and education and training.

1.    Foreign Affairs:

Each one of the Vietnamese people in Poland is can be likened to an ambassador who influences the relationship between Vietnamese and Polish people. They bring a good image of Vietnam as a country to the Polish people and show that are painstakingly diligent in business, courteous and polite in communication, funny and warm in relationships.

The result of their integration in the community has created goodwill with the Polish people and causes Polish people to understand the Vietnamese and their country which forms the foundation for long-term friendly relations between the two countries.

2.    Trade and Investment:

The Vietnamese community forms an effective bridge for the exchange and cooperation in economics and trade. Many people who studied in Poland are holding important positions in the State agencies of Vietnam and they have become successful businessmen. As a whole Vietnamese people in Poland have close relations with Vietnam and function as the bridge in providing information and creating investment opportunities for Polish investors as well as Vietnamese ones. The Vietnamese community, Vietnamese businessmen in Poland have knowledge of the Polish society, they can consult on important points of investments and trade with Poland. As Vietnamese enterprises are deeply integrated in the economic field, they can form a positive factor to promote trade cooperation between the two countries on an economic level.

During the last decade, the export of Vietnamese enterprises in Poland have become clearly visible in for instance the food, textile, restaurants ,”BARS” or in the distribution of clothing, shoes and sandals.

In addition to these relations, the learning experience and technology of Vietnamese enterprises has set the stage for a joint venture between Vietnam and Poland on the Vietnamese market.

The Vietnamese community in Poland is recognized as forming a potential market; an important bridge in tourism and aviation development. LOT airlines offers flights between Warsaw and Hanoi. The VIETINBANK bank established a branch in Franfurt and are planning a project in Warsaw. These good conditions are a positive catalyst for trade cooperation between the two countries in the future.

3.    Culture – Education – Training:

As cultural ambassadors, the Vietnamese bring an increased understanding of the Vietnamese culture to the Polish people and vice versa. The deeper the integration in the community, the more influence they will have on cultural education. Professor Nguyen Ngoc Thanh (University of Technology in Wrocław) had a positive impact on relations concerning education and training: There was a conference held at the Quang Binh University in Vietnam which many Polish scientists attended.

In the future the Quang Binh University and the University of Wrocław will cooperate in providing training. Prof. Cao Long Van. from the University of Zielona Góra and Vinh University, prof. Mai Xuan Ly from Polsih Academy of Science and Hochiminh University, had a number of projects.

On that basis, there was an academic exchange organized featuring workshops, seminars and cooperation on educational training and scientific research.

-The Polish are restoring monuments of cultural value in Hue, Hai Duong. An exhibition of the works of art of Painter Van Duong Thanh was held in Asia-Pacific museum.

Mr. Nguyen Chi Thuat, Mr. Lam Quang My, Mr. Nguyen Van Thai, Mr. Nguyen Thai Linh served as translators and thereby contributed lot of to the understanding of arts and culture between the two countries.

The Polish Literature Society awarded laurel branches to translators with major contributions such as Mr. Lam Quang My, Mr. Nguyen Van Thai, Mr. Andrej Kubiak.

– The Polish established a Thai-Vietnamese department teaching the Vietnamese language at the University of Poznan. These are specific events in the exchange of education and culture  between the Vietnamese and Polish people which help us understand each other and have better relationships.

Recently, three Vietnamese scientists who are working at the Polish agency received grants issued by the Polish State: Tran Vinh Hung, Mai Xuan Ly, Nguyen Anh Linh, who strive to advance academic learning. Prof. Nguyen Ngoc Thanh is one of three who was awarded for his large contribution to the Wroclaw University.

IV. Conclusion

To promote and advance integration, the Vietnamese community, the authorities and each individual Vietnamese need to recognize their role and take up their responsibility in Poland as well as in Vietnam.

– Particularly in the field of economic activities, such as: tax, labor and strictly obeying the Polish Law;

– To prosper a good life.

– Fight against violations of the law; keep a good reputation within in the community;

– Participation in social activities in the area of living; maintain good relationships with others;

– Research; provide the community with guidance and support to advance integration;
– Create good conditions for Vietnamese people; encourage enhanced communication with the Polish, participation in Polish social and cultural activities at their place of residence and at work.

Author: Hang Dang

The article was presented on the XIIIth East Asia-Europe Think Tank Dialogue in Warsaw.

Han Dang: The Integration of the Vietnamese community in Poland Reviewed by on 7 grudnia 2011 .

The Integration of the Vietnamese community in Poland and It’s contributions to the Poland-Vietnam Partnership Poland and Vietnam are in two continents, but there are many similarities in history, culture and social changes in contemporary history and current time. The two countries have a history of diplomatic relations of over 60 years. Since its establishment




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