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Home » Child/Adolescent Mental Health » Who’s At Risk? » Refugees » Vietnam » Vietnamese Refugee Cultural Considerations

Vietnamese Refugee Cultural Considerations

  • During World War II and the Vietnam War, the Vietnamese suffered years of poverty, persecution, racism, and isolation.
  • Millions of Vietnamese died in the Vietnam War which ended in March, 1973.
  • Because of the Agent Orange (chemical weapon) used in the Vietnam War, birth defects are common among Vietnamese.
  • It is estimated that 1/2 of the Vietnamese population suffers from malnutrition due to poverty, pollution, war, and unclean water.
  • Vietnamese is the national and official language of Vietnam and is considered the mother tongue even among Vietnamese living overseas.
  • About 60% of Vietnamese practice Buddhism.  Smaller percentages practice Confucianism, Taoism, or Roman Catholicism.
  • The Vietnamese believe one’s head is the center of his or her soul.  It is culturally accepted for an older person to touch a young child’s head, otherwise, touching another’s head is generally not accepted.
  • Although hand-shaking is an accepted social practice,  informal physical touch is often considered inappropriate.
  • Direct eye contact is considered disrespectful.
  • Vietnamese value education.  Unfortunately, some Vietnamese need to discontinue their educational pursuits in order to work.
  • Medical practices in Vietname include traditional and religious treatments, Western medicine, herbs, acupuncture, and massage.
  • Some Vietnamese may believe that illness is a punishment from God while others believe sickness is caused by an imbalanced system (described by the concepts of yin-yang or chi).
  • It is common for Vietnamese to keep personal and/or family problems to themselves or within the family system.  Family members are turned to for support.
  • In Vietnam, awareness and treatment of mental health problems is limited.  There is a strong stigma against those with mental health issues.  Substance abuse, depression, and post-traumatic stress are not widely recognized.