There's no place like home at Tet time
At present, there are about 4.5 million overseas Vietnamese residing, studying and working in more than 100 countries and territories around the world. Even though they are far from home, many in the overseas Vietnamese community maintain close ties with their hometowns and make valuable contributions to the development of the country. Luong Thu Huong talks to overseas Vietnamese from all walks of life to find out about their adventures overseas and experiences in returning to Viet Nam for the coming Lunar New Year.
Vu Van Vinh, 66, from the Republic of Vanuatu
On returning to my hometown this Tet holiday, I was filled with pride, honour and excitement upon seeing how Viet Nam has changed so much. Even though I have been living abroad for more than 40 years, I still keep flying back and forth between Vanuatu and Viet Nam each year. I have visited nearly all of Viet Nam, except for Con Dao Island in the south. The more I discover new places in my country, the more I fall in love with it. My French friends admire the natural beauty of Viet Nam so much that they have asked me to be their tour guide a few times.
My daughter is still working as a businesswoman in my hometown, Hai Duong city, and I have always encouraged her to take part in as many charity activities as possible. Seven years ago, during a charity to support the poor, a Sim card worth 680 million VND (US$32.000) was auctioned off and my daughter was the winner of that auction.
I have also taken advantages of my trips back to Viet Nam to do charity, namely by helping leprosy patients in my hometown. Together with another French family, I have appealed the International Leprosy Association to support Vietnamese patients with VND1 billion ($48.000). Last year, several Vietnamese expatriates in France and I also raised a small fund to send back home walking sticks for the blind. To me, seeing changes in Viet Nam which contain my small contribution gives me indescribable happiness.
Dinh Thi Quang, 42, from Czech Republic
This Lunar New Year is the first time I return to Viet Nam after eight years of living abroad with my family. My first destination was the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. I used to visit the Mausoleum during my school years, but this time aroused totally different feelings. I felt ecstatic because my dear hometown has become much more modern and beautiful.
In the upcoming new year, my only wish is that all Vietnamese, including myself, have excellent health so that we can continue to build up our country. As long as I'm in good health, I will keep working hard and returning to my hometown to contribute to its prosperity.
Nguyen Trong Luong, 81, from Canada
It is so great that I'm still healthy and can reunite with my family members and welcome the Year of the Dragon in Ha Noi after so many years away. I moved to study and work in North America more than 40 years ago. On looking back, I can not believe that such a long time has elapsed.
There have been so many changes in Viet Nam that I could never have imagined, both in terms of its economy and its infrastructure. The urban areas have mushroomed everywhere. It's such a magical transformation!
Seeing such development in Viet Nam, I feel very optimistic. Young Vietnamese generations have been very active and talented, and I believe that they will help the country develop even further.
In Canada, I work on the management board of Viet Nam and Canada's mutual assistance fund. Over the last 20 years, on an annual basis, we have financially supported Vietnamese victims of floods and calamity. In the last three years, we also provided scholarships to students to the University of Engineering and Technology.
Another new year is coming and I hope that Viet Nam will be more developed and prosperous. I wish all Vietnamese a happy new year!
Nguyen Huu Hai, 65, from the Netherlands
Every return to Viet Nam all brings me different feelings. Seeing my hometown become wealthier, with the Party and the State paying more attention to the citizens, even overseas Vietnamese like me, makes me feel enthusiastic and proud.
I'm also glad that Viet Nam's economy is growing so rapidly. Goods available on the market have become more varied. For instance, Vietnamese now can purchase everything from Internet TVs to expensive cameras once found only in foreign countries.
Even though over the last few years, overseas Vietnamese have been offered favourable conditions to buy real estate thanks to that State's policies; the implementation of these policies is slow. I hope that in the years to come, this policy will be carried out more efficiently so that we overseas Vietnamese can possess homes in our homeland, and thereby return more frequently.
Nguyen Duy Hien, 56, from Russia
My family has lived in Russia for more than 20 years. My wife and I run a small shop selling clothes in the market. We always fly back to Viet Nam to welcome the Tet holiday with our relatives. To us, we cannot thoroughly enjoy Tet without the presence of our relatives and the typical cold weather of Ha Noi in early spring.
Like every other overseas Vietnamese, we have been astonished at the rapid development of the country. Each year is a positive change. My family members have always hoped to contribute to this development, but not all of us in Russia are in the economic position to do so. Instead, we try to stabilise our household finances and provide our children with a good education so they build the country on our behalf in the future. I think it is also a way to contribute to their hometown. My children are studying banking in Russia, but after graduation, it is definite that they will return to Viet Nam to work.
Tran Thuy Mui, 60, from Slovakia
"Viet Nam has changed so much, it's now more developed and more beautiful," that's what I said to my husband as we set foot on our dear motherland.
Even though I have lived in Slovakia for more than 20 years, my heart has always turned toward Viet Nam. In Slovakia, I take part in a women's association. Despite being a small community, we have enthusiastically participated in many charity activities to support the country over the last few years, such as raising funds for the poor, dioxin victims as well as remote islanders.
This trip back to Viet Nam makes me feel very happy. The connection between overseas Vietnamese and the country has become stronger and stronger. It is certain that I will return to Viet Nam for more Tet holidays.
I wish for further development in the country and lots of luck, happiness and health for everyone in the Year of the Dragon. Happy New Year! — VNS