• Elan Interculturel

Preliminary research studies: Chinese and Vietnamese communities in Paris

As part of the REBELAH project, Elan Interculturel conducted a series of preliminary research studies, including with Chinese and Vietnamese communities in Paris. We contacted them for an informal discussion followed by questionnaires aimed at understanding the importance these people attached to their cultural heritage and how they integrated it into their daily lives.


1) Vietnamese communities in France

  • Diversity of participants

18 participants responded to the questionnaire. We were able to reach 4 men and 14 women, aged between 19 and 37 (19-22 years: 8 / 25-29 years: 8 / 36-37 years: 2). The majority (72%) were involved in cultural associations, particularly language courses, as volunteers, employees or users, and 28% were not linked to any structure.


Diagram representing the number of generations that the participants' family has been in France.


We were therefore able to obtain a relative diversity of participants, allowing the broadest possible results. It was not possible to obtain responses from older people, limiting the generational diversity, but a number of participants spoke about their grandparents.


  • Transmission of Vietnamese cultural heritage to participants


The link is made on the one hand through travel. More than 88% felt the need to discover Vietnam at least once, as a way of returning to their roots.


Diagram showing the extent to which Vietnamese cultural heritage was passed on to participants.


On the other hand, the family most often plays the role of bridge between the cultural heritage and the youngest participants. This transmission mainly takes place through food, festivals (in particular Têt) and daily traditions (clothing/ao dai; games like Tienh Ien ; Karaokes...). The places most often mentioned are the 13th district of Paris where large Asian communities live, Asian restaurants and supermarkets, and Vietnamese homes. Pagodas also play a spiritual and religious role for older people but it seems that younger people do not feel particularly connected to these places and regret a lack of places to experience their cultural heritage.


  • Nourish your Vietnamese cultural heritage


Diagram showing how important their Vietnamese cultural heritage is to the participants.


Almost all the participants find it (very) important to value their Vietnamese cultural heritage and to nurture it in their daily lives. In addition to what we have discussed above, this most often involves learning the language and knowing the history of the country. The initiatives are also individual and diverse: for example, one participant writes and performs songs in Vietnamese.



II) Chinese communities in France


  • Diversity of participants


18 participants responded to the questionnaire. We were able to reach 7 men and 11 women, aged between 18 and 70 (18-24 years: 6 / 25-39 years: 11 / Over 60 years: 1). Half of them are involved in Chinese associations, particularly in the fight against racism and stereotypes or in associations aiming to make Chinese culture visible and valued in France.


Diagram representing the number of generations that the participants' family has been in France.



So once again we were able to get a diversity of participants, although it remains difficult to reach older people.


  • Transmission of Chinese cultural heritage to participants


The link is still made through travel. All the participants have been to China at least once and a large majority return regularly.

Diagram showing the extent to which Chinese cultural heritage has been passed on to participants.



We asked participants to name three words that they associate with their cultural heritage. Values (humility, respect, etc.) are the most common, as well as work, family and food. Religion and spirituality are also present to a greater extent than in our study of Vietnamese-Mietnamese communities. The most frequently mentioned places are once again the 13th arrondissement of Paris where large Asian communities live, Asian restaurants and supermarkets, and places of worship. The Guimet Museum was also mentioned many times, as well as the Chinese Cultural Centre, but some of the participants once again deplored the lack of places. Several places were nevertheless mentioned once: the Chinese Museum in Fontainebleau, the Maison de la Chine, the statue of a Chinese worker at Gare de Lyon.


  • Nourish your Chinese cultural heritage

Almost all the participants find it (very) important to value and feed their Chinese cultural heritage. This is mainly done through cooking, cultural products (films, series, shows, books...) and following the country's news. Many also seek to meet people of Chinese origin to share their culture and experiences.


As far as daily practices are concerned, Chinese cultural heritage is fed through language and meals, but also through games (mah-jong, jianzhin, Chinese chess...). Almost all of them also participate in the celebrations of the lunar calendar (Chinese New Year, Yuanxiao, Longtaitou, Qingming, Duanwu, Qixi, Zhongqiu...).


III) Conclusion


These two studies show similarities in the way people manage and value their dual cultural heritages. In both cases, according to the participants, there seems to be a lack of public cultural institutions (museums, statues, physical elements...) and the nourishment of the heritage comes through daily practices ( celebrations, food, games, language) and the community (13th district of Paris). These similarities in strategies and practices can also be partly explained by the historical context of Chinese and Vietnamese migration, as some of the first Chinese communities in France lived for a time in Vietnam during their migratory journey.

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