State of the French Presence in Asia
This is no news for anyone: the French are people who like to travel. Curious and discoverers, many are trying to experience expatriation.
Today, more than 1,800,000 French live officially abroad, or about 1 French out of 35, of which 8% chose the zone Asia-Oceania. But there could be as many as 2,500,000 French living outside of France.
Here are the top 5 destinations in Asia for French people living abroad:
- China – 31.250
- Singapore – 14.000
- Thaïland – 12.500
- Vietnam – 7.600
- Cambodia – 5.000
The French presence in Vietnam
According to Les Echos in 2017, about 7,000 French resided in Vietnam.
These figures are however based on the official statistics of the French administrations (Consulate, Embassy) in Vietnam. Thus, all persons not registering with these institutions escape this census. The actual number of French people in Vietnam would be at least 10,000, or even twice as much as official data.
The French communities are mainly present in the largest cities of Vietnam, namely Ho Chi Minh City (about 9,000,000 inhabitants) and Hanoi (about 8,000,000), but are also found in tourist cities such as Nha Trang.
French companies in Vietnam
Vietnam has several prestigious French companies that came to settle there: Archetype, Alstom, Amaris, Carrefour (Big C), Danone, Decathlon, Gameloft, Gras Savoye, Mazars, Pierre Cardin, Sanofi, Total, … are only one part of the long list of French international companies in Vietnam. A list that is growing day by day.
But well beyond these world-famous brands, Vietnam has many local companies founded by the French, and which are a resounding success. The Mekong Orchards, Marou Chocolate, Annam Group, Fanny Ice Cream, Asian Cellars, and many more are French “Success Stories” in Vietnam.
And for good reason! Vietnam is an excellent country for entrepreneurship, and the French are not mistaken. Many are trying their luck and creating their business in Vietnam. The French community is rich in entrepreneurs, with a network covering all industries … which multiplies the opportunities to do business with the French.
The reasons behind the French success in Vietnam
A dynamic economical environment
Entrepreneurship in Vietnam is doing business in a market of 93,000,000 inhabitants, which is already an asset in itself. But it is also to do business in an economy where the growth oscillates between 6 to 7% per year since the last years. And this data even goes to 2 figures for its main cities: Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
With an emerging middle class and such a level of growth, the prospects are bright for entrepreneurs. The legal and tax environment also seems favorable, especially with a corporate tax of 20%, conditions of employment obviously less restrictive than in France, and reduced costs for almost all goods and services.
In this context, infrastructure and Internet access are constantly improving, and real estate projects are swarming. Vietnam’s economy is also diversifying more and more: in 2018, the primary sector (agriculture, fishing, ore …) represented 38.6% of the active population and 15% of the GDP, against 26.7% and 39% for the secondary sector (industry) and 34.7% / 44% for the tertiary sector (services).
Thus, among its leading industries and exports, Vietnam can count on the production of electronic and telephone equipment, clothing, vehicles, wood furniture, oil, steel, and traditional coffee, rice, vegetables, and seafood. Investment sectors are therefore many, with a solid base and new opportunities, particularly in the services sector. The Korean, Japanese, and even Chinese neighbors have understood the opportunity and relocate massively to Vietnam. Samsung, Canon, Nike, Peugeot, … many international companies have recently established themselves in the country of the dragon.
All these factors combined thus give any entrepreneur the desire and the means to develop his own business in Vietnam.
The French image and its luxury connotation
The Vietnamese population is probably one of the most welcoming in the world, and has a real fascination for the “France brand”. Even today, many legacies of French culture are there to testify to the French presence in Vietnam, and especially in architecture and gastronomy, even in the language. Diplomatic and economic relations between the two countries are also good.
Thus, having a French name for your company is extremely common in Vietnam, even for foreign brands that play on it, like “Tous Les Jours”, a Korean bakery chain.
Today, statistically not very Francophone but always Francophile, Vietnamese are fond of French products and services, and still keep ties with France. Friends or family residing in France create a true cultural bridge that lasts between the two countries. This is particularly the case for the “Viets Kieu“, these descendants of Vietnamese immigrants who return to Vietnam with their passport, their culture, and their French education.
In Asia can be more than anywhere else, France and the French enjoy a positive image that facilitates the approach of the business world. As a result, you will never be discriminated against as a French expatriate, and the Vietnamese will be the first to come and try your products or services.
Do Vietnamese speak French?
As you already may know, French was the official language of Vietnam during the colonial rule, which lasted from mid-19th century to 1954, date of Geneva Accords and Vietnam’s Independence. Due to the war against the U.S, this status was de facto maintained until in 1975.
Nowadays, estimates range from 0.2% to 0.5% of the population when it comes to Vietnamese speaking French, representing 200.000 to 500.000 persons.
Also, French language has influenced the Vietnamese one in many ways, with transparent words still used today in lots of different contexts. So, in a way, many Vietnamese still do speak French today 😉
A helpful community with diverse skills and with the desire to undertake
7.000, 10.000, or probably more … the size of the French community in Vietnam is similar to that of a small metropolitan city. Very quickly, the same names, and the same faces appear, and people bond, participating to create a cordial if not warm atmosphere.
Naturally, abroad, the links between expatriates are reinforced by sharing this experience together, reinforcing human relationships. And in this small metropolitan city lies a curious population, often well-educated, and eminently adventurous.
All this creates the perfect environment to undertake and build a strong professional network. And institutions or groups allowing gatherings between professionals are not lacking. Chamber of Commerce, Association of French Abroad, French Institute, many events or local press … the French landscape is very widely represented in Vietnam (see links at the bottom of the article).
Architects, artists, hospitality professionals, doctors, financial directors, engineers of all kinds, web professionals, lawyers, traders … nothing is missing from the panel of skills in Vietnam, reflecting the diversification and dynamism of its economy. Almost any project can be carried out end-to-end only by calling on French people. And in such an environment, the news travel fast. As a result, good or bad partners are often quickly identified.
A shared work ethic
To do business with the French community in Vietnam is to speak with people that we understand.
Because beyond the obvious barrier of language – knowing that dialogue is most often in English – business codes really differ between French and Vietnamese culture. We must therefore be patient not to offend the Vietnamese and understand them.
In his book “East vs West”, Yang Liu, a Chinese designer living in Germany, simply exposes the cultural differences between East and West, especially in the business world:
To change your habits requiring time (when it’s possible), you can rely on the French network to do business or help you. Once again, the role of Viet Kieu is decisive, creating a real bridge between French and Vietnamese collaborators. In the case of the Michels, this means, for example, using the services of a French and Vietnamese Viet Kieu lawyer to set up the company in Vietnam with a local firm, and facilitate all the thorny administrative procedures.
The ambition of LesMichels in Vietnam
The conclusion of all this is for Les Michels to offer their web services to these French entrepreneurs in Vietnam (Not only, of course, but …) and to support them in the creation of their website or the development of their brand on the Internet.
- It’s the choice to work with professionals who share your values and work ethic.
- It is to be able to meet and discuss your projects in Vietnam or France.
- It’s about sharing our experiences and our pace of life here.
Useful links for the French Community in Vietnam:
- Association of French people living abroad (Saïgon)
- Union of French people abroad, section Vietnam
- French Chamber of Commerce and Industry au Vietnam
- The French embassy in Hanoi
- French consulate in Ho Chi Minh City
- Le Petit Journal
- Le Courrier du Vietnam