Mai Lan

Mai Lan

Pavlo

Pavlo

Maryna

Maryna

Jürgen

Jürgen

Ismail

Ismail

Hubert

Hubert

Salaheldin

Salaheldin

Dimitrie

Dimitrie

Agnieszka

Agnieszka

Abdi

Abdi

Thi Mai Lan Le

Vietnam

2015

„Le is the family name, Thi stands for woman, and Mai Lan – means orchid – that's me," says Thi Mai Lan Le, who was born in 1984.

Her father came to Bitterfeld-Wolfen in the GDR in 1987 as a contract worker from Hải Dương (near Hanoi) in Vietnam to work in a textile factory. He used his salary to support his extended family in Vietnam. After the political change in 1989/90 and the closure of the plant, the family was faced with a decision: return to Vietnam with a travel bonus of 3,000 DM or stay in Germany. The choice fell on a fresh start in Europe. In 1991, his wife moved to join him from Vietnam. With the trade in textiles, the parents created a financial base for the reunification with their four children.

In the winter of 1998, Thi Mai Lan Le came to Germany as a teenager to live with her parents. Above all, she remembers the fresh air and the special smell on arrival: "It was very positive, like sitting in a room with air conditioning. […] And I knew the smell when my dad came to visit us in Vietnam, […] when he opened the suitcase. […] That's still the case in Vietnam, when we get there, that people stand there and smell the suitcase and the hair. It's a European smell that you don't know in Vietnam."

Thi Mai Lan Le now calls Germany her home. Since 2020, she has been running an Asian Take-away restaurant in Pirna. What she especially appreciates about Germany is the respect you have for each other, the friendliness, integrity and structure.


Vietnamese in the GDR

As early as the 1950s, the GDR took in Vietnamese as part of socialist solidarity programs in order to enable them to receive school and vocational training. From the 1970s onwards, the GDR and Vietnam also concluded intergovernmental agreements on the employment of foreign workers – the GDR's economy was dependent on support from abroad.

The majority of Vietnamese contract workers arrived in the 1980s. Most of them kept to themselves, and as a rule they did not get integrated. They lived in their own living facilities provided by the companies. In 1989, around 60,000 Vietnamese contract workers worked in around 700 factories in the GDR, mostly in the light and textile industries.

With the end of the GDR, the intergovernmental agreements expired. Many Vietnamese returned to their homes. Around 16,000 remained in Germany.

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