Who is Ms. Nguyen?
There are two things that you should know about Vietnamese names: their structure and how you address a person by name. First of all, unlike Western ones, Vietnamese names have the following order: Surname – Middle Name – Given Name. Secondly, Vietnamese people are addressed by their given name, not their surname. For example, my name in Vietnamese is Le Vinh Khanh and Vietnamese people call me Mr. Khanh, not Mr. Le even though Le is my family name. And this may be the reason:
More than 80% of Vietnamese population share the top 8 popular surnames in Vietnam. The top 3 are Nguyen (38%), Tran (12%) and Le (10%). So if you see a group of 100 random Vietnamese girls and call out “Ms. Nguyen”, there is a high probability that 40 ladies will response. The following funny photo from an American high school yearbook can perfectly demonstrate the popularity of most popular Vietnamese surname:
The caption says: "We know what you're thinking and no, we are not related!"
It may be interesting to know that “Nguyen” is the Australia's 13th most popular last name due to the high population of the Vietnamese community there. Click here if you want to learn how to pronounce it correctly.
Another interesting fact is that after getting married, Vietnamese women still keep their surname. In Vietnam we don’t have the tradition of married women changing their family name to the husband’s. In my opinion, this is even better than some other cultures in terms of gender equality. However, similar to most other cultures, children inherit the surname of their father’s.
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