Why does everyone have the last name Nguyen in Vietnam

It’s no secret that Nguyen is the most common last name in Vietnam. If you didn’t know by now, you’ll definitely notice once you start traveling and meeting locals. Almost half of the people you meet will have the last name Nguyen. But why is that? Why does everyone have the last name Nguyen in Vietnam? Let’s take a look!

Just like Smith and Johnson in the USA, Nguyen is a very common surname to have in Vietnam, although much more widespread and popular. The origins of the last name can be traced back to 111 BC, which marks the beginning of the thousand year occupation of Vietnam by the Han Dynasty in China. Before the Han Dynasty came to Vietnam, no one really knows how the Vietnamese handled names since there are no written records. Even the name “Vietnam” comes from then Chinese. The word “viet” was used by the Chinese to describe the people southeast of the Yunnan province.

It’s likely that the Vietnamese didn’t even use last names to begin with. Most of the world didn’t – it was only when a place got conquered by a country that used them that the use of surnames began. The conquerors that used surnames included the Normans, the Chinese, the Romans, and later the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Germans and the Americans. So when China came to Vietnam, they gave the locals family names, such as Nguyen.

To be able to monitor the people so they could be taxed, they needed surnames. And since people most likely didn’t have them in Vietnam, it could be really hard to monitor them. So they handed out surnames to the local Vietnamese, such as Nguyen. But instead of handing out several different surnames, they just decided on a few such as Ruan, which later became Nguyen. Since last names in Vietnam wasn’t deemed of importance, most people didn’t change it if it didn’t help you in any way. But they did change it to show loyalty to their current ruler.

The people of Vietnam took on the last name of whoever was in power at the time. But imagine if everyone did this? If almost all of the people changed their name to the same last name as their ruler? That’s probably why there are so many Nguyens in Vietnam, because the last ruling family in Vietnam was the Nguyen dynasty, who ruled from 1802 to 1945.

Nowadays, almost 40% of the Vietnamese share the surname Nguyen and they don’t have any intentions on changing it. So, how exactly do you pronounce the Nguyen? This is probably the most complicated part of this post. One could say that there’s not really a wrong pronunciation since there’s many different dialects in Vietnam. Southern Vietnamese pronounce it in their way and the Northerners in theirs.

So there you have it! The big mystery of why almost everyone is called Nguyen in Vietnam. Now when you travel there, you can finally tell that you know the story of how it all began.

Besides the fact that almost half of the population is called Nguyen, there’s a lot more to the country and the locals. Vietnam has become one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations and it’s not hard to see why. Imagine white sand beaches, crystal clear water, a stunning coastline, high mountains, rice fields, palm trees as far as the eye can see, a great infrastructure, amazing food(!) and friendly locals… You can get it all here in Vietnam! Most travelers who comes here tends to either travel from the north to south, or the other way around. Either way, there’s always something to discover in Vietnam, wherever you decide to go. Northern Vietnam is known for their landscapes in Sapa, for the UNESCO World Heritage Site Halong Bay, and for having the capital city Hanoi. Central Vietnam is mostly known for the quaint town Hoi An, the fantastic national park Phong Nha Ke Bang, and the lovely city Da Nang. If you head south, you’ll most likely visit the biggest city in Vietnam Ho Chi Minh City, cruise around the Mekong Delta and try kitesurfing in Mui Ne. As you can see, there’s a huge variation of things you can do in Vietnam. So what are you waiting for? Head to Vietnam and enjoy everything that this beautiful country has to offer!

Remember to see if you need to apply for a Vietnam visa before your arrival to the country. Most nationalities are required to have a valid Vietnam visa. If you’re one of them, you can apply for three different types of visas: Visa on Arrival, E-Visa (only eligible for 80 countries in the world so far), or go to the Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate and apply with them. The latter option is good if you’re planning on arriving by land to Vietnam, since the online visas are not valid then. Otherwise, it’s always highly recommended to apply for a Visa on Arrival since it can be done from wherever you are in the world.

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