5 Annoying Things Every Asian Parent Says

My sister is visiting this week. For those of you who regularly read my blog (all three of you), you’ll probably remember that she has been living in London for the past few years and working for Amazon. She’s basically the anti-James—young, corporate and doesn’t need to coupon for groceries.

Whenever my sister is back in town, a lot of family-time follows. This past weekend, my parents, sister and I all had dinner together and got caught up on each other’s lives. Sometimes we have really healthy and productive conversations. We get to hear what my sister has been up to and my parents talk about their retirement plans, which thankfully does not involve living with me.

Other times, I feel like my parents are bullying me. Generally, this happens whenever we talk about education, careers or grandchildren. It’s annoying because I feel like they are never satisfied with what I do. I know my parents are well-intentioned and sincerely want the best for my sister and me, but they don’t always express it in the most effective ways. Here are a few examples of annoying things my parents say to me, and what I wish would come out of their mouths instead.

“Hey dad, I just got accepted into the University of Whateversville!!!”

Wrong answer: “Was it Harvard? Your cousin Billy got into Harvard. Why didn’t you?”

Why it’s wrong: Whenever we share good news, we want you to be excited for us. Not diminish that excitement by comparing it to “something better.” That’s a moving target and it’s unrealistic (except for the people who actually get into Harvard, like Cousin Billy). We work very hard and sometimes all we want is to be acknowledged for those efforts. School, for many teens and young adults, is probably one of the most stressful things we deal with. The ongoing misconceptions of the “model minority” doesn’t help either.

Here’s the right answer: “I am so proud that you got into the University of Whateversville. I know how difficult it was for you to take four AP classes, play varsity sports, captain the chess team to three state championships, and volunteer 500 hours at a local shelter. You even maintained a 4.00 GPA throughout high school…never mind that you tied for valedictorian with the two other Asian students in the school. We’re still happy for you!”

“Hey mom, I just got a new job!”

Wrong answer: “How much does it pay? Do you have benefits? Do you make more than your sister?”

Why it’s wrong: There’s a lot of pressure on young folks now-a-days to find successful careers. For many Asian Americans, success usually equals money. But this isn’t always true for millennials. Many of us are looking for careers where our skills, interests and passions all align. That might mean being a doctor or lawyer, but it can also mean being an artist, teacher or community developer (that’s me). We’re not looking for careers that are defined by money and salary, but by values and purpose.

Here’s the right answer: “Sweet! Let’s go celebrate. Do you want bubble tea? Or half a beer? I know how red your face can get. We look at your selfies on Facebook. You’re so cute on social. By the way, you can come home for dinner anytime you need. No community-developer-son-of-mine is going hungry.”

“Hey, I’m thinking about renting an apartment in Seattle. Can I borrow your van to move?”

Wrong answer: “Rent!? Waste of money. You should continue to live at home, save money, and then buy a house. So what if it takes you another ten years to do it. Save money!”

Why it’s wrong: That’s what you get for sending us off to college. We got a taste of the real world and it was delicious—like a bowl of pho. Now we never want to come home. There is nothing more rewarding than living on your own, even if that means renting. You remember all of those people who had their homes foreclosed during the housing crisis? They would have been better off renting. Millenials love renting. Renting gives us flexibility and keeps us mobile. We love mobile. Aspiring to buy a home isn’t everyone’s “American dream” anymore; winning our fantasy football league is. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to rent—especially with the prices in Seattle skyrocketing. So we appreciate that the door back home is always open to us. It means a lot, even if we do complain a crap ton.

Here’s the right answer: “Here are the keys to the van. No need to fill up the tank. Also, since you live in Seattle now, we most likely won’t ever come to visit you because Fremont is terrifying.”

“I’m in a serious relationship and I want you to meet them.”

Wrong answer: “Is he/she Chinese? Japanese? Vietnamese? Black? Lawyer? Muslim? Doctor?”

Why it’s wrong: Millennials have much different views when it comes to dating and relationships. The Pew Research Center reports that interracial marriage is on the rise among millennials. We’re not looking at a person’s race or job as a deciding factor—though we acknowledge those experiences greatly shape who the person is. We’re looking for x-factors like “awesomeness” and “hipness.” Do you know how difficult meet someone with high levels of awesomeness? Or finding someone who is hip, but not hipster hip? It’s harder than finding an Asian who is bad at math. Needle in a haystack hard. So when we find someone that we finally want to bring home, we want you to be happy for us. Because, who knows, we might end marrying them.

Here’s the right answer: “I can’t wait to meet him/her. And only him/her. Please use protection.”

“Mom, dad, I’m getting married!”

Wrong: “WTF? You? Married? Muahahahahahaha! But you’re not even a doctor. How can you afford a ring? You did get a ring, right?”

Why it’s wrong: So…I got nothing here. I’m actually not married myself, so….um…good luck with this one! If you’re engaged, please let me know how it goes and what you wish your parents would have said.

Here’s the right answer: “Congrats…?”

***

How about everyone else? What are some things your parents say that annoy you? And what do you wish they’d say instead?

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4 thoughts on “5 Annoying Things Every Asian Parent Says”

  1. When I told my mother that I went on one date with a project engineer, she immediately went to salary.com and sent me a printout of his salary range and earning potential. She then made sure I knew that he wasn’t a “real” engineer. After one date! Enjoy the week with your sister.

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  2. If James and Anti-James are in the same room, is there actually no James at all? Secondly, I get the prestige of being a doctor…you’re probably pretty smart (enough to pass all that schooling and to be practicing) and the profession is noble so perhaps the person is too. The lawyer thing I never understood.

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    1. Lol…yes, I suppose it wipes out every James in existence. I never got the lawyer thing either–my sister actually thought about law school for a while. Maybe I should have done more to encourage her…and then take my rightful place as #1 child afterward.

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