Hi everyone. So last week I wrote about 5 Annoying Things Every Asian Parent Says. I really appreciate all of the feedback and input I got from that post. It was great to see all of the responses from people who resonated with the post. To balance things out this week, I’m writing about some things that probably annoying Asian parents, which probably says more about me as a son than about Asian culture in general.
“Mom, dad, I want to be a social worker.”
Why it’s annoying to Asian parents: I had a conversation with my mom the other day and she recalled her experiences working in fast food and service to provide for my sister and me. All she wants in return is for us to have a good, well-paying job. On that level, I think children and parents want exactly the same thing.
Many Asian parents — especially those from recent immigrant or refugee families – make a lot of sacrifices to ensure their children have a chance at a healthy, happy and successful future. Basically, they don’t want us to screw it up because, ya know, that’d be a poor return on investment.
However, most parents and children disagree are on the types of careers and job that would lead to success. From the worldview that my parents have as refugees, professions like doctor, lawyer and engineer are seen as successful because they are high-paying, highly respected, and highly educated. Non-traditional jobs like social worker or community organizer don’t necessarily exist in Vietnam where my parents are from—at least not like they do in the United States. So it’s hard for some Asian parents to understand the full range of opportunities these types of jobs can afford.
What Asian children can do instead: I spent a lot of time trying to help my parents understand my career choice in non-profit work. I invited them out to our community gatherings, brought them to work with me, and had honest conversations about why it’s important to me. You need to show your parents you can be successful with your career choices, even if your definition of success differs. At the very least, you need health benefits. Your parents will be pissed if you don’t have health benefits. They don’t want to coin your back for the rest of their lives.
“I’m planning on renting an apartment in Seattle to be closer to work.”
Why it’s annoying to parents: Homeownership–one part Asian culture, two parts American dream. Or maybe it’s the other way around. When I first told my parents that I was planning on moving out, my mom insisted that I continue living at home, as opposed to renting, in order to save money. She even offered to help with a down payment on a new home if I stayed. I hear similar stories from other Asian friends.
I can only imagine the unstable housing and living conditions my parents endured while in refugee camps. I think that may explain, in part, the value my parents place in homeownership; it creates a sense of stability. The thought of their son renting an apartment seems like money down the drain.
What Asian children can do instead: If you want to rent a place and call it your home, I definitely don’t think you should back down from it—even if your parents may disagree. But use it as an opportunity to help them better understand your perspective and values. Communication is key. It’s important to explain why you want to move out, and some of the cultural differences behind those decisions.
We’re millenials! And we care about weird things our parents never did, like composting, selfies and global warming. Renting is a part of these cultural and generational differences. If they still disagree, rent a place anyways and then ask forgiveness. Then present to them a basket of oranges or a grandchild, both culturally appropriate ways to say you’re sorry.
“Sorry I forgot to call you back mom”
Why it’s annoying to parents: My mom is always calling me to check in now that I live in Seattle. Because of her own crazy work schedule, she usually calls while I am at work. By the end of the day, I’m so mentally exhausted that I either forget to call her back or don’t want to make the effort. It’s terrible of me. It’s not like these conversations would take up much of my time. Her limited English, coupled with my broken Vietnamese, makes for very short conversations. “Have you eaten rice yet?” “Yup, already.” “Ok, love you. Buh-bye.” Fine, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Asian families don’t say “I love you.”
As I get older and enter a new phase in my own life and career, my parents just want to check in and see what’s happening. At the very least, they want to make sure I’m still alive and didn’t starve to death since my cooking skills aren’t as awesome as theirs.
What Asian children can do instead: Freakin’ call your parents back! Do whatever it takes. Put it on your google calendar. Add it to your task list. Set an alarm. Whatever it takes! Just call your parents back. Or better yet, call them first and blow their minds away.
“Let’s go eat pizza.”
Why it’s annoying to parents: All my parents want to eat is Asian food. That’s it. “But mom, why don’t you try something new?” “Be adventurous.” “Who knows, you might like it.” Blah blah blah. They’ve heard it all. Despite my pleas, they always drift back to Asian food. It’s what they grew up on. They like it. It’s delicious to them. Yes, occasionally my parents eat pizza, but it’ll usually be without cheese and tomato sauce.
It’s really annoying to constantly be pestered about what you’re eating. Like a vegan who rubs it in your face they don’t eat animal products, or a gluten-free person who thinks they’re so cool even if they don’t have celiac disease, or someone who loves beef so much they’ll just tear up meat in front of your face, or someone who thinks the liquid diet is so fabulous they Instagram it at every opportunity. That’s how annoyed our parents must feel.
What Asian children can do instead: This isn’t a battle worth fighting. When you’re with your parents, just eat what they want to eat. Let it go. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to eat Asian food all the time; they’re Asian! Save the pizza and the Pepsi with your friends, or more Americanized younger cousins.
And of course…the dreaded silence.
Why it’s annoying to parents: Just because our parents may not initiate good conversations, doesn’t mean they don’t want to have them. I’m not sure what other Asian families are like, but in my family, there was a point when we just didn’t talk to each other. I had nothing I wanted to share with my parents. I assumed they wouldn’t be interested in sports, Facebook, hiking, etc. Basically, anything outside of school and high-paying jobs.
I later learned, through trial and error, that my parents have an opinion on a good number of things, like politics, social justice, vacationing, Justin Beiber, and why I still haven’t given them a grandchild. They just don’t initiate conversations.
What Asian children can do instead: Take the time to talk with your parents. Sometimes, you might ask them a question and their response is “I don’t know.” Don’t give up. Keep talking and find common ground. Your family, and the stories your parents have to share, are just too important and rich for silence to be the norm. We have to change that paradigm and start talking to each other.
Alright, that’s about all I could come up with. Any other ideas out there? Did I miss anything? What are some other things Asian children do that annoying their parents?