This weekend, we spent the day with Savoy’s family. Her mom had a major stroke and they did a blessing. I did not know what to expect and how bad her mom was, but I was very happy to see when I went there that her mom was able to get up and about. Obviously, she has a long way to go to be normal, but with having all her friends and family around, I saw her start smiling and we mentioned that to Savoy and she said, she’s never seen her mom smile so much. I am so glad that we could be there as support…that’s what best friends are for.
I have always said this for all relationships: Love, friends, and family. It is very easy to be someone’s friend when life is full of laughter, silliness, roses, and sunshine, but true friendship and love are those who are by your side when things in your life goes upside-down. Family…we are sort of obligated to love each other, but your partner and friends, they choose to love you. Different time zones, distance- even in other continents means nothing when someone is in need.
So while we were at her house, they all made fun of me because Karen was using chopsticks and I’m Asian and I did not and of course they asked for a blog post. I laughed because I’m just a really bad representation of an Asian…I am too Americanized I think. I made a joke about how Karen is more Asian than me because she is A) Tall B) A Lawyer C) Has big eyes D) Likes Karaoke and Pictures E) Skinny and that led into our conversation of how it’s hard to be Asian. We made some jokes about being Asian, but all of it is true in some form. We have all experienced it, so all my fellow Asians will laugh. For those who are not, please understand, our parents, extended family, family friends are not mean, but it’s just how it is.
Here are 31 reasons why it’s so hard being Asian:
- No filter. We mean well, but pretty much it’s hard to please Asians. Most, but not all are very critical. They say what is on their minds and it’s not because their mean, it’s just because they are blunt. You are too fat, too skinny, too dark skinned, why don’t you study more, why were you second place, why didn’t you invent the cure to cancer? Your style is too plain, shows too much skin, not enough skin, etc… You have too much make-up on, not enough make-up; I hope you get the picture. They are even blunt about food, it was too salty, not enough food, too greasy, not enough selection and the list goes on.
- Why only an A? No extra credit? We are always the role model student. Well, that’s because at home, our parents push us to study. In the summers when other kids in the neighborhood are playing outside, we are reading or doing math problems. Other kids come home from school, have a snack, and then do their homework. In our house, homework is the first thing you do and then if you come home with an A, your parents ask why did you not do extra credit for an A+? I am sure if we got an A+, they would ask why not an A++?
- Learn math or duck fast. It is false that all Asians are good at math. My youngest sister and parents are math geniuses, but not me or my middle sister. My mom said it’s because I’m lazy. She actually made us do math problems starting at age 3. When I was in kindergarten, she had taught me to add, subtract, multiply and do long division. Geometry has always been difficult for me. My Dad who is super smart would teach me and my sister one time, if we did not understand the concept, he would be like you are not my daughter. If we didn’t get it the second time, there would be a light tap on the back of our heads, so of course, we learned how to duck really well. If I ever got in a fight, I would be really good at ducking fast! We laugh about it now, but my youngest sister was so much smarter, she went to my mom (the patient one) and was never as traumatized as us. Maybe that’s why she is the only one that excels at math.
- No allowance, we gave birth to you, that is enough. Allowance is an American concept. There is no such thing as an allowance, they buy and approve what you need and want. It’s that plain and simple.
- Don’t you dare say retirement home. It is expected that the children will take care of their parents when they grow older. For me, I love my parents so much that it is not even a question. If you ever put your parents in a retirement home, you basically are telling them they are worthless to you. Your parents will disown you and the entire Asian community will believe that you are disgrace and then you hear this, “These poor parents did everything and look what horrible children they have.” Then they turn to their own children and say, “If you ever put me in a retirement home, don’t expect any inheritance.”
- Don’t worry, it’s ok to suck at gym. I told Sanam this-gym was the bain of my existence. I just sucked, I could never climb the rope, catch the ball, or hit the badminton ball, so my mom planned that I would be a doctor, so why do I need to be good at sports? She would always write excuses for me to get out of gym. Parent teacher conferences were always awkward; all the other teachers loved me except for gym.
- Chopsticks are not for eating. Maybe it’s because our parents grew up being resourceful. Chopsticks were used for the following: Eating, reaching for items that were in tall cabinets or fell behind a couch, stirring (a hand mixer was a foreign concept), and of course a punishment tool. If we were bad, a giant chopstick would come out to scare us and you have never seen little children run away faster.
- How are you related? Everyone is your cousin, aunt, uncle, etc… You always have to say, she’s my aunt, but she’s not blood-related. Americans get extremely confused.
- Doctor, lawyer, pharmacist or at least an engineer. An ideal Asian family has all of these professions in it. Well, our family is sort of the oddity. When you are born, your entire family including aunts and uncles plan out your future. I was supposed to be a doctor, my middle sister a lawyer, and my youngest a pharmacist. Well, none of that happened, I work in budgets, my sister is a pharm sales rep, and my youngest is doing occupational therapy. My uncle calls my mom every once in a while saying what wasted talent I am and my mom raised us too loosely, she should have forced all of us to be one or all of the above.
- Why are you a disgrace? We have all been a disgrace, dishonored the family name, or disrespectful on multiple occasions for any reason. I remember I was a disgrace for only getting in AB Calculus in high school versus BC.
- Is that full price? We never ever pay for anything unless absolutely necessary (Water, eggs?). We always wait for a sale and if there is a coupon to stack, even better. We want the best for the lowest price. As a child, every time we went to the store, if I wanted anything it had to be discounted and I had to tell my Dad the price with the discount. Yep, so now I’m pretty good at percentages since he’s made me do it since I was about 6 years old.
- No dating until college. Plain and simple, in their eyes, education is first, so dating comes second. I think that was a primary reason I graduated at 20, so I could date.
- English, Vietnamese, and Romanian…what do you speak? Most of us were confused children. I spoke 3 languages as a kid and would intermix all of them, hence the kindergarten teacher thought I should be in ESL and I did not have friends. No one could understand me even though I could understand everything they say. Romanian came from my baby-sitter; even my parents could not understand me.
- Are you hungry? No? Eat anyways. When food is offered, you always say yes, even if you are not hungry. Of course, you deny once, twice, and after a third time, you take the food. After you have eaten, they will offer you more. Just expect to eat a lot if you are visiting several houses in a weekend. But they still expect you to be a size 0.
- Please marry an Asian. Every parent’s dream is to have you marry an Asian, but the man must be a doctor, lawyer, etc… He must be tall, good looking, and the same culture as you. If it’s going to be an Asian man, parents will say, why not Vietnamese? But really in the end, all they care is that he is a good guy.
- My English is bad, but… If you ever speak to my parents, their little accent is adorable and their little English nuisances are cute too. For example…Facebook is the BookFace too them. My Dad called me the other day, Linda, you need to be on a site where you put your resume for people. It’s called the Linked-ed-in. I said, oh Dad, I have been on there for years. He’s like, good. The stock is public, so it’s good. This is the many reasons why I love him. Or when I text LOL, he writes back LOL to all his texts. I said, what’s so funny? He said, LOL is lots of love dear. Meh…That works too.
- Why do we have so many jars? All of our parents keep every glass jar that comes across their path. This, I have absolutely no reasoning for. One day I threw ¼ of my mom’s collection away, let me tell you, one of the biggest battles we have had to date.
- Are your parent’s talking about me? My parents always talked Vietnamese around my friends; they always thought my parents were talking about them. Truthfully not, but watch out in a nail shop, they do talk crap about you.
- Way too American! They want us to succeed in America, but not forget our roots. It’s hard to do; I am sure every Asian-American has heard this phrase over 1000 times in their life.
- Violin or Piano? We all play an instrument, but don’t you dare ask for drum or guitar lessons. It’s either the piano or violin. Anything else is unacceptable.
- When I was your age. How many times have you heard that from your parents? There are so many expectations for Asian children. No we cannot survive without a calculator or make a fire to cook!
- What is that? No one understands the food your parents cook. They always ask what it is after giving you a disgusted look. Remember the poor kid in My Big Fat Greek Wedding who brought moussaka for lunch? That is how we feel bringing rice, meat, and fish sauce to school.
- Big eyes, tall nose, and skinny…Every other Asian hates you. True statement.
- May I date your daughter? Oh, Asian Dads are hard to please. All our suitors growing up thought that my Dad would shoot them. He’s the Dad that asked each man, what they plan on doing with their life.
- The word therapy does not exist. If you ever mention therapy, that’s a foreign concept. Not that I need it, but it’s so taboo that no one ever goes even if they need it. The parents feel like a failure if you do need to go.
- Oh that happened? You are unlucky. Asians are very superstitious and if something goes wrong, they can find some type of superstition to back into it. I am guilty of believing it too. Lion dogs, jade necklaces, and bamboo can fix all the bad luck.
- You don’t want a Honda or Toyota? We are all about reliability and getting the best value for the price. That’s why you don’t see as many people have BMW’s or Mercedes, the maintenance is too much. If you do see an Asian with one, they are in a higher threshold or we are the younger, flashier generation. As my Dad said, if you get a BMW, you are on your own; I cannot save you money to fix things when something goes wrong. Let’s not even talk if you own a Ford. Disgrace.
- Sex does not exist and you can get pregnant from everything. So Debbie and I were talking about this. Our parents pretty much told us touching a boy would get us pregnant, kissing; pretty much being within 1 feet of a male figure could get us pregnant and let’s not even talk about having a baby out of wedlock. Where do babies come from? The stork, magic…IDK. And even after we are married and ready to have kids, our parents still expect that the grandchildren magically appear.
- Breaking 5’2” means you are tall. We are lucky to break 5’2”. I unfortunately stopped at 5’1″. If you make 5”4”, everyone thinks you are super model tall. If a guy makes 5’10”, he is the most praised man in the room. Everyone will say, “He so tall” and then they ask what shoe size he wears. Or they think he drank a lot of milk as a child.
- Sriracha and soy sauce with everything. Do I need to say more?
- I still live with my parents. This is totally normal. There really is no reason to move out. You only move out if you have to for college, a job that can greatly improve your career, you get married or die.
The list above pretty much sums up my life. Yes, my mom used to say “let’s go to the bitch” aka beach all the time, she would tell us we are too American and if you finished your homework too quickly, she would make up more homework for us to do.
My co-worker asked if my parents bought me a college ring for graduation because she is buying one for her daughter. I looked and said, why? A B.S. is expected, it is not something that gets praised in an Asian household. You will get praised when you get a Masters and even at that point, they want you to go and get your PH.D. If you can’t be a real doctor, at least you can be a doctor in another way.
Don’t take me wrong, my parents are my everything, my heroes. They escaped here after the war in Vietnam and started with nothing to give us an amazing life. I remember being extremely poor when I was little, but they always gave their kids everything they wanted, including ice skating lessons. But I embrace all the cultural stereotypes that come with being Asian as well.
Here is a previous article I wrote about 12 Signs that you are Asian. Check it out here.
So cheers to being Asian…there are a lot of expectations to not be a disgrace to the family. For those who are not Asian, I hope you just laugh and say wow, it’s definitely hard being one and I hope you understand our quirks a little better.