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In this episode, I share 10 things that I’ve followed based on my parents financial situations, their cultural upbringing and their expectations of me.
Today we’re talking about how cultural pressure can affect so many different areas, areas of our lives. So from the smaller decisions to bigger, more important decisions. Now, of course, every family, every culture is unique, but there may still be things that overlap and relate to you. So here are ten things you may feel pressured to follow as a second generation woman.
Now, these aren’t negative things to follow. I just want you to think about whether they’re thoughts that are hand me down downs from your parents, from things that you’ve grown up doing, or things that you genuinely want to continue. So let me know by sending me a DM on Instagram or message me somehow if you’ll be continuing to follow these or whether you’ll be letting it go. Personally, I followed all these things, and a few years ago I began questioning a lot of things that I’ve been doing. Now, these are based on my own experiences and are based on my parents cultural upbringing in Vietnam and China, their financial situation and their expectations of me and my life.
So let’s get into it. Number one, doing the dishes as a guest. Now, this reflects your parents teachings of life skills and respect for people who host you. And we need to be grateful to them, so we pay it back. So this idea of paying back is kind of related to karma, to paying back debts and favours so that we don’t owe anybody anything.
Let me tell you a story of one time. It was a couple of years after Raymond and I started dating and we went over to his parents house. We had lunch there or dinner or something, and afterwards I didn’t do the dishes, which some people may not think that’s a big deal because you’re the guest, you shouldn’t be doing the dishes. But apparently his mum made a comment about it, about how I didn’t do the dishes. So doing the dishes as a guest, I definitely want to keep this in mind and want to help out where I can. So depending on the circumstances, I would probably offer to help, but usually people would decline anyway.
Number two, living with your parents until you’re married. Now, there are so many reasons for this. First of all, financially, of course, in my cultural background, it’s encouraged for you to stay with your parents and live with them in order to save money for your future. So everything is based on this far off idea of being secure and stable. And the best way to do that is to stay home, not have to pay rent or pay utility bills and to save that money instead.
Another reason might be because of the difference in cultural expectations. So either living independently and being more focused on yourself, like the Western expectations, or following the Asian expectations of community centred, family oriented upbringing. And honestly, sometimes my parents still see me as a kid. I’m just a child at heart, you know, I’m a primary school teacher after all. I just watched Turning Red yesterday. And same idea of how your parents always see you as a kid because in their eyes, you are their baby. And so they sometimes can’t see us as adults who can live out in the world by ourselves.
And I mentioned before about the clash of cultures, whereas Western culture seems to idolise this idea of independence and doing things on your own, following your passion, living your dream, paying for things yourself. And they paint this picture of living with your parents as a bad thing. And the common stereotypes of being immature, being financially dependent on your parents, you’re some sort of loser if you live in your parents’ basement until you’re 30, that you’ll be single forever. But I don’t see it that way at all.
And I think another reason why parents encourage us to live with them and to a marriage is so that we can take care of them like they take care of us since birth, until adulthood, basically. And we also help them. Either we take care of the finances or help around the house. But it’s just as our parents get older, we’re expected to take care of them. But this idea of living with your parents until you’re married, with both cultures, I don’t see it as a problem for whichever way that if I’m blessed to have kids in the future, that they sway towards, but there are pros and cons to both sides. But considering that I moved out before I married, I think it just depends on the individual and the circumstances.
Number three, keeping shoes at the door. So we have outside shoes, inside shoes, obviously, hygiene reasons. I don’t understand why in Western TV shows and movies they wear shoes on their bed. I don’t know if I could ever do that. Even if you clean the house regularly, then sure, but still carpet is just no, I’m definitely continuing this. I like having house slippers and outside shoes. I don’t mind changing shoes as they come into the house. It’s just so normal now. So I’m definitely continuing this.
Number four, washing the dishes by hand. Now, I’ve never owned a dishwasher whenever I’ve gone to airbnb or even in the staff room at school, I never knew how to use the dishwasher. I’ve always had to ask others to teach me how to use it. Now, I’ve never owned a dishwasher because my parents didn’t want to spend unnecessary money on electricity or water bills when they could clearly have us just wash it for them.
So Raymond has just done a phone call and it’s a bit loud, if you didn’t know. We live in like a two bedroom, really small granny flat, so I can hear him when he’s two rooms away. So I just have to go over there and shush him.
But yes, washing the dishes by hand, my parents just had the kids to wash it. So right now it’s winter and just a few weeks ago I was telling my mom how I was washing the dishes with warm water and she was saying, Why? Why would you use warm water when you can just use gloves and use cold water? So she still hand washes the dishes and uses gloves with cold water. I do the same now because it does take a while for the water to warm up. And if you’re washing the dishes all the time, it kind of dries out your hands, right? So I do understand that. But in the future, when we have the space for it, I will be getting a dishwasher. Technology has come a long way and is probably more water efficient than hand washing the dishes. So I can’t imagine the time that I would save by using a dishwasher.
Number five. Now this is related to the previous one and that is not using the dryer or the AC. So same idea. I’ve never owned a dryer. We’ve just always hung a laundry out in the clothesline by the power of the sun. But there have been times when it has rained for two or three weeks straight and we can’t do laundry. So the dry would be a good idea when it’s raining, but I would prefer to hang in the sun when I can. It’s just natural and doesn’t shrink your clothes.
And with the AC, even now I don’t use the AC often at home. I only use it at work because it has to be comfortable for the kids. Right. But I also like knowing how mentally strong I am. Sometimes it’s like a challenge if I can keep working or keep doing my day to day jobs without needing the AC, because I can imagine if I were to use the AC, it would be on all day and I’d be too scared to see the electricity bill. So I would get a dryer in the future, not a hair dryer, the laundry dryer and the AC. I would use it when necessary, when there are guests or kids. But I think day to day, I’ve just grown up not using it, so it wouldn’t bother me too much to not use it.
Number six, getting a well paying job versus a job that you enjoy. Now this is the big question for a lot of us, because growing up as a second generation woman with the Asian culture of just getting a well-paying job, doing something that can help your family financially, versus the Western culture of finding a job that you enjoy, following your passions, living at your dreams, I’ve grown up thinking that work shouldn’t be fun. It’s just something that you have to do to earn money. But if you enjoy it too, it’s a bonus, right?
Like for my parents, I don’t think they love their work. I don’t think they’ve ever loved any of their jobs. Like, my dad doesn’t wake up every morning thinking, wow, I just can’t wait to help someone move their furniture. He’s a furniture removalist. But when he works, it’s just for the money. It’s a means of survival, which they’ve had to do since they’ve come to Australia now. They didn’t have the education. My mom finished high school. My dad didn’t even finish high school. They’re still not that great at English, but they work for survival, to be able to provide food and shelter and take care of their family.
But on the flip side, being a second generation woman, I have the opportunity to be more selective about my job. Now, after going through a couple of years of slowly transitioning out of my primary teaching career, I’m coming to realise the toll that it has on you, especially living in a more privileged country. The problem if you’re not living based on your values, because teaching initially was something very fulfilling. I still enjoy the aspect of teaching, but not when it comes at the cost of my own health or having to sacrifice time with my friends and family.
So I do have a chance to pick a career that supports my lifestyle, that supports my values. But if it requires me to compromise my values, it’s not worth it. Like, there are so many opportunities out there for me being more educated than my parents, knowing the language, having experience well, pretty much having grown up in this country. But in saying that, you definitely do need money to get through life. So in the meantime, you might need to find a compromise while you work on figuring out what you love that will earn you money. Like, I’ve been transitioning out of school, but I’m still working as a teacher while I balance this life coaching thing, but then also figuring out your identity, your values, and all that comes with experience. So I’m glad I do have a job and that I am able to support myself while going in the direction of something that I enjoy and that I see a lot of potential in.
Number seven, greeting your elders. Now, this is one of the first things you’re taught as a kid. When you go visit your parents friends, you visit your grandparents, your family. It’s a way of demonstrating respect to our elders. So with my Vietnamese and Chinese family, there is a specific name for certain aunties, uncles, depending on their position in your family and their relationship to you. But every time that we go to someone’s house, we have to pretty much say hi to every single person. We have to greet them. And it’s so much more complicated than English. So I’m not even sure I know all the names of all my relatives. More like position or title. Not really the name, but when you greet them, they would acknowledge you. Sometimes they take your hand. Sometimes they well, they normally comment on how good you are or how you look, but this shows your manners and reflects on your parents and how they’ve raised you.
Now, this is something I would choose to continue, because this is a small gesture that teaches us to be considerate in our actions, like letting your parents know before you go somewhere and when you come back. So as an adult, this is not really like asking permission, but more informing your parents, informing elders, relatives, even if they’re not part of your family, but informing them in case they get worried. And this just shows respect.
Okay, number eight doing chores without an allowance. Now, since I was a kid, I was doing the dishes, sweeping the floor, doing laundry, and not for a single scent, just for the life skills that are very much used every single day. Now, allowance was not a thing. I would just be expected to do the household chores, and we weren’t rewarded for it. But I don’t think my parents had much spare cash or coins to hand out to three kids. But I did have friends who earn money from doing chores around the house or people at school who would buy food from the school canteen every single day. Like, I was lucky to be able to order lunch once a term from the canteen. But even though I didn’t earn an allowance, my parents gave me money for educational purposes and for excursions. And if I ask for a bit of cash when I go out, then they would give me $10, $20. So I felt like I’d never really needed an allowance.
But this is a tricky one. I don’t want my future kids to expect money just for doing what they would one day need to do for themselves and for things they’re not going to get paid for as an adult unless you’re a cleaner. But I think Raymond and I talked about this before, and we both like to teach them about the financial skills of saving money and how to spend it. But we don’t want them to expect an allowance for doing things they have to do. So I don’t know, let me know what you would do in this situation or your experiences with earning or not earning an allowance.
Number nine, dating a person of the same or similar background. My parents always encouraged me to one day marry someone from a similar background so they can get along with their parents easily and communicate. So we’d all have similar values and we’d be raised in a similar way. Just like how my parents have always lived in a predominantly Vietnamese community in southwestern Sydney. They wanted that for my relationship, too. They didn’t want to feel like the outsider or not be able to communicate with my partner’s family, because when you marry someone, you also marry their family, right?
Now, my friends over at As I Am podcast also released an episode that dives into more detail about this, which I found really interesting, just all the questions and ideas they raised. So have a listen to it after this episode. I’ll link it in the shownotes (here).
So on this idea, I can see where they’re coming from. But growing up in a more multicultural society, that’s Sydney, Australia, there’s so much to appreciate from other cultures too. So long as they’re a good person and you’re both willing to go together, that’s all that matters, right? I think this is much less of a problem in the future when a lot of people do speak English. But for my parents, I think their culture and their background is a huge part of them and they’ve learned to simulate into Australian culture, but they’d still prefer to be able to communicate and share these values and extend the family. So with this, I think I won’t be super strict on that with my future kids. So I think with this, dating a person of the same or similar background is not a huge deal in the future.
OK, lucky last number ten learning your home language. As a primary school student, I went to both Chinese and Vietnamese school Chinese, I think I remember Chinese after school and Vietnamese school on the weekends. I’m not sure if my parents know this, but I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time as I just wanted to play. I didn’t want to go to school on the weekends and after school and then tutoring on top of that. But the way they taught the language required a lot of rote learning and we had to do so many tests, like speaking and listening tests, written tests, we have to memorise a lot of things and it was just so different to the way that we were taught at school daily. Now, at school I also went to Vietnamese community language classes because it had quite a large Vietnamese population at school. But I learnt more there because I had friends and it was during school time.
But my parents wanted me to learn my home languages to have more opportunities and make it easier to get a job in the future. Let’s just say that I have used my Vietnamese for parent teacher interviews before and it wasn’t amazing, but I got my message across, I guess. But language has been a big way that I have been connecting to my culture lately. I’ve been learning Vietnamese and Chinese on Duolingo and it helps me communicate better to my parents, even if I’m just telling them the new words that I’ve learned. But one day I do hope to talk to my grandparents and relatives overseas more. So I will definitely be continuing this for myself and trying to connect to my culture better. I think my parents do appreciate the fact that I’m taking time to learn their language. But I can see this as a bigger problem in the future when the language or the languages start to fade.
So those are ten things you may feel pressured to follow as a second generation woman. Now, I wonder how much cultural pressure you experienced or continued to experience to this day. I followed all of those things, some a bit less than others now. But let me know which ones are you going to do less of and which ones will you continue? And thank you for bearing with my voice. I am still holding on to my tea. It’s not very warm anymore.
Remember, you’re a human BEING, not a human DOING.
Chat to you in the next episode!
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