As A Kid Of Immigrants


I’ve always wanted to write something like this. Finally, here’s my shot at it! I recently saw a question on Quora. A kid asked how to better understand their parents if they’re of a different culture. My first response was laughter before scrolling on. But, as I thought about it, I’m an American Born Chinese (ABC) so it would be rude of me not to share my hard learned knowledge.

Immigrant Parents

These people that we call and see as parents, were raised in a different environment and culture than we were. Being born somewhere else changes personalities, cultural beliefs, thinking, and behaviors. This is a natural change that needs understanding from everyone. But, if they don’t change, then they will not survive.

They THINK Differently [1]

Thinking is formed, in large part, based on where and how you were raised. My dad was the youngest and the only son in his family. He was spoiled rotten because of the Chinese culture. My mom is the third of four, and the second daughter of three. She had to work real hard for her living, education, and a chance in life. My dad’s solution is his parents, as opposed to my mom’s solution being her own strength and power. From my parents, I rely heavily on myself and, when I am insecure or unsure, I turn to my mother for encouragement. (Come on… you must have expected this.)

They ACT Differently  [2]

How someone behaves stems from who they are, what they want, and what they’re willing to do to get there. My dad pursues his wants, makes friends with those who can help, and doesn’t share when he makes it there. My mom fights for what she wants, gives it up for the sake of her family, and shares in the love and happiness of her family. As for me, I fight as hard as I can for what I want, will give it up for my mom, and then weedle her into giving in. I’m more of a family person because of my mom reminding me that my siblings are all I will have after she is gone. (Didn’t expect that, did ya?)

They EXPECT Differently  [3]

Expectations… seriously, in the Asian culture, they are monumental and huge and the disappointment and consequences are just as hurtful. My dad always expected more than his abilities could help him acquire. So, my Mom helped him achieve some of his hopes and dreams. She gave up her own expectations to raise her kids and support her husband, and his parents. When all was said and done, she set her expectations aside for her Americanized kids and let them become what they wanted to. For that, she has a granddaughter, half a son (for now), and a content life. Personally, I have HUGE expectations on myself, but will set them aside for the sake of my family and relationships, and have helped many to the top, while still climbing down below. (I think my mom works harder…)

They SEE Differently  [4]

Sight, perspective, and beliefs are all affected by culture and emotions. My dad hoped for successful children who married and had kids young. This hasn’t happened for two of the three, so he unintentionally sees the two as failures in life and projects his frustrations on them. My mom hoped for successful children who would marry young but accepts that things take time and no longer pressures the other two, grateful for two friends in the house. I see my dad as an overly conservative nut and my mom as the intelligent and thoughtful dragon-mom. And I see that I’m doing fine and very proud as an aunt. (Life goes on…)

They HURT Differently  [5]

Pain is of the most complicated and powerful emotions. My dad blames his displeasure on everyone around him, and then gets hurt and offended when I call him out on it. My mom keeps her pain away from me, but I can sense it, so I do what I can to cheer her up and comfort her. I hold my anger inside before letting it out on a physical activity with friends and others. Turning the hurt into a life lesson of some sort is best because… when I get mad, I need to get physical. Sometimes… I use words as daggers and hurt those around me. We all express pain differently but the best way is to let it out in a controlled atmosphere. Or… go talk to a therapist.

Life is a bit strange… My parents tried to impose on my siblings and myself the importance of traditional family values. We were born in America but raised traditionally Chinese. My parents did their best and, well, they semi-succeeded, but ended up changing themselves because they weren’t in Taiwan anymore, but in America. In the end, my siblings and I speak Chinese better than most of our American born Chinese friends, have more respectful and conservative habits, but we are through-and-through American kids. My parents, however, have picked up English, embraced the food and culture, and my Mom was happiest when she learned how to bake a juicy turkey!

(People in China and Taiwan didn’t eat turkeys back in the day. The only reason my mom ended up baking it was when I was around 7, and my siblings and I begged her to bake one. We always had dumplings and hot pot for Thanksgiving, while our friends had turkey and stuffing. She had to ask friends who didn’t know how to either. And then, she asked American co-workers, who went into careful detail. So, my Mom experimented for many years before she baked the juiciest turkey ever! To this day, we have turkey every Thanksgiving, and then use the leftover meat and bones to stew as a soup base in porridge. It’s what we look forward to every year… the porridge after! Funny, but true.)

This post was (also) prompted by several incidents within my family as I grew up, and after watching this Youtube video of parents who killed their first daughter…

I was appalled and thankful for my parents after watching it. For parents to go to such lengths, forgetting what love is, and forsaking family values… I find it terrible and unforgivable. But… I have to forgive them because, the next step I get to ultimately becomes, “Why not kill the people who are imprisoned for life and will never be released until death? Isn’t keeping them alive a waste of money?” See how easily (practical) hate spreads?

We Need To Encourage And Love More.




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