Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Aiyah! Gum Yook Suen Ah! – Being Asian raised in the west

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 25, 2008

The Racialicious post on biracial people of Asian descent having “mental issues” got me thinking about how immigrant Asian parents treat their western born/raised children.  There’s so much pressure to succeed in Asian culture and it seems that everyone is expected to be as perfect as possible.  Perfect, meaning good-looking, popular and smart.  And the old country definition of good-looking isn’t always the same as here.  For example, I’m a little on the dark side for Chinese and I also have some freckling from an acne problem I had as a teen.  My mom has been, for the past ten years, bugging me to get rid of the spots.  She hasn’t gone as far as implying that I look ugly, but has come close.  She also thinks I’m too flabby.  OK, so I’ve been a little lazy about doing weights (but at least I exercise!), but does she have to point that out?  All the freaking time?  Her idea of beauty is not the same as that of my poh poh (maternal grandmother), who hates muscles.  She thinks young women need to look delicate.  I guess I’m somewhere in between, but in between isn’t satisfactory.

I’ve also been criticized about work.  I realize that by planning a start-up, I’m way behind my age group/education level in terms of salary, but like looks, do you have to constantly bug me about it?  What’s crazy is that half the time, my mother is bugging me about it and the other half, she’s like “well, at least you’re living at home, so you don’t have to worry about rent/food/laundry.”  In my mom’s mind, I should have gone into finance.  I’d probably be in lower-middle management by now and making close to six figures.  It’s so hard to live up to these “standards.”  It’s no wonder some second generation kids have issues.  And those who’re of mixed descent are probably worse off, because they have the pestering side vs the more free-spirited side constantly clashing.  If it confuses and upsets me, someone who is monoracial, then it must be worse for someone who is mixed.

Of course, there are also people who are very well adjusted, regardless of whether they’re mixed or not.

Cantonese terms:

* Gum Yook Suen Ah! = So ugly!


4 Responses to “Aiyah! Gum Yook Suen Ah! – Being Asian raised in the west”

  1. visitador said

    Being the prototype of the little emperor abroad, my parents had no idea on how to deal with me. In the end, they ended up using the “carrot” method. I think it is easier being a male than a female. As you wrote on your post, expectations for daughters are a little bit different.

  2. SENG -Supporting the Educational Needs of the Gifted – (I think) has a great article about this on their web site. It may be a smart issue and not a racial/cultural issue.

  3. Scapegoat said

    I’m sorry you have to deal with all that crap. But hey at least you exercise, that’s more than I can say for myself! Let your doctor be the one to tell you if you are “overweight”.

    Thankfully my grandma is always positive, and tells me that I’m beautiful and smart. Mom only nagged me about taking proper care of myself, like washing my face with something gentler than Ivory soap, and applying moisturizer (meanwhile I was too stubborn in my efforts to battle oily skin). That’s as far as my family went, they only wanted me to have healthy skin, and they were against unnatural things like shaving my legs, and using makeup or hair dye. They were all about common sense. It was only jealous/insecure people outside of the family who were being downers.

    W.r.t. career, I feel your pain. You are following your dreams, but the Chinese community is very results-oriented. They do not appreciate the journey of getting there (hence they rush into careers/marriages that aren’t right for them). It took me longer than most of my Chinese peers to get my career off the ground because I took a long shot that paid off. Now I am working a job that I love. Hang in there. We are pursuing careers that we can be passionate about, not just a job from the short list of acceptable Asian jobs.

    “well, at least you’re living at home, so you don’t have to worry about rent/food/laundry.”

    I live at home and I pay rent, cook the meals and wash the laundry! No more jumping down my throat about hydro bills, cuz I’m paying for them! But actually, even when I was just done my masters and unemployed, I cooked and cleaned every day to earn my keep. Even then my dad started to lay off since he could see someone that was taking initiative and showing responsibility.

  4. ^^^

    Your parents were against make-up and hair dye? Wow! My mom sent me to make-up school when I was 15 because she thought I didn’t know how to put it on. You guys are Old School!

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