Editor’s Note: This post is sponsored by TobaccoFreeCA.
For Asian American kids, perhaps nothing is more relatable than the things you got in trouble for growing up, things very specific to having Asian parents. Sometimes they were right, sometimes they made no sense, and other times you found ways to get away with it.
If for some reason you aren’t sure, here are 15 ways to tell if you grew up Asian American:
1. Getting a B.
Let’s just get this one out of the way — grades are everything to Asian American parents. Often times those parents came to America with nothing and worked tirelessly to give you a life far from what they had, and in this new home of theirs, education is often the only thing they know that will lead to success, so you better be the best! Also, what else will they have to gossip/brag about to their friends if you don’t go to Harvard and become a doctor?
2. Having friends/cousins who were better than you at something.
Continuing on the last point, sometimes good grades weren’t enough. Odds are you were never a greater disappointment to your parents than when your family friends or cousins were better than you at something. Childhood for you may have been a rough and competitive struggle over whose child was doing better. And if you weren’t doing that well, you’d be sure to hear your parents talking about how bad of a kid you were on the phone with your aunts and uncles.
3. Not wearing a jacket when you go out.
It doesn’t matter if it’s snowing or if it’s 80 degrees out, you always had to bring a jacket with you or else you were sure to catch a cold, according to your mother. The worst is when she’d come out of the house in her pajamas and slippers chasing you with your coat before you got on the bus for school — in front of other kids.
4. Being too skinny.
No Asian mom likes a skinny kid, especially when she has so many dishes on hand that she can pull out of nowhere to put in front of them. You could say that Asian parents, notorious for not being able to show emotional love or even say “I love you” to their own children, do show their love by keeping their kids well fed. But then, after eating all the food they want you to eat, you somehow still get criticized for…
5. Eating too much.
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So Asian parents want you to eat and eat, not be too skinny, but also not eat too much? The worst is when you are at family gatherings and relatives always remark on how you’ve changed since you last saw them. There’s almost no way to avoid this, and how that train of logic works has baffled Asian American kids to this day.
6. When your parents find out you smoke/vape.
Few things worry and disappoint Asian parents more than finding out their kids smoke cigarettes or vape. Maybe they criticize almost anything about your life, but this is one of those things they truly mean out of love. They just don’t want you to get sick. They might be right, after all just one cigarette a day can triple your risk for cancer.
7. Not saving money.
What makes you think you can just go out and eat at a chain restaurant with friends when there are perfectly good leftovers in the fridge? If there’s one thing Asian immigrant parents pushed on their kids, it was to save money. Cheaper is always better. Money probably wasn’t very plentiful for them, so they had to make do with what they had.
8. Wasting food.
You just don’t do it. As a kid, maybe you didn’t like some of the foods your mom made, but you still had to eat. If you were sneaky, you’d find ways to bury food in the garbage or flush it down the toilet when you didn’t want to eat it, but if not, that meant you were sitting in your chair for hours until that plate was clear. Every Asian mom’s favorite quote? “There are starving children in Africa! Don’t waste food.”
9. Asking for American food to bring to school instead of leftovers.
Every Asian kid knows the struggle of bringing ethnic food to school for lunch. Oh the embarrassment… the ridicule… the smell. Why couldn’t you have something “normal” like Lunchables, a Fruit Roll Up and a Capri Sun? And when you ask your parents for these things, of course they don’t understand. Food is food, why waste money on American food that’s loaded with sugar? But that was then — now most people go crazy for Asian cuisine.
10. Asking your parents to buy you new things.
Most Asian American kids know that one doesn’t just simply ask their parents to get them new things. Maybe other kids at school get new things throughout the year or at least once every year. But for you, your clothes better be falling off your back because they are so worn out for your parents to finally budge and get you something new. Asking them for anything “new” has most likely resulted in them yelling back, “I am not a bank!” On a similar note, they have probably yelled at you at some point, “This house is not a hotel!”
11. Not greeting strangers who you are forced to call auntie or uncle.
You might not know these people and you probably couldn’t care less for them, but you better make your parents look good and “show face” no matter what. If you aren’t the image of a perfect child in front of them, your parents might not show it then, but the second those aunties and uncles leave you know you are getting punished.
12. Peeling the protective film off new things.
Do you just think new things keep themselves nice forever?? Don’t you dare peel the protective film off that new TV/phone/computer/lamp your parents just bought. Electronics around the house might keep this plastic on for years, maybe even a decade with a layer of dust to show for it, yet it will still be “new.” And if something doesn’t come with a protective film, like say a TV remote, that’s what plastic wrap is for, obviously.
13. Shaking your leg.
Almost every Asian culture frowns upon you shaking your leg. To you, maybe it just feels better for your limbs to be moving, but to Asian parents, only lazy people who have nothing better to do shake their legs. It could also symbolize “shaking away all your wealth” or is sometimes called the “poor person’s shake.” Whatever it means, you just know not to do it, and if you forget, we are sure your Asian parent will remind you with a quick snap and a stern look.
14. Arguing about not doing your summer homework.
As an Asian American, just because school ended for the summer doesn’t mean you get summer vacation. Your parents maybe went to stores meant for home-schooled families and bought activity books for you to do. ALL. SUMMER. LONG. Refusing to do them was not an option, because apparently you’re brain would forget everything you learned that year and turn to mush if you didn’t have them.
15. When your parents find out your friend smokes at parties.
To Asian parents, cigarettes, hookah and vapes are basically drugs, and they are not wrong. Asian parents (and all parents, really) want what is best for their kids. That includes staying away from what may not seem dangerous, like partaking in social smoking and occasional smoking. Did you know that even one hour of smoking hookah with friends is as harmful as smoking 100 cigarettes?
Asian parents just want you to make the right decisions in life, so you never have to suffer the hardships they had growing up. Stop before you have to quit. For more facts about the dangers of social smoking, check out NeverJustaSmoke.org.
Feature video by Just Kidding Films