Asia

Why Asians Give Their Parents ‘Allowances’

For many Asian adults, a typical monthly income not only covers food, bills, savings and other household expenses and necessities, but also includes a portion set aside for their beloved parents.

Such practice, commonly shared by many Asian cultures, is a key virtue in the Chinese tradition of “Filial Piety”, which generally describes respect for one’s parents.

In the Philippines, the term often used is “Utang na loob”, which literally means “a debt of one’s inner self (loob).” The Vietnamese saying: “Nuoi con de nho,” also refers to the adherence to such practice. It simply means: “Raise your children to rely on them.” A similar belief is also practiced in South Korea, Singapore, and other Asian cultures.

But while it varies in some aspects in different cultures, the practice inherently boils down to having to attend to one’s parents needs, especially when they are already too old to work. The cycle continues with the expectation that their own children will, in turn, take care of them too when they eventually get old.

“We do it without even thinking and without our parents even having to ask,” 34-year-old Trent Nguyen told the OCRegister. “My mom lives in Texas and I only see her once or twice a year, but I send her $200 a month.”

The arrangement is generally accepted, especially considering how Asian parents are willing to pay for their children’s entire education and other expenses even if they exceed the age of 18. Some parents would even voluntarily support their children well into their 20s or even 30s.

“Being an international student, my parents have paid a lot to get me to where I’m at now,” 28-year-old Nicole Xie told the ABC.

Xie. a Chinese living in Australia, regularly transfers $600 bi-monthly for her parents’ utility bills and other living expenses. She explained that it was her idea to give money to her parents, a habit she started after getting a job two years ago as a credit officer in Melbourne. 

According to University of Melbourne Asia Institute director Pookong Kee, such attitude is a response to the cultural expectation for Chinese children to take care of their parents.

“There are so many examples in the Chinese upbringing of children, where stories are [told] about how filial children look after their parents, so it’s a very deeply ingrained kind of a value,” Professor Kee was quoted as saying.

He noted, however, that while some adult children view such practice as their responsibility, there are also others who feel resentment, especially when they feel they are being forced to do it or being pressured to match their siblings’ generosity.

 “I barely make enough money to cover rent and my student loans,” 29-year-old Chinese-Vietnamese Mary Hoang says. “I used to give (my parents) $200 to $300 a month, but it was killing me so I had to stop. They haven’t said anything to me but I know they must think I’m a slacker.”

For 32-year-old Vietnamese American Bao Mai, it is more of fulfilling a family duty and doing the right thing.

“It’s just expected in our culture,” Mai was quoted. “Our parents raise us and then we help take care of them now that we have good careers. It’s the right thing to do.”

Mai, however, noted that he is not expecting his future children to support him financially in the future.

“In a weird way, it is kind of like buying the parents’ love and approval,” Mai said. “I don’t want to say it, but it’s true.”


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