Asian American · Expat

Wonder Bread Chop Suey

Family.

It’s not that white people don’t love or care about their families, it’s just you are much more likely to hear that a Caucasian friend is estranged from their family than you would an Asian, or Latino. I blame it on culture.

When you live in a society where the White Man has been the dominating terror throughout, you create a minority culture that sticks together stronger than an UHU glue stick that has had time to dry. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe if we did a blanket study, we’d find that white culture is just as family oriented as non-whites. And maybe I’m confusing a friend-focused society with replacing a family one (in the United States), as opposed to both of them coexisting side by side.

But listen.

I love using this example because its subtle putdown hit me full face like a gale wind.

After my Waldorf teaching fiasco, I returned home to Hawaii because I wanted to be loved and accepted again, and frankly I was at a loss. So after spending my 20s out in the world, I came back to my mother’s house when I was about 30.

Out running errands, I ran into a high school friend’s mother.

“Oh, Lani! I didn’t know you were here. How long are you visiting?”

“I’ve moved back.”

“Really? Where are you living now?”

“I’m with my mom.”

“Wow,” pause, “I’d never let one of the girls do that…”

This remark really stuck to me because this mother had lived on the islands for a long time. Extended families living together is not uncommon here because: a) Hawaii has a lot of Asians, b) Hawaii has a large immigrant population, and c) Hawaii is insanely expensive and this is a way to help make your money stretch. So this remark, mixed with my own guilt and trepidation about being back home, made me feel rather crappy.

Now I’d like to think a Japanese or Filipino mother would have been overjoyed at the thought of a daughter retuning to the nest but that’s the difference in cultures. For the Wonder Bread families, the thought of your adult child returning home is akin to shame, “you didn’t make it out there” and you are a loser. There is probably a little bit of “why are you enabling your child” mixed in there as well.

As an American, I understand this mentality. But as an Asian, let me tell you, I appreciate the knowing that I am always welcomed home. And as a Thai, I know that it is my responsibility to take care of my mother.


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4 thoughts on “Wonder Bread Chop Suey

  1. i might be nuts, but i’ve seen the opposite in thailand. i ran into tons of seniors, handicapped, & children living alone, but being financed by their family. that makes me a little sad.

    i personally moved out of my parents house b/c my dad is a drug addict & really abusive … really had no choice… but most of my friends lived with their parents until they got married. some of them even lived with them after they got married.

    one thing i’ve been really, really shocked about as far as this goes in thailand is the separate housing with families. now, i’m only going by what thai friends have told me & what i’ve seen … so, it could be just their opinion or something unique to that province, but there was a general belief that in some groups, it’s a mark of status for your child to never be home b/c you could afford to send them away. i’ve also met very few married couples that live with each other & i’ve often been laughed at b/c i want the same room & bed as my husband in hotels (of course they said it in thai, but i understood them). i’ve noticed that many drivers i’ve met live over a day’s drive from their wife & children … talking about how much they miss them. & many maids live in dorms that don’t allow the children to even visit. i’ve asked why they don’t just move to where he works & he says they don’t want to or something along those lines.

    so, it seems like a mixed message. correct me if i’m wrong here b/c i would like to understand, but there seems to be a bigger emphasis on sending money to family than spending time together in the same home. people seem to spend more time w/ the family they were born in (parents, siblings) rather than the new one they’ve made (spouse & children).

    is this a misunderstanding, can you explain?

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    1. Wow. That’s a big difference than my own experience. So I have to ask where do you live?

      Up north, it’s common for Uni kids to return home for the weekend, my own cousin included. My friend who is from Lamphun, returns to visit his parents every Sat. and he even has his own family now.

      I think it’s old fashioned vs new fashion. So you must know more economically well off folks than me! 😀

      As far as disabled and/or homeless folks, that is another bag of soybeans. That has to do w/ karma. Thais believe those folks have their karma and I don’t know the circumstances as to why parents have abandoned their children.

      I talked about it briefly in my previous post. B/c it seems so ironic in a Buddhist country. But generally it has been my experience that Asians care for their own. But yeah, you bring up a very interesting point, I wonder if things will change with MONEY.

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      1. yeah, it was people with lots of money in issan. i’m now in phuket, but i was in roi-et province for a long time.

        the disabled were being taken care of money wise, but they lived totally alone. i was their neighbor & i could tell just by watching this person should not be living alone. mental illness … but it was embarrassing for the family so … i don’t know.

        same with the children … they weren’t abandoned financially. they were in hotels & the parents were in other cities. sometimes in america, it can be a status thing if you can afford to send your kid off to some boarding school in europe for years … i think it might be a similar idea. but yes, EXTREMELY rich.

        i’m also coming from a diff part of america than you so that can also be a diff. i’m from wv so families often live in the hillbilly version of soi. haha it wasn’t uncommon for me to go into a valley where everyone was related as far as you could see & the land had been passed down several generations.

        now, don’t get me wrong, i have seen many thai families who don’t do those things. very close, loving families. i’ve just seen more of the divided homes. it makes me sad. children should not have to grow up with mom or dad living hours away. husbands & wives should live in the same home. i wish a happier life for them, ya know?

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      2. I completely agree. Whenever possible, I want the best for the children.

        It is truly fascinating how growing up in another part of the same country or MONEY can effect the upbringing, values and perception of the world around us.

        Thanks for reading mg. You’ve given me more to think about!

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