More Thanh Words

"My name is Thanh and I'm a Blogger". Now that I have admitted to that, I can say that I'm a stereotypical "geeky" Engineer who enjoys sci-fi books and movies and into all things technological. I also love music and have a passion for FOOD. I'm a social person and like to talk to people. I hate people who are fake or overly aggressive. If you're also into some serious discussion, with a pinch of sarcasm and a dash of real emotion, then please read on.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Clash of Cultures and Generations

My friend Tom (not his real name but he gave me permission to write about his story) has been having quite a few problems with his parents of late. Parents and their children always argue, it's the law of nature. But I think the situation gets worse when you grow up in different cultures to those of your parents. It makes it even harder sometimes to see their point of view since its so isolated from the majority of the society you are living in.

My friend Tom was born in Australia to a Chinese family, a situation much like myself, except I arrived in Australia at a young age. I think Tom and I live in a very conflicting situation sometimes. Since we grew up with two sets of values, sometimes its hard to know which one is correct and should be followed.

Tom has strong opinions about what he wants to do, and his parents have another set of opinions. For example, recently Tom bought a house, which I thought was great and congratulated him on. Instead his parents criticised him for buying an old house in a bad suburb. They asked him why weren't they consulted before he bought it. Tom thought that it was his money and he should be able to do as he pleased.

Its misunderstanding like these that cause more arguments. In Australia, young adults are much more independent and feel they should be able to do what they please with their own money. However, in traditional Chinese cultures, young adults still consult their parents on a lot of issues and I guess his parents are still expecting that.

Tom said that he tries to communicate with his parents but its made even harder since he doesn't speak good Chinese and they don't speak good English. Its a case of "Chicken Talking To Duck", a Chinese saying meaning that two very different animals are trying to communicate, inevitably unsuccessfully. I don't find the situation with my parents are as bad since they are more understanding of most things and also I speak good Chinese so can articulate what I want to tell them. I guess in time, Tom and I will probably see where our parents are coming from when we're forty, but until then, keep "quacking" Tom. :-)

18 Comments:

Blogger danielsan said...

I know the feelings. When I arrived in UK at a very young age of 10 (i think), I was able to speak 5 languages - Haka chinese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Malay and very basic English. Since my English was not very good, I have to attend private tuition to improve my English skills before I can attend state school. As my mother had married an Englishman, he had stopped my mum and I talking in our native language, which at the time it made sense as I need as much practice as possible, but as I am older and wiser now, I had wished I still be able to speak my own languages. Mum and I only speak in english, and whenever she phones home (Malaysia) and talk to her brothers and sister and my gran, I feel so ashamed and angry that I cant even have a conversation with them. I can understand when people talks in Chinese, but I can converse back! Its a shame really.

5/02/2006 5:36 AM  
Anonymous Wong Ton said...

I know that in some asian cultures, the mothers nurture the child till they are so old that it's embarassing.

That's not gonna happen with me!!! I don't want to live into my 30s and have my mother waking me up to go to work or telling me when to sleep. A new age is coming.

5/02/2006 10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bad communication always causes problems. Tom should use Chinese to talk to his parents when he was young, but most second generation don't want to talk to their parents using their native language, which definitely will cause problems when their parents don't speank good English. Plus good communication is both sides listen, think then decide, Tom at least should talk to his parents, get some opnions then decide if he cares not before he bought the house.

5/02/2006 1:46 PM  
Blogger thanh7580 said...

It is such a shame Stan, I can't believe you father stopped rather than encouraged you to keep speaking Chinese. I see it so often here with friends and relatives. The parents think they will speed the learning of English for their kids by speaking to them in English. In fact they are only teaching them bad grammar and pronounciation.

Children go to school for 1/3 of each day, they will inevitably pick up English very quickly. However if they don't speak their mother tongue at home, where its the only occasions they will hear and use it when young, they will very quickly forget. Only when you get older do you realise how valuable a second language is professionally and personally. Many job opportunities are opened up when you know another language, and you also make many different new friends with a second language. You are also still able to talk to family and friends effectively.

I'm so lucky my parents forced me to talk our native Te Chu Chinese at home. Also, I watched a lot of Cantonese videos throughtout my life and can speak it fluently, having made many Cantonese friends through uni which I would have missed out on had I not been able to speak Cantonese. Finally, I also went to Mandarin school every Saturday until year 10 and also watch Mandarin cable tv now, so its also getting better each day.

5/02/2006 6:14 PM  
Anonymous Won Ton said...

But Tom did tell his parents about his intent to move into that house. Just because he didn't include the details of getting a mortgage. But even so, most people should assume that is the process of aquiring a house. And Tom's parents are not exactly open minded or up to date with the what is going on in the world today and how it differs from the past. Sure, Springvale areas were not of good reputation but many people still live there and it's not that bad of an area. People like our blogger friend lives there too.

5/02/2006 8:07 PM  
Blogger thanh7580 said...

I personally think that Springvale is not as bad an area as people make it out to be. I like the multiculturalism in Springvale. Its also now starting to become a hub for all types of people to come on weekends to do their grocery shopping and eat in the various restaurants.

5/02/2006 9:37 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Most people get defensive when they get criticism from college, friends or strangers. But I guess we shouldn't take criticism from our family the same way. After all they probably want you to have the best as much as you do. I know it's hard but it would always help to have an open mind and talk things through with family without feeling negative and defensive. Having said that I realise some parents do say bad things to attack their children out of their own worriness when things go wrong, but usually the parents don't realise how seriously their children take their comments and how bad it hurts their chidlren's self-esteem.

5/02/2006 10:38 PM  
Anonymous Won Ton said...

That's right! To them they know best and are always correct because their chinese radio told them or the car dealer said so.

Car Dealer: Buy this 4WD. It has the economy of a supertanker but it can really take a beating in case you get hit by a Mach truck. Plus there are side and passenger air bags as well as one in the trunk.

Parents: Oh!! Ok we buy we buy!

5/02/2006 11:47 PM  
Blogger afrobev said...

It must be incredibly frustrating for him especially as certain things are lost in translation as it were. But I think he is probably right to stick to his guns and be independent as it is his money and afterall, it's a done deal now so his parents are just going to have to live with it really aren't they? I know that it's important with his background to perhaps appease his parents to a certain extent but at the end of the day I suppose they will have to accept that he is his own man and that he is just trying to make his way in the World. At the end of the day he was born in Australia and is bound to have different ideas to them and they will have to get used it!

5/03/2006 7:05 AM  
Anonymous Oblivion said...

That's right.
Parents nowadays, in particular, Asian ones, need to learn to put up or shut up.

5/03/2006 10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom has to prove to his parents that he is a grown up.

Most Asian parents always wanted to protect their child and loves to think that the child is "a baby" even the child is 60 years old. That's normal, you could only understand that when you are a parent yourself.

Show them that you have thought carefully before make the decision. List out the advantages and disadvantages.

I have done this to my parents and parents-in-law. They trusted us now.

5/03/2006 3:20 PM  
Blogger thanh7580 said...

This post has certainly generated a bit of feedback. Its probably true that you have to prove yourself to Asian parents, but thats very hard sometimes. They tend to be set in their ways and not listen very well.

I think it probably wouldn't have hurt for Tom to tell his parents beforehand to let them feel like they have some input. After all, they're only looking out for his best interest in their opinion. But having said that, if they had disagreed, he still should have gone ahead bought the house seeing as it is his money after all and he should get to choose how he uses it.

5/03/2006 6:26 PM  
Anonymous Won Ton said...

But the issue is that Tom's parents don't listen no matter how hard he tried to argue his point. He's gone thru this over and over but the mother keep revisting the same issues even though they were covered and supposively accepted. She still gets on his case about the house even though he has stood his ground on why he wants to live there.

I reckon Tom should just move out now and get away from it. He just can't win. His choices are not respected.

5/03/2006 6:26 PM  
Blogger afrobev said...

It's a hard one and I don't really have much right to judge as both my parents are no longer here and they were both welsh. But if the situation is to be rectified Tom and his parents have to meet half way and it's probably more difficult for him because they are set in their ways and he is has had to adapt to two sets of completely different cultures and somehow find a balance between both.

They only seem to have the one frame of mind where he has to allow for two types of ways of life and it's bound to cause him upset, because at the end of the day most people want respect, support and understanding off their parents and everyone would like their parents to be proud of them and their decisions in life but he may just have to grit his teeth, ride the situation out and take the high road, be the bigger person.

5/03/2006 7:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where is this 'bad suburb'?
Every suburb is bad to people who live in those uppidty towns like Toorak.
Screw them. Not everyone can afford a $1M house.

5/04/2006 3:43 PM  
Blogger The Oriental Express said...

My mama was a hard nut to crack. However, I found humour was the best way to bring that smile on her lips and hence to solve any conflicts or arguments. When mama was angry or stubborn, and I wanted to persuade her to my way of thinking, I'd sing her a song in Hokkien or Mandarin (theresa teng's songs) with my own wordings to suit the occasion. eg. I love you 100 times, you love me 1,000 times or You are love of my life, and I am none other than.....

I always think the older generation has limited time left on earth, and this pushes me to be more patients and accommodating.

Choo Choo

5/05/2006 11:52 PM  
Blogger thanh7580 said...

Thats very true about needing to be more patient and accomadating Choo, but it also has to work both ways I think.

Also I think the older you get, the more you understand your parents more. My friend Tom and I are probably close to that age of understanding our parents but not completely yet. Maybe when we have families of our own, that will change.

5/06/2006 2:24 PM  
Anonymous Wong Ton said...

That's good advice Choo but my mate Tom can't sing let along speak Chinese very well. I think the only way to do is to show them first hand that Springvale South isn't that bad. In fact some experts reckon it will overtake Toorak in terms of land property value.

5/06/2006 2:54 PM  

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