• Posts Tagged ‘culture’

    (Un)Happy Mother’s Day

    by  • May 10, 2007 • Tagged: , , ,  • Comments

    Two days ago I wrote about the Asian cultural phenomenon of giving back to your parents. As I stated in that post, I don’t mind giving back during special occasions in the form of nice meals at restaurants or nice presents. I don’t mind because I feel like it should come from me, not because there is a cultural expectation or because my parents expect it.

    My mother tends to take this notion the wrong way and as a result often puts us in uncomfortable financial situations. She feels (dare I say) entitled to receive her payback in the way that she chooses – and if she doesn’t get it her way, she’ll bulldoze us until she does. For example, she has no qualms about asking me how much my bonus was and asking for a portion of it (I declined on both questions). This trait of hers is definitely most apparent when it comes to eating out.

    You see, in my family we tend to skimp on presents and place a large emphasis on food. We have a tradition of rallying and celebrating around food. Therefore, whenever there is a birthday or Mother’s/Father’s Day or whatever, we usually go out to eat.

    In fact, the recent $300 meal at Fogo de Chao was my idea to celebrate my dad’s birthday. My mom was very pleased at that place because she knew it was expensive, and even suggested we take her there for her birthday which was two weeks later! When her birthday came around, I asked her if we could do something less expensive because we were still reeling from the previous dinner. Needless to say, she was quite offended. We ended up going to a restaurant where the tab came out to $70 for the two of us.

    About a year ago we went to P.F Chang’s for my dad’s birthday. (Yes I know it is barely Asian food but it was close to where we all work and it was easy on the pocketbook.) Of course we offered to pay. While my dad was fine with the choice of restaurant, my mom definitely felt like we were being cheap, and it showed. She made snarky comments about the low price of the menu items and kept talking about other, nice, and more expensive restaurants. We decided to dine family style, so I suggested that we all pick one item from the menu and then we’ll all share. That apparently did not fly with my mom who then proceeded to order not one, not two, but THREE entrees. What was formerly a wallet friendly meal now ate up (pun somewhat intended) a large chunk of change.

    Now let us fast forward to this upcoming mother’s day. This mother’s day, we decided to actually follow some advice floating around the personal finance blogosphere and instead of taking my mom out to a restaurant for mother’s day brunch, we offered to drive to her house and cook her brunch. So far she is extremely lukewarm to the idea – mainly because we’re not going to spend a lot of money on food for her.

    We’ve already spend close to $400 on food for them in the past two months or so, and we definitely don’t need to spend more. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mind giving back, but not when it is on these terms.

    Raise your children to rely on them – Asian Culture And Finances

    by  • May 8, 2007 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    I grew up as the child of two Asian immigrants (I’m not giving up my actual ethnicity for the sake of some anonymity). My parents came to America over 30 years ago, and have been naturalized citizens for a long time. I was born and raised here in the United States, exposed mainly to U.S. culture but being very familiar with the nuances of our particular brand of Asian culture.

    One of the beliefs that has been ingrained into my head since a very early age is that it is proper and respectful to somehow pay back my parents for all of the years of work and money that they have put into raising me. My mom would always “joke” that when I grew up and made a lot of money I could then buy my parents nice cars, send them on nice vacations, or buy them nice stuff. When my parents told me those things, I knew it was in a half-joking half-serious manner. I knew that my parents worked hard to raise me, so back when I was a kid I dreamed of paying back my parents in lavish ways. This particular sentiment is not just unique to my family or me or just my brand of Asian culture.

    This nuance of Asian culture is expanded upon in this article from the OC Register.

    As the children grow older, parents around the dinner table might brag about their son or daughter’s successful career, followed by frank discussions of how their children help financially. It is not unusual for adult children in Asian families to contribute money to their parents on a monthly basis to help pay for their parents’ mortgages and other living expenses.

    That’s right – giving back by paying mortgages and other living expenses. Here’s a little more:

    “It’s just expected in our culture…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.” Monthly checks of $150 or $300 from each child are not uncommon amounts given to parents. Often it’s not because the parents are in dire financial straits, but because it’s a matter of family duty.

    But others don’t have the luxury of giving much money to their parents:

    “I barely make enough money to cover rent and my student loans…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.”

    And others still give even when they don’t have the means:

    For a while last year, Mai was laid off from his computer engineer job at Hewlett-Packard and couldn’t give his parents a portion of his earnings. Still, he plunked down about $6,000 to buy them a vacation package to China.

    In our household, we’re figuring out how all of this plays into our financial life. The primary reason for this is that Her is NOT Asian – she’s as American and white as you can get. In the way that she was raised, the flow of money generally goes from the older generation to the younger generation. For us, not only is this a financial issue, but also a cultural one as well. While going out to nice dinners and giving nice presents during birthdays and Christmas are the norm for both of us, Her is uneasy with these extra financial cultural obligations and has offered to compromise.

    Here are some questions for you, dear readers:

    Do you give money to your parents other than for special occasions?

    Do they expect (whether it is spoken or not) to be repaid financially for their work as a parent?

    What does your significant other think about this cultural repayment plan?

    I’m really wanting to hear what Mapgirl, Jim, LaMoneyGuy, and any other Asian personal finance bloggers (or just regular Asians) have to say about this.