Blog Archives

Societal Norms Clashes with Culture

I know Sophia’s going to have a lot of fun with this topic, but I’m thinking lots of people have been wedged between soceital norms and culture. I have a varied group of friends, from (true) white Canadians to those of my own background and I have often noticed distinct differences to opinions based around what our society determines to be normal. Living in Canada, I must say I’m very fortunate that most around us are very accepting and tolerant of differences and everyone sticks to their own without meddling in others affairs. However the other day as I was having a discussion amongst friends, everyone seemed to have a very different outlook on core things… particularly with living environment. Let me elaborate.

Being raised in a traditional Asian household, it has always been accepted that one’s children and family will always be accepted in the household, whether you are 18 or 80. Most of my white-Canadian friends have moved out while I am still at home. I always ask them, “What is home?” I have one friend in particular who I thought was joking to me when he told me that when he turned 18, he found a note from his father who essentially said, “You’re 18 now, get out of the house.” To me, that’s shocking because 18 is an age where most people are still struggling to find themselves, let alone move out. Certainly, there are many who survive leaving home at this age, especially those who seek independence, yet why?

Being in my mid-20’s, I think people look at me weird for still “living at home.” To be honest, I’m comfortable living here and see no necessity to move away. Of course when I have my own family one day, I’m sure I’ll leave ‘home’ – but I currently, there’s no legitimate reason why I should other than what society defines as the norm. Why must one leave home at a certain age – does it imply independence? In the past, I have pondered whether bebe looks down on me because I’m still at home and we’ve never really discussed that. To me, my whole life revolves around my family and I know many people use the word “weird” to describe people who sitll live at home with their parents. Of course my circumstance is a bit different as I live at home also because of my father who passed away a few years ago, leaving my mom on her own. I cannot fathom what sort of son would ditch his mother for the sake of being labeled as independent by society.

Don’t fool yourself, because I have a friend who asked me after my dad’s death whether I would move out. I asked why and I explained that it’s hard for my mom to life on her own without a source of income and no one to take care of her (since my mom had me, she has not been back into the workplace) as my Dad did all that – everything from finances to even doing the gardening. His response was that, “You should leave your mom behind, she’ll survive.” and to me, that was a pretty shitty thing to even think. Perhaps in his culture, as a white-Canadian, this is a totally acceptable thing, but to me, it is not. I know that it’s possible to fulfill a son’s obligations to his parents without living with them, but currently, I don’t have my own family yet, so of course I intend to take care of my mother in the same house until the situation presents itself where I can no longer do that. Had my father still been alive, moving out would of course be a potential route to take.

I think what people these days don’t realize is the cost of moving out. Everyone wants independance and of course if you have a family of your own, wife/husband/partner/kids, I can see it being a need, but to move out just because is foolish. Unless you have an amazing job, you will find trying to make ends meet is very hard. This is definitely a very culturally-based thing. Talking to an Indian coworker of mine, she says she has kids of various ages, from school-age to into their 30’s and many of them still live at home. She says, “I welcome and encourage my kids to live at home any time.” This is a very conflicting thing with Canadian societies expectations of kids being booted out of their homes. You will find many Asians live with their parents or even grandparents if they are lucky enough. Having a tight-knit family should not be discouraged. I suppose another big thing is that many people don’t get along with their parents. My retort to most people when they say I need to get out of the house is, “Just because YOU have a dysfunctional family and don’t get along with your parents, doesn’t mean I don’t!

I live at home because not only do I have many advantages of having meals prepared and ya… even my bed made, but also because it’s financially sound. Why move out when there only needs to be one set of bills to be paid? Why move out and cause financial strain on both my mother and I? Why move out when we could cook-for-two and save money? Don’t forget things like utilities are generally fixed costs and you’re simply doubling it by moving out (two different locations). I think most people seek that independence so much it blinds them to the financial aspects. By living at home, in a few year’s time, I will have enough money to fully purchase a quarter-million dollar house with no mortgage by living at home. Let’s just say for the sake of argument, bebe can contribute the same amount, we could be living in a half-million dollar home easily and not owe the bank a cent. For anyone who’s holding a mortgage, you will know that the few thousand dollars you save every month could be used for LOTS of things. By living at home, the first year I worked full-time I had already saved up enough money to put a down-payment for a decently priced house. Now you must think that I just freeload, but I actually pay a good portion of the household bills, especially with my mom having no income, and of course my own stuff like car insurance, life insurance, internet, gas, etc. Do people not realize the savings for both your parents AND you by staying at home?

After having this conversation, I did think back about whether bebe has ever looked down on me for still being at home. I know we’re both very family-oriented people and value the importance of it, but I’m not sure if she views me poorly as a result. I mean, I still wouldn’t move out just to please her, but I would certainly want her to know the reasons why I’m at home, but also respecting the fact that one day when we’re financially capable, to move out on our own. When people ask me why I’m still at home, I simply tell them I have “no need to leave home right now.” Hell, I don’t even want to leave home until the situation presents itself. It’s not a matter of me not being able to fend for myself or that my mom is incapable of surviving, but it’s about making sound and rational decisions. For the most part, I get all the freedom I have being at home, than moving out. I’d dare say I get even more freedom since there are many things I don’t need to do know that I would being on my own (ok, I do admit to a bit of spoiling, but I’m not USELESS at least).

Our culture definitely plays a large role on how you perceive others or even yourself when it comes to “staying at home.” In many cultures, it’s pretty much acceptable to stay at home until you get married. In other cultures, this is totally frowned upon and makes you appear not self-sufficient enough. Many will give you weird looks or already generate prejudice based on who’s roof you live under. I think it’s much worse to “get a place of your own” in a dead-beat basement of someone’s home than living comfortably under the same roof with your loving family. Do I have short term plans to move out? No. Will I ever leave home? Probably. I think there’ll definitely be evolution as to what the plan is as bebe and I progress, but I don’t want her to believe that I’m going to latch on to mommy’s leg and not go anywhere. I have a responsibility to take care of my mother and I don’t want bebe to see this as being a burden on me where she will have to deal with the consequences of it. When the time comes, I will need to balance both sides and yet allowing bebe and I to have a place of our own to raise our own family.

Listening to a variety of my coworkers discuss their kids staying at home and such, it really places an emphasis that those who are not “of colour” are more likely to have kids who have moved out (or been booted out), more than those of non-Canadian culture. I love being Asian, yet living in Canada, but there are times when I find them my cultural mentality differs from what Canadian society expects and demands – because we are judged on such things. I proudly live at home, because I can save money, contribute to the well-being of my family and also take care of my mother. Yes, I am “older than what I should be” to still be at home, but I have the freedom here as I would with my own place. Funny that the other day I was discussing how my mom would not like it if I had girls over in my room because I was testing the traditionalistic side of my mom… only to find out she’s more accepting of reality than I expected. I said, “Well mom, you wouldn’t like it if a girl stayed overnight anyways…” and she said, “Well, I wouldn’t be happy if it was just a girl you just met, but if you have been dating her for a while, I’d be ok with it.” Suffice to say, I was quite surprized that my mom would be, of all people, to be so open to an idea such as that. Of course it’s not that I’m thinking about doing something like that, but it was to see how much freedom I really have “at home.” This is a great house and household to be living under and I have what others seek when they move out – freedom and independence… I have all that here, plus more!

%d bloggers like this: