1. You never had weekends for yourself.
Want to go play on the weekends like the other kids do? Nope! You’ve got Chinese school, and after Chinese school you’ve gotta go to lion dance or folk dance practice, then you better get your ass to bed because you’re going to dim sum with your 18 cousins Sunday morning. After dim sum it’s time for the 99 Ranch pilgrimage because mom is out of pork floss and salted duck eggs and, guess what: Vons doesn’t carry that shit.
2. You had a bootlegged collection of…everything.
Why buy DVDs? Those shady shops in the strip mall have pirated VCDs of everything. It’s okay that you can hear somebody snoring on the audio track and you can see when the camera guy’s arm gets tired, because this cost under a dollar! Back in Asia, your parents would load up on all those period dramas about anti-gravity Chinese people flying around and kicking each other in the face. Bonus points if your Pokemon Cards were bootleg too.
3. A visit to your white friend’s house was junk food paradise.
Dried cuttlefish, prawn chips, and those super hard milk rabbit candies were great snacks, but it wasn’t always enough. You never got any of that crazy white kid food like Cheetos and Twinkies and Bagel Bites and Gushers at home, so when you visited your white friends it was fucking PARTY TIME. I always felt sick after those sessions but they were so worth it. The one time my mother let my brother buy a bag of Cheetos he saved me a single Cheeto on a plastic plate. Shit was stale by the time I got to it but I still tear up thinking about it. Thanks bro.
4. Your mom drove a Lexus RX300.
If she didn’t, she knew some other Chinese school mom who drove one and secretly hated her guts. You might be able to cop a fake LV bag, but there’s no such thing as a bootleg Lexus.
5. You are never impressing your parents.
Chinese parents are always gossiping about their kids, so you better be doing something brag worthy. I’ll always remember when I got into a popular school for college and my mom just said, “Oh Jarret, I’m so… surprised.” You can always do better, and your parents won’t let you forget it because their friend’s son is a pre-med at Princeton and he is a champion pianist and single-handedly cooks ten course Chinese banquet dinners.
6. All the kids in school asked you for math help.
Kids were always asking me for math advice, but the joke was on them. Math made no sense to me. A good friend of mine told me that when we were partnered for a buddy test, he was so stoked to have a Chinese partner. We got a D, and no one ever asked me for math help again.
7. You had a secret Hong Bao drawer in your room.
Hong Bao were your main source of income and they only came once a year, so you had to stash them somewhere safe from your siblings and your parents. I always felt like Scrooge McDuck looking into my sock drawer, drinking in that shimmering gold and red paper and the intoxicating smell of crisp bills. I would move drawers every couple of years so no one could ever find it.
8. You mind your 4s and 8s.
Eight is lucky and four means death. Living on the fourth floor kinda scares you and your mother definitely doesn’t like the idea. If you’re really scared you’ll install a bagua mirror on your door to scare away demons, and the fact that you have four chairs at your dining table keeps you up at night. You’re not a superstitious person but you’re not taking any chances either. Chinese people are always working to max out their luck quotient.
9. Your family comes first.
We talk a lot of shit about our parents on the internet, for being tiger moms or for never saying “I love you” or for whooping our asses for getting anything less than an A. Let’s not forget that our parents came to America with nothing and busted their asses to give us the lives we live today, so this is to all the bad-ass Chinese parents we owe so much to. In Chinese culture, the family is always your number one priority and I’ll always be grateful for having a family like mine.