Last week, I confessed that I lived together with Mr. Panda and his parents on 63 m² (678 ft²/ 75 yd²) for more than 5 years. While I already summarized advantages of living together with (future) in-laws, I also want to summarize some of the disadvantages which I struggled with when I lived together with my new Chinese parents who are just crazier than my own ones.
1. ‘Privacy’ is quasi non-existent in Chinese parents’ vocabulary
‘Privacy’ is an extensible term. In one country it can mean your own private space where no one will intrude. But in another part of the world it can only mean an own room for you, and that that space can still be invaded any time. Unfortunately our room’s door came without a lock, and a door which is not locked can be opened any time – according to Chinese parents’ logic.
After continuously interrupting our lovey dovey time, I talked to them and explained that they could not just enter our room whenever they liked. They, to some extent, understood, because they did not enter our room without knocking and waiting for me to open anymore, at least when I was at home. As for Mr. Panda’s privacy: they still did not care at all and just entered the room any time they wanted.
2. Annoying comments about just anything
Sometimes they asked or told us something, which was just too annoying. I never really understood why they did ask what they actually. I hated it for example when I woke up around noon on weekends, and Chinese mom greeted me with a snotty “Good morning, are you also already up?” or when I just came home from a 30 minute long sprint and she asked me why I was already back, if I was just too slow and lazy. What really hurt when they asked was, if we were only playing with our computers while we actually studies hard for university classes, wrote papers or programmed something in the evening or weekends.
3. Constantly abused as a private secretary
I had and still have to do all their paperwork. As their German is not good enough to understand the official letters they get, they need help with it. I have to read them, sort out advertisement, and explain the most important ones to Mr.Panda, so he can translate and explain the letters’ contents to them. I also got a pro at handling insurances, organizing the renovation of any room in a house and anything else what someone might think of. And of course I have to do any phone call with German speaking people for them. Anyway, although we moved out already, but I still have to do that now.
At least I do not have to go to doctor’s appointments with them – that are Mr.Panda and his Brother’s jobs.
4. Frequently misused as babysitter for their grandchildren
Now this one thing probably annoyed me the most. They told their oldest son they would look after his two children although they had work, and then just asked me to look after them. That would be no problem, if I had any experience with small children, and if Chinese parents would actually come back when they told me they would be home.
One time they told me I just needed to look after their three year old granddaughter for an hour, but then nobody came back for 8(!!!) hours. That was the last time I looked after them. I would have looked after them again, but when I asked them for how long, they just would not answer and took her with them.
5. Different ideologies and role allocations
My dad is an electrician and a skilled artisan, so he taught me anything to know around the house, and how to repair broken things myself. He also taught me to try solve anything myself before asking for help. Chinese dad and mom actually were not too happy when I came to borrow tools to repair anything, build anything, because it was a ‘guy’s job’. Or when I wanted to change the number plates of my car, he told me to take Mr.Panda with me to help me, because you know, a man should help me with such a difficult task.
Chinese mom on the other hand, always wanted to involve me in ‘women’s things to do’, because I am, of course, a woman. I helped her, because it was ok for me to help, but not because I was a woman, it was because I like to cook, like to sew. I also help her with the grandchildren because it has to be done, and they are cute, but not because I am a woman. And I always told her that these are no special women’s tasks, but I do not really know if she actually understood what I meant, as she always only answered ‘Yes yes!’.
6. Different understanding of cleanliness
My mom likes it clean. I always had to help to clean when I was still living with my parents. And I also clean a lot in our apartment too. But Chinese parents think otherwise. Chinese mom is on a level between my parents and Chinese dad. She helps me clean, but my inhibition threshold is clearly smaller than hers. So I cleaned the bathroom more often.
Chinese dad takes the whole question about how much personal hygiene is actually needed really serious. He does not care about clean clothes, washing his hands (and he almost lost one of his fingers because of it). And he complained why I had to shower almost every day. He also says dishes only need to be washed with cold water. And nothing really needs to be cleaned, laundry day is non-existent. Thanks to Chinese dad, my mania for cleanliness reached a new level. I am now obsessed with laundry. Until last year, nobody expect me was allowed to touch my freshly washed underwear. Now, only Mr.Panda is allowed to touch it next to me.
7. Forced to eat Chinese food every day
Not having to cook every day is nice to some point, but when you have to eat Chinese food every day, you will eventually just get frustrated and annoyed. Sometimes I went to the supermarket and got myself a bun with meat loaf and ate it like an addicted junkie. It is not like I am addicted to Austrian food, but I am just not used to eat Chinese food every day as I did not grow up with it.
All the more I was not really allowed to cook anything on weekdays, as the kitchen as occupied by Chinese mom and dad in the evening. I only cooked lunch on weekends. After I cleaned the kitchen of course, because, you remember, the different understanding of cleanliness.
8. They go on and on to their son(s)
Sara from Living a Dream in China already perfectly summed it up. The only difference, when you live together, is, that they can demand over their children 24/7. And they actually make use of that circumstance that one of their sons is available all day long.
9. Fight a lot because of them
When we were still living there, we fought a lot. 9 out of 10 fights were because of Chinese parents, or because we were so tense because of them. I love them, but I really appreciate the distance between us now. Since we moved, Mr.Panda and I almost do not fight anymore.
10. It is exhausting when they just don’t understand
I am really patient. I don’t get angry when I have to wait in line, look after children or when I teach Mr. Panda how to cook. But sometimes it is really exhausting to talk to someone who is living in a country for 25 years and still does not speak the language at all, when you are tired. It is even more tiring, and sometimes I just gave up. Most of the time, I did not, and thanks to my patience Chinese mom’s German conversation skills got much better after those five years. I only hope it won’t get worse again after we moved out.
Somehow it got out of control again, I did not plan for my post to become so long. Sorry and thank you for reading it anyway.
Oh, and while I was writing this post, Chinese mom said thank you to Mr.Panda for giving her a tablet. This is the first time I noticed her to say ‘Thank you’ to him. I feel like crying.
What would be your worst nightmare when living together with your (Chinese) (future) in-laws?