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.

Disadvantages of living together with your Chinese (future) in-laws
Crappy ground plot of our past living situation

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?

Disadvantages of living together with your Chinese (future) in-laws

18 thoughts on “Disadvantages of living together with your Chinese (future) in-laws

  • October 13, 2015 at 13:28
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    We don’t live together but every other week I sleep over at his place. We do occasionally have fights relating to it. And honestly, if I was forced to live with them, I think we would fight a lot more. For starters, his parents are really old school still and obviously are not a fan of us sleeping in the same bedroom. Moreover, his mom only cooks Chinese food and sometimes she’ll only cook meaty options and then I get a slice of bread or something. Obviously it’s not her fault that I don’t eat meat but sometimes I just get moody over not having proper food. They also don’t speak a lot of English so we don’t speak at all. Which obviously is super awkward. Sometimes my boyfriend goes to the bathroom or something and I just sit there awkwardly with them. They also just assume that he must take care of his little sister. Now and again it’s fine, but I get to see him for one day a week and I just feel as if that ruins our time together. Also they sometimes indirectly blame me for things. Such as if my boyfriend is tired, it’s obviously because I kept him up late. But at the end of the day, I guess that’s what happens with cultural clashes :p

    Reply
    • October 13, 2015 at 14:03
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      I am quite lucky because Chinese mom loves vegetables and I do not like to eat meat. So she always used me as an excuse to cook many veggies. Because at first she cooked so many meat dishes, pork, beef, chicken, seafood, fish… on one evening! So at one point I told her I would love to eat more veggies. But to put you off with a slice of bread is really mean.
      At first I also did not talk much to them, and with Chinese dad I didn’t have one proper conversation at all as I do not speak Chinese.
      Sometimes I have the feeling we children are like overqualified servants for them. And I get the feeling they sometimes do not like their children at all, and they are just a nuisance when they do not dance after their commands anymore. 🙁

      Reply
  • October 13, 2015 at 14:36
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    I still can’t believe how you could lived with the in-laws for 5 years! And in a small apartment nevertheless. I lived with mine for only a year and that was a 4-storey house and it was more than enough for me. I can totally relate to all of these points.

    One thing I particularly didn’t like when living with the Chinese parents was that I became a child again. At first it was nice to be pampered a little bit, but then I noticed myself becoming lazy! I get so much more done now that we live on our own.

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    • October 13, 2015 at 14:59
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      Yes that’s it! I also had the feeling that they started to patronize us. And whenever I wanted to help them somehow, Chinese dad laughed at me and was like “What does a young girl like you know?” Although they are nice people they annoyed me so much. And at one point I was all tensed up although they didn’t do anything – but they could just start with something again.
      I was so relieved the first night we stayed at our own place. I felt like home and not even one second wanted to go back.

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  • October 13, 2015 at 15:22
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    Yeah, I’m with Sara, I cannot believe you and Mr. Panda are still together. Most of the fights (i.e., ALL) center around issues with his parents. (Mainly I fight over why he won’t fight with them or stand up for himself.)

    CHILDCARE! Free, that makes me nuts. My parents, and then my older brother and sister, well, they did the same thing. As a teenager, I finally started taking babysitting jobs outside of my house. (Might as well get paid, right?) Now, when I visit my older siblings, spending money or miles to see them for Christmas, they simply expect Andy and me to watch their kids when they take a conference call or go out for a FOUR HOUR BIKE RIDE. I went for a walk on Christmas, and on my way back I ran into my brother and sister-in-law. They’d left poor Andy with their three kids and my sister’s two kids! I hate that sort of entitled behavior. If you have kids, you don’t just dump them on people. Grrr.

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    • October 13, 2015 at 18:07
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      I also always get angry at him when he won’t stand up against his parents. But then I think what’s the point in scolding him about it, because then I won’t be any better than them. 🙁
      When I ask him why he won’t say anything, he only answers that there is no point because they won’t listen to him at all anyway. But I think they won’t listen because they can do with him what they want.

      I think it is not correct to use relatives as free babysitters. Sometimes it is ok, if the person likes the kids and can handle them. It was so annoying that they took the kids so often although they had work to do. Then they should have said in the beginnning that they have no time. I really do not get them sometimes.

      Reply
      • October 14, 2015 at 15:16
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        Ugh. That’s exactly how Andy is: “there’s no point in arguing.” And that’s exactly how I am: “If I bully Andy into doing what I want (arguing)m than I am no better than his parents!”

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        • October 14, 2015 at 15:21
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          Yes. How are we any better if we force our ideas on them. Of course I know that he’ll do what I want when I just push him long enough, but it would be just mean if he doesn’t want to do it.

          At least they understood that I don’t be their puppet like their sons.
          I already have a post about the word ‘No’ planned. Maybe I’ll do that one next.

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  • October 13, 2015 at 22:15
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    I agree with many things. Though my FIL has and OCD for cleaning everything he only does the floor and tables. The kitchen looks like a bomb exploded and I swear I heard something talking to me from the fridge.
    The role allocations…its the same here. MIL things that my wife shouldnt do all kind of things but then again MIL learns nowadays how life should be from the Chinese TV shows, you know the kind of show where they shout at each other every episode, the girl gets treated like a godess, the goddess slaps her husband on open street and and and :p
    There are so many more things but I guess you can tell already some of it from my blog posts 🙂

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    • October 13, 2015 at 22:21
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      My blog is my therapy, and when I read yours I feel like I am not alone haha 😀
      ‘A problem shared is a problem doubled’ they say. No wait, that’s what I say.

      But learning from TV? Maybe I can consider myself lucky that Chinese mom doesn’t have Chinese TV. But we got her a tablet, so maybe she’ll eventually find out soon how to stream Chinese TV on it. 🙁

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      • October 14, 2015 at 20:26
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        My wife is usually watching her tv shows through youtube on the TV or plugs her laptop to the TV and then the Chinese TV show madness starts

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        • October 14, 2015 at 20:59
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          Oh oh! Gladly I only have to deal with Hong Kong martial arts movies once in a while. D:

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  • October 14, 2015 at 13:16
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    I think that is a fair observation. The idea of privacy is very different in Chinese culture compare to the European in general. Just take a look at the chinese herbal doctors, they will have consultation in a room full of people where everyone will hear all your medical problems.

    In terms of the gender roles, that’s pretty true too. During my travel I met someone in China who told me that her university application was rejected because she was a girl. Apparently she was told by the university that there was no point to study marine engineering because no noe will hire a girl as an engineer! What a shocker to me! In other countries I’m sure thay will be sue for gender discrimination. But then again, gender roles run deeply in their culture and it Ian Williamson take generation to change the mindset.

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    • October 14, 2015 at 14:52
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      Wow hearing something like that really makes me angry. Why shouldn’t a woman be able to work as an engineer? You definitly can’t do that here. The university could actually close down here.
      And normal equality rights are also the reason why we don’t have a Hooters here in Austria. 🙂

      Reply
      • October 15, 2015 at 13:14
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        I guess that was only part of the story. She then told me that she ended up doing an engineering course in HK. First time aboard, she had a massive cultural shock when she saw female plumbers, female bus drivers and male nurses etc. Things that wouldn’t normally happen in China and what a complete reverse gender roles to her

        To be fair, it was like that in Europe 150 years ago and significant progress had been made. Maybe it will take a few generations for places like China, India, Middle East to change the mind set?

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        • October 15, 2015 at 20:13
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          Yeah, but still backwards. I also felt like that when I was in China. They build all these modern cities, but they don’t know how to handle the new living situation. It’s like new hardware with old software. They have problems functioning.

          I hope your friend learned that women and men can actually achieve the same, although they might probably have to work even harder. 🙂

          Reply
  • November 24, 2015 at 10:58
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    Really enjoyed reading this post. Whilst I did not live with any Chinese, I did work with them for three years and all were wonderful people but their beliefs on certain things could be very [very] frustrating and mildly amusing.

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    • November 24, 2015 at 15:44
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      So true. And at some point their views get amusing because it’s just too frustraiting. 😀

      Reply

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