Cultural differences make individuals unique
Although I'm almost 18, my mom drives me to and from school.
The fact that I don't have my driver's license is met with shock and disdain. I tell people I wasn't excited to get my permit, but the truth is it's because I'm Asian.
To understand, let's compare cultural values.
What does the U.S. value? Freedom: political independence from Britain, religious freedom and free speech. We still celebrate our freedom on the Fourth of July. This is further exemplified by the idea of the American Dream.
I'm not sure when we become aware of this, but it's something American kids know, and everyone else knows it too.
This isn't limited to political or religious freedoms but social independence as well. Part of the American ideal, at least for the boomers and Gen X, is moving out at 18, eventually to buy one's own house and to have one's own family.
There's not a lot of respect for elders. Americans put their parents in retirement homes.
My Taiwanese family is completely different.
My grandparents are living in an apartment where they can see their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and in-laws everyday. My uncle would not let my grandpa go to a retirement home.
When we visit them, we light incense at an altar for our ancestors, to let them know we are there and to ask for their blessing.
This dichotomy between the independent American and the Asian family extends into food culture as well. At most American restaurants, you order an entree for yourself. At most Chinese restaurants, you share dishes "family style."
Now let's talk about cars. Automobiles are symbolic of independence. Teens are excited to drive because it gives them the freedom to travel at their own discretion. For 15-year-olds it's a rite of passage for which they feel compelled to post photos abundantly on Instagram.
Parents also like that independence. Parenting is a arduous task, so it's a relief to check one job off the list. Busy parents have more time to focus on other tasks, perhaps work or other children.
Furthermore, Americans have a weird obsession with cars. Sure, cars are symbolic of ingenuity and industry, but they are also symbolic of status and sex. A car can tell you a lot about a man.
American pop culture has cars everywhere. Kids have Hot Wheels and Lightning McQueen. Adults have NASCAR. I'm baffled that Hollywood still has ideas for "Fast and Furious" movies and people are still paying for "Transformers" sequels.
When I was 15, I didn't rush to get my permit. I wasn't dying to drive or get away from my parents. It didn't matter.
And my parents weren't dying for me to drive either. They were still able to and willing to chauffeur.
That's it, a simple choice, perhaps the result of unseen cultural influences. Like other mysteries of identity, it has taken me years to articulate.
Along with my inability to drive, another thing separates me from all the other seniors I know: My mom makes my lunch everyday.
It seems like every other teen has been responsible for their own lunch since middle school. They pack themselves a to-go salad or microwave pizza rolls. Or some seniors drive out to get fast food.
But I've always had my mom pack my lunch with the apples cut into chunks.
I used to feel self-conscious, sometimes embarrassed by the surprise and concern of my friends. I thought I was being babied, or maybe I was being lazy.
But I realized that I've been guilting myself for these arbitrary standards that differ across cultures.
I don't see any shame in enjoying my mom's handmade meals. I don't see it as a lack of independence but rather an act of love.
I will have plenty of time to be an adult when I move out. I won't have my mom's food when I move out, nor will I have long talks in the car, so I'll enjoy them now.
Philip Chan is a senior at West Linn High School.
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