My mother and I were having this conversation.
Kenny: "How much is the rent for a simple house in Kuching?"
Mom: "Not too sure. Why?"
"Well, I do have to move out from this house eventually don't I?"
"What?" She replied in a surprised tone.
I looked at my mom, wondering why she reacted that way. "You're not expecting me to stay in this house and depend on you forever, do you?"
My mom looked at me, obviously disappointed. "You wanted to move out?"
"Mom, in Australia kids move out of their parents' house when they turn 18."
She drew a heavy sigh. "Actually, I was hoping that you and your brother will stay together in this house. Then we can share everything together." She said with such a sad tone. I felt an invisible needle pierced through my heart.
"You're not expecting us to still stay in this house after we're married, do you?"
"Why not? This is a good house, in a perfectly good location. The best location in Kuching!"
"Mom, if I continued to live with you well into my adulthood, that would be like me still depending on your cooking when I should be independant and you should start spending money and enjoy life. I'm not abandoning you, just living in a place of my own."
"Well, if you and your brother move out, who's going to take care of me when I grow old?" A second needle pierced through my heart. "What's so bad about your family and your brother's family and me living in the same house? That way, we can all take care of each others' kids. You don't want your kids to be raised by babysitters do you? You don't know how many of them are snakes nowadays. And how are you going to afford living on your own? You don't have money to burn. Renting would be like giving your money to strangers. You might as well live in this house and give it to me as 'rent'. Bla bla bla bla..."
I'm not too sure what the Malaysian-Chinese tradition on this issue is. (Heh, sometimes I wonder if I'm still Malaysian-Chinese). I'm pretty sure at the very least, kids live with their parents until they after their marriage. After that they move in with their partners.
Their elderly parents would live in the same house, eventually selling it to move in with one of their sons, or give it to the eldest son and continue living in the same house.
Only a very small proportion of Malaysian-Chinese parents actually move into retirement homes. Leaving your parents in retirement homes is considered by many as being disrespectful to your parents. If you even dare to suggest that option to them, they would bark at your asking you where your conscience lies. Crying, asking if you want your own children to treat you that way when you grow old.
Maybe its to do with that confusingly confusing Confucian values that Malaysian-Chineses are brought up with.
Rule #1 is to always respect your parents, meaning to live with them if they ask you to. In fact I think about the only way adult Malaysian-Chinese don't live with their parents before their marriage is if they don't live in the same city as their parents.
Its not the same the way I knew it in Perth.
In Aussie, people laugh at you if you tell them that you're still living with your parents at 22 years old, as if you're still a baby who needs mom to personally breastfeed you.
Their culture dictates that children move out when they turn 18. In practice, this usually extends to about 22 years old. After high school, University, an obligatory 1-year backpacking trip around the world, and a stable job... a typical Aussie would probably be 22 years old by then - which allows them to afford renting their own place and live away from their parents.
The odd thing is that its not usually the kids who want to move out. Its the Aussie parents who threaten their kids to move out. One of my uni mates told me that his parents had to pack all his items and leave them out the front door to convince him that he is not welcome back home unless he finds his own place to stay.
Australian parents do it because they want their kids to be independent physically and financially from them. Some parents would then refurbish the empty room and rent it to overseas students to earn that extra income. When they grow old and their house becomes too big for them, they move into retirement village where all the old people hang out, just like Grandpa Simpson!
It goes without saying that I love and respect my parents. That said, I'm not sure if and when I start my own family, that I would take up the option of staying with my parents AND my brother's family.
Ideally, I'd like to move out to a rented place of my own before my marriage, whilst saving money to buy a house of my own. I'd still visit my parents and brother of course, but I want to live on my own. Sure, its a waste of money compared to all the luxuries I enjoy right now. Sure its going to be a chore trying to organise my own breakfast, lunch and dinner for myself.
But you know what? Its not like something I've never done before. I think I'll appreciate the freedom and independance of bachelorhood before my marriage. And hopefully I can do that without being labelled a disrespectful son of a mother.
But I doubt so. :)