Family Thais

Oakley, her parents, and Brandon

My oldest brother, at 33, makes a good living at an international company, and still lives at home. My 30 year-old brother who has just returned to Thailand from years of schooling in Oklahoma, also lives at home as he learns the ways of the business to one day takes over for my dad. Down the road, when one of them get married, my parents will pay the dowry.

You should see the shock and horror on the faces of my American friends when I told them that. Two grown men who still live at home. That comes as shock to the American tradition of setting the kids free at 18.
They’re how old?? And they live at home?? Oakley, can we please have your parents?

Many Americans view my older brothers living at home as a sign of dependence. Living at home means having no life of your own, having no success in life. Some kind of a leech, taking money from your parents when you are fully capable of making your own.

True, for some people, that is the case. But Thai parents just don’t see it that way.

I asked my parents the question, almost a rhetorical one: Why? They said it’s their responsibilities to see us off until we can stand on our own feet, doesn’t matter what age we are or how much money we make. If we say we need food, shelter, and other things, and our parents can provide it, they’d do it for us. “Because you are our responsibilities, honey,” mom would say. “We want to make sure you can survive out there on your own.”
In a traditional Thai household, the “children” remain with their parents until they’re married, more or less. That is usually the only time the parents would let the kids fly solo. Well, solo as in independent of mom and dad.

No wonder us Thais do have a much stronger family bond and more respect for our parents. As you grow older, you realize just how hard they have to work for you to have the life you have. And it doesn’t end when you finish college either. It keeps going.

I still get support from my parents even now that I’m on my own. Dad refuses to have me contributing to the student loan payment. “It’s my responsibility to see you get the education you need to succeed,” he said. “Then when you make gazillion dollars with that education, you can buy me an Aston Martin.”

For Thai parents everywhere, especially my own, my deepest gratitude.

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