Amazing things come out of trips — even more so when visiting family in Asia.
The familial ties, the comfort foods from childhood, and being closer to your roots add to that experience. But along with all these positives, there comes drawbacks and issues to anticipate for.
Here are five key advice when it comes to visiting family in Asia. Consider it a checklist for a very specific type of survival.
Advice 1: Be Prepared for Questions About Your Relationship Status
“Are you dating someone?” This will be the first question your relatives will ask, and an unavoidable reality of visiting family in Asia when you’re single.
Be prepared with a witty answer. My go-to is that I’m far too charming to be settling down right now. All families are different, and if you have relatives that are aggressively inquisitive and you’re desperate to avoid scrutiny, there are always Rent-A-Relationship services.
If you’re in a relationship, be prepared to have photos as proof. And sorry, you still can’t escape follow-up questions such as, “When are you getting married?” or “When are you going to have kids?”
If you’re so bold to travel with your significant other on this trip, prep them ahead of time. They need to know that these questions will be asked — and get your stories straight in order to attend family dinners as a unified team.
Advice 2: Plan For Extra Luggage Space
When packing for the trip, a general rule of thumb is to always save some space in your luggage. You never know when you will come across affordable clothes from the street markets (I’m looking at you “5 shirts for $10” hawker lady) or sales you definitely can’t find in North America.
You might also be tasked with bringing souvenirs for your family back home or having to load up on snacks that are only available in Asia.
Pro-Tip: Pack one suitcase as you would and then fit it inside an even larger suitcase — giving you an empty suitcase to use on the way back home, just in case. If that doesn’t work out and you’re in Hong Kong, buy a red-white-blue bag at the street markets. It cost around $3, and since you haggled down the price of those shirts to $7, you have money to spare.
Advice 3: Know What To Call Your Relatives
Knowing what to call your relatives can be a complex minefield to navigate. Your aunt is not just your “aunt” — she has a specific title if she’s from your mother’s side or your father’s side. Is this aunt an older or younger than your parent? There are so many titles.
About 50 per cent of all the anxiety that comes with visiting family is figuring out what to call them and how to say their title without a North American accent. Because even if you get the title right, be prepared for them to still make fun of how you say it.
Do research beforehand and ask your parents for a cheat sheet. Even better, ask them to send you a voice note on the proper pronunciation.
If all else fails, defer to the generic terms of “auntie” and “uncle”. It’s a lose-lose situation, but at least this way, you lose a little less.
Advice 4: Remind Yourself You’re Perfect As You Are
To relatives who haven’t seen you in a while, your current appearance is never quite the same as they remembered.
All they are saying is that you have room for improvement (especially when they use the term “big boned”) It comes from a place of love, we assume, and their suggestions are always related to either eating more or eating less.
The only advice is to be emotionally prepared for these comments and to remind yourself that — and our boy Bruno Mars said it best — you’re perfect just the way you are.
Advice 5: Prep Your Appetite
Most of your trip will be spent eating. If you’re visiting family, it’s a given that most of your meals are already pre-booked before you land. That’s a good thing! This is how families show love for their foreign relatives.
In-between meals, there are always some restaurants or food items that your relatives insist that you try. “You can’t get it in North America,” they say. (Think soufflé pancakes circa 2018).
And when you do go, expect to wait in-line — which is a good sign that the food is legit. So wear comfortable shoes, bring a friend, and do research on must-tries beforehand. If you’re going to wait, you might as well wait for the best.
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