Asian Parenting: You Can’t Have Fun. Learning is Hard Work.

Where you feel guilty for having fun at all.

Coming out of the pool, I felt invisible. Finally, I had learned how to breathe swimming freestyle. It was something I thought I’d never be able to do due to my childhood trauma with a particular swim coach. Because of him, I dreaded going to swim lesson in grade 4.

As I reached for the towel, my eyes fell on a text notification…

He: Yeah, she can’t wait to grow our backyard dog grooming business. The dentist nurse job pisses her off on a daily basis. How are you anyway?

Me: Good. Great! I finally learned how to swim properly! You have no idea. It’s something I thought I’d never be able to achieve in my lifetime!

He: Swim? You never did it for fun when you were little?

Me: No! For fun? What do you mean? Learning is not supposed to be fun! We had to go to lessons and I dreaded them.

He: But if you didn’t have fun, why did you continue?

Photo by Marcelo Uva on Unsplash


Growing up in Taiwan, I never associated learning with fun.

Playing the piano, doing abacus practices, and taking English classes filled my time after school.

They were not enjoyable activities for me. I did them for a purpose, and that’s for the skills.


On those breezy summer days, I like to “work from home” at a cafe with patio tables. Unfortunately, the cafe we chose on this beautiful Wednesday served us mediocre lattes, too creamy.

Stealing a glance at him behind the laptop, I prompted…

Me: Have you replied your dad?

He: No, I’m still thinking about what to say. *looked up from his phone*

Me: Did you send him pictures of those trips to the lake? *wiping the water off my glass*

He: No… *face reluctant*

Me: Why not? Wouldn’t your parents want to see all those fun places you’ve been on working holiday? They’ve never been to Canada, right?

He: No, but… *sigh*

I knew he had more to say so I kept quiet.

He: You know… Japanese parents… for them, I’m here to learn English. I’m not supposed to have fun, because it shows that I’m not putting all my effort into learning. That’s why I also didn’t send them pictures when I was in Australia. *seemingly embarrassed*

Photo by Ivan Shilov on Unsplash


Fun is playing video games, watching movies, and all the other activities deemed time-wasting for my parents.

Learning is hard work, because you need the skills to get ahead.

It is for survival.

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