“So, schnitzel and salad huh? I bet your mum cooks more exotic food than this for you at home …”
If you ever want to put off a Filipino girl from free lunch at work, broach the subject of her residential status.
It’s not like such a statement is incorrect. In truth, my colleague deserves a prize for her clear powers of perception into my mum’s culinary skills. Nevertheless, it’s the two assumptions behind the statement, forming my image, which is the source of all awkwardness:
1. I am a 20-something, junior staff member. This slots me into the great socio-demographic pigeon-hole that is ‘Generation Y’, a cohort so notorious for their apparent crimes of egotism, mindless consumerism, and consummate ideological flakiness;
2. I am an Asian migrant female. This status is so mysterious in the eyes of contemporary Western society, with the exception of the generalised idea that we live for our families until we get married or die an old maid.
Whether individually or combined, these two stereotypes point to one great assumption: I choose to live at home with my parents because it’s one heck of an easy life. But it appears I’m not alone being typecast.
Everyday, there’s many of us Gen Ys made to feel guilty for staying at our parents’ home. Such a feeling is perhaps unintentionally absorbed from what “informed” sources of knowledge hypothesese about us (yes, you, Mx newspaper). Nevertheless, perhaps the best way to understand why Gen Y (and more importantly why us Gen Y Filipinas) choose to stay home is by looking at our own experiences.
The crux of Gen Y’s mystery is this: we are a product of our time and environment. We are not a phenomenon unto ourselves. In fact, we’re not that great.
The most obvious reason why our cohort chooses to stay at home is because it’s just geographically logical to do so. Living in a country where the population is concentrated along the coastal regions, we don’t have to travel very far to go to our choice of school, university or work. Inevitably, therefore, two things distinguish life as an Australian Gen Y: suburban living and commuting.
When there’s relatively reliable public transport to take you where you have to be everyday, what’s the point of moving?
Which leads me to the next presumption: Gen Yers have to be financially endowed if Mum and Dad are paying for the living expenses (“at the cost of their retirement savings”, as the clever folk from Today Tonight would add). This myth is somewhat true – most parents choose to foot the bill over the house because they know that the fiscal activities of their Gen Y progeny revolve around the 2 C’s: casual employment and Centrelink payments.
Newsflash: us Generation Y are not rich.
Most of us are fresh out of university trying to enter the wonderful world of work, only to find there’s a “No Vacancy” sign. Reality at age 23 has also not lived up to the expectations at age 13 – sure we’ve got that law degree, the car, the job, but we didn’t expect the whopping HELP fees, increased petrol prices, and recession to boot.
So in the midst of turbulent change that all people must become accustomed to (least of all Gen Y), is it wrong to want help if it is offered? As we’ve learned the hard way, sometimes survival is more important than pride.
On a more philosophical note, many assume that the main purpose of “fleeing the nest” is for the Generation Y wo/man-child to finally grow up: to form their own adult identity and become more responsible for their own actions. Perhaps these academics and TV sitcom writers are correct. Or not.
Hands up all those Gen Y readers who can say they are from a migrant background or a community group. Keep your hands up if you live at home (it’s okay, nobody knows what you’re reading, so your secret is safe with us). You’d be surprised how many of us admit to being one, if not all of the above.
Most likely the reason we stay in touch with our migrant heritage or participate in the community is because we choose to live at home. We prefer to stay because this is where most of our passions lie: our family, our extended family, our church … our Filipino grocery stores. For us Generation Y Filipinos, being part of this community is intrinsic to how we define ourselves, both in the past and even in our present 20-something years of life. This is a way to form an identity, and a very strong one at that.
So yes, perhaps my reputation as a Filipina Gen Y precedes me. If you ask why I still live at home, you’ll realise that it’s a personal choice – an informed one subject to where and who I am at this point in time. My choices may seem to contradict the so-called greatness of Gen Yers, but should that turn me off my schnitzel? I think not.
By Dominique Briones