Complex Pressures On ‘A Simple Man’ – “My rant about the Asian mentality toward housing. My getting married and having children is, to my parents, the sum total of my goal for existence. I can’t move out of Vancouver even if I want to.”

“I immigrated from Vietnam 14 years ago. We had about the same culture and mentality as Chinese people. My parents are both teachers, and teachers in Vietnam get paid peanuts. That is an issue that angers me, but I will not dwell on that. I just want to tell my perspective as well.

We came to Canada with practically no savings. My mother forbid me to sell the house in Vietnam to get some seed money. She would have a relative of ours stay there instead, because in her mentality, once a family (and by this I mean an extended bloodline of 20-30 people) acquires one or more houses, relinquishing it is unthinkable.

My parents have been working a full time job and a part time job for most of their time here, clocking in 60-70 hours a week average. Meanwhile I have been going through university, maintaining A to A+ grades and getting scholarships, while working 25 hours a week part time. I also work full time + part time (60-70 hours week) whenever not in school. I am not saying this out of arrogance. I burn away my health and lifespan to maintain this sort of productivity, and trust me, I am not happy living like this. And we also skimp our spending and lifestyle to completely unimaginable levels. I will spare you the details. But the alienation from my parents, family, and community in general is a worse alternative.

Our family did this so that we could buy a house in Vancouver as soon as we could so that I can get married. It sounds absurd to you but my getting married and having children is, to my parents, the sum total of my goal for existence. To understand how much weigh my parents place on marriage, children, and house, I will tell you the anecdote that I once sat through a 6-hour long lecture about the need for me to buy a house and court more girls the night before the final round interview for a 6-figure job (needless to say I did not get the job). [My friend] Julian [Lee] is quite civil in his post about this [VREAA, 7 Sept 2011], but his parents are also significantly more easy-going than mine, and so he had not felt the pressure to buy a house as keenly as I do. And yet, my parents are still a long way from the true “Asian fanatical parents” out there.

Neither Julian nor myself belong to the “rich and probably questionable Asian” group, by the way. Both of our families are honest, upper-middle class at best, and just very hard working.

I managed to buy a house in the end of 2005 and rent out half of the house. I have been comfortably paying down the mortgage for the last few years, but the story didn’t end here…

Recently, I told my parents that if I sell this place and buy in Surrey or Port Coquitlam, I would be able to get a much better house and yet pay off all the debts, and actually still have a bit of money to spare. I got a week-long lecture about how the location is far from the city center, dangerous (because it is far from the city center), etc. etc. I will spare you the details because it all doesn’t make much sense to me either. I know that my parents were just frightened with the prospect of giving up a house because it is, in the community and to my aunt’s family who also live in Vancouver, a lost of status.

I also told my parents that I would like to get a job in the US and live there. My parents then gave me another earful on how I am irresponsible and leave my old parents alone to deal with the renters in half of my house.

There you go, my rant about the Asian mentality toward housing. Perhaps a generation later, this mentality may fade. But right now, I can’t move out of Vancouver even if I want to. Julian and I had talked for a long time about the subject of Vancouver RE, and I suspect that he is as stuck in Vancouver as I am.”

(Afterthought: My parents bought their first house in Vietnam the same way, through ridiculous amount of hard work and sacrifice of lifestyle. They did this because, tada, my dad needed to prove to his own family that he could buy a house before marrying my mom.
To me, that attitude is nihilistic and, eh (let’s not insult my parents here) wisdom-challenged, but it is the attitude of a people, a society, immovable regardless of my wish.)

‘a simple man’, at VREAA, 9 Sep 2011, 1:18pm

Your’re obviously not that ‘simple’ a man. Many thanks for a story well told.
We trust that your satisfaction with life will increase, and that you’ll be able to eventually enjoy the results of your labours.
We suspect many readers have had experiences with parental ethics that allow us to empathize with you.
We hope that the extreme infatuation with home ownership that you describe in some individuals cools and moderates in the years to come. We’d venture that it is not good for a society to have such beliefs driving housing ownership costs to irrational levels. (Yes, we’re aware that this is a judgment call.)
We suspect these apparently firmly held beliefs will be significantly challenged when prices drop. Nobody, regardless of cultural background, likes assets that lose value. So, just how ‘immovable’ are those beliefs?
What has happened elsewhere in the world to individuals with this housing ethos, when markets have gone through crashes?
Any Vietnamese Dubliners or Chinese Las Vegans out there to share their experiences?
– vreaa

31 responses to “Complex Pressures On ‘A Simple Man’ – “My rant about the Asian mentality toward housing. My getting married and having children is, to my parents, the sum total of my goal for existence. I can’t move out of Vancouver even if I want to.”

  1. I’ll give you an anecdote from a Canadian-born relative. He’s in his ’70s and has a couple of kids. He was talking with his friends at the gym where he works out about real estate, one of his friends bought his kid a condo in 2005 and was “glad he did” because he didn’t know how anyone could afford buying at today’s prices. My relative is ruing he didn’t do the same for his kids so they could use the equity to buy a family-sized house.

    The interesting thing for me here was how surreal the conversation is, that you need to “get on the property ladder” to afford a family-oriented dwelling in the city, like saving for some years and bypassing the condo ownership stage is a non-starter. Let me assure you that the reasons for the property bubble transcends cultural divides!

    Oh and thanks asm for the great anecdote. I expect many reading here can relate, me included in my own way; will we have the same attitudes once our children reach adulthood, I wonder?

    • Let’s hope we won’t have this same sort of attitude and hold our children to the same demands… I have made it my personal goals to teach my children so that they grow up firstly happy and secondly reaching their full potential. And by that I mean to choose the path that they truly love, and just become incredibly good at it. I firmly believe that you don’t have to follow typically-prescribed life and career paths to have a good life. If you are supremely good at any one thing, or decently good at a bunch of things, then you can at least survive comfortably in this world. With that assumption, then why not allow a child to grow up and live doing what they want, where they want, so that they could smile for most of their lives instead of being exhausted, high-strung, and depressed?

      Ok last post of the day for me 🙂

      • Because then you have a much lower chance to be able to brag to everyone about how good a parent you are that your kid did this and that!

  2. 4SlicesofCheese

    The site is starting to become an second generation asian-male support group. I will share my story later on tonight.

  3. Ah yes, I wonder what my parents would do in a crashing market. My parents refuse to sell the house in VN even now, when that market is dropping. But it’s not dropping at a crashing rate yet, so that still doesn’t qualify as a true test for that immovable mentality. I did warn my mom that a 10% correction in Vancouver still means a $100k+ loss, but her response to that is “what if I sell this house and can’t find another that is as good?”

  4. Thanks for the comment. I feel for you — it sounds awkward and not supportive — especially right before an interview. Someone I know recently did an in-house with Amazon. I can’t image a six hour lecture the night before.

    My father was also a second gen child. Moved away when it became clear his future wife was not going to tolerate the situation.

  5. Sorry to hear about it but sometimes you just gotta say, it’s my life and I only have one to live. My parents are like that as well and my dad has told my wife that even after he has passed on, it is forbidden to sell our house! Even if we move to US, we are not allowed to sell it. He has said that we shall see his wisdom in the future even if we don’t see it now.

    So VREAA, the sad truth is that even if Vancouver RE price falls 75%, the parents/people as described by this letter writer and me will not change their view. My analogy has been if they believe 1+1=3, there is no amount of evidence, proof, math Nobel experts you can call in to convince them otherwise. The best you might get out of them is “we can agree to disagree but I’m right”.

    With respect to my advice to just say F*k it, let me give you an example of my experience when picking university program to major in. Like all good Chinese parents, my parents want me to go into Medicine, followed by Law and maybe Engineering if both options are out of question, even though in that case it really just means I’m a failure. Never mind that you have to get a Bachelor degree before you can get into medical or law school. So the engineer backup plan doesn’t really work. Never mind that medical school generally requires a lot of volunteering which he forbids me to do (his view, if you really need it, just do it 6 months before applying. But really 95% average wil guarantee you get in). Lastly never mind I have absolutely no interest in working as a doctor. So he was furious that I pick CompSci as my major and spend weeks telling me how bad and wrong this choice is and how I’m going to be ruining my life. All I have to say was that I was damn lucky I didn’t need parental signatures on my university application form! He would have never sign it!

    I put my foot down and ignored all his lectures. My sister helped out a bit too telling him it’s my decision and he should butt out. I went through the same thing again when I signed up for co-op program which would have delayed my graduation by a 1 year.

    The end result is that I now have a pretty good job, especially compared to a lot my of CompSci classmates thanks to the co-op program. If I had went into pre-med like my dad wanted, I would be extremely luck to have a steady job making half of what I’m making right now. My next plan is to leave Vancouver for greener pastures, hopefully extract out my portion of the house equity, and I’m sure I will have to go through the same thing.

    In the end it’s your life and despite the parental/social pressures, sometimes you just have to do what’s right for you, not others. No one is really going to care if you bust your health and life for a house that you will never get a chance to enjoy and die young. If they do regret well it’s still too late for you! If you have young kids, do you really want to work your ass off, die young, and leave them without a dad?

    • space889: “My next plan is to leave Vancouver for greener pastures”

      I highly recommend doing so. A degree in CompSci can get you great jobs and a wonderful lifestyle. But not in Vancouver.

      The tech capital of Canada right now is probably Waterloo. The cost of living (well, cost of houses) there is quite low.

      If you can get in to the US, even better. Working at a good tech company you can get awesome salaries and awesome healthcare. Plus there’s the cheaper cost of living and the cheap cost of housing (even Silicon Valley is cheaper than Vancouver). Once you look into it, you’ll find it’s hard to find reasons to stay in Vancouver, other than family & friends.

      • Well I really want to move into more finance related field (money is certainly a big draw too, but also just some longer term career plan as well). Vancouver is impossible to get into. No one will hire without the minimum 5 years direct experiences. So I’m hoping other places will be less strict, especially if they have need for people who need to know both finance and IT to do models and such.

        I thought about leave about 5 years but didn’t due to family and mortgage. Now that the mortgage is gone and my wife is open to moving, it’s something definitely to look into seriously, after the Jan bonus preferably!

  6. This seems a bit of a canard. These anecdotes do not a culture make. Total bollocks if you ask me that you have no say in your family dynamics. And this filial piety is a fundamental pricing factor for real estate?! I think I’m gonna give up on the van housing blogosphere. Geesh.

    Preferences are exogenous, let’s leave it out of our economic models.

  7. 中国人海外炒房胜算几何
    来源:经济参考报 2011年09月09日03:20我来说两句 (0) 复制链接打印大    吴学安












      投资海外房地产要想复制“中国式炒房”的财富效应几乎为零,一方面海外房价地价涨幅很小,升值的周期很长;另一方面,虽然国外没有土地出让金,房价也不高,但后续的房产税、物业费和公共服务费却是难以承受之重。譬如,在美国,购房经纪人要收取房款6%的服务费,两边经纪人各拿3%,验房费用每个州不一样,从几百到几千美元不等。美国每年收取1%到1.5%房产税,还有不菲的物业管理费用。像旧金山的土地税比例就基本维持在每年1 .2%左右,每3年可以调整一次,需要个人去申报。比如一套价值100万美元的房子,每年仅地税就有2万美元左右;在澳大利亚投资房地产也要支付四大项费用,即物业管理费、水务费用、市政费、土地税;英国成交额500万元人民币以内的房产,律师费大概是1.5万元人民币,另要支付一次性印花税,大概是房款的3%。即便房产升值了,投资客也未必就能独享其成,房价上涨的这部分收益在很多国家都要收取一定的个人所得税,美国的税率在20%到30%不等,澳大利亚则高达45%。




    • Translation, anyone?

    • Ok, suboptimal, but here is the ‘google translate’ translation.
      In future, Alice, please post in English, the ‘official’ language of VREAA:

      Chinese overseas real estate odds geometry
      Source: Economic Information Daily at 03:20 on September 9, 2011 Add a comment (0) copy the link to print large Wuxue An

      In China’s domestic real estate market bubble lovers, and some cities housing prices far beyond the capacity of most people in the context of large sums of money held by the hands of those who fought in overseas real estate investors in the market.

      Colliers International recently released a report that Chinese mainland investors to buy a house in Vancouver, Canada, the proportion continued to increase, the first quarter of this year, has reached 29%, compared with 25 percent last year, up 4 percentage points. Previously, agency statistics show, not including Hong Kong, 2010 years and more than 4,000 investors to buy overseas property sets, involving funds $ 2 billion, in other words, there are 13 billion yuan flowing into the overseas property market.

      Statistics show that China’s most popular national buyers followed by Canada, Australia, U.S., Singapore, UK, Germany. According to Colliers International said, Vancouver, Canada, London, England, Melbourne, Australia and other overseas Chinese, the city has become home of first choice.

      Why are there so many Chinese rich people spending billions of dollars in overseas real estate market? They buy a house abroad or appreciation of what is to live it?

      Analysis of the industry following main factors: on the one hand, to resist rising inflation nowadays. Domestic inflation still no signs of peaking, combined with constant appreciation of the yuan, many rich people to protect the value for money, began to consider overseas to look for investment opportunities; the other hand, some people buy a house abroad is mainly on account to find their children better educational opportunities, while others are looking for opportunities to immigrants. China’s investment overseas, the number of immigrants each year. Statistics show that last year, the mainland of China in Canada, the United States, Australia, three countries the number of immigrant visas more than 6,000 people, the highest in the world. Increased number of immigrants, making the Chinese real estate market is becoming increasingly important overseas customers.

      Although, because of immigration, consider studying overseas home buyers in China is still more, but more and more buyers the purpose of holding investments in properties overseas, the pursuit of assets and increase the value.

      With China’s real estate speculators figure, part of the national trend of rising house prices have begun to appear, the Chinese investors to become “the most undesirable” foreigners. Colliers International said in a report in the past 2010 years, as home to a large number of Chinese people in Vancouver’s housing prices have gone up 12%. Canadian Real Estate Association report released in May in Vancouver in April this year, but prices rose 10 percent year on year.

      Chinese private capital has long been a lack of international investment experience, which led to overseas investors to buy a house with real estate is still in the country of habitual thinking. This determines the success rate of overseas real estate, still in a very low level. Particularly in the “buy will be able to make” this speculation mentality engaged in overseas real estate market, it is likely took a plunge. As more and more people are interested in overseas real estate investment, the risk that often accompanies attract more attention.

      In fact, the “Chinese real estate,” this model is in a foreign country it is not feasible. Take the current hot new people overseas real estate in Germany, for example, about 6 percent of Germans do not own homes, most of them like rental housing, because the German law on the protection of renters are particularly robust, tenants can use high quality low cost rental of the house, which does not restrict the value of housing up. Over the years, the annual price growth in Germany only 2 to 3 percentage points, the house does not have investment value.

      In the Chinese diaspora, National Australia real estate, another hot spot for real estate speculators who pushed up house prices is not only to raise interest rates and other economic measures, and the government in the first half of 2010, publicly declared to ensure that no foreign speculators Australia will push up prices. It was reported that Australia’s overseas investment has begun investigating the case, if the property was hoarding, there will be fines and even jail.

      The more the Chinese immigrants in Canada, although house prices in recent years cities have a 10 year to 20 percent rise, but mostly driven by overseas migration results from the return on investment, said there is not much investment value, because Canadian natives, renters, more and more. In Canada, if you buy a house, management fees, property taxes, insurance, maintenance costs are no small expenditure, but what do not have rent control and rent is not too high. Rent, buy a house which cost, at a glance.

      Investment overseas property in order to copy the “Chinese-style real estate” wealth effect is almost zero, while land prices rose overseas small appreciation of the cycle is very long; the other hand, although there is no foreign land transfer, house prices have not high, but the subsequent property tax, property costs, and public service charges is an unbearable burden. For example, in the United States, buyers agent, housing fund to be charged a 6% service charge, 3% in each hand on both sides of brokers, home inspection costs for each state is different, from several hundred to several thousand dollars. U.S. annual fee of 1% to 1.5% of property taxes, as well as a lot of money to property management costs. San Francisco, the land tax as the proportion of remaining at about 1.2 percent per year, can be adjusted once every three years, requires individuals to declare. For example a house worth $ 1 million in annual rent only have $ 20,000; invest in real estate in Australia have to pay the four charges, namely, property management fees, water fees, municipal fees, land tax; UK turnover 5 million yuan less than the real estate, legal costs about 1.5 million yuan, the other one-off stamp duty to pay, about 3% of the housing fund. Even real estate appreciation, and investors may not be able to become its exclusive, housing prices in many countries, this part of the proceeds to be a certain amount of personal income tax, the U.S. tax rate of 20% to 30%, and Australia is as high as 45 %.

      Higher income, lower housing prices, high quality educational resources, life is a lot of people and jobs to overseas buyers of the drivers. Out of control in relation to China’s domestic prices, the developed countries and regions, real estate investment has been relatively rational, the overall prices at a reasonable level, people for some preparation in terms of immigration, the purchase of an overseas property is as good as a proper investment. However, if based on the experience of real estate speculation in the domestic foreign investment in real estate, may eventually be worth the candle.

      Overseas investment property is not can not but have a huge risk. Most investors in China’s domestic investment in real estate have tasted the sweetness of the future, look forward to replicate overseas miracle. However, foreign real estate investments are not the same with the country, if the experience in the country to buy foreign real estate investment house, may eventually fail. China’s housing market is currently surviving with the “demographic dividend” in the background is different from the foreign city of limited space, real estate appreciation of the limited space, the investment return is far less than the cost of investment. Especially the foreign government would not shield the housing market speculation, if house prices soared as speculation emerged that the Government will certainly suppress the introduction of appropriate policies, investors face a high risk of policy risk.

      (Manuscript in this section reflect the authors personal views only, does not mean the newspaper stand)

      • “Domestic inflation still no signs of peaking, combined with constant appreciation of the yuan, many rich people to protect the value for money, began to consider overseas to look for investment opportunities;”

        yeah – this is something to consider. Inflation is a problem for China right now because China is refusing to float the yuan. As long as Vancouver housing prices go up it’ll look like a good investment. If it goes down, not so much.

        Once China stops floating the yuan this inflation will go down along with the desire to find foreign real estate investments as a hedge.

  8. Funny, actually my wife is Asian, and her parents(mostly mother) support us staying in Calgary. They realize we have a better standard of living and have jobs we like in our field.

  9. Man up you whiners. Are you gonna start complaining about white men stealing our women next?

  10. Do you live for you or do you live to make your parents happy? Only you can answer that question.

  11. dont ever sell your house or you are not getting any more lollipops from mom again!
    You can whine all you want now but you will thank your parents later.

  12. I think you need to man up an tell your parent’s shut up and sit down so that that they can see what a real son is supposed to look like. Then go out and find some nice Vietnamese hoties and say, “I have a house in Vancouver, and one in Vietnam…. now take off your clothes!”

    The world is your oyster – your parents have to be kept in line!

    • LOL, that is hilarious man. In his case I think his parents will simply cut off all relations to him. I don’t think he can tolerate that unfortunately. It’s the way we were brought up, to take our parents’ sayings into heavy consideration. We can’t simply tell them to “shut up and sit down”.

    • Life is not as simple as just “man up”. Otherwise why not stop complaining about Vancouver RE price and just “man up” and go out robbing a bank.

  13. As the author said, he values the sense of community belonging. However, if he is doing an activity that may yield a six figure salary at some point he should ‘grow a pair’. Your community will not exorcise you if some of your extra cash flows back to community (as compared to selfish or family based) needs. Make donations to a local childcare facility, every parent in the place will consider you their friend. Host community gatherings in a local park and use your extra cash to pay for entertainment or food. Direct, local action in your community will greatly increase the status of your family more than any piece of dirt you happen to rent from a bank.

  14. Great story “simple man” .. I can totally relate! What would be a great idea is to start a VREAA Meetup group so that we can share these stories over a few beers (or cups of tea or whatever!). What do you think?

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