My Asian-American Perspective: How to deal at the dinner table this holiday season

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it combines two of the things I value most: food and family. Especially in my household, the standard Thanksgiving food, such as stuffing, shares the table with Vietnamese dishes, such as banh uot (thin Vietnamese pancake wrappers). (Steve Johnson /Flickr Creative Commons)

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it combines two of the things I value most: food and family. Especially in my household, the standard Thanksgiving food, such as stuffing, shares the table with Vietnamese dishes, such as banh uot (thin Vietnamese pancake wrappers).

Of course, at any Asian family gathering comes the barrage of questions about how you’re getting on in life and what kind of job you’re going to get out of college. These well-intentioned questions can be frustrating, so I’ve decided to address a few of them and offer potential responses. Some of these have come from personal experiences or experiences of friends, but all answers are intended to be humorous with a sprinkling of truth.

Do you have a boyfriend?

I had to put this question on the top of the list. It’s the question I get asked constantly. No, I don’t. I’m too busy hustling to pursue my dreams outside of the medical field. That means if I want to be successful, break expectations and recover from the family’s consequential crippling bout of disappointment about my not being a doctor, relationships are out of the question. The relationship I value most is the one with my family. Maybe all the boys are intimidated by me?

BUT do you know if anyone likes you? There must be someone, no?

Again, the expected follow-up question to the previous question. I know that there isn’t anyone that likes me romantically and if someone did, they better tell me straight up because, again, I’m hustling. Also, no, I am not interested in your best friend’s son, and I will never be available for a date with him. Ever.

How is school?

This question sucks. I’m here to stuff my face and play some ping pong. I’m sleeping more than I ever have now that I’m home and out of school for the time being. I could say, “It’s fine,” but that might actually be a lie. I won’t elaborate on the grades for now because I am positive that will be the next question.

How are your grades?

Oh, how did I guess what you were going to ask next? They’re fine. They’re good. I’m learning a lot of interesting concepts. Let me throw in a few smart words here and there to cement the fact that I’m not low-key dying and want to binge-eat everything on the table and then take a fat nap after. They’re enough to get me through college. There are good and bad days. Let’s just be glad that you can’t access my grades at the moment.

Are you eating enough at school? You look like you lost weight.

If snacks count, then I’m eating a decent amount at school. I’m not skipping breakfast though, since it’s the most important meal of the day. A coffee counts as a solid breakfast, right? But really, weren’t you just telling me last week that it looked like I was gaining weight and I could stand to lose a few pounds? I mean, you didn’t outright say it; you suggested that I potentially not eat what I put on my plate. I’m still going to eat the bao though. Maybe two of them. And the che? Definitely going to get a nice serving of that too because the dining hall version of Vietnamese food is comedic gold.

What are you studying? Can can you get a job right out of college?

In this case, it’s easier to just list your majors without going into detail. But, if you want to flex a little bit, especially to one-up your cousins or that other random kid that someone brought along to dinner, by all means open up the floodgates. As far as that job right out of college, don’t even mention the phrase “exploring your options” after graduation because that just means you apparently wasted four years of your life. It might be off to the family restaurant as a long-term option for you. Talk up the fact that you have a few internships potentially lined up and go from there. And if you don’t have anything lined up at the moment, start talking about a lecture that you went to and hopefully didn’t skip.

By all means, this is not a comprehensive list nor is it a tried and true method of deflecting these kinds of questions. However, annoying these questions may be, focus on the family gathered around you and the diverse ways families celebrate around this time of year. I, for one, will be enjoying my Thanksgiving stuffing and banh uot.


Kimberly Nguyen is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at kimberly.nguyen@uconn.edu.