Turn on any wholesome television show and you’ll see a display of family affection through hugs, kisses and “I love yous.”
Although this might seem very normal to Americans, it is considered rather odd and uncomfortable to many Asian families. The reason for this all comes down to a difference in culture. The majority of Asian families just do not casually exchange words of affection with one another.
For some Asian families, saying “I love you” is so unheard of, it can even be considered taboo.
On Sept. 23, Asian American YouTuber, Steven Lim, released a video documenting several young college-attending Asian Americans saying “I love you” to their parents.
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The video captures Annie Gu, Justin Lu, Spurthi Reddy, Jon Sun, as well as Lim himself, calling their parents to express their appreciation for all of the love and care they have received from them. What happens next will melt your heart.
Prior to starting the experiment, the video participants were asked if they have ever said, “I love you” to their parents. Most of the responses reflected that they rarely say it or have not said it in a long time. For one of the cases in particular, a participant revealed that she had never said “I love you” to her parents before. Never. Shocking, right? Not really. Well, at least not to those who were raised by Asian parents.
When asked why the participants do not exchange “I love yous” more often to their parents, every single one of them explained that it was because their parents do not say it to them. One of the participants in the video also pointed out a key reason, “I speak Telugu, which is a dialect that is spoken in South India. In the language, there is a way to say, “I love you’, but it’s generally used more in terms of lovers, not between family members.”
This explains that, apart from the cultural difference, there is also a language difference that hinders the ability for Asian families to verbally express love with one another.
The way American love is portrayed through media sends the message that love is confrontational, that it is meant to be put into words and said out loud. In Asian households, openly confronting one’s emotions sets a very awkward tone, the kind of tone that could make even the dog uncomfortable.
Instead, “I love you” is expressed in other forms. Perhaps it is your mother cooking soup for you when you are sick, or when your father lectures you for an hour about a mistake he hopes you do not make. It is also said when your parents call you and ask you if you need more money or when you are reminded to drive safely and eat more.
There is an unspoken rule among Asian families, which can be simplified to this short phrase: Love is assumed.
Of course, each individual family has its own interpretation of love, but for the majority of Asian families, love is best expressed in subtle ways.
Although many Asian Americans cannot relate to how their non-Asian friends interact with their families, they do not feel any less loved. Love is shown through actions and appreciated within. Therefore the assumption of love always exists, with no one feeling the need to comment on it.
Lim’s video, “Asian Parents React to ‘I Love You’ ” definitely tugs at your heartstrings and makes you want to go home and say, “I love you” to your own parents.
In describing his experience editing the video, Lim posted, “Something Justin’s mom said really stuck to me. She says something to the effect of ‘You should say “I love you” more.’ And it’s strange to hear that coming from someone who rarely said ‘I love you’ to their kid growing up...but the more I thought about the implications of her saying that, the more I realized how important it is to stop and feel what we are feeling. And then make sure to turn around and tell the people we love and appreciate that we love and appreciate them.”
It doesn’t matter how you choose to express love, as long as you remember to let the ones close to you know. It’s enough to make them smile and say, “I love you, too.”