My name is Feluda and I live at home with my parents.
As an Indian man, saying the above is not something to be embarrassed about. If you are Indian and male, you are allowed to live at home until well into your 30s as part of an exchange of care. You are allowed to have your pants washed, have all your cooking done for you, then get trays removed as you perch your legs on the sofa to watch TV (unless your mum is hogging the TV, as is normally the case). And your parents get you to help them out. But I’m not sure this agreement is seen as positively as it once might have been.
An elderly English man I know said he thought it was normal in Asian culture for children to live with their parents longer than their white equivalents (though thanks to rising property prices and other economic factors, everyone is staying longer at home.) An Asian friend of mine has never moved out, and until recently, was still sharing a room with his younger brother – he can’t see why it’s an issue. Then there was my last landlord, who lived in the house with me and two flatmates, but despite being over 40, went home every night to eat a meal cooked by his mum.
In case you’re wondering, I have left the nest before. After I graduated, as soon as I found work, I was out the door. It was the right thing to do. I love my parents dearly but feel our relationship is healthier with a bit of distance between us. But the year before last, I had to move back after the end of a contract, and haven’t left since. Is it ideal? No. Do I want to move out? Yes. But right now however, that’s proving a little difficult. And I’m wondering if some of the stigma of living with your parents should be removed.
Now, to be clear, although I do live with my parents, I like to think I don’t demand much. I help with the shopping, cook a few times a week, I do my own washing, mainly as I don’t want to feel I’m a teenager again. They ask a few too many questions about where I’m going, possibly the result of overdosing on interrogation methods seen in TV-detective dramas, but that’s parents for you. Asian parents get a lot of stick for their overbearing nature, but they’re also just trying to be good parents, and often can’t help their anxieties spilling over. They’re still parents at the end of the day. Worrying is not a trait exclusive to Asian mums and dads.
While I have my own bugbears to deal with regarding being at home again, it’s the reactions from everyone else that have been most interesting. By and large, the reaction from white people is light mockery and incredulity. Relatives respond with a mix of concern, worry and judgement - everyone knows someone that has never quite left the nest. Speaking to Asian friends, they tend to have a similar response. Apart from the friend still sharing a room with his younger sibling (they both have good paying jobs, they seem to just believe in everyone living together), I know others who have never stepped away from the homes they grew up in. And in some ways, this is admirable.
Attempting to keep the traditional extended family unit alive and well in 2012, in England - probably one of the least family-friendly countries in Europe - when the dominant culture has quite a different attitude, is actually quite brave (though I fear for the sanity and emotional wellbeing of those in this situation, no matter how proud a face they might put on when defending the setup to those who can’t understand why anyone would want to live with six of their in-laws all under one roof).
Telling women you want to date that you still live at home is also something some men might not care about, but it does give me pause. Some understand. Some give a look of pity or disbelief. A few, amazingly, don’t appear to mind. But you have to hope they have a place of their own or any attempt at intimacy will be a bit of a struggle (unless they are really into PDA). This could be the best argument for having my own space.
But a few privacy issues aside, is there anything that bad about living at home? Single people already take up too many homes in cities like London. What’s so wrong with living with an elderly couple (who just happen to be your parents)?