What It’s Like To Grow Up Privileged In A Developing Nation

Unsplash / Bady QB

When you live in a first world country, everybody seems equal. Yes, you still feel the social hierarchy, but you don’t mind sitting next to strangers on the bus just because they’re “working class”.

You would, if you live where I live. Oh wait, we’re not even allowed to ride public buses on our own.

I was raised in a privileged family. We weren’t living the Trump life, but we certainly lived like Kendall Jenner and didn’t know how to do our own laundry until the age of 21.

The most absurd thing is our bank account says we’re not as rich as the Kardashian-Jenner clan, though we could afford to hire two drivers, a cook and three housekeeping ladies — plus a gardener.

Why? Because everything here is so cheap. Labor is cheap. The value they put on a man’s hard earned sweat is but a penny.

That means all the basic-life-skills jobs were left to the working class and all we do is lay on our bed, waiting for our servants to make us breakfast. We even have people picking out fruits for us when we go to a supermarket. That makes us lazy, spoiled brats who are too good to work the simple job.

You know that “no job is too small” mentality? Apparently all jobs are too small here.

I remember telling my mother I wanted to be a photographer and she replied, “But that’s a job for the low class?” Seriously — we even have a term for people working the low class jobs.

Unlike most teens in America, we weren’t allowed to work part time as waiters or bookshop clerks because our parents thought we were simply “too good” for them. Are we, though?

I was raised with the boss mentality, meaning that my parents imprinted the idea that I would never have to work a day in my life for other people. I was destined to inherit their precious company, and so did a lot of my friends in the Chinese-Indonesian community. What’s even more absurd and baffling is that most of our parents’ businesses aren’t exactly like Paris Hilton’s hotel clan. We have a business, it’s doing well above average, we’re making money, but it also operates in an industry on the verge of dying. Our businesses only survived because we were living in a third world country.

My family owns a business where we distribute products from multinational companies to little shops in rural areas — and I mean tiny shops. Basically, we deliver the goods to the places the big guys can’t reach.

It wasn’t until chain minimarkets started quadrupling in rural areas and villages that my father’s business became threatened. My father always said that once our country starts becoming more developed, our business is doomed. So why force your kids to work in a business doomed to die, dad?

The answer: pride.

We, Chinese descendants living in Indonesia, have always felt superior to the natives — at least, that’s what I’ve been told all my life by everyone in my cute little group of alpha race. Logically, that makes no sense at all, since we’re basically immigrants living off the Indonesian land. All my life I’ve been told that we are better than “them” because:

  1. We are fair-skinned and they are what we call “dirty and scruffy”.
  2. We are smarter and well educated — though with a 53.45% poverty rate here, we can’t really blame them for not being able to afford school.
  3. We’ve got this “Chinese hard worker” mentality and work so much more tirelessly than the natives do. Read: we think they’re lazy af.
  4. Since we work so hard and make so much money, we can afford to employ  the natives and therefore they are our inferiors.
  5. We are of superior genes and should therefore not socialize, befriend or, God forbid, marry one of them. I remember my parents being so scared that if I or any of their family members “socialized” too much with the natives, we would end up marrying one — blending in is not a choice here.

It didn’t help that as children, we were constantly exposed to media reporting crimes committed by the natives. It created this misconception in our heads that they were dirty, perverted, rude and violent — all of which are very subjective claims. I have a lot of friends who are native Indonesians and I, for one, can tell you that they are some of the most tolerant, intelligent people I’ve ever met — but then again, I went to a very open minded and culturally diverse school. What made it worse is that no women of Chinese descent will ever feel safe roaming around the cities on her own because we are constantly being sexually, verbally and sometimes even physically asaulted by all the native men we walk by.

Technically, there’s a justifiable reason for why the Chinese-Indonesian are so distant to native Indonesians. Our grandparents fled from Mainland China in the hopes of creating a better living. They found a home here and built their wealth from zero, most of which are in the form of family owned shops and pedlar businesses. We lived alongside the natives, but we never really “lived” with them. Call it cultural differences, language barriers, social grouping tendencies, ethnic nepotism — we just preferred grouping with our own.

Our barely existent relationship with Indonesian natives hit rock bottom when a 1998 riot against communism puts Chinese-Indonesians to blame and blacksheeped the hell out of us. Our businesses were raided, women and children were raped and molested and we lost our homes for things we never did.

Which brings us back to why “all jobs are too small” for Chinese-Indonesian children, according to our parents. They started from zero and built a family empire with their own hard earned sweat, but we third-generation babies were born with silver spoons in our mouths and our parents must’ve sworn that we would never have to live a life of drudgery. We started on top and never knew what climbing up from the bottom was like.

Call them overprotective, overbearing and spoiling their kids, but that’s how we were raised. We weren’t allowed to explore jobs as creatively because of social and racial gaps. We weren’t allowed to do the typical work because we’ve got our “inferior” friends who’ll do that for us. That leaves us with a very narrow scope of job, and unlike what most Asian parents want for their kids, we weren’t expected to become doctors. We were groomed to become our own boss in a family owned company, and we were groomed very poorly.

To me, at least, I believe we’d swim better when we’re forced to dive in the sea — but we’ll never explore the true depths of sea, simply because we were told that we are way too high up for it. TC mark

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