What I Learned From My Chinoy Grandparents

Grandparents are an endless source of wisdom, regardless of whether they are a significant part of your lives or if you didn’t get the chance to spend much time with them. The lessons they teach are the ones that will stick with you throughout your life because even if they are no longer around, their words of wisdom trickle down to your parents and will most likely be passed on to your children as well. So in honor of Grandparents Day, here are some important life lessons I learned from my Chinoy grandparents.


  • Save money but don’t be too thrifty

Chinoys are always known to be money-wise, so surely everyone’s grandparents would have at least one teaching related to money. For me, my grandfather always told my mother that money won’t disappear if you keep it, so there’s no reason to be spending it all every month as if it’s your last day on Earth. However, you shouldn’t just keep all your money like a dragon hoarding a pile of treasure. You should indulge once in a while if you have the means to because otherwise, you would end up feeling miserable if you work endlessly without spending for yourself. You should also find ways to make your money grow rather than letting it sit untouched in a bank account. 


  • Learn new skills while you’re still young

Precisely, my grandmother would say that skillful people will always be stressed while less skillful people live a relaxed life. In an ideal world, the latter sounds more appealing, but in the case of the real world where the job market is getting increasingly competitive, “stress” is an indicator of success while “a relaxed life” usually means unemployment. In a way, my grandmother was just telling her children to learn as many skills as they can while they’re still young so they wouldn’t have to worry about unemployment in the future.


  • Don’t waste food 

This might seem like a relatively straightforward and obvious teaching, but there are many aspects in our society that normalizes food waste. You can read more about that here, but the general gist is that every grain of rice is equivalent to wealth, so we should appreciate every bite instead of letting it go to waste. There are a lot of people who can’t even afford to eat three meals a day, so we shouldn’t take food for granted. The same applies to things that you no longer want. If they’re still in perfectly good condition, then someone else might want them, so it’s better to donate them instead of throwing them away.


  • There’s always room for improvement

Perhaps the biggest Asian stereotype is that your parents or grandparents always expect you to get A’s. and perfect scores. For some, this might be a stereotype, but for me, it’s true. When I was a kid, I would only get rewards from my grandmother when I score 100% and never when I score 95% even though it’s already good enough for my standards. This could have easily evolved into a toxic mentality of striving for perfection, but the lesson I got from it is that there’s always room for improvement. If you score 95%, there’s still an extra 5% margin for you to do better, and even if you score 100% in a test, there are other people who get perfect scores for multiple tests. In short, there are always going to be people who are better than you, so you shouldn’t act like you’re superior just because of one achievement. There’s always room for improvement, so we should focus on improving rather than striving to be on top.


  • Respect other people regardless of your social status

This is related to the last point. Just because you’re smarter, wealthier or more successful doesn’t mean you’re above everyone else, so you don’t have the right to mistreat people just because you think you’re on top. This seems like another obvious lesson, but you would be surprised at how many people would willingly trample over others simply because they have more than them. Our society isn’t a food chain. There’s no predator and prey here, only humans, so it’s important to remind ourselves to be humble every time we reach a new milestone,


  • Be willing to wait and let others go first

This point is best illustrated during family gatherings. Family gatherings are an exercise of courtesy and patience because you wouldn’t want to be the first one to reach for the food the moment it is served on the lazy susan. Instead, you would let the elders go first, and there are times when the elders would even pass it back to you, and it turns into a game of rotating the lazy susan around until someone caves and gets the food first. This might seem pointless since all of us are going to get food in the end, but my grandfather always stressed the importance of waiting and letting others go first because, again, we are not above everyone else. We shouldn’t expect to be served immediately–we shouldn’t expect to never have to fall in line because we’re not kings or deities whose time is more valuable than everyone else’s.


What valuable lessons did you learn from your grandparents? Feel free to share them in the comments!

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