Familial Interrogations: Why Are They So Kaypoh?

CNY is here. Brace yourself for the “Still studying ah?”, “When are you going to get married?” and “Not planning to have your first baby, ah?”.

  • Saturday, 21 January 2017
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Familial Interrogations: Why Are They So Kaypoh?
It’s the first day of the year of the fire chicken, and there you are, all set to lose your savings over the annual cousins’ gambling tournament. You bump into an aunt you haven’t seen in years. And then it begins. The dreaded interrogation. “So are you still studying?” “Working already ah?” “Which company are you attached to?” and sometimes even “How much is your salary?” The inevitable one, of course, is “So when are you planning to get married? Don’t wait too long lah”. If you have a positive answer to that one, you know what’s coming next – “Any good news?”

We’ve all been there, cornered into answering a barrage of private questions which we don’t always have the answers for. All of us have been tempted to tell them to MYOB, and in our spare time, we have all thought of some nasty responses we can give these interrogators, never really having the guts to do so in person. Those brave souls who have stood up for themselves have been given dirty looks and accused of bad upbringing.

A topic that is infrequently discussed is what goes on in these people’s heads when they ask you what your salary is, or when you plan to tie the knot. Why ask such personal questions? There has to be more to it than being a busybody, right? Here are a few reasons why these silly questions are asked, and how to dodge them:

As a comparison to how they or their offspring is doing in life

If you’re Malaysian, you would know that a common trait encoded into our Asian DNA is to compare. We feel the need to compare and contrast every achievement, milestone and successful undertaking with another person. Another faction notorious for this trait are kiasu parents, who sometimes even compare their children’ kindergarten performance with their peers.

Sample Question: So have you completed your degree programme? My daughter just finished her Masters and is currently pursuing her PhD, all in the UK!
Your Mind Voice: Oh, that’s good, Aunty. I heard she had no choice but for you and Uncle to pay for her to further her studies because she couldn’t secure a job over there?
Your Actual Answer: Good for her, Aunty! You must be very proud! When will you be visiting her? *Notice how you evaded the question entirely, and redirected it towards the interrogator*

Small talk

No surprise here, one thing that many of us are uncomfortable with is the awkward silence. This discomfort has led to many mundane discussions about the local weather, recent calamities (US presidential elections) and getting to know the person beside you. What better way to get someone talking than to ask them questions about themselves, right?

Image: Reddit
Sample Question: So when do you plan on getting married?
Your Mind Voice: When you agree to finance my wedding ceremony, reception, honeymoon and cover the down payment for my first house.
Your Actual Answer: I’ll let you know when I do. You’re on the top of my invitation list, don’t worry. *Put an end to the conversation, resume the awkward silence and move away*

People are addicted to labels

People love labels. We are guilty of this ourselves. We try to slap them onto anything and everything that we encounter, be it food, an inanimate object or, our favourite, a person. Humans feel the need to classify everything that comes into our lives into separate excel sheets in the MS Office of the mind. The next time someone tries to interrogate you, just remember that they’re trying to figure out which sheet, row and column you belong in.

Sample Question: So have you moved out?
Your Mind Voice: No, please file me under unemployed, single and living with parents.
Your Answer: Nope, I want to spend as much time as possible with my parents. *Confuse them with sentiments, they can’t say anything against that*


A handful of people genuinely want to know what you’re doing with your life for networking purposes. To be crude, this would enable them to identify how you could be of use to them in the future. After all, according to Robert Kiyosaki (that famous man who wrote Rich Dad Poor Dad), the richest people in the world build networks, and everyone else just looks for a job.

Image: Giphy
Sample Question: So where have you invested your money? I have an excellent investment opportunity for you!
Your Mind Voice: No, I don’t want to buy non-existent bars of gold, nor do I want to invest in a forex company that is blacklisted, and I certainly don’t need any chlorophyll or stem cells in my system!
Your Actual Answer: Thank you. Give me your name card and I will let you know once I’m ready to invest. *Never give out your details no matter how much they press you, ask for theirs instead, it could be useful someday*

To make themselves feel better

We’ve all felt that pang of gratitude (or pride) when we hear that someone else is out there looking for a job desperately, and here we are in our comfortable cubicles with our EPF and other cushy benefits in tow. For a moment, we forget about our repulsive boss and the long, exhausting work hours. The same logic applies to the interrogators. It is a way of self soothing. These interrogators want to forget about their own problems for a minute as they can focus on someone else’s.

Image: Giphy
Sample Question: What do you mean you’re taking a year off before starting work? If I had waited I wouldn’t be where I am today!
Your Mind Voice: Am I asking you to finance me during this period?
Your Actual Answer: I’m going to be working for the next 35 years, and I don’t see any harm in taking a year off before I embark on that journey. *Speak with conviction, even if you are unsure of your decision. Only that will shut these interrogators up*

Genuine concern

Sure, a handful of people ask how you’re doing because they really care about you. These are the few sincere people in your life who may not be as involved as your inner circle, but they really do want the best for you. If you have someone asking you questions for this reason, you are luckier than you think, as this might even open some doors for you!

Image: Giphy
Sample Question: You’re STILL looking for a job? Haven’t you been trying for months? Send me your CV. I can try passing it around.
Your Mind Voice: I would rather starve to death than to get a job through you.
Your Answer: Hey, thanks. Whatsapp me your email address please? *This could just be a backup. If all else fails, you could forgo the dented ego and use it to your advantage*

Most of the time, they don't really care

Let’s face it, people only care about one thing: themselves! They may ask you a set of questions, and it usually lasts in their mind for an hour before they move on to something more pressing like their hair, their dog, their flatulence. People ask questions for the sake of it. Sometimes, it doesn’t even make it to the mind’s excel sheet, and even if it does, it is stored in a mental hard drive far, far away.

Image: Giphy
Sample Question: So are you still working in the same place?
Mind Voice: Yes, I am still stuck in the same rat hole that I described to you last month at a family wedding.
Actual Answer: Yes, uncle. It would be quite difficult to switch jobs every month! *Humour always works. When the interrogator pauses to laugh, excuse yourself from the conversation*

Another useful tip to dodge these interrogators is, if you don’t want to answer a question of theirs truthfully, stay as close to the truth as possible. It is always better to say that you are just seeing someone, rather than to divulge the fact that you are looking for a house to buy together. More often than not, vague answers save face.

Evidently, most of these questions asked have absolutely nothing to do with you! People’s lives revolve around themselves and that’s usually the reason behind the interrogations. There’s really no point in getting distressed over these instances, and it’s certainly no reason to be a recluse and avoid all social events.

People are going to be people. There’s no changing them and their inquiries or the way they think. However, if we understand where they are coming from, it would be easier to accept them for who they are and understand that their questions have nothing to do with putting us down. Let them keep at their questions while we keep working on our own lives! Perhaps you should start seeing someone seriously?

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