A dear friend of mine recently came home for a visit after several years studying and living abroad. He was so happy sharing with me: “Mom has been so kind to make space to give me a private room. This is the first time I have my own room at home actually!”
I too was happy for my friend and congratulated him for having such a privilege :D. I told him: “I have never had my own room at home, and probably will never have one”.
In this world of highly respected individual privacy, having one’s own room at home sounds nothing fancy, especially in the environment where I am living. But still, it could be something fancy for some of us.
This conversation with my friend made me recall many previous similar stories, that families would make special room-arrangement for students coming home from abroad. Some friends told me: “Oh, I feel a bit guilty when I am back home since my little brother has to move out of his current room to stay in the living room just to make space for me”. That was the case for girls, if it was a boy, it was like: “Oh, I can just sleep on the sofa in the living room. I don’t even unpack my stuff because there isn’t any space to unpack”. Mostly none of them felt too inconvenient about that.
As far as I was aware, this unlikely room-arrangement was quite likely in the nature of the very small size of old social housing in the city like Hanoi, though this kind of residence is less common today in the city.
I find it quite interesting about having or not having a private room at home when I was a kid. In those days, due to the modest economic situation, my family and many of my friends’ lived in those tiny social housing apartments in cities like Hanoi. And these apartment complexes back then, built during 1960s – 70s, were just too small and badly designed to give enough private space for everyone in the family. Though those cramped conditions are not so common anymore, the apartment complexes are still in use.
Like many of my friends then, I didn’t have my own room at home. My sisters and I always shared a room. My family lived in an apartment so small that our living room served as the dining room, also the bed room, and the all-other-family-activities room. Then, things could have been better when we moved to the new house. Technically and theoretically my family could have afforded more private rooms for us, but we – my sisters and I – just never asked for one. It was more like we did not find it necessary to have private rooms. (I only had my own room, with complete privacy when I started living and studying abroad).
Sometimes, my sisters and I slept in the same room with my parents when we had guests in the house, even when we were grown up. Or when the weather was too hot to stand without an air-conditioner, so everyone just managed to get in only one room in the house that was equipped with one tiny air-conditioner.
Even so, it was amazing that I could still host friends from other cities or countries whenever I had chance. Honestly, my parents and my sister didn’t mind hosting my friends who did not mind sharing a common space. (I have always felt thankful for that).
Today, it’s not really about economic constraints or the small size of the apartments that parents can’t afford private rooms for their kids. I feel it is more about the gathering and sharing culture of the Vietnamese – the family shares a common space inside the communal home. There is no intensive privacy, I could say, no strict privacy boundary between family members on daily household activities. I still can feel a warm and caring touch from that “communal” culture from my family and others whenever coming home. And I do miss that. And whenever I come home, I still do not find it is a must for having a private room.
Though it is true that, it could be very much inconvenient sometimes if not having your own room in the house. Say, I used to talk and chat on the phone with my friends when I was a school girl – the same with many of my friends. Instead of talking in a room, the toilet or the balcony could be a perfect space for “secret talks” 😉 . And, generally, that “abnormal” behavior could hardly slip through the sharp eyes of your Mom 😀 .
I believe and consider that my home is where my heart turns to, where I can come back anytime to find comfort. Home is where I find peace and love.
Just some trivial thoughts about this family room-sharing matter to say that I now find a new way of definition for home: Home is where I don’t need my own private room 🙂 .