I’ve been wanting to write about this ever since my trip to China this July; and now that my two and a half months holiday is under way, I can finally put my thoughts into words.
The difference between East and West extends far beyond the foods people eat, the clothes they wear or the architecture. It seems to me that the biggest contrast lies with how the East is still very much rooted in cultures that date back thousands of years whereas the West is more focused on post-modern behaviours.
I’ve put together a couple of things that distinguish the two halves of the world:
Asian parents are pretty anal when it comes to allowing their offspring to start a relationship with the opposite sex. Mine, for example, have set a strict “No dating until you’ve graduated from university” rule, and that sentiment is shared amongst millions of like-minded (read: socially backward and old fashioned) people. In fact, my mom totally freaked out when I neglected to tell her one of my flatmates was going to be a boy.
Mom: “A BOY?!?!?!?!?!”
Mom: “You didn’t tell me this before.”
Me: “I didn’t think it was relevant.”
Mom (clearly agitated): “Are you sure that’s ok? Won’t it be… inconvenient? You’ll be sharing the same bathroom.”
Mom: “Umm, I’ll let your dad talk to you about this.”
I sometimes wonder if my parents are really hermits. It boggles my mind that, having lived in SA for almost two decades, they still have no inkling of how the clock churns in the Western world.
In China, there is incessant pressure to get married before the age of 30. Never mind the fact that the rest of the world is pushing back the age of commitment, if you’re Chinese, you have to be married or engaged before the big 3-0. The minute a boy or girl crosses that threshold, his or her chances of finding happy ever after decreases exponentially. Being over 30 and single is almost as bad as being homosexual.
My cousin (who is in his mid 20s) recently experienced what was possibly the worst set up ever. His parents were worried that their precious son was on his way to becoming a bachelor for life, so they decided to take matters into their own hands. They flew all the way to China in the hopes of finding a suitable match for their son. They went as far as going to local universities and handing out flyers asking potential girls to contact them in they were interested in “A nice boy living in SA”. They waited next to the phone for days. Needless to say, nobody replied.
However, as luck would have it, they eventually bumped into someone on the streets (whether they hounded her or not, I don’t know) who eventually agreed to enter into a virtual relationship with my cousin. And so, they dated online for a year and finally decided to meet face to face. So he flew over and was greeted by a girl who was a least a head taller than him. That didn’t sit well with the girl or her mom. The fact that my cousin has a terrible stutter didn’t help his case either.
Unlike the liberated West, divorcees in China stay divorcees. They hardly ever remarry because of the social stigma that still lingers around divorce. Being middle-aged and divorced is tough takkie: Too old to be considered a good catch in the dating pool, and too “used” for the in-laws to be happy with the matrimony. In the end, they have no choice but to move back with their parents and live out the rest of their lives with a Jack Russel as companion.
I’m glad I don’t live in the land of the old-fashioned and the terribly oppressed any more. I don’t have to conform to tradition or obey outdated antiquities. Best of all, I can marry a white boy.