Look who’s in Singapore! Nope, not a pop star (as you were you hoping it to be, I’m sure) BUT two wayward teens from Down Under. Two, out-of-control teens whose parents have absolutely has no hold on.
Basically, The World’s Strictest Parents series is where “unruly” teenagers are sent to live abroad with a strict host family for a week in an attempt to change their behavior. During the week they receive an impact letter from their real parents with a list of issues they should try to fix.
In the latest episode, two kids from Down Under are sent to live with the Chua family. They look like your everyday Singaporean family no? But this family’s matriarch declares that she practices authoritative parenting. If that is the case, the Aussie teens are in a good time. Will they be able to ‘learn’ the Singaporean culture and find a way to make it work and eventually change for the better?
Here’s what these two kids sent to Singapore for a week are like in a nutshell:
ZAINE – A 16 year old who sleeps all day and has absolutely no love for anyone in his family and refuses to do any work.
MEMPHIS – A 17 year old who parties every night and dropped out of school and hates it.
In all good intents of this series to help ‘unruly’ kids change, who is anyone to judge which country has the strictest parents and on what basis do they come to a consensus that? Sure, it makes for good television to throw two barely of age teenagers in a totally different environment to watch how they struggle and rebel. Isn’t this in the least bit, ethnocentric? Using one’s own culture as a yardstick for judging others is, I dare say, atrocious. It is impossible to compare a Western and Asian family simply because the values we hold close to our hearts are on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Singapore can be classified as a high context cultural society whereby we hold our Asian traditions and values close to our heart. We do not disrespect our parents; we swear by our basic code of ethics that we strictly adhere to even when our parents may seem unreasonable at time. If we have any grievances, we hold it in until we manage to find a suitable way to address them with our parents.
On the other hand, Australia is in fact a low context cultural society. They do not hold their parents in such high esteem as we do. They snap at their parents without thinking twice, they see great importance the spoken language in order to bring their point across. This is in stark contrast to our culture where we take pride in being civilized and gentlemanly or lady-like in our mannerisms and speech.
Moreover, I can confidently say that, the family that was supposedly the Strictest in Singapore was in the least bit overbearing. They were reasonable in all their actions. The matriarch had all her reasons to get angry with the kids because they flouted rules that the family believes in, like smoking. It is an undesirable behavior and there was a need to address the problem. Running away from school? There’s nothing much to say about this. Any other Singaporean parent will blow their top at an instant. I would berate my child for even having the thought of running away form school.
The education system in Singapore is also portrayed in a negative light in this episode. By sending two kids who absolutely loathe studying, sending them to Raffles Junior College isn’t it abit too much? Why couldn’t they have gone to an average JC where they will find it easier to integrate since they most probably not academically inclined and have little interest in studies? It in a way, puts gives Singapore’s education a negative interpretation that we are stressed out, overworked kids who do not have a life outside of studying.
But I must say, in every cloud there is a silver lining. Towards the end of their week’s stay with the Chuas, they received a letter from home, with their parents explaining to them how their behavior has caused much pain and distress in their household. It made them realize how much their actions have affected the family dynamics and now, after being immersed in a different culture and they were able to look at the situation at a whole new perspective. To be able to acknowledge that they in fact have been rude and unbecoming as teenagers in their mannerisms towards their family members.
To find out how the exchange of cultures turned out, check out part 2 of the episode is below.
Well, I guess the one good thing that came out of this series of World’s Strictest is that it teaches all of us to embrace cultural relativism. To be able to understand another’s culture on their own terms instead of passing prejudices and pre-conceived notions without understanding whatsoever is crucial in this ever increasingly connected world that we live in.