Drawing from her experience, Dristy Rahman writes about the east vs west paradox.
I once read an article which said ‘Parents are the same everywhere. They think similarly and treat their kids in the same way.’ Wow, really? If so, then, why does my mother think, either I died, got kidnapped, or ran away with a guy, every time I come home late? Whereas, my Canadian friend gets to stay outside for as long as she wants without even one question raised at her home. This applies to both — boys and girls. While I was doing my psychology course last semester, I found out that the style of parenting and education in Bangladesh is far more authoritarian than in the US or other Western countries. This means parents in Asia are far more controlling of their children, and schools are far more controlling of students, than in the West. Children are expected to obey, revere, and defer to parents, even into adulthood.
We often see kids arguing over which life is easier — a life in a Western country or an Asian country. This has become one of the most debatable topics in the recent years. In Bangladesh, teenagers are expected to devote themselves exclusively to their studies and to pleasing their parents and teachers. Sex is a forbidden topic, and sex education in schools is virtually non-existent. Boys and girls in high schools wear identical, unisex school uniforms. Girls should ‘conservatively’ tie their long hair so as not to attract male attention. There are no school dances or proms in high schools. The study load for high school students is far heavier than in Western countries. Even during vacations and holidays, students are given an excessive amount of assignments to keep them busy and under control.
In young adulthood, major life decisions such as career and marriage choices are subject to parental authority and approval. They are forced to focus on only purpose of life, which is to get married in a decent and reputed family. Also, choosing a life partner will, of course be decided by the parents, followed by the expectations of having grandchildren. Life here in Bangladesh means meeting everyone’s expectations and reaching a stereotypical standard of being a boy or a girl. The youth in here are never fully independent as we see in Western countries.
Romance in Bangladesh is a matter of ultimate shame. With all the aunties and uncles who are no less than Sherlock, the youth here can kiss goodbye to their love life. Someone or the other will definitely see you riding in a rickshaw together, sitting in the park eating badam (nuts), or holding hands at a restaurant. This, again, brings us to the idea as to how youth here are not even allowed to be in relationships. Whereas, in the Western culture we see how when a young boy or girl starts dating, their parents give them ‘the talk’ (Google it). We see teenage relationships abroad and think of those as ‘relationship goals’ only to get disappointed later on.
The style of parenting in the West is more liberal. On the other hand, the goal of parenting here is not to produce a free, independent individual as in the West, but rather to produce an obedient, productive human being. We also see how in the West, young adults are motivated to leave their parents’ home and live alone. This way they grow and learn to survive in this cruel world. In Bangladesh, youth are mostly supported by their parents and are kept at home to save them from the cruel world. For how long can you keep them at home though? One day or the other they will have to learn to survive on their own. So, might as well prepare them for the worst from the beginning.
Well, after all of that, life might seem like a bowl of cherries in the Western countries, but it’s not always like that. Living alone isn’t easy. Financing yourself on your own is not easy, and most certainly having a job at the age of 16 is not easy (talking from experience). Here in Bangladesh, you don’t have to worry about anything because you’ll have your dad giving you ‘pocket money’ even at the age of 21. Nobody will raise a finger at you if you don’t work before finishing your studies. In most cases, the cost of your education here will be taken care of by your parents. In the Western world, the scenario is completely different. You will always have to fend for yourself as soon as you reach a certain age.
Nowadays, we see the western culture here is getting bigger. The west influences us a great deal. The way they dress influences the way we dress, and we try to imitate their methods. One of the reasons we want a more Westernised life is because we, Bangladeshi youth, have lived in the confined walls of conservativeness and when we see even a glimpse of a free, more liberal life, we just want to make an escape from those confinements. We don’t want any strings to pull us back from doing what we want and believe in. Bangladesh is beginning to adjust its expectations of young people by allowing them more freedom of choice. However, in most cases, if you don’t follow the rules of the society, you will be labelled as the black sheep of the family. So much for modernization and globalization!