Clash of Cultures

Spent last weekend with a friend who is also mom to quite an assertive 5-year-old, he questions every move you make especially those he considers inappropriate. As I grew up in an environment where a child should only be “seen and not heard” I subconsciously become irritated and tell him not to bother me but each time it happened my friend would quietly lecture me on “how my answers matter to him” and “how I’m no more in Nigeria”.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand children have curious minds and we as parents/family/friends/teachers need to feed their curiosity however my reaction stems from my childhood environment. I grew up in a Yoruba household (1/3 of the largest tribes in Nigeria) where I learnt to respect all elders i.e. anyone older than you are, they are either “Aunty” to “Uncle”, you greet with both knees on the ground, never interrupt while adults speak and you even apologize to your parents after you are punished. This was my reality growing up though didn’t bother me much except once in a while when I watch a teenage movie or cable TV to get a glimpse into the lives of children in the Western world.

This mentality seeps right into the education system where teachers are supreme especially as most secondary schools have boarding facilities. Oh God help you if you are the rude type; you would get a cocktail of punishment ranging from getting flogged to cutting “stubborn” grass to washing toilets or a combination haha. You can also it in the workplace where they operate on a “no first name basis” and bosses are addressed “Ma/Sir”. To be honest, I can’t tell if this works well or not as I do not have statistics but I guess whatever system used in different cultures there are pros and cons plus it makes for a good laugh when seated with other Nigerians who’s gone through similar experiences.

A recent program on BBC, Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School is about an experiment in a British school to determine whether the Chinese education system is really the best. It follows a set of secondary school teachers from China who take 50 teenagers in different subjects. My husband and I look forward to each episode mainly to compare notes because it reveals alot of similarities between Nigerian and Chinese upbringing – how education is ultimate, parents check your notebooks when you come home from boarding school, teachers teach from the front of the class and you have to write paragraphs of notes as the teacher recites it out as fast as you can, you also get random tests at the end of a class just because (I’m grinning while typing this). Though no Chinese punishment styles have been revealed yet on the show but all the teachers think their British students are very rude and have can afford not to take education serious due to the social welfare system in Britain. Definitely a must-watch for readers based in the UK.

Weekend soiree with the lads

Weekend soiree with the lads

Brings me back to the start of this post, these students are just a product of their environment – not that I claim all British/Irish kids are rude (they definitely do not see it that way) because from the start of their lives they are taught to be assertive, discerning and questioning individuals.

Now at 32 months, my tot has reached the ‘why and what’ stage and very interactive which I am loving! And like my friend is with her son, always willing to answer every question 😀

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7 thoughts on “Clash of Cultures

  1. Its a good thing to teach children to wait their turn. And also to tell them that if it is really important that they can disturb. That way they know that they will be listened to. They are quick learners and will catch on. Ofcourse to respect older people is a necessity to learn, whether they are western children or nigerian children. They all need to learn that, and that is up to the parents to teach.

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  2. Hey Temi, good post. I’ve learnt to patiently answer my son’s questions, still learning. We still tell him not to interrupt us (i.e. Mum n Dad) while we are having a conversation but I am not sure if that’s appropriate. Can someone please enlighten me? What if he has something really important to say at that point and then forgets by the time we finish our convo? I think we are trying to teach him to be courteous but is there a better way?

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    • Hi Purple Berry, I really do not see anything wrong in asking your son not to interrupt cos it creates some sort of boundary especially when he’s around other adults.

      My daughter tends to shout when she’s not being listened to (of course we can’t makes sense of what she’s saying) so I warn her not to scream then ignore until she lowers her voice. But if she keeps interrupting then we stop and ask what she wants (might be the potty which is quite important IMO). Once sorted, I then tell her not to interrupt adults while they speak “wait your turn”. It didn’t initially work but as you already know consistency is key with children.

      Whether this approach is right or wrong I can’t certify but I do know it keeps my sanity intact and gets her to think about it next time. Hope this helps!

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  3. LOL @ “apologize to parents after punishment”. You were lucky if your parents never punished you in schools right after the teacher punished you. Talk about embarrassment.
    It is really different raising kid abroad, balancing both cultures is the answer.
    Btw, I know South Koreans also take education very serious just like we do in Nigeria. I’m talking about after school classes, classes ending really late. Private expensive tutors, parents competing based on their children’s academics, etc.

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  4. Great read Temi, well done. hahahahaha @ stubborn grass, I remember the good old school days when teachers were kings and queens. As I am the friend in question I will add my 2 cents by saying balance it definitely the key. As long as we take the good from both world, try our best in raising good kids and hope for the best. I will definitely watch “Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School” I read about it but didn’t watch it. The kids look soooo cute by the way.

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