Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop, SINGAPORE
Forget the baby debate that has been covering the pages of the local newspapers on an almost daily basis and threatening to turn you off procreating for the rest of your life (especially the articles about how much it costs to raise a child).
The debate on who you should or should not be dating has made for much more entertaining reading, even though the underlying discussion is a serious one, touching on issues of racism and the class system. Internet chat rooms have always been full of postings about local women dating ang-mohs (Caucasian men), but a letter in Streats, a free commuter newspaper, has sparked a whole new level of discussion about western expats at a time when there is already a lot of resentment about their ability (or so it is believed) to get better-paid jobs.
The letter bemoaned an allegedly alarming trend of local girls marrying westerners because they 'hold senior positions at work, earn more money and probably live in condominiums and drive big cars'. They also only want 'to enjoy life and have fun', the writer complained, adding: 'We need to look into this matter carefully.'
Well, short of sparking a debate in Parliament (although who knows ... someone could very well suggest single women could get tax incentives if they only date local men), the letter provoked an avalanche of comments: do local men really have what local women want? Are westerners more outgoing, romantic and interesting? Do women get respect from local men? Does respect mean letting a local woman do what she likes (whatever that means)? Does a local woman marrying an ang moh make her feel superior to those marrying locals?
The subject of expatriates living in Singapore is always a touchy one. It is very much a love-hate relationship. On the one hand, Singapore needs and generally welcomes foreign workers, but in times of recession, many locals think expats should be the first to go.
But back to the dating game, adult habits are not the only ones under the microscope. The issue of whether a boy from a neighbourhood school should be dating a student from Raffles Girls' School (the creme de la creme) has led to hundreds of postings on a website, to the point where the thread had to be closed - only for a new one to be opened.
For a society that is reportedly classless, there were comments saying how dare the boy try to climb the social ladder and improve his status. At one point, a sociologist was even roped in.
The subject of who you should be dating and eventually marry has, of course, got to be linked to procreation. But with Singapore's birth rate in freefall, this debate might not be relevant for long.