|Subject: Taiwan Observations
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Date Posted: 22:34:18 03/09/04 Tue
Here are my observations and analyses of Taiwnese culture, mentality, and society. To save time, most of my thoughts have already been written in notes I've sent to others, so I will just copy and paste them below, editing them as needed.
The things I like about Taiwan are the good weather (sunny and warm most of the year), friendly kind good-natured people, hospitality, and great food always around the corner. Also, the family values and family bonds there are unparalleled to anything we have in the states. However, here are some deep observations about its other things.
I've discovered a little paradox. Obviously, the young people here (like in Japan) are very very introverted, shy, and reclusive to the nth degree. It seems that only the old people here are outgoing and little kids too. (great huh? Lol) Somehow, it seems that when people (especially girls) here reach the age of 12 or 13, they suddenly become ultra-introverted and cliqueish until they are about 30 or so, then they start to open up again. What I don't understand though, is this. Here, there are statues and temples to Buddha and Confucius everywhere. So obviously, they are seen as cultural and historical idols here. Now, both Buddha and Confucius taught that nothing in extremity is any good, not even a good thing like love. The middle way, or a balance of it, is the best. So why are people here so introverted, shy and reclusive to such an extreme degree, that it seems unnatural and abnormal? Don't they know that such extreme behaviors are never good?
Also, some parents here, especially from the country/rural areas, have this habit of controlling their children throughout their lives to an obsessive compulsive degree, asking them about every little thing, telling them what to do on every aspect of their lives, even those they don't know anything about or aren't qualified to judge on, checking up on every aspect of their lives, double checking everything they do, and doing many other unnecessary and wasteful things, etc. It is extremely humiliating to their children, and turns them into zombies, that never become independent. But in their minds of course, they are doing a good thing out of their care and concern for their children's well being, even if it means going overboard. Therefore, to many Taiwanese parents, intentions are more important than outcomes and results.
Nevertheless, it's definitely taken to the extreme as well beyond a doubt. So why do they do this, when their cultural and historical idols, such as Buddha and Confucius, said that nothing in extremity is any good? Why do they have extreme behaviors like this here? Weird. It doesn't make a lot of sense when you think about it.
W: I wrote this list of reasons below why I don't fit in Taiwan mentally or spiritually, because some people there don't understand how I could have Taiwanese blood and not fit in there. (such a primitive and racist way of thinking!) Here is what I summarized, so that I wouldn't have to try to commit it to memory.
1) The culture and mentality of people here are not interesting or attractive to me. My soul does not connect to it either. The reasons why are explained below. I am much more attracted and infatuated with the culture of Russia and Europe.
2) I do not have any social or economic advantages / benefits here. It seems that white males are given higher status and benefits here. Therefore, Taiwan is advantageous to them. Taiwan is one of the few countries that discriminate against themselves. However, overseas Chinese Americans are not treated like white Americans. Instead, they are treated like normal Taiwanese people. Nothing special. Just peasants. However, they do not see themselves this way. They are told that they are not even foreigners, so they aren't allowed to say they're Americans and state their self-identity. Instead, Taiwan assigns them a new one based on their appearance. Therefore, there is a contradiction between how Taiwan views ABC's and how ABC's view themselves. Personally, I see myself as attractive, special, and higher status and that is how I am treated in Russia. Therefore, I am not accustomed to being treated like a normal Taiwanese person. And furthermore, I would not want to be a typical Taiwanese person anyway.
3) In fact, here is a well known example of what I mean. In Taiwan, a white English teacher can easily make about 60,000 NT dollars per month (about $1800) even with no experience. On the other hand, an overseas Asian American (or of any other race) would be paid about half that, only a little better than average, and this applies even if the overeas Asian American speaks fluent English and has more experience and credentials than the white teacher. This is a common complaint often mentioned on the internet on ESL websites, and confirmed by my experiences in Taiwan too. The reason is because whites are seen as status symbols in Taiwan, symbols of moving up. It's not so much the fault of the cram schools, but more of the parents, who are willing to pay more to send their kids to white teachers than of any other race. It is a status symbol to their parents, and one of the ways they compete with other parents in raising the more successful child that they're proud of. It's a form of reverse discrimination, and Taiwanese are discriminating against themselves. Westerners I told this to said that was kind of sick.
4) I don't feel like my soul can grow, evolve or thrive in Taiwan. It would be like attempting to plant a mango tree in California. It just wouldn't grow. I feel that Taiwan would be like dead unfertile dirt to me where my spirit and intellect could not grow. Some things grow in some environments and not others. Some things mix well together and not others. For example, milk and ketchup do not mix well together, but ketchup mixes well with hamburgers and milk mixes good with cereal. In fact, I feel that if I became accustomed to Taiwan, my soul was evolve backward, not forward. It would be like trying to put on clothes that I outgrew when I was 10 years old.
5) People in Taiwan do not understand me. Our mentalities are too different. When I express or explain myself in Taiwan, no one really understands me or connects to my mentality. Taiwanese and Asian people in general seem to have a different soul. When I express or explain myself in America or Europe, people understand my meaning and mentality, even if they don't agree with me. Why should I live in a society where people do not understand me? It would be senseless and illogical.
6) There are many things in Taiwanese society and mentality that I dislike. Here are some examples. They do not apply to all Taiwanese people, but they do apply to a large portion of them.
a) Most people here do not have any interests or passions outside of work and school. In fact, many Taiwanese people consider it odd and improper to have very many interests outside of school and work. A few hobbies to relax you is ok, but intellectual interests are frowned upon. People are expected to conform and work hard, not think critically or in unconventional ways. They believe that a person shouldn't have too many interests outside of work and school because it would detract from the main purpose of life, which is work and school, and that all focus should be on that instead. Of course, the tradeoff for them is that if you only focus on one thing and put your energy toward it, you are much more likely to succeed and be better at it. That much is true, and it's partly why Japanese companies are so successful. Therefore, this single mindedness approach does have its benefits. But it creates people that I just don't relate to, aren't attracted to, don't admire, don't want to emulate, and don't find interesting, and that's the bottom line.
b) Some even believe it is healthy and productive to work 7 days a week. You can even see an example of this "work 7 days a week" mentality in the USA. On Christmas Day or New Years Day, when almost all non-essential businesses are closed, you'll find that Chinese restaurants are still open even when other restaurants aren't. I'm sure most of you in the US have noticed this. That's because Chinese people are proud to be working when others aren't. It gives them a sense of pride. Weird. It's like whipping yourself and getting pride from it. A form of sadomasichism.
c) Some people believe that having free time is a sin or bad thing (totally contrary to American or European mindsets). In fact, there is a common phrase in Taiwanese language used to describe someone who meddles in other people's business, that goes like this "He/She has already eaten and has too much time on his/her hands." This implies and reflects the mentality that having free time to do the things you want is a bad thing. Very odd indeed. It's as if these people are more like robots than humans.
d) There seems to be an inherent nature in Taiwanese people to be very petty and anal-retentive even about the smallest things. It's like some of them don't feel alive unless they are petty or anal about SOMETHING. It's very strange, but that's a pattern I've noticed, even among my family and relatives there.
These things above are ludicrous and distasteful to a western mindset. Not only are they bizarre, but they are uninteresting and unattractive as well. I have no problem with things that are bizarre or weird, as long as they are interesting, such as ghosts or UFO's. But when something is bizarre, uninteresting and distasteful, then it is pointless as there is no reason to try to understand or meld with it.
Taiwan is obviously an intellectually and sexually repressed society. I prefer societies which are intellectually and sexually progressive and open.
7) Taiwanese students are controlled by FEAR to study and pass exams. They do not study out of interest or curiosity. They are controlled by fear from their parents, teachers, and society. They believe that if they don't study well, they will disgrace themselves and their family. The thing is, the vast majority of what they study is never used in real life. It is just a method for disciplining their behaviors. The academic exam system was a method for defining the line between social classes long ago, which has never changed or evolved.
That is why most Taiwanese students have little knowledge about things, even though they study 8 - 10 hours per week. And this is obvious just from conversations with them. When you have conversations with people from Europe for example, they sound like they have a lot of knowledge and can discuss many topics. And they speak English fluently and at least 3 languages in general. But Taiwanese students are not like that at all. They are not interested in intellectual things or knowledge. In Taiwan, almost no one asks me questions about other cultures or my country. They only ask a few simple questions about me. They simply aren't interested or curious in the world outside their little island, and many don't mind spending their whole lives here. It is weird. Here, no one even wants to take an American coin from me as a souvenir, even though they've never seen one before. That is strange. In Russia and Europe, everyone wanted to keep my American coins as souvenirs.
8) Also, I do not think this society is mentally healthy. Most people here are governed by two emotions, FEAR and GUILT. Parents control their children obsessively through guilt. People are often judgmental and critical of others, because of low self-esteem. And they are extremely introverted and shy for some reason. It seems that only little children and old people in Taiwan are outgoing and talkative. The young people between 13 and 30 seem too shy, introverted, and conservative. People here are also very prudish. They do not like to touch other people, they do not like to hug their parents, friends, etc. Even most married people in Taiwan do not say "I love you" to each other. And many couples never kiss on the mouth, even in private!!!!!!!!!! Can you believe that?! Also, for some reason, people, especially girls are afraid to be touched. They are like scared stray cats that are afraid to be petted. It is extreme. Asians obviously have an ultra-sensitive nervous system and low self-confidence too. All these things to me, are examples reflecting a mentally unhealthy society.
9) In theory, I would not be successful with Taiwanese women. Here is why. In regards to dating, there are two main types of Taiwanese girls. The first type is the conservative old-fashioned type, which likes traditional Taiwanese men with Taiwanese culture and mentality inside them. The other type is the more modern, open, new fashion type that is attracted to foreign or American culture and men. However, they like WHITE American/foreign men, not men like me. (They have the perception, which America outgrew 15 years ago, that only white Americans are real Americans.) Since I do not belong in either group of men that Taiwanese women like. Therefore, I am mismatched here.
Taiwanese women do not see me as Taiwanese (since I don't share their language, culture, mentality, behaviors, or vibes) or as an American (since I'm not white). So they just see me as an odd misfit that defies their categorical conceptions. Likewise, I do not see Taiwan as my home country or a foreign country either. It is an in between, and a country I long outgrew.
10) My self-identity gets screwed with in Taiwan. In America, as long as I have an American passport and can speak standard English, I can rightfully call myself an American regardless of my skin color. And it would be socially acceptable and politically correct for me to do so. Officially, Americans come in all colors, not just white, and most of the USA acknowledges and accepts that (at least outwardly). Therefore, in the USA, I'm told that I'm an American. But in Taiwan, if I say that I'm an American, people will look at me like they are offended or like I said something inappropriate. They will feel that I am denying my asian heritage by calling myself an American. Therefore, in a sense, they are telling me that I'm NOT an American, and trying to give me a new identity based on my appearance and race. And that is screwing with my self-identity big time. (Fortunately, I'm not a kid whose self-identity is still being formed) Not only is that very racist, but it's also rude and inconsiderate to try to mess with someone's identity like that. (Needless to say, Taiwanese people have a very different standard and definition of politeness than we westerners do).
One reason they do this is that Taiwan still has the mentality that only WHITE Americans are real Americans. That mentality was in America back in the early 80's and before, but we've evolved out of that. But Taiwan still has that mentality that we outgrew in the 80's. They don't get that Americans come in other colors than white. It's another example of primitive backwards mentality.
11) Assertiveness is not a valued trait in Taiwan and most of Asia. While being assertive is encouraged in America, it isn't in Taiwan. That is one reason why people are shy and introverted. Communication styles are different. In Taiwan, communication is subtle and indirect, so people can be harder to read and understand and relate to. Therefore, when I am assertive, people look at me oddly because it is impolite and it makes me feel out of place. That also makes it difficult to communicate with people, since they don't have "communication skills" as we know it and according to our definition.
12) Many of the standards of politeness and impoliteness are reversed in Taiwan and America. For example, assertiveness is proper in America but rude in Taiwan. So is defying tradition and going for what your heart desires. In contrast, in Taiwan people think it is ok for someone who barely knows or understands you to lecture you and tell you what to do with your life, giving advice where it's not asked for. In the states, that is considered rude, to give advice to someone who didn't ask for it, especially if it concerns his/her personal life. But Taiwanese people seem to have no problem doing that, and feel they are doing you good, even if they don't know anything about you. Many of my relatives there do this. It's as if they feel inadequate unless they do so.
Also, many Taiwanese people are not afraid to say to someone directly "You are fat" or "You've gained weight". They've even said that to foreigners too, who tell me so. In the states, it is VERY inappropriate to do that That is considered bad manners to us.
Also, regarding table manners, it is one of the areas of life in Taiwan which has not become civilized. Many have bad table manners, and spit things out of their mouth when they eat in front of others. And many of the meat and chicken dishes still show heads, hands, feet, and fingers. Very inappropriate by western standards. I have been told it is a quirk in Taiwanese life. While Taiwan has modernized in other areas, it hasn't in table etiquette.
In summary, people here are very nice and hospitable. But these reasons above make me feel that this country is not the right place for me.
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