ABCs adjusting to Taiwan

I’m not an ABC, but my daughters are ABC/2. I’m wondering what it was like to come to Taiwan being an ABC. I’ve read some posts where people say it was great not to feel like a minority anymore. I had an ABC friend who was always made fun of when we went out in Taiwan because my white face Mandarin was better than his. He was also admired in our workplace (a Taiwan government agency) because he was said to embody the best of the US and China. Did people find a new appreciation of their Chinese background or did they come to see more clearly the pluses of western/American culture? I’m interested in hearing about how it was adjusting to Taiwan from the ABC/ huaqiao perspective.

Don’t worry. If they attend Taipei American School they’ll fit right in.

that wasn’t my question. we don’t plan on moving to taiwan. anyone care to answer my original question?

I’m not strictly an ABC, but I left the island when I was 8, and grew up for 15 years in California, coming back only once, for 3 weeks, in all that time. So I’m pretty deeply entrenched with American ideas, and there’s no way you can tell the difference from me and your average ABC (especially since I have no accent). So, while I’m not technically qualified, I still feel I can provide a valuable opinion (I hope ^_^).

Now, living in the bay area as I was, I was actually never far from the Asian community. Even tho, personally, the schools I went to were predominately white, with few Asians, most schools in the Bay Area, especially in the South Bay have HIGH populations of Asians. This is important because as a child, the place where you’re most likely to encounter racism is at school. Nevertheless, I’m glad to say that I’ve never really had a problem with racism. Because of this, I’ve never really felt that I was a “minority”, altho I was quite definitely aware of that fact (how could you not be).

When I first immigrated to the US, I went thru a phase where I rejected severely anything Asian, in an attempt to fit in. I therefore lost my Chinese writing skills, plus all my Taiwanese skills. Luckily, a few years later, I was introduced to Chinese Pop music, and this saved my Chinese. In listening to the music, I was able to keep up my speaking and listening skills, plus with the advent of Kareoke, I was able to keep up and even improve my reading skills.

My parents also, made sure I did not forget my chinese. They still had very chinese “habits”, which they tried to infuse me with (some successfully, some not). My mom used to insist on speaking Mandarin to me, and we even watched Chinese Soap Operas together nightly.

I’ve just recently returned to Taiwan (about a month). Since I’ve been here, I haven’t had THAT much trouble adjusting. It really just seems to me like another “Asian Hangout” place back in Cali, like Ranch 99 (those of u from/in Cali should know what I’m talking about). While I can’t write, I can read quite adequately, so therefore I can get around and live on my own here.

So far, most of the people I’ve met and talked to, have admired me for my ability to speak English fluently. Some have also said they like the “freedom” (read, liberalness) America enjoys, even tho they themselves are still conservative, so sometimes it makes me think that they are hypocritical.

In a way tho, I’m kinda disappointed. It seems every idea here is imported, and nothing is original. Take malls for example. The way their managed and ran, including the girls in the elevators who run 'em, are all imported from Japan. And this recent crazy about everything Korean… I understand that in America, essentially everything can also be said to be imported, because it is such a melting pot. But still, eventually everything develops its own, American flavor.

Funny, how some people always refer to America as a melting pot. It’s not! Honestly, I feel it’s more like an enormous stir fry. So many cultures are segerated throughout parts of the city. Not all cultures understand other cultures. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and the surrounding suburbs and have travelled and lived in many different cities including San Francisco, New York, Tokyo, and various cities in Europe. I believe there are so many different cultures mixed within the American culture. Sadly to say, racism exists everywhere in the world. If it’s not between caucasian and asian, it’s asian vs. hispanic, it’s taiwanese vs. mainland chinese, or it’s chinese vs. ABC’s. I believe it’s something everyone deals with at some level or another. You are somewhat lucky if you have not dealt with it. I grew up in predominantly caucasian cities/towns and most of my asian friends were ABC, ABJ, or ABK. We all struggled fitting in where ever we go. I believe the older you get, especially when you’re in college do people try to find themselves and their roots.

quote[quote] Funny, how some people always refer to America as a melting pot. It's not! Honestly, I feel it's more like an enormous stir fry [/quote]

So in a stir fry, the other ingredients take on the flavour of the more dominant tastes. So if you add ginger, the whole dish will taste of that, or garlic, and so on. Interesting idea…

I always heard the US was more like a salad bowl, where each culture remained seperate from the others, and then smothered with ranch dressing (of course)Hope you can guess the metaphor implies the media.

Maybe other parts of the US are like that, even LA, but I just returned from San Francisco 2 days ago, and I saw, and always have seen there, a very integrated society. And that’s what I love about that city the most.

So happens while I was there, I went to my niece’s Primary School Christmas Pageant. It was wonderful, unlike any kid’s functions I’d ever attended. She goes to a school on Market Street called the International Christian School of SF, grades K-7. The music director, a talented woman indeed, had these kids singing all around us. Up in the balcony, down below, up on stage…it was so good, mostly because it was such a mixed batch of races. These tykes were east asian, hispanic, white, black, indian, mixed race, etc… They sang from the rafters and waved their arms about and it brought a tear to my cynical eye to see such a spectacular united singing group o’ kids in this day and age.

When I lived in Daly City, barely outside SF, I couldn’t even decipher the races of my neighbours, and it didn’t really matter. And noone EVER looked twice at my taiwanese husband and me there, quite unlike the looks you get here. My niece, who i mentioned above, a little white girl, has been taking mandarin classes for the past few summers because my sister feels it’s important living in the bay area to expose her child to perhaps the second most spoken language there, and she can already speak spanish, so what was next? This is an almost trilingual kid growing up in an English only speaking family. Pretty cool!

So, i think, as the world gets smaller, and as societies become more integrated and more multi-cultural, people also become more aware and more accepting of each other, but still individuals.
Not a bad thing, really. But the important thing is a child’s education and the parent’s awareness in exposing them to these options, rather than harbouring them away from them. In a city like SF, one could very well remain quite seperate, culturally, much like the IRISH there! But, when one’s eyes are open to the glorious opportunities available in a society which is that multi-cultural, then the possibilities are endless.

for most abc’s from asian-heavy areas like the major cities in california, the “not-a-minority” experience won’t really be that novel.

i was also born in taiwan but moved to the states when i was little. the biggest problem i have when i go back to taiwan is that i can’t really speak much mandarin. if you don’t look taiwanese, nobody expects you to speak mandarin, but if you look taiwanese, it’s a little harder for them to grasp the fact. my japanese american friend had the same problem when he went to japan to visit.

i think taiwanese culture is REALLY different from asian american culture. so even if your daughters had friends in the “asian crowd”, taiwan will be a strange and different experience. just my opinion, but korean american culture is much more similar to korean culture than taiwanese american to taiwanese.

each person’s reaction to taiwan varies. some people go back to the us thinking it’s just a noisy polluted sauna. some can’t stop raving about how great it is.

for me personally, i will always feel more at home in the states. being in taiwan(will be moving there shortly for a year to learn mandarin) is a chance to appreciate the culture, but it’s not like i had some personaly epiphany from eating oyster pancakes or hot spiced sea snails.

ps: if your daughers go to taiwan, go take some studio picts. every single female i know who goes to taiwan gets studio picts done because it’s much cheaper than in the states.

Originally posted by abcgirl: I grew up in predominantly caucasian cities/towns and most of my asian friends were ABC, ABJ, or ABK. We all struggled fitting in where ever we go.

Maybe calling yourselves “ABC”, etc. is part of the problem. If you were born and raised in the states, or even just raised in the states, then why not just call yourself “American”? It seems like the message people would get from saying “I’m ABC” instead of “I’m American” is “Since I look different, I’m not like that guy with German ancestry who could never get away with saying he is an ‘ABG’.”

As for living in Taiwan, I would think being expected to speak Chinese would if anything facilitate your learning the language, which is a good thing.

The idea of America being a Stirfry salad is mostly correct with mostly BaiCai (Batchoi) dominating.

Baicai is best eaten stir fried with garlic and maize oil (Lion brand). The wok must be extremely hot, with a lot of “energy” (Qi) ie preferably a man doing the stirring as the wok is usually too heavy for the delicate woman. Occasionally Baicai can be boiled but by itself, this way it does not lend adequate flavor to make a good soup.

In a mixed cultural environment such as America, you always have a strong culture mixed in with weaker ones. The meaning of a strong culture is that it dominates or try to impose its own value system upon members of the weaker cultures using the salad sauce (media,education,institutions). It is up to the the more Weak cultures to assimilate values of/from the stronger cultures and modify its own original value system and try to find a more stable overall equilibrium so that all cultures can co-exist within the given “closed” system.

At the end of the day you may find that members of the most dominant culture develop bad habits where they totally lack cross-cultural “sensitivity” ; where they feel that if something is not done their way, it is not worth doing… and as a result the seemingly strong are least likely to be able to understand other cultures.

All this does not mean that the weak as members of the weaker cultures are necessarily more able to assimilate the values of other cultures around them or necessarily interpret them better.

Certain cultures develop a value system that: try to avoid cross-cultural contact, or frown upon cross-cultural skills and values (eg place importance on the learning of the other languages etc); or sustain a sense of “purity” despite the inevitable march of globalisation and economic integration. e.g. the Japanese

The Chinese on the other hand are used to being constanly invaded or “polluted” by countless invaders or oppressors in its so called 5000 years of cultural history. In fact, assimilation without losing form is one of the key strengths of Chinese culture. The written language also contributes in this regard of keeping the culture ‘intact’ despite changes or stresses that would have normally broken other cultures apart or cause them to become extinct.

In the Bay Area, we also used terms like ABC and ABK, etc. But only among “ourselves”. It’s sorta like African Americans referring to themselves using the “n” word. (um… I hope I’m not affending anybody… I don’t mean to… I’m sorry)

Yes, I said ourselves, and that implies we segregate on our own. In fact, we sometimes do. It’s just something that happens. Yet almost all of us also have white, black, etc. friends… like close friends. It’s no big deal. It’s sorta like a case where, maybe only your ABC friends will get together with you to play mahjongg or something. Sometimes, certain activities, only certain ppl will participate.

Um… okay… what was my point? Hahah… I lost it somewhere, lemme find it again. Oh yea. Terms are ABC to me is just an easy way to refer to your ancestry. When someone asks, just outta curiousity, “Are u Chinese?”. Answering, “Yes, I’m an ABC” simply helps to save confusion and further questions. If you simply answered “Yes”, then ppl might keep asking questions like, “Oh, were you born in China?”. ABC is just simpler.

Being simply “American” is important, but as the old-timers always say, don’t forget your heritage also. Hence the separations. I don’t see the terms as racist or segragational.

i hate that argument. “you’re not asian american, you’re just american.” or “you’re not abc, you’re just an american.” or my favorite, “you’re not taiwanese, you’re chinese.”

moral of the story: how other people identify themselves is their business.

My family came to Scotland in the 11th century from what is now, or used to be, Moldovia. That’s why I always refer to myself as an SBM.

I am so sick and tired of this dichotomy…that you can somehow grow up in America, go to American public schools your whole life…have marginal Chinese speaking ability…and still be Chinese or Taiwanese just because you have a pretty face. Gimme a break.// That is some kinda ethnic chauvanism or something. Chinese born in America are no more Chinese than Spanish born in America or for that matter Canadians born in America!! If Chinese born in America are ‘ABC’ then for god sakes I am WBC (‘Welsh-born-Canadian’). When you leave Chung-guo, you leave Chung-guo, ok? Let’s all get over the race thing and start looking at people’s education/values/customs/worldview, etc. The US is a stir-fry and you are all part of that wonderful, glorious, stir-fry…and you’re not Chinese anymore. You have compromised your grandparents’ identities, ok? You can’t be both. And US law says you can’t be both, either, heheh…wonder when they’re gonna start cracking down on that one.

Well I left the ROC at 5 and basically grew up abroad till I completed my college education in the USA.

I think when you come back to the island it really depends on your attitude.

When I first went back it was apparent that I was not back for awhile. The Mandarin and Taiwanese was a little stilted from lack of us. Literacy need to be remastered through language programs.

Culture shock, boiling water, whole nine yards.

But you do get a lot of question from family and friends who did not have the opportunity to grow up abroad. At first it seems cool. But because you do not appear to be a foriegner, once your foriegn accent goes away and your fluency increases in Chinese, nobody will even know you’re foriegn. Unless they are very astute observers in fashion and you still prefer dressing like an American in ROC.

I was caught once being an ABC because I wore Timberlands to a club. Okay so nobody in ROC like Timberlands.

Here’s a story little story where even total fluency gave away the fact I’m a stranger in a strange land.

Once a little girl in TaiZhong asked me to sign a petition to “Fan du” (against drugs)

I misunderstood her and asked, “Fan Taiwan du li?” (against Taiwan independence).

She looked at me with a tilted head with her classmate and said “Ni bu shi zhe li ren?!?” (You’re not from around here). While everyone just laughed at me. :blush:

I got tons of stories of “When Foreigner goes wrong in Taiwan.” Unfortunately I’m always butt the of the joke.


The chinese culture is strange that way. You are always considered Chinese. It is consider strange that a Chinese would go abroad and lose all cultural connection with their Chinese roots. That’s why we have terms like Jook Xin, twinkies, and ABC to remind us how shameful it is to be ignorant of Chinese culture. Look at SE asia those Chinese are 4 or 5 generation removed and still know that they are Chinese. As well as being fluent and literate in Chinese.

Of course this a broad explanation of Chinese behavior across a whole spectrum of social economic background and conditions.

I’m ABC and I’ve been here for nearly 8 months. I have to say that while I usually get fascination/appreciation from the older crowd, the younger generations seem to harbor some kind of resentment or envy towards me. I’ve discussed this with another ABC friend of mine who has been here for as long as I, and we can’t really figure out why we sometimes get this vibe. Both of us, by the way, are teaching English.

Otherwise, the hardest thing is being expected to speak perfect Mandarin. Which I can’t (and I can read very little). I don’t dress the way an ABC from so-cal does, so people usually can’t tell I’m from the States. Few people have the ability to guess without hearing me speak that I’m huaqiao, but after I speak it’s always obvious. And then the same old converstaion usually follows: Are you from overseas? When did you return/come to Taiwan? What do you do here? Are you used to life here? Do you have any family in Taiwan? The same questions, invariably.

Another interesting thing is, because I’m dating a white foreigner here, the foreigners are more likely to think I’m Taiwanese. If I don’t say anything at first, and he introduces me, some foreigners will say, “Oh, that’s a nice name,” with a tone suggesting they think I wasn’t born with my English name, that I or both of us had spent some time thinking one up for me. :unamused:

I can understand how that might be annoying, but given the demographics here, totally understandable. People always spoke German to me when I was visiting Germany. What can you do? Appearances and experience lead people to make assumptions that often turn out to be erroneous. Oh well… :s

I think the envy and resentment comes from the fact we don’t need to serve in the military. And English is our native tongue, which is a badge of middle class affluence like piano playing. Let’s face it, Englishing teach is a breeze job for native speakers, better than flipping burgers stateside. It’s like we get the best of both worlds.

Which by the way I need to ask how did you skip out on military service in ROC if your here for 8 months. Are you doing a visit to HK every 4 months. Or you’re not a child of an ROC citizen?

I was always anal about my accent so I would record my voice on a tape recorder when assigned homework at those language programs. I would have my language exchange partner record a passage for me. Then I would practice reading the same passage while recording my voice. It takes awhile to realize the phrasing and inflections of the native Chinese speaker in Taiwan. But with a little effort it is do able.

I usually get negative vibes from non-asian foriegners on the island. There was this one guy who was an English professor at a university in Taiwan, that would have these weekly meetings at a pizza place. A good bunch of girls from his class would go with him. I don’t know if they were kissing up for a good grade or wanted to hear his native accent. But somehow 1 of the girls invited me. Anyways as I was setting up my language exchange appointments with the girls that were introduced to me I just got a negative vibe from this guy like I just ruined his perfect little world of being an English professor.

But I just usually let stuff like that blow over me. Since I never gave much though to what non-asian thought of me in the USA, I definitely don’t care what a minority group thinks of me in Taiwan…just party on.

Although I find it strange to date a white girl in ROC. Can’t you date one of those in the USA. They’re a dime a dozen stateside. So no point being exclusive about it. But that’s just my opinion.

ac_dropout, if you’re responding to me…

I was born and raised in the States. It’s not that I’ve “come back” to Taiwan.

And also, I’m not a boy. And my man is, and he’s not a dime-a-dozen :wink:


Oh, I see the hoping green seal didn’t give away your sex. My err. Perhaps a seal with a sports bra or a little pink braid would help me. :slight_smile:

A girl?!? Now it all make sense. Catty ROC women are envious of you because of your native english skill which facilitates your ability to connect with foreign men. Since most ROC are too shy to practice their English with them. It makes sense now. Envy a woman’s emotion.

You’re right your man is 25 NTD a dozen here, and a dime a dozen stateside. :slight_smile: