Feeling Fat in Taipei

Both my boyfriend and I are kind of on the pudgy side of healthy. In the U.S., I feel like we are pretty well-matched, but whenever we are in Taiwan, (I’m Taiwanese, he’s American, tall and nordic looking to boot), I feel like a blimp while people constantly compliment him on how handsome he is. I’ve actually had total strangers tell me that I’d better shape up if I want to keep him around. The funny thing is, they’re not trying to be malicious or anything. I guess some people just have no sense of boundaries.

Long story short, we’ll be moving to Taipei really soon. We’re pretty committed so it’s not like I’m afraid some skinny Taiwanese woman will make off with him or anything like that. But it does make me feel really, really self conscious.

Anybody out there in a similar position? What is the best comeback for when someone informs you (very sweetly) that you would be very pretty if you would only lose a third of your body weight? (For reference, I am a U.S. size 8-10, depending on the store).

I ask them, “Why would I want to be built like a girl?” (BTW, I’m a man)

Seriously though, I went suit shopping yesterday for my upcoming wedding. I’m 79kg (about 175lbs), 180cm tall and broad shouldered. Do you think I could find a suit that fit? :noway: Living in Chiayi doesn’t help, either. The selection of stores selling suits is rather limited. It was a difficult day and I feel your pain. Anybody over 140lbs (for men) are considered “fat” and the locals have no problem telling you so. :loco:

You are an 8-10 and you are calling yourself Pudgy?
I would just simply tell them “People where I am from like girls with curves.” or something. Tell them that if you were as skinny as a Taiwanese girl, people would think you looked sick and ugly.

See, I weigh 47 kg and people say the same shit to me. So you can know that you have absolutely NO need to take it personally. A lot of people comment on my big but (which isn’t as big as I would like it to be) and I always grab it and go “Jealous?”

[quote=“SuchAFob”]You are an 8-10 and you are calling yourself Pudgy?
I would just simply tell them “People where I am from like girls with curves.” or something. Tell them that if you were as skinny as a Taiwanese girl, people would think you looked sick and ugly.

See, I weigh 47 kg and people say the same shit to me. So you can know that you have absolutely NO need to take it personally. A lot of people comment on my big but (which isn’t as big as I would like it to be) and I always grab it and go “Jealous?”[/quote]

I agree with SuchAFob. Definitely give a comeback like she says.

If you don’t look anorexic here, you are “too fat.” And, in most parts of the world, Taiwanese desired skinniness is just way unattractive; no curves, starved looking.

I think that many foreign women go through the same feelings as you here. At home in the US, I am considered thin. Here, I always feel like a beached whale because people make comments about me being fat (which I’m really not!) and I am so much taller than most Taiwanese women. I also work out and ride my bike a lot, and have a bit of muscle, which Taiwanese women think is ugly and unladylike (it’s just lean muscle, but the girls here hate any kind of muscles on their bodies, period).

Anyway, you are the ideal size, and many women here are unhealthily thin and gaunt. Remember that when you are getting picked on.

Taiwanese are just fucking rude. I’m sorry, but that’s the only way to say it. Inform them that commenting on another person’s weight like that is considered socially unacceptable. They do it to all foreigners, even the ones who would be called skinny back home. Don’t worry about it. You aren’t fat, as any trip back home to the real Land of Beached Whales will reassure you.

Wow, it is so true that Taiwanese culture seems to allow for the most blunt pronouncements about other people’s physical appreance. And if you are “overweight”, fuggettaboutit. It’s Open Season. But, hey, it’s not at all just reserved for foreigners, the nicknames that locals have to endure from classmates can be pretty harsh. And you are expected to grin and bear it, ad nauseum. “Little piggy”, ha ha ha… yes. Ha Ha, that’s so cute.

I have to be honest, I packed on some poundage as the years ticked by in Taiwan. By my mid-30’s I had a beer belly, to be sure. One day, I met an old student from back in my lither days, and the first words out of their mouth was, “Teacher, you are fat!”. Unfortunately a snapping retort eluded me that day.

My worst experience along these lines happend in class one day. A student was doing the pulling the hair on my arm thing, and saying for all to hear, “Wa-say, hao do mao”. Then she put her hand on my stomach and asked me when the baby was due. Immediately another student chimed in, “And you’re bald, too. what does it feel like to be bald?” And this was a friggin adult class! That was it… I retreated to the front of the class, and boiling with rage and indignation, let them know that I was being paid to teach them, I was not there to be the subject of their indiscrete and bloody rude obeservations. Perhaps the moment was a bit like that scene in the Elephant Man, where the hero cries out in anugish, I am MAN, not a BEAST. The class, of course sat there in totally embarrased silence. The bald comment guy squirmed in his chair, eyes cast down face beet red in shame, and the girl who inquired after my tummy was on the verge of tears. Things were never the same with that class. Not to bignote myself (too much), but I was a great teacher (back when that was how I made my living), fun, very hands on and engaged, for the rest of that term they got a much more reserved and distant presentation. Buggers.

Now, a confessional aside: the most painfull aspect of that experience was that the girl who pulled my arm hair and patted my stomach had just about the hottest body I’d ever seen in Taiwan. I’m talking real and spectacular, you know - the kind of stunner that you’d gladly crawl a mile over broken glass just to wank in the shadow of (if that’s your thing), and to be honest, I was, privately, more than a bit taken with her. The old ego took some serious damage that day, indeed.

Funny, in subsequent terms when I would see the core of these students who carried on studying at our school, they would all say how much they missed me, and how I was the best teacher, etc. etc. (But then again, blowing meaningless sunshine up people’s arses is a national passtime in the ROC). Miss Super Body, in particular, was always extremely nice to me after that, and even called me months and months latter to wish me well when she heard I was repatriating my fat ass back to the USA. (Alas, she never threw me an apology shag. Ah, well.)

Taiwanese people are funny like that (and I say that as a Taiwanese person who lived for a long time overseas – I kind of see both sides…) They will cheerfully make the most (to our minds) inappropriate comments, but turn very thin-skinned and almost “wounded” if you don’t act like the jolly good sport you’re supposed to.

It’s all about fulfilling social expectations…poking fun at people who are “overweight”, hairy, bald…whatever is considered OK, part of the social script. Getting upset, however, is not. That is why snappy comebacks are good…by keeping the humor going, it keeps the situation from getting too heavy.

By the way, Indiana, I think the attitudes are changing, albeit slowly, on the attractiveness of muscles. Gyms are springing up all over the place in Taipei. A lot of the women who go there are still really clueless though. I was in California Gym putting in my 30 minutes on a stationary bike when the girl asked me why her bike isn’t working – she wasn’t peddling hard enough to get the unit started!


You made my day. Thanks, :slight_smile:

I’m 80kg at 180cm and some folks even comment on me being fat… :loco: I just ignore them. Or say, “Well at least I’m not ugly…” :raspberry:

Exactly. That’s why all of us felt so awkward when I had my little melt-down in class. Really, I tried to keep my composure and laugh it off - but they caught me off guard that day, I suppose. The embarrassed silence which ensued was less about them feeling bad for being insensitive wankers, it was much more about Teacher loosing massive face, by loosing his temper and falling out-of-character. How did DMX put it, “Y’all gonna make me lose my mind, up in here, up in here. Y’all gonna make me act the fool…”

I get Taiwanese people telling me I’m too skinny. Shesh, I must really be on the verge of death if the rest of you say they even call “slim” people fat. :help:

I eat Mc.Donalds and pizza daily…not to mention about 2 pounds of homemade fudge per week. Ahh, it is my curse.


Arm yourself with

The real kind, not just to the outside.

Clever come-backs are handy and fun, sure, but if you

Well, I don’t think it’s quite as easy as clicking your heels to find confidence and attitude. If only.

When I was 18 I returned to Taiwan for a year. I had such a hard time finding cloths that fit and dealing with shit from people (starting with my own family) about my weight that I wore the sweatsuit sets from Giordano all year. Literally, the most I put into my appearance was ensuring the colors of the tops and bottoms match.

At the time I thought I was flouting convention. Looking back, it was just kind of sad.


Laugh everything off. It’s really good for you! I think letting people think I’m listening to them, nodding and smiling and agreeing, but letting it go out the other ear works sooo well.

Yes yes, I’m so short! Aiya! I should go die! Really, I should! I don’t deserve to live ah!

Seriously, in one ear, out the other, and make a ton of jokes in between. And keep laughing. You know what you got. Some people need to make others feel bad about themselves in order to make themselves feel better. Human nature. Aiya…

Well, if you are overweight to the point that it affects your health or you feel that it will boost your confidence to lose weight, then by all means do something about it! However, if your BMI is good and you are happy with yourself, then I would try to brush off rude comments…like don’t become a Kate Moss for the sake of fitting in with these freaks :loco: although it IS hard…I must admit…Taiwanese people are really rude in that respect…I sympathize with you…

I’ve had this issue from the moment I stepped off the plane at CKS. Some of you have heard my rants (one time too many) on this subject. When I arrived in Taiwan, I was 126kg and in the opinion of folks back home, a Beast. I started lifting weights when I was 16 and entered bodybuilding and powerlifting comps at age 21. My first year in Taiwan was surreal with people on the street that would stare like there’s no tomorrow. In fact, while at a night market in Tainan, people would say ‘Hello’ constantly (I mean non stop)and while enjoying pints at a club called AD, people would actually want to touch me. Disturbing but humourous none the less.

When I moved up to Taipei, people would make comments like “So Stwong” all the time. Nightlife was great, with nonstop questions about fitness and eating habits. During this time I got to know alot of people. BUT jobs, I am not marketable towards the parents nor am I viewed as a model business english teacher which is strictly based upons my looks. This is where reality set in for me. I was not going to have it easy on this island.

2005/2006 have been rough because last year this time, for some odd reason, I lost my drive to train and bodybuild. I’ve become seriously overweight at 145kgs. People still stare but the new people I meet no longer look up to my physique but rather they give me those “When are you due?” type comments. Still no fun trying to find work either.

In my opinion, back home we work as individuals and not as a collective. Again this goes back to common respect we as Westerners have for one another. We don’t commonly say rude things towards eachother and we don’t fear individuals who happen to be different. If ya look on the streets of Taipei, it’s like people were put together on an assenbly line. A cookiecutter society. Most people here are not exactly large human beings and not only that, anything that stands out is looked upon as being freakish which includes being a fat person.

Being different is good but sometimes it can be a pain in the ass. Regardless of where you live.

You’re right, it’s not. Or someone would already be very rich selling the heel-clicking formula :slight_smile:

But you can do a lot to build up confidence with the right attitude. You can’t change how stupid people are, but you can choose how you react to what they say. You even have a choice of how you will feel when you hear them say the stupid things they say.

If you think that

Commenting that you

There is a big difference if you’re called [insert a bad adjective] in a foreign country or in your home country. I’m not really sure what it’s about, but while it never bothers me what the Taiwanese think of me, I always take offence when I get nasty comments at home. It’s just something about identifying yourself with the people around you. When you’re abroad you’re used to not fitting it, but when you’re at home you get the feeling that you should adjust to the local standards and meet other people’s expectations.

And it really is difficult to come back home, especially when it means that you lose about 30% of your value (esp appearance) as soon as you step off the plane.

You can always comment on how awful their teeth are next time they call you fat. :smiling_imp: