Finally decided to leave Taiwan

I have finally decided to leave the beautiful island of Taiwan after nearly 5 years and I am already missing it and I am still here!

I really like so many aspects of living here. From the pretty girls, to delicious food, to feeling safe, to relatively cheap cost of living, to the sheer convenience of having anything your heart desires , to non-aggressive people and old culture, and on and on. Of course there are other aspects which are not quite as wholesome and we all know about them, hot sticky summers, dangerous roads, noise etc.

But the longer I stay the more isolated I feel and the absolute major reason for that is the Chinese language and the reluctance of a large percentage of the population to engage you with it.

This is not criticizing the culture or looking for answers or solution on what to do or how to cope - I have had nearly 5 years worth of it - I am just so tired of the daily struggle against it. Just can’t hack it any more. My interactions with the people are so limited to the one fact of me being different.

If I have an active day, where I might do some shopping at the supermarket where I may bump into one or two people, or pay a bill at 7-11, or visit the local liquor store, or go to the swimming pool, or have lunch at some restaurant or a coffee at at a coffee shop or shout at some crazy scooter driver cutting me off, or see someone in the elevator in my building saying “hello” …that day does not pass without me feeling frustrated or annoyed.

I am the exact opposite of shy or an introvert, I love banter and joking with people and being curious about so many things but I feel in a verbal straightjacket. I want to drop by so many wonderful eating places that I see on my daily walks and ask questions about their menu and foods and try different things. I want to pay the cashier at the supermarket without him/her mimicking the gesture for a bag as he or she asks “Ni yao dai zi ma?” just once!

Granted, Chinese culture is not the most flamboyant and expressive culture out there even amongst themselves so I don’t take it personally, but it boils down to the fact that I can not have any sense of normality - and I am not expecting or demanding it - it is what it is as they say in Chinese! I just have no more energy to cope with it.

Well, this was not meant to be a rant but it turned into one! Ce la vie!

seems a common point in time to move on. after 5 years you either settle down or move. good luck.

[quote=“ryanx”]I have finally decided to leave the beautiful island of Taiwan after nearly 5 years and I am already missing it and I am still here!

I really like so many aspects of living here. From the pretty girls, to delicious food, to feeling safe, to relatively cheap cost of living, to the sheer convenience of having anything your heart desires , to non-aggressive people and old culture, and on and on. Of course there are other aspects which are not quite as wholesome and we all know about them, hot sticky summers, dangerous roads, noise etc.

But the longer I stay the more isolated I feel and the absolute major reason for that is the Chinese language and the reluctance of a large percentage of the population to engage you with it.

This is not criticizing the culture or looking for answers or solution on what to do or how to cope - I have had nearly 5 years worth of it - I am just so tired of the daily struggle against it. Just can’t hack it any more. My interactions with the people are so limited to the one fact of me being different.

If I have an active day, where I might do some shopping at the supermarket where I may bump into one or two people, or pay a bill at 7-11, or visit the local liquor store, or go to the swimming pool, or have lunch at some restaurant or a coffee at at a coffee shop or shout at some crazy scooter driver cutting me off, or see someone in the elevator in my building saying “hello” …that day does not pass without me feeling frustrated or annoyed.

I am the exact opposite of shy or an introvert, I love banter and joking with people and being curious about so many things but I feel in a verbal straightjacket. I want to drop by so many wonderful eating places that I see on my daily walks and ask questions about their menu and foods and try different things. I want to pay the cashier at the supermarket without him/her mimicking the gesture for a bag as he or she asks “Ni yao dai zi ma?” just once!

Granted, Chinese culture is not the most flamboyant and expressive culture out there even amongst themselves so I don’t take it personally, but it boils down to the fact that I can not have any sense of normality - and I am not expecting or demanding it - it is what it is as they say in Chinese! I just have no more energy to cope with it.

Well, this was not meant to be a rant but it turned into one! Ce la vie![/quote]

To be honest, I find it best to speak first and let the people know you speak Chinese. If they know you speak Chinese then they will respond.

Thanks for the suggestion. But it kind of proves my point about not having normal interactions with people, the stress of having to do this every time, many times unsuccessfully - sometimes they blatantly answer back in English or switch back to it in a couple sentences or start acting and feeling awkward or uncomfortable if you insist. I am not ungrateful for the suggestion but after nearly 5 years of trying this method countless number of times along with tens of other ‘methods’, the frustration never ceases.

A case in point, this very night I went into my local super market and the cashier made a mistake with the change - she gave me too much - and being the honest person that I am I pointed it out in Chinese. She understood and gave me the correct change but mumbled something about being sorry and not paying attention in English! You might say why would you let such a silly little incident bother you, but it is death by a thousands cuts!

Agreed, if you just take the initiative to say “ni hao” first to open the exchange, I’ve found whomever I’m speaking with will usually be happy to carry on in Chinese. The exceptions are usually fluent English speakers (in which case, just enjoy speaking your mother tongue), or occasional clowns (in which case just move on).

[Edit to add to OP: I posted this about the same time as your response to Steelersman, which I hadn’t seen. I think 5 years really is an in-between point. If you stay longer, you have a very good chance of getting around to an experience closer to the one Steelersman and I am describing. I can honestly say that this is really almost a non-issue for me now. It also has something to do with the greater fluency that you gain the longer you are here. People can sense it, and will give you credit for it, but it really takes a while. Whether you feel it is worth your while to put in that time is something you have to decide for yourself.]

I stayed eight years. Loved Taiwan. But I just woke up one morning thinking ‘I cannot work here anymore’. Realised I’d never be happy until I sorted out a career for myself, so I left. I was ‘homesick’ for a while, but now I realise I’m so much better off in so many ways, back home. Wouldn’t trade it for anything. Yet I still sneak a peak at the flob, and keep in touch with my girls in Taiwan, and visit every now and again. It’s only a plane ride away, if you e er wanted to go back, but it sounds as if you know what you want.

One thing I wish I’d realised in my 20s is that there’s no prize for sticking things out that you hate.

I wonder if the situation the O/P describes is in part due to him being in Taizhong, and if he wouldn’t have a better time of it in either Taipei or, on the opposite end, a smaller place.

But once the decision to leave the country has been made it would be hard not to follow through.

[quote=“cranky laowai”]I wonder if the situation the O/P describes is in part due to him being in Taizhong, and if he wouldn’t have a better time of it in either Taipei or, on the opposite end, a smaller place.

But once the decision to leave the country has been made it would be hard not to follow through.[/quote]

Funnily enough I have actually wondered about that myself. Could you elaborate?

Is Taipei so much more cosmopolitan that I would enjoy that aspect and in a smaller place they would take me in and adopt me?

This has been such a difficult decision for me to make, because I actually enjoy being here…I just wish I could melt into the background without anyone noticing me and I could ever so quietly enjoy life, but alas it is not to be.

Today at my school, a Belgium professor by the name of Luc Claesen was invited to speak at our weekly English seminar. He opened by speaking full Chinese with accents of course. Then something weird happened. Even though he went on through his presentation speaking English 99% of the time, the students asked him questions in Chinese and he replied those questions in Chinese also. Usually we have Taiwanese guests, and they would not speak a word of Chinese to us, and so the students would asks questions in English. But to this obviously European guy who doesn’t really speak Mandarin fluently, the students asks questions in Chinese simply because he opened with Chinese and did a fine job introducing himself. (He speaks the language very well already, good grammar, understandable pronunciation, but he did struggle to understand some of the questions fully, also it was sometimes a little hard for him to express his thought. Since he was giving a engineering seminar, it’s already impressive).

Ryan pretty much calls it as it is, don’t beat yourself up about it, it’s a subject that’s come up many times before. Some people can be a bit stiff here, a bit shy to their neighbours etc., and most take take the whole foreignness thing FAR too seriously, tightening up and getting nervous or afraid of interaction (they have said to my wife). They are good people mostly but it’s not for everybody, I’m here longer and I probably wont ever get 100% used to it either. I’ve lived in Sweden too and I felt that was worse in a different way as nobody ever talked to strangers there. I’m from a nation of talkers and even though we didn’t have many foreigners where I was growing up (we do now!) people wouldn’t stiffen up or start hacking crappy Japanese at every Asian that walked in, they would have a chat and ask them if they liked this or that and wouldn’t be afraid of the whole experience. Now the capital city is half foreigners so nobody bats an eyelid.
If you don’t feel comfortable its a good idea to move on because it’s likely that things wont change. Lots of places to go in the world and lots of good people to meet!

This happened to me at work with my ex-manager, first I would speak Chinese to her, then she speak English to me. It felt ridiculous so I gave up and started speaking English to her, weirdly she then started speaking Chinese back to me! Once the whole concept of ‘competition’ was got over it seemed to regularize itself and people just go with what is comfortable.

[quote=“ryanx”][quote=“cranky laowai”]I wonder if the situation the O/P describes is in part due to him being in Taizhong, and if he wouldn’t have a better time of it in either Taipei or, on the opposite end, a smaller place.

But once the decision to leave the country has been made it would be hard not to follow through.[/quote]

Funnily enough I have actually wondered about that myself. Could you elaborate?

Is Taipei so much more cosmopolitan that I would enjoy that aspect and in a smaller place they would take me in and adopt me?

This has been such a difficult decision for me to make, because I actually enjoy being here…I just wish I could melt into the background without anyone noticing me and I could ever so quietly enjoy life, but alas it is not to be.[/quote]

Having lived in Taipei for 8 years or so I can tell you the only real difference is that Taipei has more foreigners to hang out with, otherwise they will try to speak even MORE English to you in Taipei as more people have gone to college there and get into that competitive English speaking vibe. Hey that would be okay if the conversations were interesting but unfortunately no the same dull speaking patterns and interactions happened there.

I seriously want to go back to the US and every time I see an asian walk up to them and say 你好!歡迎光臨! 你在美國多久了? 你是中文的老師嗎? 你結婚了嗎?

I seriously want to do that SOOOOO bad. When they get riled up, since chances are they are Americans, I’ll just tell them the wonderful, ancient and wise culture of their ancestors taught me this is how you treat people who look different than you.

EDIT
I REALLY also want to tell them 你拿叉子好厲害啊!

[quote=“Confuzius”]I seriously want to go back to the US and every time I see an Asian walk up to them and say 你好!歡迎光臨! 你在美國多久了? 你是中文的老師嗎? 你結婚了嗎?

I seriously want to do that SOOOOO bad. When they get riled up, since chances are they are Americans, I’ll just tell them the wonderful, ancient and wise culture of their ancestors taught me this is how you treat people who look different than you.

EDIT
I REALLY also want to tell them 你拿叉子好厲害啊![/quote]

It’s not even remotely the same situation.

[quote=“ryanx”]I have finally decided to leave the beautiful island of Taiwan after nearly 5 years and I am already missing it and I am still here!

I really like so many aspects of living here. From the pretty girls, to delicious food, to feeling safe, to relatively cheap cost of living, to the sheer convenience of having anything your heart desires , to non-aggressive people and old culture, and on and on. Of course there are other aspects which are not quite as wholesome and we all know about them, hot sticky summers, dangerous roads, noise etc.

But the longer I stay the more isolated I feel and the absolute major reason for that is the Chinese language and the reluctance of a large percentage of the population to engage you with it.

This is not criticizing the culture or looking for answers or solution on what to do or how to cope - I have had nearly 5 years worth of it - I am just so tired of the daily struggle against it. Just can’t hack it any more. My interactions with the people are so limited to the one fact of me being different.

If I have an active day, where I might do some shopping at the supermarket where I may bump into one or two people, or pay a bill at 7-11, or visit the local liquor store, or go to the swimming pool, or have lunch at some restaurant or a coffee at at a coffee shop or shout at some crazy scooter driver cutting me off, or see someone in the elevator in my building saying “hello” …that day does not pass without me feeling frustrated or annoyed.

I am the exact opposite of shy or an introvert, I love banter and joking with people and being curious about so many things but I feel in a verbal straightjacket. I want to drop by so many wonderful eating places that I see on my daily walks and ask questions about their menu and foods and try different things. I want to pay the cashier at the supermarket without him/her mimicking the gesture for a bag as he or she asks “Ni yao dai zi ma?” just once!

Granted, Chinese culture is not the most flamboyant and expressive culture out there even amongst themselves so I don’t take it personally, but it boils down to the fact that I can not have any sense of normality - and I am not expecting or demanding it - it is what it is as they say in Chinese! I just have no more energy to cope with it.

Well, this was not meant to be a rant but it turned into one! Ce la vie![/quote]

Exactly how I felt for much of the time, OP. You’ve given it a good shot, but you’re doing the right thing by leaving.

[quote=“Abacus”][quote=“Confuzius”]I seriously want to go back to the US and every time I see an Asian walk up to them and say 你好!歡迎光臨! 你在美國多久了? 你是中文的老師嗎? 你結婚了嗎?

I seriously want to do that SOOOOO bad. When they get riled up, since chances are they are Americans, I’ll just tell them the wonderful, ancient and wise culture of their ancestors taught me this is how you treat people who look different than you.

EDIT
I REALLY also want to tell them 你拿叉子好厲害啊![/quote]

It’s not even remotely the same situation.[/quote]

Ignorance is ignorance.

My two cents: (worth perhaps a penny)

Have to kinda remember that although Taiwanese are very friendly , they (as a whole) usually are not aggressive in starting and maintaining a conversation with a stranger. Unless there was a vested interest. There’s banter if there is at least some sort of association with you, however tenuous.

But if there is no such connection , they are rather keen to dis-engage.

The only way to get them to speak chinese to you near all the time is if your chinese is good enough.

I doubt people on this forum that iv met and personally know speak fluent, mando have this issue on the whole.

What you should do is disregard that they speak to you in english and continue speaking in mando. Speak not a word of english . Continue with mando whether they speak to you in english or not.

AS to feeling isolated. This happens when you do not have enough interaction with people at work and dont have close friends to hang out with on a daily basis.

And you need to interact with general society just to get some sort of interaction.

But expecting strangers to provide you with the “human touch” contantly is not real.

I walk on a popular path in San fRancisco now and then. And i noticed when two Americans pass each other on this path (as its rather narrow, thereby impossible to NOT see each other) they will say “hi” . But two white people who are not Americans (say europeans) will NOT say hi to each other just because they are passing in close proximity.

Two Asians most definitely will NOT say hi.

And a white American seeing an asian will not say HI either.

So its a social thing. Taiwanese do NOT feel compelled they need to say a word to you at all, even if they are squished so close to you on a crowded bus.

Iv many times been on crowded buses in Taipei in times past where im practically slow dancing with a girl who is pressed so close to me that we are cheek to cheek. Does she feel she needs to say “hi” ? Nope.

On a few rare occasions when iv been as close on a BART train (very rare) the American girl (white) felt compelled to say hi.

Taiwanese just do not talk to strangers. Takes time for them to warm up to you.

If you need to get out of the rock and experience a new life. Do so.

But if you do remain, you can change the situation by:

  1. getting more friends. Dont rely on strangers to give you “human contact therapy” who have no vested interest in talking to you.

  2. speaking mando to everyone you want to. NEver break out into english just because they speak mando to you.

[quote=“tommy525”]My two cents: (worth perhaps a penny)

Have to kinda remember that although Taiwanese are very friendly , they (as a whole) usually are not aggressive in starting and maintaining a conversation with a stranger. Unless there was a vested interest. There’s banter if there is at least some sort of association with you, however tenuous.

But if there is no such connection , they are rather keen to dis-engage.

The only way to get them to speak chinese to you near all the time is if your chinese is good enough.

I doubt people on this forum that iv met and personally know speak fluent, mando have this issue on the whole.

What you should do is disregard that they speak to you in english and continue speaking in mando. Speak not a word of english . Continue with mando whether they speak to you in english or not.

AS to feeling isolated. This happens when you do not have enough interaction with people at work and dont have close friends to hang out with on a daily basis.

And you need to interact with general society just to get some sort of interaction.

But expecting strangers to provide you with the “human touch” contantly is not real.

I walk on a popular path in San fRancisco now and then. And i noticed when two Americans pass each other on this path (as its rather narrow, thereby impossible to NOT see each other) they will say “hi” . But two white people who are not Americans (say europeans) will NOT say hi to each other just because they are passing in close proximity.

Two Asians most definitely will NOT say hi.

And a white American seeing an Asian will not say HI either.

So its a social thing. Taiwanese do NOT feel compelled they need to say a word to you at all, even if they are squished so close to you on a crowded bus.

Iv many times been on crowded buses in Taipei in times past where im practically slow dancing with a girl who is pressed so close to me that we are cheek to cheek. Does she feel she needs to say “hi” ? Nope.

On a few rare occasions when iv been as close on a BART train (very rare) the American girl (white) felt compelled to say hi.

Taiwanese just do not talk to strangers. Takes time for them to warm up to you.

If you need to get out of the rock and experience a new life. Do so.

But if you do remain, you can change the situation by:

  1. getting more friends. Dont rely on strangers to give you “human contact therapy” who have no vested interest in talking to you.

  2. speaking mando to everyone you want to. NEver break out into english just because they speak mando to you.[/quote]

I never had much trouble with people wanting to speak English to me after the second year. Actually, I got in trouble in my buxiban, because the kids would speak Mandarin to me. However if one ventures to Tianmu, then some people may speak English to you.

[quote=“Confuzius”][quote=“Abacus”]

It’s not even remotely the same situation.[/quote]

Ignorance is ignorance.[/quote]

The difference of course is that you actually speak English compared to the ABC that doesn’t speak any Chinese.

I disagree; I just keep patiently but firmly saying, “我想讲中文” with a smile on my face over and over again and 99% of the time they give up before me!