Is it just me?

What about the guy who brought my friend’s wallet to their house after they lost it and demanded money before he gave it back. They only gave him a few hundred dollars when the wallet itself is worth several thousand (the implication here of course is that if there was any cash in the wallet he’d have just pocketed the cash and binned the wallet). Rude, greedy and stupid to boot.[/quote]

If you read both my wallet story and yeti’s you see that there are both honest Taiwanese and total a-holes. Wow, that kind of sounds like every single other culture on the planet. hmmmmmmm, maybe these Taiwanese creatures are actually human after all.

The point is, once again, that you can never generalize about the virtues or shortcomings of ALL the people in any culture. Period.

Honestly, a part of me feels quite hurt by comments like yours. .[/quote]

Well, Jubom and Nutella, my appologies are in due. It does come across as generalization that is spiteful in tone. Im sure there are a good amount of taiwanese in taiwan, but I am going thru another cycle with them that makes me truly wonder. Think with living in another culture is that the signs that normal for them that signal kindness and other like matters can be non exsistant for someone of us. I have meet some very poliet taiwanese but when you get to the heart of the matter at times, it seemsly like that was a mask. Its times like these that I need a decoder to understand what’s going on, so that I don’t have to rant like this… :laughing:

Well said.

Namahottie, it really sounds like you have had some tough run ins with some not so sincere people here in Taiwan. That “decoder” you talk about is cultural understanding and at times it is not easy to obtain, I have had my own struggles with it as well. Tolerance of course is the first step along with seperating out the bad people you encounter from the culture or race or society from which they come. I did not mean for any of my comments to be vindictive and I hope your dealings with Taiwanese culture take a turn for the better. Best of Luck.

I think you hit the nail on the head with the “decoder” comment. That signals that you know there’s an “understanding gap” that you need to overcome. This signals to me that you’re a sensitive person who is frustrated at not being able to quickly understand people here. I wish I could say it will be easy, but it won’t. Even with fluent Chinese, expect to spend a decade or longer making your way into the slip-stream of local consciousness.

Your greatest teachers in this process will be your Taiwanese friends. Folks on this site may relate to your problems and nod in agreement, but to get to the “why,” you’ll need to speak with local friends. In my experience, the Taiwanese are very sensitive to relationship issues and spend a good deal of time thinking about them. Over the years, I’ve had quite a few powerful (and really eye-opening) discussions with Taiwanese friends. But you’ll either need a high level of Chinese or your friends will need to speak fluent English for each of you to articulate your thoughts, since the issues quickly become complex.

I think Westerners often get frustrated by the lack of cut and dry, black and white solutions in Taiwan. There are very few either/or’s or absolutes. In the West, the cult of The Truth is extremely important. People scramble all over themselves in ‘proving’ this and that and showing off their knowledge. Here, the way you arrive at a solution is as important (if not moreso) than the solution itself. So, when inexperienced Westerners deal with people, this culture clash quickly rises to the surface. That is not to say truth and honesty are not valued here. Indeed, the concept of “lao(3) shi(2)” (meaning “sincere,” not “teacher”) is held in very high regard, and people regularly express frustration at people who are not “lao shi”.

So hang in there. I understand your frustration. But as others have pointed out, try to be less generalizing in your comments. As the Chinese say, don’t knock down 90% of the sheep with 10% of the stick. :wink:

I disagree. I believe that sincerity is practised no more diligently here than in other cultures, and compared to western countries a lot less diligently.

Click here for the original discussion on Taiwanese “face”.

Thanks, I’m finding that very useful.

I disagree. I believe that sincerity is practised no more diligently here than in other cultures…[/quote]

I didn’t say anything about sincerity being practiced less diligently elsewhere.

Do this: Have a conversation with a Taiwanese friend (in Chinese or Taiwanese) and ask them who their favorite colleagues are or what kind of people they like. Also ask them what kind of people they dislike. Five gets you ten “lao shi” will be a major criterium in the final analysis.

Believe me, a lot of Taiwanese express high levels of frustration at people who are sneaky and highly indirect. But they know how to deal with such people, using extremely subtle, sensitive tools which take decades to sharpen.

The problem with many Westerners is their radar is not finely tuned to local behaviorisms, so they have a difficult time distinguishing between general or superficial elusive/indirect behavior and genuine antisocial or aberrant behavior.

There is also the issue of impatience. Westerners often expect to either understand a new culture in a matter of months or bend that culture to their will. It just doesn’t happen that way. For those who did not grow up here, it takes at least 5-10 years to get up to speed, and that is a decade of diligent observation and questioning, as well as fluency in Chinese or Taiwanese.

The interesting thing is, after all that time, the answers an experienced Westerner will give you to questions about the local culture tend to get increasingly vague. That’s because, as I said before, the secret is in the process, not the product.

By the way, enough already with referring people to 2 year old threads. No discussion has ever been had or completed. The OP is fielding reactions from a group of people in the here and now not a bunch of forum ghosts.

And in the here and now, I wish her all the best. :slight_smile:

A final thought about sincerity.

In the West, there are traditions of speaking one’s mind rather bluntly and non-diplomatically, and conflict is acceptable and even encouraged. To be sincere is to say pretty much whatever is on one’s mind, since that is being “true” or “open”.

Since Taiwanese folks are quite sensitive to the reactions of others, to be sincere does not necessarily mean to say everything that pops into one’s head at that time. People will think twice before saying something negative, and “the truth” may be tempered to help one save face, to soften a remark, or to avoid conflict.

So, though “sincere” is a rough translation of “lao shi,” I think “lao shi” encompasses quite a few cultural values that are either lacking in the term “sincere” or which are different from the term as it is understood in Western cultural contexts.

Hmmm, very interesting.
All I can add is that quite a few of my English-teaching friends have had dealings with school directors that can only be described as downright being lied to and cheated out of lots of money.
And as for my first boss in Taiwan, that bit about looking me in the eyes while making certain promises can only be described as pure lying. As things turned out, what she told me she would do to “help” me was complete BS, as she already the PREVIOUS DAY had done exactly the opposite. That wasn’t “saving face” or a cultural difference that one would need decades of honing or a decoder to decypher, and it cost me a helluva lot of money, what with having to go on a visa run etc. etc. etc. Not to mention a dent in my previous probably naive habit of believing what people tell me, with a caring and sincere attitude, unless they were obvious bullshitters.
I’m not saying all Taiwanese people are like that, but there is a lot of that type of thing going on involving people one would never expect it from.

Good post banshette. I’m glad when we get out of abstract arguments and into actual examples and situations. Would a native Taiwanese like being lied to and cheated out of money? Of course not. My wife is Taiwanese-born, US-raised, and one of the worst parts of living in Taiwan for her when we went there was all the lying. Perhaps this is due to being raised in the United States, and also having blunt, honest parents who from what I can see care nothing about “face” or some such rot. A person tells the truth or they don’t. To people who think we should leave our values back in the West, it is always a matter of “their culture”, “their ways” etc. But what about Taiwan’s own critics? I’m sure we all know plenty of Taiwanese who can’t stand the racist, ignorant attitudes of so many of their own countrymen, just as we here are often critical of our own peoples.

For example, when my wife was trying to get her national ID, so that she could get the national health insurance, we made several trips to several differents office, both in Taipei and her birthplace in Taiwan. We were often given different information, but a pattern we both saw is that when someone didn’t know what to do, they just made up whatever came to their mind. No one ever said they didn’t know what to do, they just kept sending us all over the damn island. Eventually, we were told “mei banfa” over 30 times or so (literally), and that she would have to go back to America to get her hukou, etc. The same thing would happen when getting directions, it seemed like if a person didn’t know, they would just give us wrong directions, which our Taiwanese friends said was to “save face”. Oh, and she was also fired from her English-teaching job because too many parents complained about her being Asian.

But concerning the OP, I have to say that had it not been for our Taiwanese friends helping us find housing, showing us around the city, etc. settling in would have been terribly frustrating. There are plenty of good honest people in Taiwan, you’ve just got to find them :sunglasses:

You put words in my mouth I never said. So I will not answer.

And I had been running out of St. John’s wort when I wrote my post.

Go get some new Nutella.

Edit: forgot to say: I like Nutella and Taiwanese. Just posted my rule of thumb to survive here. It is generalized that is true. I found too complex survival rules do not really help.

Edit2: “I like Taiwanese” is another generalization. “I like Nutella” is not really one. So let me keep the Nutella statement at least for today.
[Nutella is chocolate cream for Broetchen, hmmmmm]

What I am trying to discern at present is whether there is any real difference between Taiwanese dishonesty or misdirection in order to ‘save face’, and Western dishonesty and misdirection in order to ‘save face’.

Most of the examples I’ve seen posted here are the same kinds of things I’ve experienced in my two workplaces in Australia.

Honestly, a part of me feels quite hurt by comments like yours. .[/quote]

Well, Jubom and Nutella, my appologies are in due. [/quote]

Hey, I appreciate it. I am sure that there are no doubt plenty of people who do awful things in Taiwan, and I certainly can understand why you are pissed off.

So, what’s going on? Did something happen to lead to how you feel right now?

Take care,

[quote=“banshette”] Not to mention a dent in my previous probably naive habit of believing what people tell me, with a caring and sincere attitude, unless they were obvious bullshitters.

There is a behaviour here which is more tactical towards other people than in western countries. This is why Taiwanese and Chinese do consider themselves to be more clever than other nationals. I found when being asked a question, “information hiding” is more common here. If you give information, someone could use it against you! My wife explained to me: a clever person always avoids corrects answers about things like your previous companies, even your sisters and brothers. She explained: if I tell person A I have a sister called Ellen. Then I could not use Ellen as a witness for me one day. Applying for a job needs you to provide a witness.
In family life here, people think more tactical as well and do business with each other. In my country I would get my aunt a kilo of meet from the butcher, if it is on my way and charge here the original price. Here, people try to make a profit, even with their relative.
Or how my culture book puts it:
Westerners do not make business in the family, but rather with strangers.
Chinese love to do business with their family rather than with strangers.

Is it good? Is it bad? I do not judge. All I say is: OUR WESTERN STANDARDS ARE BULLSHIT here. So be prepared to have a business-warlord dealing with you, when a Taiwansese family member is doing you a favour!
YES, if you lose your purse, they probably will bring it to you. Stealing and keeping other peoples propertyis something totally different.
Our western honesty does not apply here, they have a different one.

And I found individualism less strong here in Taipei “Chinese” families than in western countries. This has nothing to do with being human or not.

I don’t think the Taiwanese are any more dishonest than Westerners. I worked in retail for a couple of weeks in the West and couldn’t cut because I was often knowingly lying to customers and the business was taking the mark up. I feel less guilty about taking money from English lessons which are likely to be unused in the future by a good number of students. I went through a stage of questioning my own ethics in terms of being in Taiwan and teaching English and have since decided it’s as much about the money as it is about self-satifaction which is why I’ve been earning less this year than I have in previous years. In terms of being in business to make money I think the Taiwanese are actually more honest about it than many Westerners.

I loaned a Taiwanese friend a significant amount of money (to me at the time) and he has since moved to Shanghai. I have written it off as bad debts. I also had this experience in my home country. It read like the personal stuff in the orignal poster’s message is the reason for his/her feelings. I’ve noticed this in some Western friends behaviour here. That a lot of the culture shock an non-adjustment is due to things in their personal lives.

Unfortunately many foreigners’ main contact with Taiwanese is in the form of their bosses, and for many that means buxiban bosses.

Judging the honesty of Taiwanese from those experiences is like judging westerners on your experiences with used-car salesmen.


[quote=“Bu Lai En”]

Unfortunately many foreigners’ main contact with Taiwanese is in the form of their bosses…


You know my wife and her “I am the boss” attitude?

Bu Lai En hits it on the nail. The English teaching industry in Taiwan = the used car industry back home. Lying and cheating and backstabbing are the norm in a relatively unregulated industry where there’s lots of $$$ to be made. This is true anywhere. It’s not necessarily a Taiwanese culture thing, so you shouldn’t have to take that “you foreigners just don’t understand our culture” bullshit when you’re being lied to and cheated. There are plenty of honest, decent people in Taiwan, same as every else. It’s just that you’ll have a harder time finding them in the field you’re working in.