Poor ABCs


“Often seen as the children of privilege, most overseas Chinese living and working in Taiwan say they will never fully possess the heritage that is their birthright”

Poor John. He can’t speak Chinese and doesn’t have the heritage that is his birthright!

Seeing as, according to this article, many ABCs feel they’re getting the short end of the stick, I wonder how they would feel if they were seen as “regular” foreigners, with no access to instant ROC/foreign duel nationality and having to put up with the stares, pigeonholing, sign-language, etc., that non-ABC foreigners have to put up with.

How terrible and heart-wrenching the plight is of those poor mistreated ABC, CBC, of BBC’s, whereever they were born, plight is. Wanting to get immersed into their culture.

Give me a FACKING break!!!

So let me get this straight, it’s so hard and terrible. Let me see what do they get? The right to work freely; no stares pointing or shouting of HELLO; and if Taiwan is ever invaded, a free trip out. They can even get out of military service just like my one friend is by leaving the country every 4 months and coming back. WHy you can even spot them easily because as one Taiwanese women put it

EE gads, there shoes match their clothes. I can now easily point out all the ABC’s around me with that little tip. Why is it only ABC’s? Chinese are all over the world. Why not call them foreign born Chinese?

I put this article up there with the racist rants of embittered foreign born Chinese, my coworker(fake ABC) telling me how whites get all the women. and how they can’t get jobs and are discriminated against.

Lets face it most foreign born Chinese are from well off highly educated families. You don’t just jump on a plane and live in another country if your poor. This whole mercedes and million dollar apartments is just smoke up our collective ass. You want to get to the real bottom of this ask Lien Chan and James Soong this question. If you love Taiwan so much why are your sons in the US with American passports and not fulfilling their duty to Taiwan by serving in the military as it is outlined in the constitution of the ROC you claim to uphold?


Except for a few English-teaching positions, is this true? Most of the "ABC"s I know work at large-ish companies in decidedly non-English-teaching positions.

Whilst I think that ABCs and other overseas Chinese may sometimes feel caught between the two groups of locals and foreigners, perhaps feeling that they can’t belong to either, I feel that they have a huge advantage over non-Chinese foreigners such as myself. That is, once they’ve spent a few years developing decent language skills, they will be considered ‘Chinese’ or ‘Taiwanese’, whereas ‘whites’ (and other ethnically non-Chinese) will never, never be thought of as Taiwanese, even if they speak and write Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka and a few aboriginal languages perfectly, have a Taiwanese passport, an extensive knowledge of Taiwanese history, have lived here since they were born, and are married to Taiwanese, with grandchildren in high school.


Following on from Brian… Whereas that poor ABC is at least considered a Chinese-American. But I think that’s what he considers himself, not how others see him. If someone of Chinese descent in Britain considers themselves British, then they are, they are to me anyway, they only become Chinese when they keep going on about their Chinese heritage.

Yes, but this doesn’t change the fact that they still face many of the same everyday difficulties “regular” visible foreigners must confront. Their sense of alienation may not be as extreme as that of a visible minority, however it is real and as such is deserving of our support and understanding - not scorn. Living in a million dollar house and driving a mercedes doesn’t change the way you are treated by the locals. :frowning:

A lot of what’s in the article is true, whatever “mix” you happen to be… white/black, Eurasian… I think it’s all in the attitude. Christine is a great example, and I have to say my husband is too… opportunities have practically fallen into his lap and his (our) problem is that he finds it hard to turn them away.

[quote=“Sir Donald Bradman”]That is, once they’ve spent a few years developing decent language skills, they will be considered ‘Chinese’ or ‘Taiwanese’, whereas ‘whites’ (and other ethnically non-Chinese) will never, never be thought of as Taiwanese, even if they speak and write Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka and a few aboriginal languages perfectly

That is, if these ABC’s EVER, EVER speak perfect Mandarin!! Let alone Caucasians. I challenge anybody on this board who aren’t native Taiwanese or grown-ups to raise your hand if you got so much going in your Chinese/Mandarin/Taiwanese combo that you think you could pull it off faking as a true native Taiwanese both on the web presence(with their popular telnet BBS sites) and on the phone for an extended period of time (say, everyday for a month?)

I probably won’t see anybody’s hands. If there is, there are very, very few. Most everybody can never pass the test.

What? You think you have mastered the language in the level that you can immediately understands the most hip and witty sayings flashed on tv ads every now and then and actually understand its etymology and even invent your own buzz? How many of you can stand in the ad industry, creating your own ads catering to the taste of the general publics or teens?

Let’s face it! I would dare to say it’s almost impossible. And it’s not surprising. For those of us who weren’t grown up here, we haven’t been through the same expriences that the natives have been through. We speak different experience and see things in different angles. We were brought up differently, and we’re forever shaped by our past experiences which just ain’t gonna change. And it sticks with not just how we looked and how we dress, but also how we acts and how we speak in a subtle but noticeable ways. It affects us even today! At the same time we’re assimilating into the culture, we’re also in touch with external cultural influence that continue to wedge us further. Why that couldn’t be more apparent. We’ve contacted media sources not written in Chinese, yet the majority of the Taiwanese can only obtain information in Chinese, it’s no wonder they’re more shaped by the culture than we’re. No wonder we’re feeling alienated. We’re in touch with things different from them even when living right here in Taiwan.

How many of you can find an idea in which you can express in your native language, but no so with the Chinese as the medium? I doubt even for people who consider themself profficient in Chinese that if you serious pounder into it you would find a few cases?

Language is NOT just a communication tool: it is a media, a platform on which you build your thoughts/culture/ideas upon. How many of you can “THINK” without actually rehearsing the words in your mind? I mean when you’re thinking, aren’t you actually think in a language? Can you be not using any language and do the thinking? Often an idea in one langauge cannot be directly translated to another language. A linguist may balk at this idea. But I would say it’s impossible to translate completely some strong culturally-tied idea without losing the connotation, since you would be taking things out of context, away from the history background, the assumptions that people make when speaking about an idea.

It’s impossible to untie a langauge from it’s culture. Since I’m a tech guy, I’ll use a some computer analogy. Windows and X Windows interface are pretty much the same. They does the same thing. They accomplish the same job (suppose proper softwares and hardware exists on both platform). Yet the look and feel of an application native to one platform cannot be ported to the other and made to be felt at ease to the user of another platform without changing the structure of it. Gimp opens up with many Windows. Works OK with Motif users (I suppose, I’m not one myself.) Feels rather awkward, maybe even stupid, when you’re using Windows.

OK maybe that’s not a good analogy but I just had to rant about Gimp. =b What I wanted to say is that popular usage of one language is inextricablly tied to its cultural roots. Try to explain filial piety(

Huggie, I understand what you’re saying, but I also feel that what you just described about your adolescence and college years in the US could be described by at least 80% of US teenagers. Overseas Chinese are in a very unique position. Rather than focus on what they can’t have (maybe they can’t get “all the girls”, or ever speak Mandarin fluently), I would encourage them to capitalize on what they do have… they’re bilingual or multi-lingual, and because they’ve lived as Chinese but also in other countries, I would think they’re more open-minded than the garden variety Chinese or American.

The guy in that article, John, told how his parents were concerned that he learn to speak English fluently, so that he’d fit in better. His parents had the best intentions, and in those days (20 years ago) it was so common whether you were Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian, Mexican.

Gosh… this is the case of “You can’t have your bread and eat it too.”
I really feel frustrated with narrowminded parents forcing kids to polish english and hence deprived of their chinese heritage. (What heritage anyway), can’t sell it for a dollar.

Where I come from, a chinese overseas community of hakka dialect group, we will do our best to preserve culture and language. Though we didn’t manage to preserved script and written education, hakka is still spoken and taught to the next generation. I may say it’s no big deal. Knowing hakka might not give you any economic or business advantage. But as a hakka, I believe it gives me an ID. I belong to my the flock because of my feather (read language). I don’t just belong to the folk because of my father (read birth) which was the case of ABC, they gave a way their culture and heritage and now they feel they don’t belong to their former culture.

In Indonesia, we were eager to learn Chinese, but were banned to. During the Soeharto regime, people studied Chinese secretly, when officials found out, they burn down the schools, the books, and put the teachers into jail. For real, trying to preserve a heritage ain’t easy and one just go to the states and give it up. :sob: :sob:

But hence it makes me think, is that really the general case with ABC. Or was it that their parents wnnts their kids to keep their culture and language, but the children doesn’t want to, because they feel so american and so immersed.


I have dated foreign-born Chinese people here, well…two, but the one that was a first and last date, made comments of how he was shocked (in a negative sense it seemed) to hear foreigners speak Mandarin and then a few minutes later complained that I didn’t speak it well enough and needed to learn how to speak it better while mocking my pronunciation. All this cake having and eating b.s. I also have a friend who is CBC and married a Taiwanese man. She went through some culture shock because while the Taiwanese don’t expect us to speak Mandarin and will go out of their way to pretend that we can’t, they gave her hell for not being able to speak it and looking like them.
I think it depends on the people sometimes. Some of them are sincere and are here in the same boat where they were denied their culture because of forced assimilation to their family’s new culture. Of course, given that the Chinese have culture while the most culture the Taiwanese seem to have is butchering the names of fast food restaurants and western actors and taking any flavor or meaning out of western culture…watch five minutes of MTV if you don’t believe me. Nothing more disturbing than scrawny Taiwanese teens throwing gang signs wearing FUBU knock-offs and then watching these rather rhythmless people attempt to dance like they see on the videos. Ai-yo.
I doubt that FBC’s and a lot of other foreigners here are really that bad off, but the FBC’s that whine the most are just as bad as the rest of the whiners.

Race is not an issue if you are a pessimistic crybaby.

The paper was just filling space. Sure, the story’s not trivial to John. And it’s not trivial to Huggie, who also struggles with straddling two cultures. But, as others have noted, one can suffer worse dilemnas than feeling alienated or having trouble with Chinese. Half the world’s people are starving. Others are victims of war, poverty, AIDS, drought or abuse. Others are blind, deaf, crippled, illiterate or Republican.

I’m sorry that John and Huggy are struggling to be happy. But that’s life. Life is filled with suffering. The cause of John’s suffering is desire. If he could learn to be content with the many blessings that he has, and not regret those that he does not, we could all be a little happier. Only John can make John happy. The problem is not external, it is in his head.


[b]filial piety(

[b]Others are blind, deaf, crippled, illiterate or Republican. :smiley:[/quote]

[quote=“Mother Theresa”]Others are victims of war, poverty, AIDS, drought or abuse. Others are blind, deaf, crippled, illiterate or Republican.
I like this a lot!

As much as the ABCs (I am using this broadly to include all foreign-born Chinese) complain and b*tch about the “unfairness” they receive, some of them really need to take a look inside themselves first. Have they done their due diligence and even tried to learn as much Chinese/Taiwanese history, culture and even the language as they can?! The “heritage” issues aside, if they truely want to be part of a culture, any culture, they have to spend sometime to immerse themselves in it. On this, I actually feel some of the non-Chinese/Taiwanese foreigners are more Chinese/Taiwanese than some of them ABCs I have met anywhere. Is that sad? Maybe.

Now on the issue of “foreign skin”, I think Taiwan is just like anywhere else in the world. I mean, in small towns of Georgia (or insert any name there), a Thai, Chinese or, heck, white person will look just as foreign as any foreign person is on the streets of Taipei. The reality is, this kind of “social stereotype” will always exist. So let’s move on with it. There are more important things to worry about. Isn’t Taiwan getting more internationalized than ever before?


The real reason ABC don’t fit in is very obvious (but it took a chinese ass-kisser***, FOB reporter interviewing “more than a dozen overseas chinese” to figure some of it out) – ABC see themselves as Chinese and also call themselves as such. If they want to be Chinese, they came to the wrong place. Someone should inform them that the real Chinese homeland is on the other side of the Taiwan Strait, and the refugee camps on the Taiwan side are in the process of being phased out.

Another reason is the ABC is learning the wrong language. The min. language skills you need to survive in Taiwan is either mandarin OR[emphasis] English. I know many foreigners who have lived happily in Taiwan for 3+ years without learning to speak a single sentence (of mandarin). If the ABC could also speak Taiwanese fluently, he would fit in like one of the locals.

***no overseas Taiwanese were interviewed for this article.

Foreign-born Chinese that I have met came here for the money, and others for marriage. The money comes from the many vacancies in local corporations with English-related jobs because of the necessity to do business with the rest of the world. Marriage comes easily since everything “foreign” seems so attractive. There may also be pressure from the parents.

I don’t think there is a need for foreign-born Chinese to fit in with the local Taiwanese. They can hang out with other foreign-born Chinese, with Foreigners, or with foreign-loving Taiwanese. I don’t know any foreign-born Chinese who plan on retiring in Taiwan. The foreign-born Chinese that I have met would rather live elsewhere given that finances and romance will always be by their side.

I see that Christine is really leaving Taiwan from a post in the Buy & Sell. Her web site is located here: kotopia.com/blog/christine Here is her earlier post which no one replied to:

Oct 11, 2002 Forum: Miscellaneous Subject: oriented.org Bookmarks

I have a huge box of those really cool oriented.org bookmarks that I’m hoping someone would be willing to take from me and distribute around town. I’m leaving Taipei indefinitely and would really hate to have to throw these away, I realize that oriented.org is now Segue.com.tw but the URL still has the redirect…
Anyone interested? Please call me at 0926-255-405

Of course not, just like their foreign counterparts, foreign-born chinese also want to amass as much money as they can from the unsophisticated Taiwanese locals whom they see as inferiors, hence no need to fit in, and not worthy of the tiny piece of land they live on, then split just before their chinese cousins across the strait take over. They are better than Taiwanese so they don’t need to serve in the military for Taiwan’s defense like everyone else.

Jason, come on… Don’t you have dual citizenship? Are you telling me that you’re going to choose to serve in the Taiwanese military and give up your higher-paying job for two years? And if China ever invades Taiwan you’re not going to high-tail it back to the US? And if you do serve in the Taiwan military, wouldn’t you risk losing your other citizenship?