When I was in Taiwan, one thing that I learned to do is to pay attention to the similarities between Taiwanese and Americans, rather than just the differences. I mean, I knew Mandarin at a mid-intermediate level, well enough to have some somewhat in-depth discussions with Taiwanese, even older, more traditional ones. One thing I found is that, no matter who you talk to, if you gain their trust, are open with them, have the time, and can get them to be open with you (I know this is no small endeavor sometimes), you can learn that Taiwanese are a lot more similar to westerns than they are different.
If you read up on psychology, you will come across names such as Herman Maslow, among others. He was among the first to identify basic needs that all humans share. For instance, at a basic level, we all have physiological needs, then safety needs higher up, then love needs, esteem, and then self-actualization at the top (the theory is controversial in some aspects. For instance, it is argued that many of these needs may share the same tiers, instead of being in a hierarchy. Nonetheless, most people agree that we all have these needs).
What I’m asking you all is, for those of you who have had the opportunity to speak with Taiwanese in their native tongue (Taiwanese, Mandarin, Hakka, etc.) and had open conversations, did you get the same feeling after thinking it over that I did?
I realize that some customs in Taiwan bother Westerns. I’m sure this applied vice-versa as well. This is understandable. But, I’m talking about at a deeper, more interpersonal level.
Maybe this just takes someone, like myself, with an interest in psychology. But, I think I’m wrong, and am hoping that others were able to get past the problems they saw in Taiwanese culture and look for the similarities between people in Taiwan and Westerns.
One thing I was lucky in was that I met people who were willing to be open with me. Many were younger. One good friend who I had good conversations with was a grad of NTU law school, and who was very self-reflective. My gf at the time’s father, who was a very traditional Taiwanese businessman, also was open with me. So, I was lucky to meet people who were this way, but many others opened up to me just as well.
So, back to my quesiton. Have you all had similar experiences and do you perceive things the same way I do…that no matter our differences on the surface, underneath, our wants, needs, and oftentimes, motivations are shared across cultures and national boundaries?