Similarities and Differences between you and the people you

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?


(That should be Abraham Maslow, rather than Herman.)
As for myself, I don’t speak Chinese well enough, but it does seem to me that many people in Taiwan have adopted/adapted-to many Western values and outlooks. I should repeat “it seems” that way to me. I think this is an area with a huge range of variability, both within individuals and groups.
I notice that there many of the latest U.S. “best-seller” books are quickly available in Chinese translation. Take a look in any of the Caves Bookstores. I imagine this is leading to an uncritical, somewhat unconscious adoption of U.S./Western outlooks.
I also have become aware of the “talk-show” TV format that seems patterned after Oprah, Sally Jesse Raphael, and the like. I think this type of “open forum” can stimulate discussion, but don’t know that it leads far enough into an appreciation of the view of one’s opponent. Many of the politicians on these programs seem more interested in polemics and seeking notoriety (=votes). Perhaps there are programs on TV where issues are calmly discussed, but I haven’t seen them. (I don’t watch much TV.)
I do tend to get the impression that Taiwanese share much of the values that U.S. folk do. But I try to be careful not to let the similarities blind me to the differences.
Just my two cents.
And a question, how did your girlfriend’s father view your relationship? Did he expect eventual marriage (i.e. no experimenting with relationships, fooling around, before that)?

In general, I would disagree.

I believe that there is a “more than thin” veneer on the surface that makes it appear that Taiwanese people are westernized. However, the deeper you get, the more you see that their core values are non western.

This clearly shows in family values. Although many local people will express concern over public problems (and your problems, if you bring them up), if you follow their behaviour over a period of years, you will probably see that they are only interested in themselves, and secondarily their family/clan.

I would say that this is the large majority. Of course there may be individual exceptions.

I know many prominent Taiwan people who express many views about various disadvantaged individuals (including foreigners in some instances), and say that these individuals should be treated better. However, if you asked these prominent Taiwan people to go argue with the officials involved, they would not be willing to do so, and this even includes those who have better than average legal knowledge.

To maintain the appearance of “being interested” is simply the game that they play. To the extent that any actions in that regard might have the potential for them to “lose face”, the game is cancelled for the day.

Richard is absolutely right.

100% correct, if you think otherwise then you are easily fooled. In many cases Peter, they tell you what you want to hear.


I would agree, and also have noticed that in many cases interest in people outside the family group is mainly in establishing reciprocal favours.

Well said Richard. I have personally been involved in situations where I have asked someone to argue a point with me, and on some occasions they did, but the majority did not.


Richard is right in his observations of Chinese people, but wrong to conclude from that, that Chinese culture is very different from Western. Perhaps, Richard and Jeff G, who are “public spirited” individuals, are comparing themselves to the average Taiwanese person, instead of comparing to the average westerner.
I remember growing up in an England where Margaret Thatcher had successfully convinced the country that you should only care about your family and not the community - something that has not changed much to this day. With Bush in the States now i don’t see much of the community spirit either.

I think we are all as bad as each other - in general. I just not experienced this utopian Western spirit of support for his fellow man that seems to be able to be applied to enough Westerners that we can confidently say it is our cultural trait, and not another country’s.

Firstly, the material in Caves bookstores is not indicative of the material read by the general public. Secondly, I should hope that the US ‘best-seller’ books are not taken to be representative of Western outlooks (US or elsewhere), let alone adopted!

But unfortunately the content of movies is generally taken to reflect what goes on in the US, isn’t it? Particularly in terms of sexuality, I would say. :laughing:

Ah, but I hail from different quarters so can’t fairly comment. A place, however, also represented ever so accurately by movies. Though mine is not a seething cesspool of wealth, beautiful people, sinister government plots, murder and sexual depravity… No, mine is a continent populated entirely by marsupials and drag queens :shock:

Hahaha! Or marsupials in drag??? Takatan, have we met?

Life is exactly like the movies!
Mine is, at least.

I wear designer clothes, drive a BMW, am breathtakingly gorgeous, and only sleep with men who have huge bank accounts (etc), and who look like George Clooney. :smiley:

Though I am one of your groupies, it is hard to say if we’ve met. Alien being such a common name these days and everyone I know wears designer clothes. And I would certainly never deign to mix in circles where everyone hadn’t slept with (or at least claimed to) a George Cloony look alike. People who don’t fit these basic criteria just don’t have a place in my social repertoire… So Alien, if you want to know if we’ve met you’ll simply have to be more specific about who you are. :wink:

Takatan, I like your name. It’s sounds chic and Japanese.
Of course chic and Japanese are synonymous…

I call my cat Pumkaruku because she looks like the Japanese beckoning cat, maneki neko, especially when she puts one paw up. Her real name is Pumpkin, how creative is that? But her sister is Wishbone, so it reminds me of Thanksgiving dinner. They don’t like Maoman’s dog, Balder.

Anyway, to confirm whether we’ve met, you can see the Taipei pics from happy hour. The lone blonde.

GUSSSS!!! He’s been playing around, but see oriented dot com.