Taiwanese spouse living in U.S. versus living in Taiwan

My theory is living in America presents a much greater challenge for Taiwanese spouses than does the challenge of living in Taiwan presents for Americans. I don’t think its a question of coping skills, but one of environment. Allowances are made for Westerners in Taiwan that are simply not made for Taiwanese in America. For example, we simply have to say “ni hau” and are often lavishly complimented on our language skills. I’ve heard some complain that their Taiwanese spouses who were confidendent and independent while living in Taiwan often become needy and clingy living in the U.S. Therefore, all things being equal, relationships between Taiwanese and Americans have a better chance of success if the couple resides in Taiwan than if they live in America.

It’s a bit of a shock for anyone to move from Taiwan to the US. I think I had a harder time coming back than going there in the first place. The main complaint I hear, especially from people who lived in Taipei and moved to a US suburb, is the lack of convenience. You need a car to get anywhere, restaurants close early, difficulty shopping, etc. Language can obviously a problem.

Another factor may be lack of security in language skills. In Taiwan, my wife made most of our “business” calls–looking for new apartments, complaining to the landlord, calling reapairmen, etc. Here, she considers it torture to have to make such calls, even though her English is very good.

Another issue might be due to personality traits. For the most part, Americans come to Taiwan for reasons other than love–travel, money, experiencing a different culture, learning Chinese, all or none of the above–and may be less risk-averse than the average person. You’d have to be to make that sort of move. These personality traits probably make living in a new environment more enjoyable. Spouses, on the other hand, often have no specific desire to move to another country, but do so to keep the family together. If you see where I’m going with this. The same is true in reverse–I’ve met several spouses of expats who really failed to thrive in their new country.

Age. I was 24 when I moved to Taiwan and much more adventurous than I am now. My wife was 30 when we moved to the US, and probably a lot less adventurous and carefree than she was at 24.

That being said, moving to the US can obviously place stress on a marriage, especially for a spouse who never really wanted to leave the US in the first place. I think the same would be true of Americans who moved to Taiwan just because of their spouses.