The good old days

For people who have been In Taiwan for a while- what changes do you like and which do you dislike? I’m from NJ in the US and our open space is disappearing as fast as you can fire up a bulldozer. Any of you or your Chinese friends/relatives feel sad about the changes? I feel sad that the new feeling of pride in Taiwanese culture sometimes comes arm in arm with discrimination against waishengren.

The whole benshengren/waishengren thing seems like a relic of past generations these days. Those old fogies may go at it now and then, but to people of more recent generations such as my own don’t tend to make such a big deal about it. So many people have mixed the two together, and just about everyone has grown up in Taiwan, so that all you really see of it is in the news and when a bunch of old people get together to strangle each other during chess games.

I like the new sidewalks. I like the MRT, too.

My waishengren husband told me that there is some job discrimination going on. I’ll have to cross examine him to see if he is exaggerating, which is one of his favorite past-times. Also, is it true that mostly taiwan hua soap operas (lian xu ju) have replaced Mandarin ones? Do foreigners feel more of a need for taiwna hua now? Do foreigners who speak fairly good taiwan hua get more respect than those who only know Mandarin?

From what I have heard, there is some discrimination of that sort in some companies. On the other hand, it could go the other way, depending on who’s boss.

I don’t think there are more Hokkien soaps recently, because the younger generation mostly prefer Mandarin. What you have a lot of now is mainland historical drama, which is far better than the corny Taiwanese variety, and lots of dubbed soaps from Korea - the Japan craze having widened to encompass its neighbour. Quite a lot of the mainland dramas have some Taiwanese actors in them, like the gorgeous actress-singer Rene Liu. (I’ve been in lust with her ever since she appeared on the cover of the first Taiwan edition of For Him Magazine.)

I haven’t had much need for Hokkien in my work. The time I feel left out because of my feeble Hokkien is when I visit my girlfriend’s family. Some politicians like to chop and change between Mandarin and Hokkien - like nutty Vice President Annette Lu who can never say a whole sentence in one dialect. Sometimes Taiwan independence people switch into Hokkien to shut out or embarrass their opponents in TV debates. Some of those Tongyongists were trying that one on that American (?) guy Jeff when they were arguing about pinyin the other day - the message was “OK, bignose, you might speak good Mandarin, but you still don’t belong here, so shut up.”

I believe there are Hakka programs as well. Are there Aboriginal programs yet?
Taiwan has returned to using the native languages.

There are some Hakka news programs, and Hakka drama series on Public Television. There are also some programs in Taiwanese sign language, which is related to but different from Chinese sign language. The problem with the aboriginal languages is that there are several mutually unintelligible languages and the numbers of people who can actually speak them are very small. Therefore, there are not likely to be TV programs made in the aboriginal languages. There are, however, programs dealing with aboriginal issues, again on Public Television. Textbooks for mother-tongue teaching of aboriginal languages have been published, too.

I find it funny that many young people refer to themselves as waishengren and happily recite the name of the town/city in China they’re from when they were actually born in Taiwan and it was probably their grandparents who are waishengren. Many young people cannot speak Taiwanese very well even if their parents speak it.

This seems odd from a European point of view, but it is normal in Chinese culture, and not specific to the Taiwanese situation. You know, the Chinese have traditionally held their ancestors in great respect, even to the extent of worshiping them. Chinese families have traditionally kept tablets in their homes with records of their ancestors for many generations, so they are more inclined than people from a European culture to identify themselves with wherever their ancestors came from, rather than their own place of birth. If you ask your Hokkien or Hakka-speaking Taiwanese friends, you will generally find that they know the ancestral home of their family in Fujian province, be it Quanzhou or wherever. Many Taiwanese people have been to visit their ancestral temple or village in Fujian, including Annette Lu, for example.

Three years ago I started growing rice next to a quiet one-lane road in the back of Pingjen. Now I’m farming under a four-lane expressway in the middle of an industrial park!

Well, Juba, I checked out your Rene Liu link and I suppose she’s OK looking, but – she’s blood type A!!! EEEeeeeeewewwwwww!

quote[quote] My waishengren husband told me that there is some job discrimination going on. [/quote]

My girlfriend is waishengren (given that her father’s parents came over after the war, event hough her father was born in Jilong and her mother’s family have lived in Ilan for ages), and she thinks there’s a bit, but sometimes it’s hard to tell really becuase if it’s a job that you have to deal with the public for, they say "you have to be able to speak Taiwanese. Now like most young ‘waishengren’ these days, my girlfriend can talk Taiwanese OK (I’ve heard her do it with seemingly no problems), but they can tell you’re not a ‘native Taiwanese’ (it says on your ID card anyway). So once my girlfriedn got turned down for a job “sorry your Taiwanese isn’t good enough” becuase they’d said “OK speak some Taiwanese” and she’d beenput on the spot and couldn’t think of anything to say.

Also I think that people are unwilling to ‘admit’ that they are ‘waishengren’ in general. Apparently in Taipei city, (according to household registrations) 1/3 are Native Taipeiren, 1/3 are ‘Taiwanese’ living in Taipei, and 1/3 are ‘waishengren’. Try a poll of your office or school, and I reckon you’ll find a hell of a lot less than 1/3 saying they are waishengren. That’s my experience anyway.

Personally I think it’s bloody stupid. I usually feel like saying “for Chrissakes, your all fucking Chiense or Taiwanese. whichever way you want to look at it. Your ancestors came over from China and now you live in Taiwan, who cares if they came over 50 years or 400 years ago.”