Just curious if there’s any foreign raised Asian kids who have experienced similar things like me?
I held Canadian citizenship all my life and didn’t have Taiwanese ID. I’ve lived here for over 2 years now and part of me is glad I came, experiencing things I would never have if I lived in good ole happy Alberta, Canada all my life. I see many foreigners here have faced the issue of not fitting in, standing out, getting too much unwanted attention. The pro though to that is probably that locals would be more tolerant to cultural differences. Yet, I face the challenge of physically looking Asian (to them I look half Asian, and I don’t enjoy that special attention…it makes me feel bad because I want everyone to get accepted without placing a high value on outer appearance). My relatives who I didn’t grow up around, former co-workers/employers, some friends treat me like a Taiwanese and get shocked whenever they find my opinions, values, or the way I live is different from them. Whenever I explain “oh in Canada we…” I get “But you’re Taiwanese though!”
The list goes on forever. I am starting to find ways to live among everyone but the rare few people I met here who had experience in both the west and east understand the poop I’m mentally eating everyday.
Some things include:
I listened to a lecture where a man said when talking to a westerner, they listen to whether what you say is correct or logically makes sense. When talking to a Chinese, they listen to whether you’re on the same side as them or not. If you don’t, anything else you say doesn’t go into their ears. It’s never about how correct your statement is. By “on the same side” I mean like pretending to agree with their statement, first tell them how correct they are then say your opposing thoughts. Never say “I actually think” or “I kinda disagree with that”, because immediately puts you in opposing sides and nothing else will go in their ears. I definitely have a western mentality, I don’t mind people having different opinions from me or debating, it’s what we’re taught to deal with in Canadian schools. We’re taught to think critically, question things, and debate with evidence. I wish we could properly discuss something with mutual respect. Taiwanese seem to dislike direct confrontation when trying to resolve an issue or displays of affection. I always said, rejecting an Asian is always the hardest thing to do lol. Because of the collective mindset, they work in groups and expect help from you, often for free. Things like free translation because “they’re your relative!”, “oh by the way, could you also do this for me?”, whereas in the west, you might charge a fee for something even if they’re family or friend. I’m not quite used to this yet, they see me as one of them and don’t understand my thinking when I don’t agree with free service. They see you as cold and heartless.
Apparently, bringing them gifts when you’re abroad is what every Taiwanese do. Most of your time is spent on bringing something back for family, co-workers, friends. I avoid telling people when I’m out of the country or back in Canada, I’ll bring gifts if I WANT to out of my heart for someone, not mandatory obligation. Once an auntie asked when I was going back to Canada (this was when I freshly moved to Taiwan), I didn’t know what she actually meant. I said maybe some time this year? She asked me to bring her local well known food that Canada produced, she was “yearning to eat something tasty”. I told her honestly that Canada doesn’t have that many well-known produce that Taiwan doesn’t already have (besides the expensive maple syrup), anything fresh brought in suitcase is violation I could get in trouble. I live in Taipei and she was down south in the countryside Chia Yi, by the time I returned home how am I supposed to give it to her down south? And all for free? After she heard my explanation on these facts, she was extremely pissed and unfriended me. Thank God. It just didn’t matter to her if what I said was the truth and I said it in an extremely careful, indirect and polite way. I was not on the same side as her. I didn’t feel respected as a foreigner that they had such low tolerance.
I’ve heard worse stories like these from other people here… like co-workers sabotaging your work because you didn’t bring anything back or people asking to stay at your family’s place for free when they visit your country. To your family, they’re complete strangers, it didn’t seem considerate of them to ask such a request in my opinion. Honestly, saying no to an Asian is an art.
I also have a hard time dealing with people not speaking more direct about a thought or point. Just say it!! It’s like mind games, you always have to catch their hints, very tiring. I started to pick up on this habit and my Canadian friends don’t seem to like it now XD. But necessary when talking to a Taiwanese, pick words carefully, use the proper vocab for certain people of their status/age/position, consider their ego and what they will think, making sure they won’t take revenge back on you. From the way they talk to me, I can tell they treat me like Taiwanese like I can’t handle directness or disagreement. Opposition is fine as long as there’s good reasoning behind it, not out of ego back lashing. A Taiwanese once labelled me as “impulsive”, “reckless”, “unwise stupid girl” because I asked privately to have a serious one-on-one talk with someone I needed to fix some problems with. Apparently, the thing to do was I should’ve asked someone else, a 3rd person to stand in between us to do the talking on my behalf, I was also not in the “position” (they were older) to speak to them directly about my feelings and problems I had about how things were running. Whoever asks to “talk” is the bad guy. I made the older person lose some face/ego like I dare question they were wrong about something. They didn’t show it on their face but I could tell they secretly felt offended I asked to communicate. In the west, I think people actually respect you if you have the ability to have a good talk with someone. Has anyone had these experiences before? It’s drove me nuts.
2. Helping strangers in the public or complimenting someone random
If you get beat up in the public, no one will help you, instead they’ll bring out their phones to record and later post on Facebook on their exciting eventful day. The rare few who come out to stand for injustice sometimes end up punished by law too, discouraging the public to fight in the future. They are afraid to stand up for the victims physically in public but are particularly vocal online when they read the news. A while ago, a Mandarin-speaking white guy was verbally bullied by a Taiwanese guy on the MRT who told him to go back to his country, Taiwan doesn’t welcome him. I was shock to see everyone bystanding in the video didn’t look at them, some got their phones out to record but no one helped the poor guy? If everyone had stood up as a group, or called an MRT security, even if the bully had a weapon, he wouldn’t dare do too much or do it again. But instead there was a TON of comments below mad at the Taiwanese guy. I was more mad at the people who had their backs on them like nothing happened. Or if you help a stranger out, they don’t always look like they appreciate it.
When I stand up for someone in the public, like a wife being verbally abused by her alpha male husband in a cafe, so loud you can’t hear yourself talk, people who know I’m Canadian say “there’s her impulsive western side again”, but in the west it’s normal for people to stand up. I don’t know what’s going on between them, whatever it is, the guy had no right to treat his wife like that. I’ve even heard elders say how they don’t like how direct westerners are, they aren’t disciplined or composed like Asians. I replied “westerners may be direct, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t considerate of their words or actions. Taiwanese are too passive sometimes in my opinions, never speaking up when they should, wasting a lot of unnecessary energy for everyone.” And later realized these elders have never left the country before and use their own inaccurate perspective to understand the western world. I had an elder once tell me what Canada, what Canadians are like, was like IN FRONT OF I, A CANADIAN, which were mostly far from true. Another once told my husband in front of me that eastern people are better than the west, trying to convince him not to go to Canada with me. I guess looking Taiwanese myself, they forgot I’m a westerner standing in front of them.
Am I wrong to say Taiwanese can be pretty racist sometimes?
I feel like they are nice to white foreigners or Japanese, but colder towards other fellow Taiwanese. Most tourist have an excellent impression of Taiwan or those who have taught a bit. I used to think that when I visited Taiwan during the summer as a student. But to settle down into their society looking like one of them is a different story. I get there’s a lot of scams and direct sales, but things like complimenting a lady how beautiful her jacket is ending up with a glare back? Ow…
I had my wedding here with the ultimate struggle of people around me not tolerating the fact I wanted a western wedding. I didn’t want my wedding here to avoid dealing with complicated Chinese traditions. We wanted to get married in Guam. It was so bad I almost called off my wedding. People in my immediate family too said they were so done with me trying to decide everthing, THEY wanted to call off the wedding. They hated how I was so disobedient. I remember asking my husband 2 months before the big day if he was excited, he answered, “no”.
A lot of the Chinese wedding traditions were ridiculous like you couldn’t have 4 bridesmaids, 4 means death. I didn’t even get to choose who they were. I wished people thought about that more critically. Think about it, would we invite you to our big day, only to curse our beloved guests with death you think? Number 4 never been proven to be true. I would have gone ahead with 4 regardless of what people thought, but to pack red envelopes for 4 ladies was over my budget unfortunately. I actually wanted a Sailor Moon themed wedding, which is unacceptable to the elders XD go figure. You need to have a matchmaker, big round wedding pies/cookies, have round tables instead of the long or square ones, no buffets have servers bring you the food, you need to have this and that. I had to behave like an elegant lady (which I later didn’t bother trying) because it’s not appropriate for brides to laugh too much or act too lively, you have to act sad you’re getting married off. No games, no dancing, and took a long time to negotiate wanting to sing a couple songs at my wedding. A ton of the local customs I eliminated already to everyone’s surprise and managed to fight for a half western half Chinese wedding that was unconventional to the guest’s surprise. Here, they hold “engagement tea ceremonies” while in the west and to me, the proposal with the ring IS the engagement. People were upset I choose to have the proposal as my engagement and didn’t hold a tea ceremony or the marriage ceremony where the groom picks up the bride from her house and pray to the parents. I lived alone, my family doesn’t have a house here anyways! I didn’t like how the weddings were the parents’ business, it’s not about the couple. The parents and elders decide everything. It was all about face. Half the guests I met for the first time at my wedding. I learnt in the process of preparing that it was “selfish” to do what you wanted, whereas in the west, of course the couple gets to do what they wanted. It was “selfish” of me to pick out what white dress I liked to wear instead of what others liked or disliked. You had to try and make everyone happy, even irrelevant people who boss your wedding plans around. People looked offend hearing that I didn’t want a traditional Asian wedding, looking at me, a Taiwanese looking person, thinking “how dare she?”. In the east, the bride traditionally has the lowest power out of “everyone who is running the wedding” (lol). Traditionally, the groom’s parents have the highest power, then the bride’s parents, then the groom. Of course, the bride is female and young. Low in status both ways. I got frustrated because I grew up seeing western weddings, the bride runs almost everything. Some elders who knew I was trying to run my wedding had criticism about it. My parents-in-law were totes ok with me running it, they didn’t want to deal with too much hassle work and saw no problem leaving it all up to me. But funny how they, the groom’s parents who held the highest position, were criticized “how could you leave it up to the bride??”. I had to reprint a 2nd set of wedding invitation cards because my original set was Sailor Moon designed saying “the Groom and Bride cordially invite you to their wedding”. It was rude for me to invite guests in Sailor Moon and us the ones inviting, especially to elders as a younger adult. My husband had to re-print ugly old-fashioned red that said “the PARENTS of the Groom and Bride invite you”. Some Taiwanese friend’s wedding had an argument started among the guests, the grandparents were upset the invitations didn’t say “the Grandparents of the couple invite you”.
Like the western mind I have, I think about if these make sense, if it’s right or wrong… none of these make sense! I often tell those trying to boss me around that just because I didn’t follow the rules or traditions, it doesn’t mean my marriage will be cursed ok? Marriage is built on communication, some sacrifice on both ends, mutual understanding and respect, and love, not these traditions. I tell them that many marriages in my parent’s generation are extremely unhappy, alpha males, cheaters, loveless marriages, absolutely no displays of affection. It’s like some men marry to have a baby machine and have a servant looking after them. Or they have poor abilities to make money, they rely on their wives. From my observation, roughly 2/10 Taiwanese marriages are actually happy so I hate people saying North Amercians have a high divorce rate. Most people, particularly the women keep the pain to themselves, because it’s harder to get a divorce in Taiwan than N. America. You need agreement from both people or proof of physical abuse 3 times to win the divorce filing. Most men use this to trap women by never agreeing to divorce. The woman usually loses custody of children so many suck it up. On the outside, it seems like they’re fine, “staying married”. Some men purposely make their wives housewives, after a many years, the women lose the ability to go back into the workforce so they become more reliant on her working husband, making her unable to leave him. It took a long time for my husband and myself to persuade people in my immediate family why I didn’t want to be a housewife, I see too many downfalls to that.
Hey, guess what. After all that fighting, I had positive responses from guests saying our wedding actually felt like it had love, they could feel emotions contrasting to all the other weddings people went to, where politicians or other famous people are hired to show off status and fame, the parents give all the speeches, introductions done to talk about the parents’ achievements and you’ll never hear a word from the couple. No exchange of vows, it’s a lot about just coming to eat as well. I’m glad all the work paid off lol. A lot of the traditional stuff wasn’t necessary…and to me seemed superficial. My hubby and I wanted to have our wedding in Guam in a crystal church by the sea. I got sooooo much attack on that, gosh really? To me, it was none of their business. Though our wedding still went well, we both get envious when we hear some friends are getting married in Bali, Okinawa, etc, or they get to fully control their wedding.
I had my room decorated in traditional red after it. It freaked me out and my husband had to tell the elders “HE didn’t like it” and asked them to remove it, when the truth was it was I who didn’t like it. I’m consider the outsider in Chinese families so he was protecting me.
Or people being shocked I didn’t want to buy a new bed sheet to celebrate the “lucky new marriage”. I said in the west we don’t do that, I would prefer not to spend money buying something I don’t need at the moment. They asked a million times if I was suuuure I didn’t want to do it, which was a little annoying to me. My husband said they were considered super polite already. In the countryside where he’s from, the villagers would force go into your room and change the bedsheet if you didn’t obey and gossip around condemning to everyone what a shame you are, which of course hurts your entire family, their careers and relationships, because it’s a collective society, it’s not just you. Gossip in the countryside spreads like a virus and they will not be tolerant of me because they treat me like a Taiwanese, not a foreigner.
After marriage, I’m prepared to fend myself with the “you need to have kids asap” thing. It’s just the thing to do here but I personally don’t want kids, people shun me for it as well.
I always get asked “how come you aren’t living with your mother-in-law?”, or my countryside grandma asking if I’m “cooking and cleaning for my in-laws when I visit them?”. Depending on the people, I might answer “how come it isn’t my husband living with MY parents and him cooking and cleaning for them?” and they look speechless.
4. Girls being too independent or self-sufficient
People freak out hearing I moved here by myself and lived alone. We’re independent by 18 in Canada, my friends all move out and travel by themselves it’s nothing. The Taiwanese boys here don’t like my overly western personality who doesn’t take male chauvinism/alpha male stuff or lack the need to get protected all the time. Or getting expected to be a housewife…live with in-laws, follow the man. I expect my partner to support my interests and career, which I know most guys here don’t, especially if the girl has a higher salary or more success career. Luckily, my partner-in-crime is fairly western-minded himself and has no problem supporting my career. I believe in gender equality and mutual respect.
But I’m not used to the ideal that girls always need male protection here. When I visit my grandmother or other relatives farther away, they won’t let me visit them unless my husband accompanies me. He got criticized once for daring to let me go alone. It was frustrating hearing people won’t let me visit them by myself? Really? My husband is visiting his best friend, I think they need their bro time. I’m perfectly capable of riding a scooter for 15 mins as a girl. When I told my husband this he instantly ended his appointment and I had to drive 1 hour to pick him up and back to visit my grandma to avoid further trouble imposed on us in the future from this case. He explained elders in Taiwan are not used to girls being independent like me and need men to protect.
It’s not just me, I heard another lady drove to visit her parents without her husband once, he got in trouble by her parents for letting her drive herself.
And I enjoy being the one riding the scooter with my husband in the back passenger seat. Riding scooters is so fun for a Canadian who drives cars all her life. It’s more rare to see girls seated in the front here, people STARE. If we arrive somewhere and someone sees us, they asked my husband, “how come you let her ride, not you?”. There’s nothing wrong with this action. Thank god he doesn’t have that much ego to care about being seated in the back as a man, he enjoys doing the part with lesser work lol, I mean why not?
5. Being different or stand out from the crowd.
Collectivism vs Individualism, the struggle is real! I am not used to having to report things to elders and everything I do need to take everyone around me’s opinions into consideration, make sure I have approval or take a looot of time trying to think of how to persuade them. Things I never had to do too much in Canada, you just do your own stuff and be responsible for yourself.
In the west, if the teacher asked a question, students usually eagerly raise their hands to answer. I’m used to these interactions and I think it helps one’s learning as well being engaged. But when I sit in classes here, NO ONE will raise their hand to share thoughts or answer a question, even after the teacher angrily lectures them back for staying quiet. I get partially it’s because for a long time, Taiwanese are taught to obey and just listen. Partially also because of their large comfort zone… but me still being western and trying to make a change in the conservative society here, I am the only one person along with another dude in class raising their hands to the point the dude stopped (I still do because I think it’s rude to leave the teacher hanging…), trying to encourage my classmates to take the chance too. Amongst them, I hear them saying talking behind our backs saying we’re both show offs, always raising our hands taking the spotlight. The other dude is now afraid to raise his hands again.
Remember, being different makes they think you’re not on the same side as them. You’re not “one of them”.
And the comfort zone is larger for them to “be different”, they don’t enjoy being embarrassed too easily and have a hard time letting go. I think it’s a reason why they find it hard to stand up for others. My husband’s first gf used to try and stop him when he was trying to stand up for someone but she said, “that’s embarrassing, don’t do that!”
6. Age hierarchy
I never agreed with the fact just because you walked on Earth a few mores than me, I have to listen to you. Or apologize for something I didn’t do or wrong. A wife had been accused of stealing her mom-in-law’s gold, in the end it turned out the mom just misplaced it herself. The husband made her apologize regardless. I ran into many similar cases like that myself. Or elders always lecturing young people without understanding the entire case or understanding the person, they can’t be responsible for you if you took their advice and it turns out to be harmful. Or if you point out something they missed or point out indirectly they are wrong, it damages their ego no matter how carefully you word it. If you observe their reactions to things you said that they don’t know, they look stunned for a moment. They don’t like being told things they don’t know or someone so much younger may have a better point. They immediately either insist on lecturing or change the subject, or tell you how you should listen to them without supporting reasoning why we should.
7. My parents taught me to speak Mandarin fluently, one of the rare cases for a kid who grew up in the west completely.
I can read, write, speak, and even studied the deep form of Chinese literature like idioms and history. I also speak some Taiwanese. I don’t have much of a foreign accent anymore so I understand why people mistaken me for being one of them. The pros and cons I guess. I wished I had some sort of a label to tell people I’m a foreigner not a local lol. My English is still stronger, I can debate better, speak more smoothly and I realized living here how speaking a different language changes your personality a bit. I feel like I sound more dumb, slow-reacting because I don’t use slangs or use deeper specific terms to “sound more intelligent” in Chinese. I can understand them when others use it, but hard to use it on myself. Unconsciously, I have to choose my words wisely to respect the “hierarchy” (like instead of replying “OK”, I have to use “Yes sir!” to upper the respect). People who have heard me speak English get surprised because I transform into someone completely different.
8. “Western raised kids have poor adaption ability” - which is NOT true.
Many elders see us western raised kids come to the east and struggle. They often say “so-so went to the west to study abroad and have not problem adapting there, so it’s your problem”. I usually answer saying the east is a much more complicated society with much more rules to obey than the west. It’s like a salmon trying to swim upstream vs downstream.
I’m fortunate my husband has helped me a lot using different tactics to survive Taiwanese culture (unfortunately some things include sugar-coating your words, bending the truth, doing things they like to hear or see. I don’t enjoy it but it actually makes life smoother. Like pretending to be the good housewife elders like to see when I’m secretly career driven. Elders don’t like career driven women or women with a strong personality), it’s been a real struggle. He taught me I could respect and be adapted to the Asian culture, but it doesn’t mean I need to accept. I also have a hard time sharing these experiences with my Canadian friends who just reply “just do what you want!” which presumably will result in death in Taiwan on my part.
The rant goes on endless. Just thought I’d share some examples. Some of the above are things I think wouldn’t happen to me if I looked white. One stereotype I had to dealt with is those who didn’t understand my background laugh about my level of Chinese when I didn’t understand their slangs. “Why does your Chinese suck so much?”. I answer either “why does your English suck too?” back or “if you can find a Canadian child with my level of Chinese who can understand ancient scriptures, I’ll take what you said as truth”. They wouldn’t say that if I was blue eyes and blonde:roll_eyes:. Imagine them saying that to a white person “why does your Chinese suck?”. I’m pretty confident with my level of Chinese so I just laugh it off, it’s just funny being told something like that.
These years in Taiwan I actually felt what it was like to not be respected, I’ve never felt my being be seen so “low” before, I’ve never been seen as so negatively by people, contrasting to how people treated me back in Canada. I never had to try hard to earn respect. People of different ages and both genders I got along well with and there was mutual respect. I’ve never been seen as unwise, stupid, not worth listening to, inferior or lowly, an outcast whatnot. These couple years have been the most struggling part of my life in terms of dealing with people. At least I have my husband to accompany me and truly understands my character.
There’s a lot of good things to Taiwan and the culture too, l appreciate people here are generally hardworking and such. I don’t recall meeting any colleagues that slack off a lot. If anyone has similar experiences, please do share, I’d love to listen. It’s been a while since I am able to speak out so freely lol.