What is so bad about going native?

Do you know people who have ‘gone native’? what does that phrase really mean? What’s so bad about going native?

“Going native” usually refers to places a little less civilised than Taiwanese cities - where the foreigner puts aside all things foreign - and goes with the flow.

To clarify, “Going Native” means that one abandons their lifestyle, culture, nationality and identity in order to assume a new one. Their mindset is that they have found a new superior way of life, and thus have no use for the “inferior” background from which they came. This is opposite of the common mentality, we’ve seen around here, that “westerners are superior to Asians”. The “Going Native” syndrome is usually the result of someone who isn’t satisfied (and maybe even displeased) with their life and their identity, and are intensely searching for something new and better. They then thumb their nose at the “homelanders” that are unable or unwilling to “see the light” and abandon their sad ass western way of life, in order to embrace the newly discovered “enlightened” way of life.

In short, it’s what happens when someone lacking any shred of self-esteem substitutes their sense of inadequacy with an inflated ego, based on their newfound “enlightenment”. Amour propre, as the French say.

I think the best thing a person can do is to use their damn brain. It’s important to have an open mind, and be willing to see things from multiple points of view. Before you integrate something new into your philosophy, it’s best to spend an ample amount of time comparing, contrasting, contemplating and disseminating that idea. And even at that, there’s always a chance something is going to come along and change your opinion. Our goal should always be to find what is positive, within our philosophy, and eliminate what is negative. We ain’t ever gonna be perfect, but we’ll certainly be a lot better off if we get rid of all of this negative shit (although I often get negative about people BEING negative). The trick is to recognize that the definition of what is “good” and “bad” changes from one perspective to the next. There are some basic constants, but it’s less consistent than one might wish. F@%$ whatever you’ve been told/taught throughout your life. Figure it out for yourself, and you’ll be a lot more satisfied and fulfilled.

I don’t find that the Taiwanese really expect a foreigner to go native. If you follow your own lifestyle, in a calm, relaxed, and rather humble manner, it seems to me that you will be accepted.

I have known foreigners who carried around a plastic knife, fork, and spoon, when they went to banquets, because they were uncomfortable using chopsticks. This behaviour got a few stares, sure, but it was not objectionable to the Chinese people at all. Everyone accepted the situation, and felt it was kind of humorous. They agreed that the foreigner had the right to do things his way, especially since he was not damaging their rights at all.

On a wider perspective, the reasons why foreigners are valuable in Taiwan is exactly that (in most instances), because they are foreigners. Those of us who grew up and were educated in other countries have language skills and other skills that are in high demand here.

If “going native” is an attempt to become localized to the point where we deny our own uniqueness, then I think that there is little point in it, although if one’s goal is to conduct an interesting cross-cultural psychological experiment for a while, that would be a separate consideration.

Be aware, going native can have the effect of making certain people unbearable to be around for other expats who aren’t as “serious” about the whole business as these enlightened converts. You know the ones. They like to criticize other foreigners for not studying Chinese and they look down their (big) noses at those who are here “just for the money” etc.

I don’t think a desire to assimilate makes a person any more deserving or more worthy to be here than anyone else who has come here from another country. Motives for being here count for shit as far as I’m concerned.

If you really want to adopt the culture, good for you. At least have the courtesy to refrain from criticizing or preaching to those who aren’t interested in learning the language and just want to earn an easy pile of money, party, make friends, and shag hot Taiwanese women for a while before moving on. And by the way, yes, I pay my taxes here.

One thing I can say for Boots, is he might not have gone native, but he’s certainly a savage. I suggest Boots why don’t you just go the whole hog and stop paying your taxes.

I think it’s incumbent upon immigrants (short or long-term) in any country to go out of their way to do several things in their new home. They have the responsibility to actively learn the language. They should learn local customs and cultural values. Furthermore, they should try to make friends with the local people.

The problem is, unlike in other countries, many foreign residents here do not think of themselves as immigrants. They tend, rather, to have a very short-term mentality, renewed yearly at contract or student visa extension time.

Folks, this is a great place that we should be proud to be immigrants to, whether or not we retain our original passports or nationalities (to head off the pedants who will challenge my use of the term’ immigrant’).

The longer I live here, the deeper my knowledge of Chinese becomes, and the more I get to know people here, the more I’m impressed by what I see and learn. Go native? Sure, why not. Could do a whole lot worse.

I don’t think immigrants have to learn the language if they can pay their own way, follow local laws and not inconvenience local public institutions (ie hospitals, tax offices, police stations). For example, when a non-English speaking person is taken to the Intensisive Care Unit of a hospital in the US, it is crucial that someone be around to interpret for that person as nurses need to monitor the person’s pain level, etc, and need to ask a lot of questions. If an immigrant has such an interpreter with them at all times, no problem. If not, it’s a big headache for the nurses and dangerous for the non-English-speaking patient. In Taiwan, many professional locals speak comprehensible English- so always needing an interpreter is not a big a deal as it is in the USA. As for the guy who wants to make the $ and shag the women- you sound like a real winner. But I don’t think you have to learn the language except maybe “how much” and “my jiji is leaking”.

And what if the immigrant doesn’t speak English well? We shouldn’t expect the Taiwanese to accommodate us, though I agree health care professionals should (and usually do) speak English, in any country for that matter.

Learning the local language and culture is about far more than getting the chicks and making $$$. All around you every day you’re surrounded by a complex world infused with an exhilirating and rich culture. I’d think people would want to have a clearer picture of the world around them.

Not speaking Chinese and not knowing something about, say, Chinese history, culture (high and pop), art, music, literature (classic, pop, manga,etc); local customs, styles, traditions, etc. makes for a very limiting experience here. There are very few foreigners here, but even if there were millions, you would still have the responsibility to learn more about your hosts, at a deep level, and not just a superficial level (which tends to be dominant among many foreigners here).


You hurt my feeling (I only have one). As for your kind offer, I’m so intrigued…so I’ll ask: “how much”? Name your price, hot stuff!

As for the little bird leaking, thanks for your concern, but daddy always told me to bundle him up before I sink him.

lots of love and kisses,
Uncle Bootsy

“Still shaggin’, still earnin’”


Most sensible long-term residents, I have bumped into have not “gone native”. However, in case you want to live here for the very long term, learning a bit of Chinese is essential. Then again, most long termers are in relationships to locals, and therefore have to learn a bit about local culture in order to negotiate the possible cultural pitfalls.

All in all I have spent more then 3 years here, and will probably end up spending a great deal more years here. However, that does notmean that I give up my own culture, way of tinking and nationality. I adapt, but my Danish core stays in place, nearly untouched.

Just remember even if you go native you may or may not be completely accepted. I personally believe that a foreigner will never really be totally accepted in Taiwan even if he/she conforms to all of the cultural, language, tradition, etc. Just be yourself.

Of coruse this is all my personal opinion. :wink:

My understanding of the term “going native” is that it refers to people who deliberately distance themselves from foreign influences and totally immerse themselves in a foreign culture. It doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning one’s original culture. It’s more a case of being a part of the culture of the country you are in as far as that is possible. I think it is to some extent a reaction against those people that come here, never learn how to speak Chinese, complain about how everything in Taiwan is so terrible compared to back at home and demonstrate little interest in learning more about Taiwan.

In a way I think that everyone who lives here for any length of time goes a little native. I think all of us in one way or another changes something about him/herself that is partically native. Think about it. using chop sticks, speaking the language, how you communicate with people, what you eat, driving, etc. etc. etc… I am not sure that this is done deliberately either, it’s just natual. “When in Rome do as the Romans do.”

Oh boy, do I ever get honked at, flipped off, and fined when I get behind the wheel in the West :shock:

You only notice the chains when you start to move.

You never hear someone say, “I’ve gone native.” It has a pejorative sense that seems only to be useful for describing foreign residents who don’t maintain the prejudices that are still prevalent among people in their home country.

I certainly haven’t gone native, although I have been here a long time, and interact with locals a fair amount, but I was stuck with that label once, by a friend. We were discussing something, I was playing the devil’s advocate a little too well, perhaps, and I was accused of having “gone native.”

The question under debate was “Should foreign English teachers in Taiwan have preaching western humanistic values to their students as part of their mission?” I guess I wasn’t in the mood to uphold universal human rights that day, so I said “Sod western values. Encourage students to find their own way. Engage in discussion but do not assume the superiority of your own value system,” or something to that effect. Result: labeled “gone native.”

“Gone Native” is a label given to people who don’t go along with us against them thinking.

[quote=“JeffG”]Just remember even if you go native you may or may not be completely accepted. I personally believe that a foreigner will never really be totally accepted in Taiwan even if he/she conforms to all of the cultural, language, tradition, etc. Just be yourself.

Of coruse this is all my personal opinion. :wink:[/quote]

I agree. We’ll always be laowai to some folks here. Thankfully, there are those who see us as people, not laowai. To them, acceptance has nothing to do a person’s national origin, and everything to do with his character. There are also people from foreign countries here who see Taiwanese people as people, not some simian-like race to be stereotyped and laughed at.

I’m the first to admit that American society is rife with inane, materialistic, boorish values. I also appreciate many aspects of American society.

One of my well-travelled local friends said it best, for me: “I cherish those aspects of Taiwanese culture that I find valuable, and reject those which I find to be worthless.”

Now, time for my daily Taiwanese lesson. :wink:

Who cares what people think. If people wanna go native, they can go right ahead. But if that means rejecting the culture of their country of origin, then they’re just replacing one thing for another of equal worth, and what’s the point of that?

How profound :wink:

-Dave :smiley:

To me this conjures up the image of some scruffy oaf eating fried rice with chopsticks (even though 99% of locals would use a spoon) and trying to force other foreigners to converse with him in Mandarin :unamused: