Michael A. Turton
|My wife contemplates the beach. Eat your hearts out -- she's mine!|
|The Social Side|
|Two of my students, boyfriend and girlfriend, pose at a local university. China traditionally has not suffered from Western attitudes about the evils of sex absorbed from idiotic Judeo-Christian eschatological and religious teachings. In the last century missionaries arrived during a relatively puritanical period, and happened to mesh with then-current attitudes. Authoritarian rule has given way to personal freedom, and the field of sex is no exception. Local convenience stores stock a wide variety of condoms and pregnancy tests, and September is the peak period for abortions as students eliminate pregnancies before going back to school. Double standards remain, though.||The Opposite
The dating situation in Taiwan is excellent for males. Neither sex will lack for attention, although most Western females will not like most Taiwanese males. Many local females don't either; there is a growing trend for Taiwanese females in their late 20s and early 30s to never marry.
|Cars fly every which way on a rainy street in a suburb. Taiwan's drivers have no regard for their own lives or anyone else's. To the right is a 7-11. There are at least two convenience stores on every corner. You'll be spending lots of time and money in them.||Consequently,
there is an enormous pool of educated, intelligent, tolerant, employed
their late 20s and early 30s who are looking for husbands.
|Romatic little restaurants can be found everywhere.||Most males will have no trouble finding
Caucasian male foreigners are appreciated, even sought after, and you
see many Taiwanese female/foreign male relationships. Slim,
blue-eyed males will have to beat the girls off with sticks.
women prefer tall, thin, men but a stocky guy like me never had any
|A video store, always a good date.||Whether you have trouble with parents is really between them and you and seems to be more dependent on particular circumstances than culture, though in general foreign husbands are not easily accepted. I get along very well with my Taiwanese in-laws and did so from the start, but I know foreigners who have taken years to get accepted. It's no picnic to marry a foreigner, but it can be immensely rewarding.|
|A hotel in Taichung.||Additionally, many males feel they must wait until they have a house and a car before they can marry, so men often do not date seriously until they are over thirty (or courtships last for years).|
|By night, Taiwan is bright, exciting and romantic....|
|Notice anything about these teen idols? How about their utter lack of sexual power, for starters? Add to that a certain artless androgyny, and horrible taste in clothing, and you too can be in every teenager's wallet in Taiwan.||By the same token, do not think Taiwanese are a bunch of naive virgins ripe for the taking. Taiwanese females can spot a loser at a thousand paces just as well as anyone else can. If you couldn't get a date in the States, you probably won't get one here either.|
|Adult language classes provide both income and romance.||This passage generates many hilariously indignant emails from Taiwanese males, who argue that westerners marry the ugly Taiwanese girls. This is also a comment I have heard in person. For example, we were at the MOF the other day processing visas, and a woman looked at me, my wife, and my daughter, and then snorted to my wife,"thank heaven the girl takes after your husband."|
|My wife in Goa, India, in 1991. Eat your hearts out, Taiwanese men! Never have I been in a country where so many great women were so consistently ignored by so many men around them. In Taiwan strong, beautiful women with broad features, bronze skin and freckles like my wife are considered ugly.||The reality is that the Taiwanese critique is actually true. Taiwanese males tend to prefer underfed, out-of-shape, pasty, white-skinned creatures who look like they might expire at any moment. Westerners tend to marry the darker-skinned, healthy-looking girls who actually possess brains, muscles and secondary sex characteristics. Each finds the other's women unattractive. One man's meat......|
|Two generations of strong, practical, intelligent, and hardworking Taiwanese women.||No more advice. Go get 'em, Tiger!
|This shop, gaudily decorated for New Year, sells.....glasses.|
Racism is a serious problem in Taiwan. Blue-eyed, blonde people are preferred, with dark people on the bottom. Chinese racism is every bit as nasty as its western cousin (maybe more so, given that it is not really recognized as a problem here). However, foreigners of African descent will be able to find jobs. I know of several African-Americans working and dating here, although they all encounter prejudice, which I have witnessed myself on several occasions.
For another take, read
this excellent letter taking issue with my POV.
|A view of Taimali, an impoverished little fishing village on the southeast coast.|
|Ironically, a major prejudice is against Americans of Asian descent. Most Taiwanese cannot believe that an Asian-descended native speaker can speak English as well as a Caucasian one. If you are an Asian-American (especially Filipino) you may experience severe problems finding teaching work at the same pay as whites, and mothers may complain about you. This has been changing slowly in recent years, however.||Food vendors ply their trade on a street in the suburb of Yungho|
|These problems are reflected in officialdom.
Caucasian spouses of Taiwanese breeze through various bureaucratic
but spouses from other parts of the world may experience difficulty.
||A vendor in a small town night market has a sign in Thai and Bahasa. Thousands of foreign workers worker in Taiwan's factories, leading to the development of services for them in even the smallest towns.|
|Many schools prefer males because they tend to
energetically than females, or so it is believed. However, there are
of schools, so females usually have no trouble finding work.
jobs prefer females.
||One of Kenting's many beaches.|
|Anti-foreign prejudice is very real, especially among mainlanders of the older generations. If you stay long enough you will certainly hit it head on sooner or later.||A teacher from Hawaii checks her schedule.|
|And for those of you from the US of Aisan
to write, remember, although it may be more difficult to get a job, you
can find one. It is certainly not impossible. It is just harder,
There is one exception: many well-known individuals in the entertainment industry are an American (or other foreign)-born Chinese and bilingual ABCs with talents in that direction are much in demand.
|The Toys'R'Us in Taichung.|
|A foreign teacher poses with her students.|
|Getting Along in Taiwan
I used to provide a section on getting along, but I stopped. If you already knew Taiwan, you didn't need it. If you didn't, it couldn't help you. If you've read this far, you already know a lot about how to get along in Taiwanese culture.
I will say this: your best bet is always to act like a foreigner. You cannot "be Taiwanese" nor will fluency in language make you more comfortable or help you navigate better. In difficult situations stick to English. Smile a lot. Say nothing.
Remember, in every social situation, it is always acceptable to grovel and flatter. A constant stream of compliments should issue from your lips. They cost nothing, and will grease your way through society.
If you are seriously interested, check out Hartzell's Harmony in Conflict and Bo Yang's The Ugly Chinamen. Both paint accurate pictures of the Chinese, though Bo Yang often exaggerates for satiric effect. Hartzell is well-known to all long-term foreigners in Taiwan (he has been a dogged battler on behalf of foreigners), knows Taiwan better than anyone and affects an entertaining innocence. Because Harmony in Conflict was written during the martial law period, it is deliberately light on the deeper meaning of Chinese cultural forms. When you finally understand "harmony" and "face" as cultural postures for reinforcing authoritarian domination of society, you will have arrived. Most anthropological works are good for understanding the deeper roots of Taiwanese social behavior, but worthless as guides to behavior.
Keep in mind some simple rules. First, just because they speak English well doesn't mean that they are your friend, or intelligent, or sympathetic, or they understand you, or they want romance, or they are nice people. It just means that they have mastered English, and nothing more. Second, people who don't speak any English are just as smart as people who do. Don't worry; even though they can't speak English, they still see right through you. Most importantly, the people in Taiwan are human beings, just like you, with their own feelings, needs, and agendas. They were not put here on earth to ensure that you have an exotic cultural experience in Taiwan. So don't treat them like they are.
Finally, don't be fooled by politeness. Politeness is to Chinese culture what a pearl is to an oyster: a beautiful secretion around a major irrititant. It is the opposite of being accepted. Its purpose is to keep you at arms length and under control. You know you are accepted when they start treating you like crap just like everyone else.
|Enjoying the local park with friends.|
|At Chen Shui-bian's Taichung election HQ.||Political
Politics is a dangerous topic. You can get yourself in a ton of trouble without even knowing it. Until you really understand what is going on, or are absolutely sure of the political allegiances of those you are talking to, do not reveal your own stance, or raise the issue. The Taiwanese don't with each other, and neither should you.
is what I wrote several years ago:
"Although China has never owned Taiwan (it was part of the Manchu Empire, as was China, in the 19th century) China is frothing to annex it. Consequently, there is the threat of war between the two sides, and between China and the US. Unless there is a war, the biggest political threat may be China's destabilization campaigns. Prior to reoccupying Macao and Hong Kong, Beijing conducted political warfare against the two, notably involving the use of organized crime gangs and the introduction of criminals into those territories to create social problems, allowing China to pose as the white knight coming to the rescue. A similar campaign is almost certainly in the works for Taiwan as well, augmented by such delights as disease, cyberwarfare and sabotage. China hates and envies Taiwan's prosperity, freedom and US patronage, and will do anything to blot it out. Regardless of what happens, however, foreigners are unlikely to be targeted. In March of 2000, however, Beijing "leaked" its plan to drop neutron weapons on the island to burn off the population (the Chinese have also threatened to dump A-bombs on LA should the US intervene in any conflict, but Western "experts" say it is Taiwan's Chen Shui-bian who is the hothead). Make no mistake, you are living in a potential war zone, however much Western academics may be in denial. There is a good chance of war in the next five years. And read this. See my Background page for more information.
is what I wrote several years ago:
To the left is what I wrote several years ago. At that time it seemed that the future was much brighter and that Taiwan's rise might provoke China's anger. However, the continued obstructionism of the KMT and PFP, the inability of the Taiwanese to concentrate on the social and political problems of lawlessness and corruption, the declining economy, the government's ineffectiveness, and, above all, the total indifference of the Taiwanese to their own political future, leads me to suspect that Beijing will be able to annex the island without violence. Whatever happens, it probably will not affect you directly.
|What will happen to Taiwan in
the future? I'm refusing to prognosticate. Sometimes I think Taiwan
will never be independent, sometimes I'm positive it will be. Good luck
figuring it all out!
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