Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Expat Culture in Taiwan: Jumping to false conclusions I

This is one i believed myself once; then heard a hundred times from new arrivals over the years.
The background: foreigner hears middle-aged Taiwanese person tell them they have to ask their mother if they can change a job, and the result is that they decide Taiwanese lack independence - and they the foreigner jump to the false conclusion they are destined to succeed.

Jake and Pierre were a couple of guys who i met in the bar, but it could have been many others.

“I am glad I came,” smirked Pierre, desperately excited by the imminent prospect of success. “With the education we received growing up in the West - the way we’ve been taught to think about things, we’ve got so many opportunities.”

“I hear you man,” echoed Jake because he had also been in Taipei just a few months, and enjoyed hearing the articulation of things he had felt.

“So why are you here?” Jake asked.

“You know -- France is a shit-hole. People’s attitudes…Bankrupt of new ideas…Old ones failing,” replied Pierre.

“Canada the same. This place is the future.”

Then Pierre turned to me.“Dan, tell us what you think? We have been taught to think for ourselves, not to blindly follow our parents, or teachers, or bosses. To make up our own minds, no?” asked Pierre.

“Hmm, anyone want a drink?” I asked not expecting to persuade his first person of the day of its failings.

How the fuck can you the individual westerner be so great but the west so shit? Slow down before make up your mind.

The truth is the contradiction of the Taiwanese was an incredibly hard thing to reconcile, and ten years later most foreigners are still mulling over it in their heads. What is that contradiction? A guy will set up his business from nothing, mortgage his house, risk everything, carve out new markets, run his business - but then if his mother ask him to dye his hair pink and run down the high street in a dress he will do it.

Advice: don't try to understand, just remember that humans are a mass of contradictions and anything is possible.

Alternatively, read Jumping to false conclusions II to find out why it is so hard for us.

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