Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Expat Culture in Taiwan: Anti-mainstream with a budweiser

"Man, that is an expat bar. I ain't one of those guys who needs my hand held while i am here."

This is something you will hear often from the just-left-college-want-to-sound-anti-mainstream expat types. Just like back home where these people won't be seen dead in a swanky busy night club because they don't follow the crowd, in Taiwan they won't be seen in expat bars or doing expat things.

But have you noticed back home there is nothing more different about their motives than those of the 'plebs' they are criticising: go to one of their watering holes and behind the black clothes, covered flesh, and unrythmic dancing, you will see them getting pissed out of their brains and trying to pick up the girl next to them.

While they are abroad it is no different: they don't speak Chinese, want to drink American beer and are there to pick up girls - but, if you are going to appeal to their particular sensibilities and get them into your bar, you have to create that suspension of mainstream that they need.

One particular bar in Taiwan had managed this to perfection. Firstly, they hid their Western food at the back of the menu behind the Chinese, making sure you could applaud yourself loud and hard that you had managed to find the picture of the sandwich amongst all those Chinese characters. Second, was the minimalist, student bar design. Third was the curt, unpolished staff who didn’t appear interested in you being a foreigner and always answered your requests with a one word grunt instead of a sentence of good English. Fourth, was the scarce use of English on the walls. And finally there was the boss: long dank hair, permanently miserable and unfriendly, he solidified his and the bar’s image with the notice he had over the DJ booth: ‘DJ’s Music Choices Are Final, Don’t Trouble Him.'

With it the illusion he didn’t set up to that the bar to baby sit foreigners was complete, leaving them to drink their bottles of Budweiser, talk about the game, and patronise some young enthusiastic girls who came to practice their English.

No comments: