Friday, March 13, 2009

Taiwan culture: Lending and borrowing money

One of the hardest things to get used to was attitudes to money: who it was okay to lend it to, and how easily they lent it to each other. The Taiwanese kind of followed the opposite of the maxim, Don’t lend to friends and family. No doubt part was because they grew up in a time when you circumvented banks and you got ahead by borrowing from your relatives.

You will hear some real horror stories:

“My boyfriend asked me to rent him an apartment and buy him a car,” said my colleague, Chloe. “You see, he thinks, it would be good for my ‘face’. He say everyone thinks I have a poor boyfriend, and I am losing self-respect. What do you think?”

“I am glad to hear the age of chivalry is not dead!” I replied. “Seriously - Tell him to fuck off. I’ll do it for you.”


“I think you are going to have to find yourself a new boyfriend.”

“Really, but - ” she said.

“But, what about the 200,000 you have already lent him! I know you had to, to show your love.”

“500, 000. No, I don’t care about that. I lent to help him with his business. I can’t ask for that back, it wouldn’t be right. I love him and maybe I am letting him down.”

Talk to any girl, everyone of them had lent all their life saving to an ex-boyfriend, or given him a credit card that he then ‘maxed’ out. I ocillated between exploding openly at the injustice and unfairness - or secretly at the glaring lack of judgement as they matter-of-factly said: ‘I loved him. I treat men very good…Anyway, nothing I can do now, but forget about it, earn the money again.’

I am still amazed by the openness, measured reflection with which they could talk about this when they should be chastising themselves for being a dumb bitch… But then that was answered by the ultimate get out clause in the first part of their explanation.

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