Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Taiwan Culture Shock: It is hard being the superior sex IV

Eric hadn’t called back Diane. Once he woke up in the morning he had decided this was his first time dumping a girl based on looks and so, of course, it had been hard. He shouldn’t unilaterally declare himself unable to be a stud but give himself a few more opportunities to adjust. He might be able to get used to being the superior sex. Get over his culture shock.

He had been dating Emily – the introduction from John - for a few weeks now. She was beautiful, interesting and fun. His fears had been unfounded. He knew he had to view things differently; in Taiwan he could get hot girls and he knew he shouldn’t question that. Just enjoy. He put on that smart shirt he had bought when they started dating, thinking he would have to buy a new one soon - and he changed out of his shorts. He really missed his goatee. Finally, he checked his wallet and went out the door to meet Emily for dinner.

“You are not having a sweet?” asked Emily.

Eric calculated the cost of the dinner in his head. “No thanks.” His main course had been four hundred NT dollars, and when you added in the cost of the starters and drinks it would go over fifteen hundred dollars - Nothing if he was back in New York, but he wasn’t. He was in Taiwan where good food could be had for sixty in a basic eatery, and a set meal for a hundred and fifty in a nice teashop. Today the bill was high because they were eating at an Italian restaurant. He preferred to eat Chinese or some other Asian food, but if you have a hot woman who was interested in you because you were a foreigner he presumed this was the price you have to pay.

“I will pay you know. You don’t always have to. Please let me today,” said Emily. “I know you are a student and you don’t have much money. You know we Taiwanese girls are not interested in the money, but feeling. Feeling is most important. We support our man. You know, my ex-boyfriend wanted to set up a business so I lent him one million NT, and he never paid it back. You are a good guy. I know you are young and studying Chinese because you are interested in Chinese things. You are very hard working. I know you will do very well in future.”

Jesus, thought Eric, don’t you know I am a neurotic fucker. You have just given me enough to obsess over the rest of my life.

Still he tried to focus on the issue that had started her diatribe. ‘Ok’, would be a good answer, but then he felt guilty – beautiful, interesting, and sharing paying for dinner.

“It is ok. I am the man – I will pay.”
Eric took a look around the restaurant discreetly. It was filled with white guys like him trying to impress Taiwanese girls with conversation about the thin-crust pizza, that was authentic Italian pizza; that the Pizza hut chains across the city were not proper pizza, and stick with them and you could learn what Americans are really doing.

What fucking bullshit. There were fucking thousands in Pizza Hut in America selling the same shit they were here.

Emily didn’t get a sweet because Eric was paying and he got the bill. They walked down the lane looking in the window of restaurants heading in the direction of the main road, Chong Hsaio East Road. This stretch starting at Sogo at Chung Hsiao East and Fu Hsing South roads’ intersection then continuing on Chung Hsaio in an easterly direction for about twenty minutes to Guang Fu South road, was unofficially declared downtown.

He had asked why this was considered downtown and it seemed the answer the number of department stores. Back home towns and centers of populations grew up around a river or a hill or a church, here it was the department store. A hundred years ago most of the city was slum housing, or rice fields, so don’t expect to find any Westminster Abbeys or Versailles Palaces, the department stores are the nicest looking buildings around. Since Diane had told him it was the department stores he had questioned several people: What about Nan Jing and Chung Shan Roads, Hsimenteng, the area around the Warner Village in the very new Hsin Yi District, and Tienmu? But everyone was sure there were more square inches of makeup counters, escalator rungs, wooden racks, mirrors and changing booths per person in this area than any other part of the city - maybe the world. Along with the department stores were the KTVs ( family and adult), offices, high street brands from around the world, small boutiques, tea houses, fast food joints, gymnasiums, coffee shops and upscale restaurants all with music blaring.
Off the main road the lanes sprawling south to RenAi and north to Civil Boulevard were all restaurants, teashops and small boutiques on the first floor, and apartments above. This was still prime residential real estate despite the noise.

“Wow, can we stop?” said Emily spotting a stall selling sweet bean curd with peanuts and sweets.

“Of course.”
They ordered and sat down on the round metal stools, elbows perched on the edge of the stall next to their polystyrene bowls; scooters shooting past them. “You know this is what I miss most in America, Taiwanese snacks. I know you are an American and I should get used to eating American food, but I don’t really like it. Next time can we go to the night market? It will be fun,” she said.

What a fucking arsehole, thought Eric. That is about six thousand in dinners I have paid for. I could have avoided working for a week…I could have paid for a trip down south for a few days…Fuck.

She leaned forward. “We don’t always have to go out you know. I like to just buy some food and eat at home...More time to make love. I know you like the massage.”

“I got the picture. You can have an overload of salt to heal a wound…I think…”said Eric.
“So you don’t like America,” he continued.

“I like America very much. Hmm, very free.”

I see – I knew this was too good to be true: want the passport, don’t you girl! I ain’t going to be your green card then dumped, thought Eric pleased he hadn’t been entirely wrong about her.

“I could have stayed in America. My boyfriend want to marry me, but I think not many job opportunities. It was so sad. I loved him so much, but here I am the manager.”

“There are still good opportunities in America for you.”

“I know but my English is not perfect. I don’t do the MBA for nothing.”

Emily paid for the sweets, then asked: “Can we go to the bar for a drink? We have never been together. John introduced us and we should buy him a drink to say thank you.”

Eric got excited by the prospect of walking into the bar with one of the best looking girls…He started to worry about what would happen if some guy came to hit on his woman. “John is not out tonight. Next time, ok,” he said.
* * *

An hour later they were at a love hotel making love.

Suddenly Emily started to cry. “Sorry. I am sorry I got inside too quickly,” said Eric. “No excuses. I am too rough.”

Eric started massaging her breasts and manoeuvre his head between her legs.

“What are you doing? I am crying,” she said.

He negotiated another wave of self-loathing and moved back up next to her.

“I’m sorry. What is wrong?”

“I think you a shame of me. You won’t take me to the bar to meet your friends. You won’t take me to your apartment…And…”

She went silent.


“I know I shouldn’t say. I am maybe not so pretty, and so interesting compare to the American girl. My mother say I won’t ever marry because I too bad-tempered …don’t respect man -”

Eric blinked: “One thing at a time, please. Ok, I am listening.”

“If you are a Taiwanese man, maybe I say nothing, but you say I can tell you anything if I have a problem; that you American men will listen. I think you don’t respect me. You only want to see me once a week. You don’t ask me where I want to eat. You say you like the American way but you don’t let me pay for dinner. I don’t feel like the proper girlfriend…”

Eric explained she hadn’t come to his house because he had a mattress on the floor and no furniture…He took her to a good restaurant because he was trying to impress…That they only met once a week because he didn’t have any money to take her other times. The question of why he didn’t take her to the bar went unexplained because he didn’t want to sound like a wimp.

They made love and then as he lied on the bed watching TV, he decided again that he had to accept that it was a different dynamic. As Josh said, it was about supply and demand and there weren’t many whiteys like him in Taiwan.

He looked at her sleeping naked next to him. She was different from Diane because all he had had to say was - “You look fantastic, and I would like you to sleep naked”- and the next day, he didn’t see those pyjamas again. She did look fantastic. He preferred a girl to have breasts. If she put on five kilos or so she would look even better, and would have something that would feel cuddly and soft rather than tight contours. It would be nice, if he couldn’t feel bones against his crotch when they made love. If her nipples were dark and large, rather than small and light pink it would be amazing. A little suntan and she would be perfect.

Anyway, he couldn’t exactly finish with her for being over-emotional. As a Taiwanese woman in this society she no doubt had a hard life, suppressed a lot of emotions. He felt sorry for her that no Taiwanese man would accept her just for speaking out what she felt. He should be forgiving that, perhaps, she was letting out a lot of emotions now she felt safe to do so with a foreigner. Still he would have to watch to see she didn’t get carried away. He didn’t know about the future however now he had found out she was extremely bad-tempered. She had to understand a western man didn’t let you get away with everything; there was responsibility with the freedom he offered…

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