Dave Ritco had got married to a Taiwanese girl and left about 2 years ago. I had got occasional emails from him but now I suddenly saw him on the street in Taipei.
“Why are you back? Thought you were nicely settled in Canada?” I asked.
“It is a long story man. Sorting out the divorce.”
“What?” I asked. We then had a long conversation about what had happened and how she had refused to work or make friends in Canada. It wasn't a surprise to me but then the key words came out: “I thought she would change back in the West. Become more outgoing.”
I felt sorry for him because we had all been through this stage. It was also an interesting confirmation of that fact: to lesser degree or more we had all bought into the nonsense that the West was going to make Taiwanese girls more outgoing.
The argument of course went like this: Taiwan was sexist and given the freedoms and emphasize on being yourself in the West, said Taiwan girl will come out of her shell. It was an easy mistake to make, but still a bad one nonetheless.
- Not everyone in the West was outgoing – Once you thought about that fact and realized that most people spent their time knocking themselves or trying to do anything possible to gain more confidence you would realize the take them back argument wasn't going to work.
- Outgoing was a personality issue not a society one – This tied in with the above and had reams and reams of evidence to prove it. Once you met loads of Taiwanese you realized that an awful lot of them were extremely outgoing. Taiwanese: set up businesses, they are extremely social, they have little fear of public speaking or even public singing and dancing. They just operate within a social framework which makes certain aspects of their character appear timid. They are scared of their parents and bosses and we define outgoing and freedom as the ability to tell our parents to fuck off. I always like to refer to Dangerous Liasons the film with Glen Close. Clearly she is an outgoing, determined woman but she has to keep it under wraps because of the society in France at the time. 17 or 18th century France didn't by default make all women doormats, but rather made them think harder about where and how they could express their character.
- Taiwan society isn't that repressed – As well as being very sexist and paternalistic, Taiwan is also one of the most socially and sexually liberal places in the world. Parents in general don't care what their kids do as long as come home, pay up the monthly allowance and are seen when relatives come to visit. They operate an extremely long rope policy turning a blind eye to most of the things their kids get up to. The classic being the Taiwanese girl who is on the phone to her mother at 11pm to tell her she is staying at a friend’s house; the mother says nothing even though she can hear a guy discussing hotel room sizes with the receptionist in the background. In short, if someone was naturally outgoing there were a million ways to express yourself. And, in even shorter, if your Taiwanese girlfriend was afraid to sing in KTV, or dance in the disco, or meet your friends, or get up and speak at work; she was naturally introverted and that was that. No amount of time in the West was going to change her.
Don’t forget to check out the kindle books linked in the post below.