Sunday, September 04, 2005


I asked a friend of mine why I got so many stares in Taibei when I spoke English on the street and she said that perhaps they thought I was trying to show off by speaking English to show how good it was.

Also a while ago a friend of mine told me that one of the people in our office is called Butterfly by the other teachers because she only goes out with foreign men and likes to show off by speaking English all the time.

The tension between Westerners and Taiwanese people is mostly kept under the surface but it's times like this when it breaks out. Clearly there's some sort of sense of exclusively dating Westerners means that you are putting on airs or pretending to be something that you're not. I'm not sure if I would go so far as to say people feel that Westerners are superior. Certainly most of the expats I've met here are hardly what I'd call gods among men but still there seems to be a power dynamic of some kind. Interestingly at least from my perspective it seems like much of this is directed at Taiwanese people who "put on airs" by speaking lots of English and not Westerners themselves. So maybe it's not really a Western-Chinese thing, but more of a cultural thing or even a social thing. I'm not really sure what I think of all this. It's just some thoughts for now.


Daniel said...

Many people are quite deferential, as though there's something wrong they've done / Taiwan has done and I as a foreigner may point it out...

I find it frustrating - we (foreigners teaching English here) are nothing special!

Yet equally, Taiwanese people seem quite adept at getting the best in deals with foreigners - when money is at stake the awe fades a little. Perhaps the politeness is just a way of getting things done.

ASJ said...

I'll leave you and I out of this because of a real interest in China (culture, history, art, lit.), but when you said Gods among men, it made me laugh. Do you ever feel like some Westerners stay here because they had such a hard time of it at home and here they are at least acknowledged?

lovelesscynic said...

Fuck yeah, a lot of the people I meet here I get the sense that they don't have nothing much to go back to. I do include myself, since it's really either this or picking up dead bodies for the City of Portland (actually not even that because I can't drive).

Anonymous said...

we had this forgein teacher at my bilingual school in taiwan, and he had the hugest power complex you could ever imagine.
i cant say to if he ever abused his power over students, i never had to have classes from him, but he was so agressive that even our dean, who was taiwanese, was afraid to stand up to him.