This week our guest article was written by David Reid, author of one of the most widely read and informative Taiwan blogs, David on Formosa. We hope you enjoy this guest article as much as we do!
I am not lihai.
It seems that everywhere I go in Taiwan people tell me I am very lihai. This is a commonly used word in Taiwan that in this context means something like amazing or extraordinary. If I do something that is amazing then by all means praise me. However, it seems that even the most ordinary things, when done by a foreigner in Taiwan, make them in the eyes of the locals extremely lihai.
Here are a few examples of the conversations I might encounter.
You can eat stinky tofu?! Oh, you’re very lihai.
You can take a bus around Taipei by yourself. You’re very lihai.
You can speak Mandarin. You’re so lihai.
What does this say about Taiwanese people? I think it means that their experience or expectations of foreigners is limited. They think Taiwan is something that foreigners can’t meaningfully experience or participate in. Admittedly I think some foreigners who come here do live in a relative degree of isolation. Some of them would think doing some of the things mentioned above is lihai. But just because I live in Taiwan and do things that most Taiwanese people ordinarily do I don’t want to be regarded as lihai.