Reality Sets In

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Or, “Don’t Bother Me, I’m Eating!”

I probably wouldn’t be writing this article if it weren’t for Fili, who has 2 excellent articles this week on a similar subject. I suggest that you read those articles to get some background information and another viewpoint.

A few days ago Hui-chen and I went to see the new Indiana Jones movie at the Hsinchu Vieshow theater complex. The theater is in a mall and there are some good places to eat before the movie, and that is just what we did. Enjoying my lunch at the excellent Wasabi restaurant, I was surprised to look up and find a woman standing way too close to me, with that dumb smile on her face that only a local person can give to a person they perceive to be a “foreigner” when they are “admiring” them. If you are not native born and spend any time in Taiwan, you know exactly what I mean. A pandering, condescending smile that is akin to “Awww, isn’t it cute?” that just frosts my ass.

I’ve lived in Taiwan long enough that my personal Chinese conversational skills are sufficient to handle just such occasions.

“Is there a problem?”

[silence]

“Is there a problem?”

[silence]

“What are you looking at?”

[silence]

“I asked you what are you looking at?”

[silence]

By this time I realized that I had a live one (as my father used to say). I gave her an icy stare and she walked away without saying so much as a single word.

Hui-chen had been getting more food from the buffet line at the time, and when she returned I told her about the rude woman who had been staring at me while I was eating.

Believe it or not, she came back. Only this time, she walked directly over to our table and sat right down! Not only was she not invited, we didn’t even see her coming up from behind us until she had pulled the chair out and sat down. Her introductory line was “What country are you from?”

Folks, if I told you how much I hate being asked that question, you would have to at least double it to get the feel of how much I honestly don’t like to be asked. The reason is because it’s a assumption and a stereotype. When someone opens the conversation with that question, I always ignore them because I have no interest in anything that follows. That opening line just pegs my Bull Meter [………./]

I looked at my wife. She was incredulous. Hui-chen asked “What do you want?” The woman answered “I want him to help me.” She then turned again to me and said:

“Are you German or Italian?”

(Are those my only choices?)

“Lady, I’m Taiwanese.”

[Laughs] “You’re Taiwanese?”

“Yes, and you’re very rude!”

She had taken a name card from the restaurant and scribbled 2 phone numbers on it. She attempted to give it to me. I refused to look at it. Just then, the manager came over and told her to get lost. She attempted to leave the name card behind, but I threw it at her. The manager apologized profusely but I assured him that he hadn’t done anything wrong, it wasn’t his fault, she’s a nutcase, etc. People sitting around me were clearly embarrassed by this woman’s behavior.

Why did this happen? I’ll tell you why: because of a deep-seated lack of respect for people who do not appear to be “Taiwanese.” Buy why is there such a lack of respect? This question is going to be asked for decades because it takes generations to wipe such things out.  But know this – that woman never would have done that to someone who “looks” “Taiwanese.”  Never.  Ever.

Back in the US, these issues were beaten into me over time. I’ve been through the American Civil Rights movement, busing (to eliminate racial segregation) the Feminist Movement, you name it! It wouldn’t occur to me to view someone’s race or gender as a consideration in any event. I can proudly say that I only associate with people who are of the same viewpoint. Taiwan has experienced none of this “beating up” and in fact, stereotypes that are illegal in the US are commonly held here. Assumptions are rampant because quite frankly, nothing happens to anyone who would say them. Back in the US, saying “blacks smell bad” would earn you a NY City ass-whooping. In Taiwan, everyone would agree while pouring more Taiwan Beer, the majority of people being in agreement, having never actually met a black person before.

So, why shouldn’t that woman have assumed that I’m here on business, or an English teacher and ready and willing to accept any level of humiliation in my haste to get a few extra NT on the side for doing whatever she requires?  Why should she even consider that her actions were rude?  After all, I’m not a person, right?  I’m a “ghost” a “foreigner” or “English teacher” – anything except a “person.”  The fact that this kind of stereotyping is morally wrong just doesn’t matter. She doesn’t get it. Hardly anyone does.

People love lists. So here is a list of some of the outrageous stuff I’ve personally been told:

  1. Foreigners are here to help us learn English.
  2. I think I know my English teacher (in response to my saying I’m not that person’s former teacher).
  3. Honestly, you all look alike to me.
  4. I know you’re a foreigner because I can see your face.
  5. There’s a foreigner – go talk English (mother to small kid in the night market).
  6. Wow, you opened your own business in Taiwan! So, can you teach me English?
  7. [In English] Wow, you can speak Chinese?  Amazing!

In the US, we are taught to respect all people as equals. If a foreigner comes to the US and they have a Green Card, then they are considered to be an American and treated as such. My next door neighbors were from Cambodia and they owned a home, cars and all had Green Cards and driver’s licenses. I never tried to yell Khmr, Thai or any other language at them over the fence. We spoke in English. They were the nicest people you’d ever want to meet.

My wife and I run a successful trading company in Taiwan. We own a home, 2 cars and yes I have a “Green Card” (called an ARC in Taiwan). All I have to do to qualify for Citizenship is to remain here for 2 more years and process the paperwork. For all intents and purposes, I am a Taiwanese and I consider myself as being so.  And yet, yesterday a woman moving her motor scooter said “Excuse me” in English.  How does she know I speak English?  I speak Russian too, but no one here has ever spoken a single Russian word to me. Aren’t Russians “white” too?

Get this – people on the street speak English to Hui-chen because she is with me. I’ve endured incredible conversations where people started questioning where my wife is from because she is with me.  “Can your wife speak Chinese too?”  “Yeah, probabably since she is Taiwanese.” Duh.  What are people thinking?

They’re not.  Plain and simple.  They are simply reacting on a base level.  Because I’m a “foreigner” my wife/gf would have to speak English, so the chances are good that she is an “American” too, right?

So, what’s it going to take for the local people to consider me as a Taiwanese?  This is the reality that has set it.  It’s never going to happen.

Nevertheless I am not going to let anything hinder my love and appreciation for this country and it’s people.  I love Taiwan and I’m here to stay.  So, get used to it!

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37 comments

  1. Pingback: MJ Klein
  2. MJ,

    I hear you. I hate when a total stranger comes up and asks me something like that in Taiwan. I had a guy ask me that when I was visiting Taiwan about a month after 9/11. He kept asking the same question getting more excited and moving his hand towards the small of his back, like he was reaching for a weapon. At the time I used to take the PATH to the World Trade Center and then walk to work. I just gave him a dirty look and asked what the f do you care? I just felt this rage at the guy. He must have sensed it since he took off.

    I had a lost German come up to me another time when I was walking around Taipei with my wife. He asked me if I spoke English. I told him like a native. The one liner went right over his head. He was lost and said he picked us because we were a mixed couple and thought at least my wife could ask someone in Chinese for directions. That instance didn’t bother me since I probably would have done the same thing in his shoes.

    owshawngs last blog post..Banned in Chinatown?

    1. owshawng » i saw some guys by a computer store in Taoyuan and asked them if they spoke English. “a little” was the reply – they were German and were having a bit of trouble figuring stuff out. it’s always good policy to ask if someone speaks a certain language before you go and use it! that lost guy did good i think.

    1. owshawng » not yet! it looks like it’s going to happen on Thursday, if at all. the forecast keeps shifting the impact point around though. it remains to be seen.

  3. Hi There,

    Sometimes it would be nice if people spoke to us. Friday I was smacked by a car on my bicycle and four traffic officers/volunteers just stared at me. Stunned and confused I had to pick myself up off the floor and drag myself and my bike through the intersection with a really painful leg to the side of the road.

    Still stunned, the guy who hit me, an American, asked if I was OK. I said I was. He asked if he could go, I said I guess he could! But I was really in shock at the time. He drove off. Not a single person helped me. Some guy said there was a bike shop about 0.5km down the road. I carried my bike with a really painful leg to the bike shop, got it fixed and rode uncomfortably home.

    All the Taiwanese people I speak to say the policeman were afraid of speaking English! Hmmmm….so far with medical expenses and a broken bike that still needs servicing, time off work to go to the hospital and the opportunity cost of not being able to fulfilly my recently purchased gym membership I am down more than NTD2,000. My fault for not getting contact details but it would have been nice if the police officers had actually done their job and got all the details of both of us.

    To be honest, I don’t mind strangers talking to me. Its OK. But why is it when you really do need help people hide behind the veil of being afraid to speak English. Disturbing your lunch is OK, but when you are lying bleeding on a road after someone whacks you from behind on your bike and you will be alone.

    Ciao.
    Durbanbay

    1. durbanbay » wow, what a story! at least my Chinese is good enough to actually ask for help, which i would have done. i’ve never been hit like that in Taiwan but my friend Saumen and i had some trouble in Thailand and i had to ask for help from an older Thai gentleman who spoke Chinese (which was very helpful).

      next time something like that happens you might want to say to the policemen “speak Chinese, it’s fine” or something like that. wasn’t there anyone you could call on your mobile phone to help you? sorry you got stuck in that situation!

      1. Hi MJ,

        Thanks for your concern. As for the “next time,” I hope there isn’t one. Also, everyone I knew who could help me wasn’t available. It was a strange day!

        What made me mad was the police officers refusing to help. There is no excuse! Its their job. I can put up with people laughing everytime they don’t understand me in English, I can put up with people saying
        “your Chinese is good” when all I do is give my home address to a taxi driver, I can put up with people asking me if I can use chopsticks (even though they know I have lived in Taiwan for 10 years) and I can put up with people laughing at my Chinese when I make a mistake (even though I never laugh when they make a mistake in English). Most things that upset many of my foreign friends in Taiwan don’t bother me at all. After 10-years I am fully acclimated and love living here.

        What I can’t stand is everyone telling me the police didn’t help me because they were afraid of speaking English. I was hit in a dangerous intersection on Keelung Rd. during rush hour very close to a busy night market. I was lying in the middle of the intersection, stunned, with motorbikes whizzing around me. The police didn’t even come to redirect the traffic and help provide me with an exit off the road. No, I had to scramble (hobble) through the sea of motorcycles myself. Their lack of action was inexcusable and if it really was because they were afraid to speak English, I would be very very sad. To get their help shouldn’t have required any action on my part.

        Take care, keep posting interesting and relevant topics. And once again thanks for your concern.

        Have a great day.
        Durbanbay

  4. I’m a Taiwanese currently living and working in California. I totally hate what the first woman did to you, it’s very rude. However, I have a different view about the other woman saying “Excuse Me” in English to you. I feel it’s not that big of a problem (but it’s just me)

    Here, I won’t speak Mandarin to a Chinese colleague if there is a person not seem to be able to speak Chinese nearby. Do I disrepect the third person? Of course not. Instead, I think it is polite to not speak Chinese in this situation. I just feel like I shouldn’t speak a language he/she may not know and I choose English because it’s the international language and he most likely speak English too. This may not be a good example since I’m in U.S.. But image this, if someone comes to Taiwan for a visit and doesn’t speak Chinese, what will he feel if all Taiwaneses speak Chinese to him even though some of them may speak English?

    The assumption is more like a foreigner leaving his country and travelling to/living in Taiwan is very likely to speak English since English is the international language. I mean, when I went to France, I didn’t assume everyone speaks English and used French instead. But when I was in Taiwan and met a foreigner, I spoke English to initialize a talk. Was I rude not to speak French first if he’s from France? I hope people don’t feel this way. But to my defense, I didn’t know what language he spoke beforehand. I had to choose one language and I felt it had higher chance that we could communicate through English than Mandarin and French.

    I think it’s the same situation as the lady saying “Excuse Me” in English to you. Stereotype? Maybe a little bit, but not disrespect in any means.

    1. buffalo » great comments. we’re getting some good ones already.

      i agree with you about not speaking a language that would leave someone out. my friends in Montreal kindly speak English in my presence and i appreciate that a lot! but that’s just what the local people hope to do so they can show off! that’s happened with me dozens of times. the guy “speaking English” is reading off the first page of the English text book to me while his friends stare in amazement because they can’t understand a word of it.

      another point is that as much as people tend to think that Taiwan is “international” nothing could be further from the truth. Taiwanese people have no earthly idea what goes on in other countries except for the students that travel outside for studies, and their knowledge doesn’t seem to get disseminated into the school system. you’ve been to other places and i can accept your reasoning for using the “international language” but the reason that the average person here would walk up to me and speak English is because they assume i’m an American – it has nothing whatsoever to do with wanting to use the international language. you should read Fili’s article that relates an experience with a professor who kept referring to a white male in attendance as an “American” throughout a very embarrassing discourse. You’ll find it here: http://www.filination.com/blog/2008/06/23/taiwanese-and-foreigners-stereotypes-assumptions-attitudes-and-interactions/

      so, what language should you address people in? the correct answer is: the most common language spoken normally in that country. if you ask a white person in Chinese if they can speak Chinese, you’ll find out whether or not they can speak Chinese in a hurry. you may be surprised. off hand i wouldn’t necessarily agree that “a foreigner” leaving his country and traveling to/living in Taiwan is very likely to speak English since English is the international language (as Taiwanese say, “you think too much”). the assumption is that the “foreigner” comes from a place where English is taught in school. that may or may not be true. i normally ask “do you mean foreigners from Haiti, or foreigners from Iceland?” to demonstrate that there is no such thing as “the foreigner” – they are all very different from one another. i for one wouldn’t be put off by someone asking me in English if i spoke English because that’s not necessarily an assumption. but just breaking out into English conversation with no personal knowledge of me whatsoever just pisses me off because i hate being stereotyped. most of the time i won’t respond at all to that. i’ve actually said (in Chinese) “how do you know if i can speak English?” and every time i’m met with virtually uncontrollable laughter. it seems that must be a scientific impossibility!

      but you’re right, as you say. it’s not that big of a problem, and yes it is just you as you say. the reason is because you didn’t grow up in a place where you were taught to despise stereotypes of others because it’s wrong (and also to shun those who do it). in Taiwan, stereotypes are accepted and passed around like cigarettes at the KTV. so i wouldn’t expect it to bother you. but it bothers just about everyone from a modern civilized country in the Western Hemisphere. so now you got why we “foreigners” get so uptight about this stuff. it rubs our fur the wrong way!

      thanks buffalo. your comments are well spoken.

  5. Oh, wow. What a speech.
    There’s no doubt you feel very strongly about this issue 🙂 😛

    I’ve had some really strange situations in Taiwan, but I would have to say that I’ve never felt like someone means to offend or harm me in any way, and most Taiwanese were very careful to try and adjust themselves to what they thought would make me comfortable. It’s just that they sometimes make an honest mistake in interepting how we think and what we’re sensitive to.

    Cross cultural interactions usually bring up those sorts of issues and the main question is how both sides learn to deal with such situations. This past year I’ve learned so much about myself and how I deal with cross-cultural differences. It’s been a humbling journey. I’ve also come to know that some of the things myself and my foreigner friends do are somewhat offensive to Taiwanese (example – telling a Taiwanese that what he’s saying or doing is “very Taiwanese” which sounds bad in Chinese).

    I think it’s important we raise those issues and discuss them. This is how we may learn to deal with such difficulties when they happen.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Filis last blog post..Reverse Culture Shock : Prices

    1. Fili » Tainan is a *tad* more sophisticated than where i live. i get the arm around me, tummy rubbing, “hello” yelled at me – you name it. but when someone sits down at my table and interrupts my wife’s meal – i have to draw the line. none of those are “honest mistakes” – which wouldn’t bother me. it’s the dumb things that people to on purpose that frosts me over. i just don’t want people to get the wrong idea that i hate it here, or that i dislike the people. that just isn’t true. like you, i love Taiwan and the vast majority of people here are very nice!

      i’ll be down there this weekend. i hope we can hang out. thanks Fili!

      1. I think I understand, though I imagine you’re the first foreigner I know to call Tainan “more sophisticated” 😉

        I left Taiwan for a summer vacation a week ago. I’m in Israel right now. I hope we can finally get the chance to meet when I’m back :$ (posts coming out are scheduled posts writtern while still in Taiwan… :P)

        Filis last blog post..Reverse Culture Shock : Prices

  6. I agree most of you points and it makes me laugh that some people try to show off their ability to speak English.

    But I stll have a different view about “stereotypes”. There are some “stereotypes” I completely agree with you that it is bad and disrespectful, but not on using English to initialze a talk. To me, people have to choose a language and I feel English is the best choice in this situation. I mean, there are many ‘foreigners’ can speak Mandarin in Taiwan, but there are higher percentage can’t, especially the people come for a visit.

    If we change English to French and America to France, we’ll be able to get a better idea. Becuase English is an international language, it may make the situation confused.

    When I went to France, many people spoke English to me. Were they rude? Do they disrespect me that they assume I couldn’t speak French? Do western countries use stereotypes like Taiwaneses? No, I don’t think they are disrespectful at all. But stereotypes? a little bit, however, it doesn’t bother me a bit. I totally understand that they weren’t sure if I could speak French and used English first since a foreigner like me visiting France is more likely to speak English than French.

    1. buffalo » i just want to make it clear about “initializing” a talk (good word choice). asking if someone speaks English, in English is fine. walking up to someone and talking in English because you assume they can speak English based on their appearance, is wrong. that is my entire point about that, summed up. we are in agreement i think.

      perhaps France isn’t such a good example! haha the French think that it’s impossible for non-French to comprehend the French language. remember, they even give people from Quebec crap about their French! this sounds suspiciously like what Chinese speakers say about any foreigner’s ability to comprehend Chinese. those French people were giving you the finger but you didn’t realize it! “Look, there’s a Chinese guy. he can’t possibly speak French! better use English!” dude, i guarantee that if i was standing next to you, i would have gotten the French while you got the English! maybe that wouldn’t bother you but when they started making jokes about your driving…. you get the point.

      this is great stuff buffalo. thanks so much for participating and bringing valuable viewpoints to the discussion.

  7. MJ,

    Was the law in Taiwan changed for spousal citzenship? When I got married, my wife said a Taiwanese man could sponsor his foreign wife for citizenship, but a Taiwanese woman could not sponsor her foreign husband. She even saw an article with foreign husbands protesting the Taiwanese government on this.

    owshawngs last blog post..Banned in Chinatown?

  8. Thanks for the complement, MJ. Yes, I think we have the same view.

    I just want to bring another point. I went to Italy three years ago, people spoke to me in English. I went to Canada last year, people also spoke English to me when I was in Quebec. It looks to me that they used English because it’s an international language. It may be a “stereotype”, but I think it is acceptable. I haven’t been to Israel, but I seriously doubt people there will speak Hebrew to me when I visit. Fili may be able to give us a better idea.

    My point is if you are in a different country, people will most likely speak English to you unless they already know you can speak their languages or your appearance makes them think you are not a foreigner. For example, when I went to Japan, some spoke Japanese to me because they thought I’m a Japanese.

  9. Most of these types are normal people whose curiosity has got the better of them and have no idea that they’re being rude. People come up to my Taiwanese wife all the time and ask personal questions about me, our kids, our life. It’s annoying for both of us but you can’t let it spoil your day.

    naruwans last blog post..Webcam teaching in Taiwan

  10. It isn’t just Taiwan, it happens all the time to me in Japan. Just last week I sat down in at an outdoor table of a cafe to relax and unwind. I was minding my own business at the time reading something and some guy in a suit walks by and says, “Hallo! What country are you from?”

    Now it would be one thing if he stopped and waited for an answer or something, but no, he kept on walking by with his face still directed at me waiting for an answer. Unbelievable!

    I wish I could get away that! To the Japanese, if you approach them from out of no where and try to start up a conversation (asking for directions would be OK, but asking where they are from would not), you would be viewed as mentally insane and would be ignored.

    1. WalkInHachioji » really? wow, no one looked twice at me when i was in Kyoto. i thought that by far they were less impressed with foreigners than Taiwanese.

  11. Wow! I can relate to this post more than you know. Sometimes I feel really sad, because it seems that no matter how hard I try to learn the language or fit in with the culture, I’ll just be “the foreigner”. I just have to keep reminding myself about all the things I love about Taiwan — of which there are many!

  12. MJ, great post. For a long time I’ve said that there are only two things that make life in Taiwan a bit less enjoyable than it could be. Fortunately, I’ve hit upon a solution that works for me.

    What bothers me:

    1. The insane rudeness of many people toward strangers. The cutting in line, the unsafe driving, the pushing and shoving to get priority seating, the shouting into cell phones in movie theaters and restaurants, etc. I understand some of the cultural reasons for this, and I know it’s “much worse in China,” but it still bothers me and makes life a bit less enjoyable in Taiwan.

    2. The narrow-minded provincialism that leads to situations like the one you encountered. I have known for a long time that to many Taiwanese people, a person who doesn’t look Taiwanese is a strange and mysterious creature, not a human in the sense that they can be understood and accepted as part of local society. I don’t think I’m too strange looking or that I smell too badly, but I often have to forgive commentary from strangers on some aspect of my appearance or on whatever prosaic activity (e.g. reading a book, talking on my cell phone, crossing the street) I happen to be involved in at the time. The assumption, of course, is that I don’t understand what is being said. I sometimes wish that were true.

    My solution is one part sympathy, one part thought control, and about one hundred parts zen.

    I try to be sympathetic because the fact is that many people simply don’t have any idea that what they are doing is wrong, and they actually suffer because of it. It’s very sad that many adults in Taiwan don’t know how to interact gracefully with Taiwanese people, let alone foreigners. They don’t experience great success in their careers and in their personal lives, because they simply don’t know how to interact.

    I also try to direct my thoughts to all of the positive experiences I’ve had with people who are socially graceful in Taiwan. For all of the boneheads who create discomfort for others, there’s a whole world of well met, socially skilled people in Taiwan, and I’m lucky to be associated with many of them. The contrast between the two groups is sometimes stark, but I try to stay focused on the good folks I know.

    The zen part is the hardest to apply consistently. I know that it is far healthier and more productive for me to so fully engaged in interacting with and serving my family and friends, clients, students, etc., that I don’t have time to worry about some rude stranger. I can choose to simply let it go, rather than letting someone create stress for me. Where safety is concerned, I remain vigilant, but I try not to let all of the unsafe behavior ruin my mood, because in that case, the boneheads are winning, and I’m letting them. Sometimes people intrude so forcefully that I am forced to react, as you did, but in general, I try to just laugh it off and move on to the next project.

    I am only 90% successful in applying this approach on a weekly basis. We’re human, and sometimes the insult or the intrusion is too difficult to ignore. So sometimes I do get angry and say something, but I generally feel that it isn’t worth it. It only makes my day less enjoyable.

    Cheers,

    True

    Truett Blacks last blog post..The Difficulty of Learning Mandarin: An Alternate View

    1. Truett Black » thanks for your comments, Truett. thank goodness that the positive things far outweigh the negative things, but also too bad that the negative ones are just so annoying and demeaning! like you i do try to emphasize the positive aspects even though it’s not always easy.

  13. I hate it when I am speaking to someone and a Taiwanese comes up and starts speaking in English or Chinese. I usually pretend I don’t speak Chinese (so I don’t need to go through the were do you come from conversation for the 1,000,000th time) or do my best to politely create an annoying gap in conversation if it is in English. I never thought of it as being racist or anything, but the more I think about it, why has it happened so many times where people have come up ( while I am well into a conversation with someone else) and expected me to cater to their need to speak to me?

    Johns last blog post..Sex With An Airline Stewardess

    1. John » as far as i can tell, children are not taught that interrupting is bad. there are several children on my wife’s side of the family, and i had to introduce the concept of interruption when finally i got sick and tired of being in the middle of a conversation, only to have the parent’s head turn away from me the instant their child uttered a sound. now the children patiently wait until Uncle Mike has finished speaking before they ask if it’s ok to interrupt.

      you cannot expect adults to be familiar with that concept either. when that happens to me, i smile and politely say “excuse me (bu hao esu), i was speaking to this person. please wait for me a moment.” doing that accomplishes several things.

      1. it establishes that yes, i can speak Chinese (good enough to embarrass you, so watch out).
      2. i won’t tolerate you doing what you want with me on demand.
      3. i won’t allow you to simply disregard anyone else either.

      if i could change one thing it would probably be the “on demand” nature of some of the interruptions. sometimes people act as if they’re going to die if they don’t know my foreign nationality.

  14. What I find equally annoying is when a Taiwanese insists on speaking Mandarin to a foreigner. And when they are told or find out that that foreigner can not speak nor understand any Mandarin, they then continue speaking Mandarin but just slower and a lot louder. Yeah ok, that’s right… if you speak slower and louder then they will understand you!
    Or how about at a restaurant where there’s karaoke going on and Mandarin songs are being sang? The local folks insist on dragging the foreigner up to the stage or sticking that mic right in the foreigner’s face wanting them to sing when they know that person does not speak any Mandarin?

    andress last blog post..kaohsiung wedding

    1. andres » i haven’t had anyone insist upon me singing in Chinese, but i have had someone play an English song and run over to me with the microphone. the dialog went like this:

      i don’t know this song.
      but, it’s English!
      but i don’t know the song. i don’t know how to sing it.
      but, it’s English!
      yes, i know the song is in English but i don’t know how to sing it. i never heard it before!
      but, it’s in English! you can just sing it!

      the only thing that got me out of that situation was when i went over to the book and picked out a totally random Chinese song and then pushed the mic back to that person, insisting that they sing it. when they said “i don’t know this song” i pointed to them and snapped my fingers. you should have seen the look on their face when they realized how stupid that situation was.

      always a pleasure seeing your comments in the blog Andres. take care.

  15. Not once, but TWO separate times, I had random Taiwanese approach me and ask “How have you been, John?” Yes, the literally thought I was their old English teacher. (Or is that a line?).

    One was a woman on a plane who asked me why I screwed over her female friend. Truly “it wasn’t me!” Then, “How are your students these days?” But, alas, I was not an English teacher.

    Boyd R. Joness last blog post..President Ma’s Inaugural Address (English Version)

    1. Boyd R. Jones » that doesn’t surprise me at all, after some of my own personal experiences. saying “you all look alike” is a major racial slur in the US, but in Taiwan it’s the truth.

  16. I was having dinner with my wife one night at a restaurant in Fongyuan (this was before my daughter was born) when a woman interrupted the conversation we were having to ask if I would like to teach English at her school. I politely told her I wasn’t interested, my wife repeated the same in Mandarin, and the woman seemed to get the hint and walked away. A few moments later she came back, thrust her cell phone in my face, and said “please talk to my supervisor”! My initial impulse was to let loose a string of four-letter words in her direction (like I did the other week at a woman who did nothing to stop her dog from chasing after me while I was riding by on my scooter. That, BTW, could be a topic for a future thread), but before I could do so, my wife spoke to her sharply in Chinese, and that was the last we saw of the rude bi..woman.

    You’re right about the rules of Taiwanese society not applying to foreigners. Certainly the part about “respecting one’s elders” doesn’t seem to come into play if your face is anything other than Asian in appearance. What really annoys me are those parents who do nothing, or worse, encourage their kids to make fun of the hairy barbarians in their presence. I hope some of those little monsters were taking language notes while I was “discussing” their lack of proper upbringing with their mothers and fathers!

    Kaminoges last blog post..A return to normalcy

    1. Kaminoge » good points. when i overhear those “look at the foreigner” comments that parents openly say to their kids, i make a point of asking the parents to not teach that to their kids. most of the time the reaction is embarrassment as the parents never thought of that before.

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