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Montag, Mai 18, 2009

Hi, I am Bob from Oregon

At least I must be from Oregon or better yet, Texas or New York, because I am white. Although I think I am not really white but rather piggy-pink. But being white makes you American in Taiwanese eyes. There are quite a lot of people who know that other countries of white people are nations as well, but they assume they are like the US, only have a different name. And of course, we all speak English. Most Taiwanese are always very surprised when they learn people would not speak English in a foreign country. A few days ago I was asked, after confirming the daily language in my country Germany would be German, not English, if we Germans wouldn't be arrogant not to speak English.
I answered with "Well, no, Taiwanese speak... Chinese, French speak French and Spanish speak Spanish."

Don't get upset! (sign in a school in Taipei, on the toilet)

I guess this attitude comes from the old classical Chinese (and Taiwan is an offshoot of China) way of thinking as itself as the "middle country" (that's what the word "China" in Chinese actually means) with a few barbaric nations around it. There is "we Taiwanese/Chinese" and then "those foreigners". Thus it is not uncommon to be asked questions like:

"We in Taiwan think family is very important. What do foreigners think about it?"
Note, the person asking this question wants to hear "family is not so important to us foreigners, we abandon our parents when they are sick" and stuff like that. I have to admit family sense in Taiwan might be stronger than in most part of the world, however, comparing the little island of Taiwan against the rest of the world in a question and while doing that, assuming the rest of the world is everywhere the same, is a very strange concept.

In such a conversation, you will most likely hear something about 5000 years of culture "we have" where "we" means "Taiwan". This is a very funny statement, as Taiwan's present culture is a mix of ancient Chinese culture (hence the 5000 years) and Western influence and Republican ideas of the Kuomintang movement of the late 19th century. Thus, what is Taiwan's culture today is about 60 years old; originates from 1949 when Chian Kai Shek fled to the island of Taiwan running away from the communists in China.
If you ignore this little gap in culture, you can also ignore all European culture shifts and then Germany could at least claim the history of the Roman Empire for itself!

So no more time, have to eat my burger now and flush it down with a coke. That's all we ever eat. We Americans.


Stefan hat gesagt…

Not to forget the Japanese culture and of course the aboriginal culture. You could argue that Chinese influence goes back to 1624 when the Dutch brought them to Taiwan. Actually that might be a fun fact to mention to Taiwanese. ;-)

Anonym hat gesagt…

Good day!
Just found this site and thought it might be useful to chat to people who are trying to accomplish the same as me!

I spend too much of my life on the internet and look forward to chatting to you all and picking up and sharing ideas along the way!

Take care!