A White Girl’s Guide to Being Taiwanese

by Rhonda Mix - Bamboo Boulevard
( January 12th, 2012 )

My Taiwanese-American friend and I had a joke that I was becoming more Asian than him due to my living in taiwanese foodTaiwan. While I battled language barriers, played teacher to adorable but possibly terrified students, maneuvered my way through crowded night markets, and indulged in a hundred types of tofu, dumplings, and dried noodles—he tried to convince his brother to give his nieces Chinese lessons, battled corporate propaganda in the U.S., drank beer, watched MTV, and ate cheeseburgers and fries.  Ok, so maybe a few stereotypes there but I’m sure you get it.

The truth is, I was and will always be, an outsider in Taiwan.  I have a deep love for the country but it’s one of those places where even if you, as a foreigner, live for twenty years—you will always be a foreigner. No matter how perfect your Mandarin is, or if you’ve married a local and have a cabbage patch of lovely children. You are always going to be white.  However, that doesn’t mean you can’t try to fit in.

Here are some tips for blending in:

1. Whenever you see a white person walking down the street, pretend you aren’t white and stare at him/her as if seeing an alien species.  Note: this might come naturally as sometimes it’s easy to forget you’re white so you may catch yourself staring at white, black, or Indian people in utter fascination.

2. Learn how to drive a scooter as soon as possible and pile as many things as you can on said scooter (including livestock and babies) while weaving in and out of traffic and/or ignoring red lights.

scooter in taiwan


3. Refuse to get “Western” medicine and instead visit a TCM doctor.  Choke down the packets of bitter herbs with a glass of warm water and smile because you’re being authentic. Note: Many locals prefer Western medicine, I really do prefer the herbs.

4. If you’re a  foreign woman in Taiwan and you start dating a Taiwanese lad, be sure to have him carry your handbag everywhere and hold an umbrella over your head on sunny days. Preferably wear high heels and something cute.  If you don’t have a boyfriend, just grab an umbrella and try to look cute anyway.

umbrellas in taiwan

5. If you’re a foreign woman in Taiwan and you go out dancing, do not try to create an episode of “Girls Gone Wild, Taiwanese Style.”  Unfortunately in Taiwan, as is the case in many countries around the world, American women are often viewed as ‘loud’ and ‘easy’. Note: Everyone thought I was from Russia or France so yay for me. :)

6. Get a haircut that resembles a mushroom.

mushroom-hair


7.  Speak  Mandarin with the highest, most  flirtatious squeaky voice possible. I failed miserably at this.

8.  Brush up on your KTV skills.  I failed miserably at this.

9.  Drink gallons of green tea, bubble tea, tea in general—often.

10. Attend a traditional mud-oven Taiwanese BBQ/Cookout? and help the locals bury potatoes in the ground before stomping the mud into place.  Again, preferably wearing something cute.

mud-oven



Disclaimer:

*This list is not exhaustive NOR is it meant to offend.

In all seriousness, Taiwan is a wonderful place and despite the fact you may always be white (or black, Indian, purple), you’ll also feel very welcome in Taiwan!

friends in taiwan

14 comments
 
Comments
1.
On January 12th, 2012 at 10:07 am, The Orange Backpack said:

OMG Rhonda you hit the nail on the head. I never realized how my voice actually went up on its own when I spoke Mandarin until my friend pointed it out. LOL Gotta watch out for the Green Tea though i got a stomache ache when I first came to Taiwan because I was drinking so many of those big 2 liter ice green tea bottles everyday. So refreshing!

2.
On January 12th, 2012 at 11:18 pm, Kathy Miller said:

Rhonda – Wonderful! I love how you have grown up to be a very smart, sophisticated, beautiful woman! You go girl.

3.
On January 13th, 2012 at 9:27 am, bob yang said:

Hi,
How are you.

4.
On January 24th, 2012 at 4:21 am, KL said:

Brilliant insight, you crack me up :)

P.S. Loving the mushroom haircut, you stroll around in style x

5.
On February 3rd, 2012 at 5:40 pm, Luobote said:

No, it’s Choke down kaoliang w a glass of grass juice and smile because you’re being authentic.

“Note: Many locals prefer Western medicine, I really do prefer the herbs.” lol, no commkent

6.
On February 18th, 2012 at 1:20 pm, Meige said:

I love it. This is hilarious. You are very Taiwanese in my opinion. I was impressed that you even experienced “mud-oven cookout”.

I am a Taiwanese who lives in the States. It’s interesting to see Taiwan from a female foreigner’s perspective as most blogs I read before were written by men. And the one that has quite some followers, unfortunately, is pretty offensive at times (objectifying women, etc.).

Thank you for sharing your experiences and really awesome pictures. Now I can recommend your blog to my friends who are interested in visiting Taiwan!

7.
On February 20th, 2012 at 4:56 pm, Rhonda Mix - Bamboo Boulevard said:

:) Thank you.

8.
On February 20th, 2012 at 4:57 pm, Rhonda Mix - Bamboo Boulevard said:

Not those kind of herbs. lol.

9.
On February 20th, 2012 at 5:00 pm, Rhonda Mix - Bamboo Boulevard said:

Meige,

Thank you!:) I agree there are not enough blogs on Taiwan written from a female foreigner’s perspective. I try to do the best I can re-telling my stories and my experiences living on the beautiful island. I hope your friends are inspired to visit Taiwan, I’m sure you have many wonderful things to tell them as well. :)

10.
On April 13th, 2012 at 10:59 pm, Xtina said:

I’m a Taiwanese who’s lived overseas for over a decade, and having recently returned to Taiwan, I agree with all of the above! I found your blog hilariously stereotypical, yet there’s some truth in it. Its so good to hear from a westerner who isn’t complaining about Taiwan for once! Glad you love Taiwan, and hope you may continue to do so! :)

11.
On April 20th, 2012 at 8:13 pm, Rhonda Mix - Bamboo Boulevard said:

Hi Xtina,

Glad you like the blog. I try to avoid stereotypes (I hate them!) but yes, sometimes there’s truth there.
Will you remain in Taiwan now? :)

12.
On June 20th, 2012 at 6:32 am, Mimi said:

I’ve enjoyed reading your blogs but this one really compelled me to respond. The sentiment that “it’s one of those places where even if you, as a foreigner, live for twenty years- you will always be a foreigner.” is ironically, exactly how I feel about being Asian in America. Substituting the word “English” for the word “Mandarin” and the word “white” for “asian” in your next sentence and one can begin to understand that this is an unfortunate truth in many places, not limited to Taiwan alone – “No matter how perfect your English is, or if you’ve married a local and have a cabbage patch of lovely children, You Will Always Be Asian.”

A foreigner of European decent in America can blend in as soon as he/she can speak the language perfectly and is an American as soon as he/she gets citizenship. An asain person will never blend in even with perfect English and citizenship. I am aTaiwanese born American citizen, and my kid is born in American, but this still doesn’t change the fact that – We Will Always be Asian no matter how many generations go by.

I write this in hopes that sharing my perspective will be eye-opening for some and I also hope that as travelers, we will always remember to see things from another viewpoint. This is afterall, the greatest gift that our travels could give us.

13.
On June 20th, 2012 at 2:29 pm, Rhonda Mix - Bamboo Boulevard said:

Hi Mimi,

Thanks for your post. Though I can’t fully understand what it’s like to be in your shoes, I can sympathize. Thank you for sharing this, it truly is important for other people to try to understand/see viewpoints they aren’t used to. I have “Asian” friends who grew up here in the U.S., born and bred here in fact, but I’m sad to say they’ve experienced comments such as “Where are you from,” “What country are you from,” or even the horrible, “Go back to your own country.” They’ve told me they’ve felt caught between worlds, not really fitting in here or in the land of their grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. Since when did being “American” have anything do do with ethnic background? This is something our country really has to work on. If I hadn’t lived in Taiwan it might not be as easy for me to understand where my friends are coming from. I feel pain when they share some of the experiences they’ve gone through. It makes me ill knowing how ignorant some people are. :(

14.
On September 27th, 2012 at 5:40 am, Eileen黃愛玲 said:

Haha I got the mushroom haircut. :D So true! People mistaken you as French?! I would never thought that in a million years. I would think Dutch or German….never French. I am the one with the French heritage. Although, many Taiwanese think I am European. Go figure.

I agree, it’s refreshing to read thoughts from a female foreigner about Taiwan. Great post. :D

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