Culture Shock

Taiwan Culture Shock & 4 Google Free Ways To Handle It

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I have been living and travelling in Taiwan for almost 7 months. It has been wild ride of up and down emotions that included a brutal battle with culture shock.


Background
” I want to strangle somebody.”

“Only 312 more days, 22 hours, 15 minutes, and 27 seconds more until my contract is up.”

I found the above quotes written in my daily journal.

I am certain they should have been a pretty clear indication that something more than just the funny noise the lousy air conditioner makes at my place of employment was bothering me.

I spent the first two months taking pictures and updating my Facebook status about 3-5 times a day. I was absolutely blown away by the magic and huge differences I was discovering in my daily adventures.

Everything was NEW and EXCITING!

I am not sure why it took me to realize something was wrong.


Day 61(Roughly)
The magic and excitement of watching a pack of 75 year old Taiwanese people gamble on checkers was bound to wear off sooner or later.

Trust me when I say it happened really freaking quick!

It just seemed like overnight Taiwan lost its fun. And, my boss and my two female coworkers went from cute and innocent Taiwanese girls, to (in my head) raging bitches over night.

The job, my job performance, and my outlook on Taiwan rapidly went haywire before I could even blink an eye.

It all culminated in a crashing halt roughly 60 days later with my boss and I having a coinciding temper tantrum like two 14 year olds, and me walking away from the job by giving her a big fat “eff you!”

It took me about 3 days to recover from my hangover after “letting off steam” the night after I quit.


Stubbornness
To say I am set in my ways is a MILD understatement to say the least. I once got reprimanded at work for “too many complaints” about me not having my shoes tied.

Can you imagine how many people must have complained to force my boss into calling me into the office and having a conversation with me as a 33 year old man about keeping my shoes tied? I still chose not to change my ways that time and went out bought a pair of lace-less dress shoes.

The point of my shoe lace rant is this. I realized pretty quickly that I finally better read up on Taiwanese culture, culture shock, and just how I went from super-passive to a rotten, and miserable angry son of a bitch without even knowing it.

I am feeling 1000 times better now about my new job, the culture, and adjusting to this new life. This is how I am handling it.

1. Read a Self-Help Book
I am not saying that you have to put on your baby blue vest sweater, and bow tie while you look in the mirror and say “I really LOVE YOU!”

You still should never doubt the power of positive thinking no matter what your “life situation” is.

I just reverted back to my childhood when I realized this sort of mental condition was really bogging me down and keeping me from living the life I want.

My father had a panic attack in approximately 1992. Now, I love him to death and don’t want to bash him by any means. The SAD reality is that after the panic attack I watched him never leave the house for at least 10 years without carrying his “bottle of sedatives.”

The doctor even told him countless occasions that they no longer had any medical effect on him. The entire world knew the problems were only in his mind, but he still would not leave the house without them.

I didn’t realize until I got into my 30’s the desire and passion within me to not let my mind “mind-fuck” me.

Self-help books can do wonders for getting you back on track and avoiding the mind-fuck.

2. Stay HUMBLE

This one is an absolute must. This is the starting point for anything I can talk about from here on out.

I had to really sit down and think about it for a moment. I came to this outrageously different and foreign land with nothing more than 2g’s in my pocket, and a hope from some sort of paper or contract I signed with funny characters (Chinese letters) that somebody would pick me up at the airport and I would have a job two weeks later.

It is enough to make the average man cry just thinking about it.

That is how I realized I just needed to become extremely more humble about everything I was doing.

3. Forget About the Past

You read any spiritual guru’s work and they will let possibly let you know hundreds of times in a 200 page body of work that the past is just an illusion.

Why does it take that many times to sink in? Many of us have this unconscious draw to what happened in our past. You probably feel like it defines who you are as a person, right?

I know most of us will not believe that the past is an illusion and I am not trying to change your mind.

However, I realized that everything I did in Taiwan I was comparing to when I lived in Spain as an English teacher in 2004.

What good was that doing me? ABSOLUTELY ZERO!!

To dwell on the past, is the surest method possible for continued failure.

4. Forgive and Forget

. This is a skill that can only come from being humble.

It is also extremely critical that you take some time even daily if necessary to forgive yourself.

I knew after spending several months in COMPLETE misery that this would not be an easy task. However, I have no choice but to find ways to go back and forgive myself for everything to keep it from further resonating and polluting my mind with nothing but toxins.

5. Learn As Much As Possible About the Culture

I only knew when I came here that they all drive scooters down really cool-looking alleys and they liked to learn “The English.”

Being 35 years old , with an MBA, (bilingual in Spanish) and working for a “call center” that was about all the information I needed to get the hell out of dodge and try somethihng new.

Well, guess what? If you go into a completely different culture without learning the unwritten laws of the land, you are going to be one sorry soldier once that Taiwan Honeymoon period ends.

It is actually even a bit more shocking once you start learning more about the culture. There are some things that will piss you off beyond belief.

” A white complexion is powerful enough to hide seven faults.” This is just one saying I learned that pissed me off.

But, reverting back to the guess what, this isn’t my land. I just need to be aware of it.

Big nose means great career and money is another belief of some Taiwanese people. Much of their society has to do with status, beauty, and people’s perceived perceptions.

I grew up listening to the Grateful Dead and with a solid foundation in treating everyone as equal no matter what they look like, or the color of their skin.

I am still horrified by the vision of watching this 13 year old Somalian kid, Mohammed Mohammed being chased by 20 “cool kids” just because he was black 22 years after it happened.

You can imagine the disgust I felt when I started to learn this stuff. Again, it is just something I have to accept as belief systems out there.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t millions of Taiwanese people here that care about nothing besides the goodness of the soul of the person. The point is to just be more aware of my surroundings.


Conclusion
Are you currently in a situation completely new to you? It doesn’t matter if your Indian mother-n-law moved in with you, the recipe should always be the same.

You must stay humble, learn, and grow. Belief systems are just that, a system. Mine is no better than yours. It is just different. The more I can learn to accept them, it will only benefit me in the long run as a person.

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Taiwan Culture Shock, Taiwan Food, and Most Importantly Taiwan Night Life

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It is a cold and rainy spring night here in “The Jongli.” My one bedroom apartment is on the 11th floor of one of the busier streets here by the name of Yanping Road.

It has the same feeling of a tiny New York city suburb.

The traffic is always going no matter what the time of day. The noises range from the 6 a.m. rooster, to the ambulance entering the hospital next door.

There is also the 7832 children that play outside at the school 500 meters from my house starting at 7 a.m.

Don’t forget the megaphone that the teachers use to talk to the students when they are outside. A rainy day never seemed so great.

I am shortly coming up on my 6 month anniversary here in Taiwan. I felt like it was time to reflect on what I have learned so far.

Losing Face

This is a somewhat mystical and bizarre concept to me still. Before I divulge my opinion, I will clearly admit that I am NO expert on this matter.

Before I came to Taiwan, I may have heard this concept a handful of times in my lifetime. I just heard that Asian people never want to “Lose Face”

I think I always just pictured some sort of bizarre old Asian guy putting a mask over himself to make sure he is never embarrassed.

It was also mentioned several times during my training class with Shane, that you never want to have an argument with a Taiwanese person in public. It is expected that they never show anger in front of others.

This is a very real standard that they are held up to. There have been times where I was in 7-11 buying dinner, and I had to put down my dirty gym bag, and go diving through my bag for money.

It holds up an entire line in a convenience store. Nobody once ever even blinked an eye at me, even including the store clerk.

I am learning that this also dictates daily life and conversations. I didn’t know why when I first came here if I asked a Taiwanese person for help that they would always try to assist even if they clearly didn’t have the information I needed.

It can get really frustrating. I really don’t know how to combat this. It is always extremely convincing if their English is ok.

When I first came to Taiwan, I was on a “positive thinking” high. I had been practicing Bikram yoga almost every day for 1.5 years. My mind was in great shape through the practice. I thought none of that stuff could possible ever bother me.

I still am excited to learn more about the culture. I know that there is a positive side with endless opportunity from both a business and social perspective once I learn more about how to use this to my advantage.

The Food-

Taiwan is considered by people from all over the world as one of the greatest places to explore new tastes and delicious entrees. My experience with the food can be summed up in two words.

“IT SUCKS!!!”

I try to be respectful as I can about the food, especially when I find myself in the company of Taiwanese people.  But, it is actually getting to the point where I am afraid I will soon be gagging when I see another blade of rice.

Everything tastes the same to me at this point. It is just, RICE, RICE, RICE, and more RICE. And then, if you want desert, there is normally RICE in the dessert.

Sorry Taiwan people, but I had a two week stint where I liked the food.

Besides that, I FUCKING hate it!!

Nightlife

This part also comes with a small disclaimer. I am in a much smaller area than some of Taiwan’s bigger cities like Taipei, Taichung, and Tainan.

But, drinking doesn’t seem to be a very big part of the culture here at least in Jongli. The bars are normally pretty empty. Jongli has one main street with all of the bars. You may find about 20-30 people in each bar if you are lucky even on a Friday or Saturday night.

The girls are far from waiting at the door for Americans. It doesn’t mean they are not friendly once you get to know them. But, it is definitely a part of being in a much calmer society.

Culture Shock

My first two months were nothing but a breeze for me. I loved every second of it. Everything was so new and fresh to me.

It kind of pissed me off. After a while, people started to warn me that culture shock just hadn’t set in yet. Many of the veterans would tell me that I would soon be just as depressed as they were there the first year. Sure enough, a few weeks later is started to set in.

I just brushed it off with a “Yeah” like I always do with the majority of my 2 a.m. conversations.

But, then I started noticing suddenly that eating an egg rice and cheese sandwich for dinner 6 days in a row at 7-11 wasn’t as magical as it once was.  Or, maybe the papaya milk wasn’t quite as delicious as it was yesterday.

Everything seemed like “Oh shit, I have already done this 400 times already, and I have only been here 60 days!”

This wasn’t supposed to happen to me. I am “Josh Dent” after all. Why would being 15,000 miles away from home in a land that is one million times different than your own have an effect on ME, of all people?? Can you tell I am using sarcasm?

The first round of culture shock taught me that if I was really going to make Taiwan a long time residency for me, I better start learning Chinese. I registered for a class shortly after that. The communication gap shortening definitely alleviates some of the pain.

Any spiritual guru would tell you that culture shock would be something that is made up in our own minds, and it comes from not staying in the moment. It just takes a tremendous more amount of practice, patience, and diligence when you are in a land so unique and far away.

The culture shock still seems to come in small waves every two months. I am thankful that when I start getting easily agitated I normally have the ability to realize it has to be something going on with me. After all, we can’t change a culture that is millions of year old, right?

Conclusion

Coming to Taiwan has not been all easy. It has been HUGE periods of UPS. It is only natural that a down time or lag time will follow after that. I am thankful for so many reasons for having this opportunity.

I have met people from Thailand, Viet Nam Indonesia, Spain, Guatemala, and even Tazjikistan while I have been here. It definitely helps you to see the world from a much bigger picture than our own little shell.

I am learning from each person I meet. All of this will make me that much stronger in the long run.

I am learning Chinese. I already know Spanish. I can also even communicate a little bit in the Filipino native language. (Tagalog)  That puts me at being able to order a meal in 4 languages.

Although I told my current employer to go fuck themselves on Saturday this week, I am still hopeful for continued success here in “The Taiwan.”