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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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?
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.”