Thursday, December 01, 2016

Coming Home ain't all its cracked up to be

A Taiwanese-American friend, longtime Taiwan activist, entrepreneur, and one of the coolest people I know, has this to say about "coming home" on Facebook...
I've been meaning to one day write a detailed essay and openly about how difficult it is to build closer relations between Taiwanese diaspora and local Taiwanese or even first generation Taiwanese diaspora. But if I write with specific examples, then it'll be calling people out which I'm not wishing to do at the moment so I'll just generalize.

In addition are my gripes about a new class of diaspora that have come back to try to dump on the whole thing for their own advantage. There's a lot of stereotypes that makes it so difficult in the first place to get along, that we really don't need more people to actively throw a wrench in it even though there are people that try so hard just to seem cool or to win quick brownie points. Its bad enough that Taiwanese diaspora do face racism in the new host nations, and with locals when they return, and now also Taiwanese diaspora that want to win quick points with locals by bashing Taiwanese diaspora.

For example, most locals just outright immediately assume I'm visiting, that I love to party, that I somehow avoided the draft instead of actually dealing with it, or that I must not care about Taiwanese politics or am unaware or inactive (in fact I'm far more active than the vast majority of people and even locals for good reason). There's also this assumption that I must be rich or whatever instead of having grown up in poverty. This on top of a failure to care to understand why we think the way we do that happens to be backed with good reasons and decades of experience. So you can imagine how terrible it is to have this small new class of Taiwanese diaspora that come back to Taiwan and can't wait to shit on themselves behind the scenes without any care about the damage they are doing just so they can be with their buddies more.

Not to mention, Taiwanese diaspora are easy targets for Taiwanese. After all we left while they had to deal with the issues, but no consideration that some of us were forced to leave and how difficult that is. No consideration that being unable to return brings its own set of challenges and suffering. No consideration that trying to be successful in a foreign nation is very tough. Very little time is spent on understanding.

A small example: I can't even get on a taxi without the driver asking how my vacation is going or whether or not I'm a foreigner. Because I ride the taxi very often, I've been forced into this conversation multiple times a week for years.
The constant Othering by locals, who are not even aware they are Othering you. It's draining sometimes.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Anonymous said...

Taiwan: Well meaning, curious cab driver asks you mildly perturbing 'othering' questions and makes you feel like an outsider despite his good intentions.

US: Cab driver doesn't pick you up at all, or someone shoots you.

有好有壞, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Hello Michael,

A brief note about something I saw last night, further encouragement of a world class level of a certain kind of positive grass-roots ethics in Taiwan society. I notice sometimes that you get a bit down about things, so figured a pick-me up might help.

I notice acts of politeness and kindness often in Taiwan - not for me as an obvious foreigner, but among locals to each other. This consistently impresses me.

For example, yesterday evening I was walking outside in Kaohsiung near a major intersection. Cars, trucks, mopeds, bikes, the usual rush-hour crowd.

An old homeless-looking guy on a bicycle carrying a giant load of cardboard and a plastic garbage bag of something falls over in the intersection. He struggles to get up, all his stuff is splayed out on the street around him.

Assume the miserable dirty old guy will be ignored...

But instead, what happens?

3 different strangers on mopeds - 1 young women on the back of her boyfriend's moped, 1 lady, and 1 30-something guy - all jump off their mopeds and run over to help him.

Together they get the old guy standing up again; they lift the giant pile of cardboard back onto his bicycle; they even help him put his dirty sandals back on; help him to get his balance; and give him a push forward. He wobbles away, crisis averted.

Then each of them runs back across the intersection to their own mopeds again and leaves.

Wonderful to watch this unfold. I was going to jog over myself but when I saw 3 strangers already on the scene in full Samaritan mode, I just watched from a distance.

Taiwan society has problems too of course, like anywhere; but Taiwan's culture of helping each other, helping strangers like this, is something they should be proud of and aware of.

It wasn't forced, it wasn't self-conscious.

It was just first class.

Tommy said...

S/he does know that this is not a Taiwanese diaspora issue but a US/Western issue, right? Draining yes, but I have heard just as many naive comments from North American white people as I have from North American Asians. And the only thing that differs from the Chinese context is that, in China, a North American Asian is someone who can be relied upon a little more because, well, they are of the Chinese race but who can never quite be trusted because, well, they have been... altered.

Anonymous said...

Is there more to this Facebook post? Could you link to the original?

The taxi example is not convincing because locals rarely take taxis (locals consider them too expensive), so taxi drivers tend to assume passengers are foreigners.

By the way, WordPress is very powerful and I think you'll love it after you get over the learning curve.

Anonymous said...

Kaoshiung is a world from Taipei as I've hoped off my scooter to help those in need dozens of times in Taipei and its environs and nobody else, in this historically KMT driven melieu, even apparently blinked an eye.