Written by: 
Lucie Vachova Sunday, 25 November, 2018 - 17:06

Behind the Asian Stereotypes

Are we so different or is it just our appearance? It is said that all nations differ in culture, customs, the way of thinking, and many other things. But is it really true? Let’s see if it is based on the example of Taiwan.

There are many stereotypes about Asians and Europeans. From my own experience, I can say that we are not as different as it may seem at first sight. Since I’ve been in ESN for years, I’ve come across people from various countries, including Asian ones. I also spent 2 months living and volunteering in Taiwan where I stayed with a few families, so I had the chance to experience their everyday lives first-hand.

Of course, it is hard to generalise, especially if you think about the size of Asia compared to Europe. Probably the first things that come to your mind about Asia are rice, noodles, and tea. I can confirm that the usual question you will get before a meal in Taiwan is: “Rice or noodles?”

As far as stereotypes about Asian people go, some of the most popular ones are the following: Asian people tend to be introverts, they solve problems in groups and discuss them for hours. They usually end up agreeing with which suits almost everyone to avoid any argument. A typical example of this is when you ask them what they would like to see or do. The most common reply is: “I don’t know. What do you want to do?”

What else should you know about Asian people? Well, here are the insights about Taiwanese people that I can tell you based on my personal experience!

It is true that Taiwanese people are often shy when they meet foreigners. They speak quietly and mostly only listen, nodding to confirm they understand you. From my own experience it is even “worse” when girls try to speak to boys. Taiwanese people are simply overwhelmed by the fact that Europeans are not afraid of speaking to them in English and even talk to the opposite gender.

Taiwanese people tend to be very cautious, too. If they hear that something can be dangerous, they won’t do it. This cautiousness was proved when we, a group of girls and international volunteers, decided to go to a café which was only 500 metres away on a busy street. We were told we cannot go alone and in the end were guarded by 6 other boys and went on motorcycles. You can hardly imagine something like this happening in Europe. When I think of it now, I realise it was very nice.

When it comes to partying, you may be surprised. The idea of going to a bar to pre-drink and then dance till the dawn in a club is very strange to the Taiwanese. The best evening activity for them is sharing a meal with friends. By the way, joining one of them is a great opportunity to get to know Taiwanese culture and people.

As I said earlier, there can be a language barrier. Apart from the multinational capital Taipei, English is not spoken very often. You simply need to use your hands and legs to communicate. However, even if you are not understood, Taiwanese tend to help in general.

Also, Taiwanese people face a lot of problems regarding relationships, studying, families etc. The problems they have may be different from ours but the fact that they have them is what unites us. There is intense pressure on children and teenagers related to their studying results. Usually, after school they attend cram schools to do their homework and tutoring. They spend days studying English, History, and Chinese language. After graduation, there is a lot of pressure to get a good job and have a prosperous future.

Taiwanese people are emotional just as we are but they are not taught how to express emotions. However, once I attended an event for students and their family members held at a high school. Each student stood up on a podium and talked about how grateful they are for their families and the opportunities that life gives them and they cried a lot while reading their notes. In fact, some European nations don’t express their feelings, either. I believe that we should think about it and tell our loved ones how we feel more often.

All in all, Taiwan is an interesting small country close to China with its own special identity. There are definitely things that we can learn from each other. We may look different and have various customs but at the core we are pretty much the same.

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