Janet Hsieh, the host of Fun Taiwan, acts all giddy about Taiwan over nothing. She paints a rosy picture of Taiwan and tells you some cultural info about it. But she doesn’t tell you the deeper or negative aspects of it, since her job is to promote Taiwan tourism, not that of a deep philosopher and observer seeking truth. Well since I am the latter, I will tell you some deep truths about Taiwan that no one else has the guts to, since it’s not popular to say negative truths, and plus most people are not deep either.
The truth is, Taiwan is not a good place if you are seeking a great social scene, free-flowing fun, personal happiness, love, romance or passion. Taiwan’s social culture and social conditioning are simply not conducive to these things. Below I will explain why and provide sensible reasons that are obvious and undeniable (though taboo). Let’s begin.
1. It is very hard to meet people, as they are not open with strangers but very closed in nature.
Social interaction is usually restricted within closed exclusive cliques. You can’t just “go out and meet people”. People don’t generally talk to strangers or make eye contact with them. They act cold and distant toward strangers, treating them as if they don’t exist. (Unless they are trying to sell you something of course, but that goes without saying) Trying to start conversations with strangers feels awkward and unnatural, not smooth or relaxed like in most of Europe. By default, there is a “cold wall” between strangers (similar to New York City, Hong Kong, Tokyo, etc).
In fact, Taiwanese themselves will even admit that they are “less open” than foreigners, even Americans. You can ask them yourself. They will admit to it, for it is common knowledge. In Taiwan, only elderly and middle age people talk to strangers freely. Foreigners will too of course. (But what’s the point of coming to Taiwan if only foreigners will socialize with you?)
2. The only appropriate way to meet people is to be introduced through friends or groups, or have a connecting routine such as school, work or organized activity.
The problem with this is that it’s very LIMITING and RESTRICTIVE, for it means that you have to DEPEND on someone to introduce you to others. If no one introduces you, then you are out of luck and have run into a “cold wall” (pardon the pun). What this means is that you are dependent on others for your social life. You can’t just “make it happen” on your own.
You also have to depend on GROUPS. You see, in Taiwan, everything is done in groups. People go out in groups. They make friends in groups. They meet people in groups. They travel in groups. They even think in groups (like a hive mind). An individual is worthless and insignificant in Taiwan, and seen as a loser without a group. Hence, Taiwan is not for the individualist. Rather, it is for the empty conformist with no individual identity who seeks to follow and conform.
However, even if you do meet people through introductions or groups, it won’t be easy to connect with them (for all the reasons mentioned in this article). Taiwanese and Foreigners are on very different wavelengths and will likely not have much in common, even though they may be polite to each other’s face. Broad minded individualist foreigners and insular group-oriented Taiwanese do not vibe naturally.
Furthermore, even if you do break into a clique (a closed exclusive social circle) your social life is still going to be LIMITED to within that clique. The whole clique scene is very rigid an limiting, similar to how it is in the US. Again, you can’t just “go out and meet people.” Taiwan’s social scene is no doubt very closed and cliquish.
3. Young adults in Taiwan are painfully shy, insecure, nonassertive, and lack confidence and social skills (especially females).
It takes confidence, assertiveness and social skills to talk to strangers. Sadly, they’ve been subjected to extreme amounts of fear and abuse during their childhood growing up. Their behavior is conditioned through “negative reinforcement” in the form of fear, abuse, scolding, guilt trips, overly strict parenting, etc.
The result of this is that they become weak, insecure, subservient, and taught to live in fear by their parents, peers, culture and media. While this is true in America to an extent too, it’s taken to a bigger extreme in Taiwan. Only when they reach middle age do Taiwanese people become confident enough to talk to strangers. But before that, they are too insecure, nonassertive and shy to talk to strangers. This is yet another reason why it’s so hard to meet people in Taiwan.
So you see, there are multiple obstacles and factors that go against you when it comes to social life in Taiwan. I don’t have to tell you that when everything is going against you, then you are in the wrong scene.
(Note: While the above may not apply to Westernized Taiwanese, you will not see many of them in Taiwan because most of them will either be living overseas, or taking extensive trips abroad, where they fit in better. Also, not surprisingly, Taiwanese Americans and Asian Americans (whose personalities are Westernized) will usually not be comfortable living in Taiwan. Not only do they not fit in with the culture, but they will be constantly expected to be something they are not – a local Taiwanese. This will lead to an identity crisis and conflict, because they are accustomed to acting American or Westernized and asserting themselves as proud individuals. But Taiwan will not be conducive to that at all. Asians are not supposed to act like Westerners in Taiwan. If they do, it will look “freakish”. Thus, an Americanized Taiwanese will feel like they cannot “be themselves” in Taiwan, which is very awkward indeed. They can’t even speak English out loud without drawing shocking stares.)
4. Taiwanese are like empty shells with no soul, personality or passion.
Even if you make a lot of friends in Taiwan, you eventually realize that these friends are really just casual acquaintances, because there is no real connection with them. Taiwanese are like empty shells with no soul or emotions, like plastic mannequins (similar to America, but even worse). Their faces are passionless and robotic, as if their soul and humanity has been squashed, suppressed or drained out of them.
It’s very sad and scary, like an inhuman society from the Twilight Zone. I’ve seen some of the older generation Taiwanese show some semblance of having a soul or emotions, but the young adult generation definitely seem empty and hollow with plastic exteriors. Thus, the friendships you make in Taiwan will ultimately be unsatisfying.
It’s also kind of depressing when you see that people are empty shells here because it leaves you wondering “How can humans descend into such a state of being?” What’s scary is that you know deep down that you don’t want to become like them, thus being around them could have a toxic negative effect on you.
What’s worse, most young Taiwanese are duds with no personality and can’t even hold a normal conversation. There is nothing really there to connect with. They are the least engaging youngsters I’ve ever met – usually quiet with nothing to say and no expression (except for very superficial ones). When you talk to them, after a few minutes or few sentences, the conversation runs dry, like you’ve run into a brick wall with nothing more to say. Asking them open ended questions about themselves, like interviewers do, will not change any of this. (if it did, I wouldn’t have a problem engaging them) They are like empty shells.
5. Taiwanese are extremely cold and uptight in their body language and expression.
I don’t know about you, but I find it very hard to relax, be happy or even be myself around people who look so uptight and anal-retentive. It kind of “rubs me the wrong way” is how I would put it. I guess if you are cold and uptight yourself, you may not see anything wrong with it, since they are the same as you. But if you are not, then it can be very awkward to be around people who are, especially if you come from a culture where people are not like that at all. The point here is that being constantly surrounded by very cold uptight people is obviously not conducive to happiness, fun or relaxation at all.
6. If you like meeting girls, or are seeking a date or girlfriend, there are a multitude of major obstacles against you.
a) First, Taiwanese females simply do not like being introduced to male strangers (unless they are desperate, but if that’s the case, then they are likely older and/or unattractive). Instead, they prefer to meet guys through the clique of friends that they grew up with, or the clique at their school or work. So if you didn’t grow up in their “circle”, then you are pretty much “out”. And if you are “out”, the bad news, as you might have guessed, is that their “cliques” are NOT inclusive at all.
b) Second, Taiwanese people are reluctant to introduce females for some reason, probably because their females are not comfortable with it (or they are too picky). Although Taiwanese often like to joke about introducing a single female to a single male, they rarely follow through with it. In this regard, they are “all talk and no action”. However, even if you are introduced to a female, suffice to say, females who need to be “introduced” tend to not be attractive or even fun to hang out with.
c) Third, Taiwanese young females are not very open or approachable. They are generally uptight, stiff, closed, and have a cold wall around them. Even worse, most are also insecure, fearful, fragile and lack confidence and social skills. Thus they are not even comfortable with meeting guys. Such traits are huge obstacles to single heterosexual males no doubt, but unfortunately are the usual traits of Taiwanese females. There is even a social rule in Taiwan that “girls don’t talk to strangers, especially male strangers”.
d) Fourth, most Taiwanese girls have no personality and no social skills. They are duds who can’t hold a normal conversation and are not engaging at all. When they do talk, the things they say will be very superficial and meaningless. Thus, there is nothing really there to connect with. Asking them open ended questions about themselves, like interviewers do, will not change any of this. (if it did, I wouldn’t have a problem engaging them) When they talk amongst their friends, they squeak to each other like little mice, acting very fragile and insecure. Very weird. In contrast, girls in most other countries (Europe, Russia, Philippines, Mainland China, etc.) are far easier to engage in a natural normal conversation. So you gotta wonder, what’s the problem with Taiwan?
e) Fifth, to make matters worse, modern Taiwanese females have difficult personalities and many hang ups. They will drop a guy for the smallest things at the drop of a hat. They are very judgmental, cold, unromantic, and act like flaky divas. Materialism has corrupted and spoiled them, making them more and more like American girls now. Deep down, they are childish and have terrible communication skills. Older generation Taiwanese often complain that young girls mumble and speak too fast, and are hard to understand.
f) Sixth, to make things worse, in the few nightclubs and discos that exist in Taiwan, guys always outnumber girls. Every girl is with a closed group of friends, male date, or “Jimmy” which is a male friend in her clique that shields her from outside strangers. This of course, pits the numerical odds against you. As in the US, there are many guys competing for a few girls. But these girls are not even open to talking strangers, as already mentioned.
So you see, when it comes to meeting females and getting dates in Taiwan, there is a LOT going against you, a whole multitude of obstacles in fact. It’s like everything is against you. If that doesn’t totally suck, then I don’t know what does. None of this, of course, is conducive to dating or romance.
Moreover, even if you do find a partner in Taiwan, still, your options are limited in that you are essentially “taking what you can get” (aka “settling”) rather than having a wide array of choices. Unless of course, you have low standards.
Now, this might sound bad, but it’s true: Taiwanese females don’t become open and friendly with strangers until they reach middle age – at which time they are no longer desirable and are most likely taken as well. This is a classic case of Murphy’s Law: When they are young and desirable, they are not open or friendly with strangers and not easy to meet at all. But when they are no longer young or desirable (and either taken or desperate if not) then they start to become friendly and more sociable with strangers. I know that might sound bad, but it’s true. (If that offends anyone, then I apologize. No offense was intended. But please remember, I didn’t make things the way they are. So please don’t blame the messenger.)
7. The Taiwanese psyche is completely dominated by fear and guilt.
As a result of abusive psychological conditioning, Taiwanese emotions are suppressed and internalized. They are taught not to express themselves, but to be humble, submissive and obedient.
Deep down, they live in perpetual fear and worry about every little thing. While caution is a good thing, they overdo it and take it to the extreme, imagining the worst in every scenario even when it’s unwarranted. As a result, they never truly live. You can feel the “fear vibe” of the Taiwanese masses when you are in their proximity. They also harbor constant guilt about not measuring up or not being “good enough”. None of this is conducive to a “friendly and open” social atmosphere of course.
What you should know is that if you are in Taiwan long term, eventually the “fear energy” of the people will rub off on you and affect you negatively as well. Even if you are a person who does not believe in living in fear, like a hippie or New Ager, it will still eventually affect you, especially since you are eating their food, which is produced from “fear consciousness”. (Remember that the thoughts, emotions and energy of the person preparing your food goes into the food as well.)
This is a downside of Taiwan that is rarely mentioned, if ever, because people are in denial about it and are not conditioned to look deeper. Instead, they are conditioned to only care about working and raising a family, and other practical matters on the surface.
8. Taiwan is a strict business-oriented and workaholic society which teaches that the only things that matter are making money and food.
Personal happiness and feelings are seen as irrelevant and worthless. All that matters is work, productivity and conformity. People are conditioned to be stiff, repressed, and act like cold zombies without soul, heart or emotion. It’s very sad and makes them almost inhuman and robotic-like. There is no free expression or creativity or thinking for yourself. It’s all about conformity. The individual is nothing. The only “passion” one is allowed to have is passion for work and productivity (no surprise there).
That’s why it goes without saying that Taiwan is not a very fun place, since none of this is conducive to “fun” at all. Though the concept of “fun” is relative, the kind of fun I’m talking about is the highly festive free-spirited free-flowing heartfelt type of fun that exists in much of Europe, Mexico, Latin America, Russia, Philippines and Thailand. (If you’ve been there, you’ll know what I mean) The fact is, Taiwanese are extremely uptight. They do not radiate warmth or emotion. Even when they are trying to have fun, you will never see them truly “let loose”.
Also, Taiwan is not a place for one who values personal happiness either, since that doesn’t even matter in Taiwanese culture. Besides, how can you be happy around people who are extremely cold and uptight and dominated by fear? I find it hard to relax or be myself around such people. Eventually, their vibes will affect you as well.
Further, such a repressed workaholic culture will also not provide venues for you to pursue your “happiness”, unless of course your happiness is derived from living a monotonous workaholic lifestyle with little interest in much else.
In Taiwan, practically everyone is a conformist. Thus, they will conform to the workaholic culture with very little else to live for. How can that possibly be conducive to happiness? It can’t. Trying to find an nonconformist in Taiwan is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Even if they exist, they will be silent and alienated, or they will leave the country. Finding an “outspoken nonconformist and freethinker” is a near impossibility. (Not to brag, but I seem to be the only one)
9. Taiwan is a very prudish and conservative culture in the extreme.
No public display of affection is allowed, such as kissing between couples. And TV soap operas and dramas that are produced in Taiwan almost never show people kissing or showing any physical affection.
Flirting is a big taboo in Taiwan. It is considered dirty creepy behavior. Taiwanese females do not flirt back with males. They do not allow gentlemen to kiss their hand, like women in Europe do. And they do not greet people with kisses on both cheeks, like European females do. On the flip side, a Taiwanese American girl in Taipei wrote me once and told me that when she tries to flirt with Taiwanese guys, they do not reciprocate but instead get weirded out.
Obviously, none of this is conducive to romance, love or passion. I don’t even need to tell you that. In fact, if you observe Taiwanese couples, you will notice that they even act cold and uptight around each other. They do not appear “in love” or romantic, and they often eat together in silence with very little to say to each other. What this means is that even if you are in a relationship with a Taiwanese, it is likely to be dull and cold, devoid of warmth, romance or passion.
In truth, Taiwan is best suited for the conservative prim and proper type, not for those who are wild, open and passionate. To fit into the social environment, you have to act innocent and goody-two-shoes to the point of cheesiness. If that’s not you, then you will constantly have to act like something you are not, just to fit in. I don’t have to tell you that suppression of your true self is not good for you mentally or emotionally in the long run.
I find that the type of people that seem to fit best in Taiwan are those who are conservative, goody-two-shoes, passive, reserved, simple, group-oriented, conformist, narrow, and not very intellectual or deep. (But of course, I am the opposite of those things) The two traits I find most common in foreigners living in Taiwan long term are “reserved and passive”.
10. The reckless, dangerous and rude driving on Taiwan’s streets and roads is stressful and annoying to deal with.
Taiwanese cities, even the small ones, are way too cramped and packed with too many scooters and vehicles. Driving is not an enjoyable experience in Taiwan, but a stressful one that can cause tempers to flare. It is also hard to park if you are driving a car. And if you are driving a scooter, then you are taking chances with your life because scooter accidents can be fatal. None of this is conducive to happiness, peace or relaxation.
On top of all this, there is not much beautiful scenery or nature in Taiwan, and the architecture and buildings are ugly and drab. The climate is often unpleasant and the air is humid and not very clean or crisp. (by American standards that is) It’s also hard to find open fields, prairies or pastures.
Also, the culture is boring and flat, and does not even feel inclusive. There is nothing to grow your soul. Time just passes by and is wasted with no meaning or special memories. Eventually, you regret the time you waste in Taiwan, which could be better spent elsewhere.
Simple test to verify my claims
If you doubt what I say above, or have never been to Taiwan, then here is a simple way to test what I mean. Try getting as many Taiwanese as possible to shake your hand, especially women, because women tend to conform to the culture (which in this case is a prudish culture) more strictly than men do. More so than men, women are more prone to caring about trends, what others think of them, their social standing, and about following traditions. And as any guy can attest to, women are also more easily influenced/swayed by media advertising (which is why advertisers overwhelmingly tend to target women rather than men of course).
Therefore, women will generally reflect their culture more strongly than men, which means that they will be an accurate barometer of their culture. To most women, truth is relative – it’s whatever their culture tells them, whatever is popular, and whatever their friends say, not something you derive at through logic, reason, evidence and critical thinking. (Again, no offense intended. That’s just how women generally are.)
Anyway, I ask you to do this experiment because a person’s handshake reveals their inner level of confidence and comfort level. And a handshake, unlike a hug or a kiss, is a noncontroversial social gesture that can be done with people you don’t know well. After shaking many Taiwanese hands, you will notice the following:
a) Most handshakes will be polite, but weak and soft, like cold fish. This will especially be the case with female hands. What this means is that the person is insecure, fearful, shy and not confident or assertive.
b) The only firm grips you might get will be from older Taiwanese (mostly male) who are accustomed to shaking hands with clients in business or sales occupations.
c) Even if you get a firm handshake, you will not feel any true warmth, nor any intensity or passion at all. You will notice that their skin and vibe feel more cold, robotic and reptilian-like. This is reflective of their emotions and state of being, which is repressed and prudish to a high degree. It’s almost like shaking hands with a robot or android.
Go ahead and try this experiment. Eventually, you will see what I mean.
The taboo and hypocrisy of talking about all this
In spite of all this, wherever you are in the world, including Taiwan, there is like this unspoken social rule that you always have to say “People are very friendly here” even if it’s not true. All major travel websites and travel TV programs abide by this rule, and will say “people are so friendly” everywhere they go. To say otherwise in any particular place, even if it’s true, is a big no no. Isn’t it stupid that you have to say something that you know isn’t true (lie) to avoid offending others?
It is simply not considered polite or cool to say that people around you are unfriendly or closed and stuck up. Instead, one is only allowed to say, “I am shy and not outgoing, so I don’t meet people often” or “I work a lot and am very busy so I don’t have time to get out and meet people.”
But if you say, “I am outgoing and open, but people around me are very closed, stuck up, don’t talk to strangers, and have a cold wall around them” it will draw shocks and disturbed looks from people, no matter how true, because no one would dare to say that openly. It is simply uncool and politically incorrect to say such a thing. Doesn’t it SUCK when you can’t say the truth?
The problem with the acceptable statements above is that they falsely presuppose that general people around you are very friendly, outgoing and easy to meet, and that all you have to do is be outgoing yourself and you will meet people and make friends. But this is NOT TRUE if you are in a culture or place where people are not open or friendly. In my experience, as long as you are friendly and sociable, then it mostly depends on location.
Also, have you noticed that it is ok for people to BE unfriendly, but if you SAY that “people here are unfriendly” then it’s a taboo and social violation? In other words, you can be unfriendly, but you can’t say that people are unfriendly. Is that weird and hypocritical or what?