Taiwanese Men Bite

I’m in Taipei, staying at Wilson‘s apartment and still kinda just hanging out and getting a feel for this place. We’ll start some trips around the island tomorrow.

Some observations…

There are large men here. It used to be that back in Hangzhou I could just look for the big Chinese guy and that would be Wilson, at 6 feet 1 inch tall and 200 lbs. Here in Taipei I’ve seen quite a few guys as big as Wilson.

I’m not exactly “enchanted,” and I’m not getting many friendly vibes. Gone is the curiosity relentlessly poured on me, but in its place, at times, is something other than indifference.

My first night in Taipei I went with Wilson and Wayne to a club. I was minding my own business, but some guy (not one of the larger ones, and kind nerdy) insisted on doing the “I’m dancing here now, so you better move” thing, getting in my space. I didn’t budge, so his backside probably got a little more intimate with my leg than he intended. Next thing I knew he was yelling FUCK YOU at me, furiously giving me the finger. I laughed at him, to which he responded by throwing a glass at my head full of something that stung my eyes. In moments we were all out on the street. What happened exactly is all a blur, but it looked like Wilson dealt out some punishment to that guy while I got swarmed with security. When the taser came out, we jumped in a taxi and got out of there.

Next morning I just had a bruised hand (don’t worry, mom!), whereas Wilson had a big bruise on his waist from where the rabid guy from the club had literally bit him. Crazy. (Don’t worry, Mrs. Tai, he’s fine!)

Aside from that, Taipei is a much smaller city than I imagined, and it’s also lower tech. The Japanese influence is very obvious to me; at this superficial stage of my observations the “China-Japan fusion” view of Taiwan seems very accurate.

Lastly, sometimes when I talk to Taiwanese people and their Chinese sounds really funny, I think that they’re mocking my Chinese. But then I remember that’s just their natural accent. Oops. I’m still not used to that accent. It’s kinda cute, though.

UPDATE: Pictures of the bite are now online.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Da Xiangchang Says: February 13, 2005 at 1:09 am


    Haha, that’s a funny, if downright scary, story!!! But I wonder if you’re exaggerating the general unfriendliness of Taiwan; it just might be one idiot. Generally, I’ve found no matter WHERE you go–China, US, Europe, Africa–people are pretty much the same when it comes the % of good vs. bad people. I hate travel guides that gush, “Ohhh, the [insert nationality here] are so friendly and helpful.” GET THE $^%$@#* OUTTA HERE! You just might’ve been VERY unlucky, dude.

    It sort of reminds me a story about a friend of mine who went backpacking through eastern Europe recently. He stopped off in Romania, and within a two-week span, he got beat up TWICE! Once by a bunch of teenager rowdies, the second time by gypsies! I was like, WHAT THE HELL?! I mean, I’ve lived in Romania for 2 YEARS, and I’ve never once even been close to being attacked. And I don’t think I was lucky, but rather my friend was very unlucky.

  2. Sorry to read you got your ass kicked your first night in Taiwan by a disco runt! Good thing Big W had your back. I just have to say it: that is one bizarre site your linked to (the ‘enchanted’ one). Are you gonna hook up with Poagao? Please give him a shout-out for me. We’re school chums from back in the day.

  3. John,

    I’d be really interested to hear any observations or comparisons you have about Chinese from Taiwan and Chinese from the mainland, especially considering that your “starting point” was the mainland. Also just general observations and comparisons of the two societies. Don’t worry about this stuff not being grounded in deep experience, that kind of non-scientific stuff is what makes it interesting or valuable to me at least.

    Incidentally, I met a group of Chinese from Taiwan while I was in Vietnam and I did get some of the same “vibes” you mentioned. At one point I felt they were mocking my pronunciation because I said something and one of the girls who was listening repeated it back to me in what sounded to me like horribly garbled Chinese and if I didn’t know she was repeating back I wouldn’t have understood what she said.

    I was aking them if they’d ever heard of Rhode Island£¨Â޵µº£©in Chinese and she came back at me with something that sounded like “Ruor-de-dao”, like I had made my “L” sound into an “R”, which–now that I think of it–might be more accurate phonetically.

    But yea, their accent is different and everything, so that might be the source of confusion… Or maybe she’d heard of Rhode Island in English and was trying to make the sound as it is in English.

    Anyway, gotta stop typing! Sorry to hear about the fight!

  4. Its kinda funny to read your story John, although i’d believe every word of it. Taipei isnt the most beautiful of places in Taiwan (my own personal view). Personally i’d recommend the southern regions, places like Kaohsiung (¸ßÐÛ).

    From my experience down there, the people are much more friendly.

    Interesting you talk about the Chinese-Japanese blend. It brings back so many memories of my travells around there, and i am quite fond of it really. It is a good mix, but sometimes i think the japanese pride and the chinese stubborness can lead to incidents like you describe..

    Best of luck with your time there. Say G’day to Wilson for me..

    and your are both welcome to visit Brisbane any time guys..

  5. Hi, I came to know your blog when I was searching for a chinese song sung by Teresa Teng. I have linked that song to my blog (if u don’t mind).

    Btw, you have an interesting blog (about Chinese & Japanese).

    Will visit u again…

  6. If I got into a fight in a club Wilson would definitely make the short list of people to have in my corner. What club was it by the way? Tasers hurt, glad you didn’t experience it.

  7. DXC,

    Yeah, I think I got pretty unlucky too. That’s why I’m not saying too much yet. But even aside from that once guy in the club, I don’t get a friendly vibe from the place.

  8. Prince Roy,

    Little correction. The only person involved in the scuffle that can possibly be said to have had his “ass kicked” was the Taiwanese instigator. I never actually touched the guy because there were like 4 guys holding me back, and every time I threw them off me and got near the guy, they rushed back in and puled me back again. The guy never touched me either; only the glass did.

    I don’t know Poagao at all.

  9. schtickyrice Says: February 14, 2005 at 4:56 am

    Interesting observations about Taiwan-accented Mandarin. One major feature I notice is that Mandarin as spoken in Taiwan is monosyllabic and “disjointed”,where each syllable is stressed equally, while Beijing Mandarin is polysyllabic and flowing. I believe the one reason is that 70-80% of Taiwan’s population are native Hokkien or Hakka speakers. (I’ve never been to mainland Fujian or heard how Mandarin is spoken there so I can’t say for sure if this is the major factor.)

    Another major difference I find is that Mandarin as spoken in Taiwan does not differentiate between “s” and “sh”. Ask any Taiwanese to count from 1 to 10 and it becomes obvious. 4 and 10 end up sounding identical except for tonal differences, while 2 sounds like “e” instead of “er”

  10. Da Xiangchang Says: February 14, 2005 at 5:31 am

    Maybe while you guys are in the Orient, you can take some kung-fu classes for real cheap. Haha. Not that 99.99999999% of Chinese could fight worth crap. I once saw a major fight at People’s Square in Shanghai. 4 guys versus 3 guys. They kept on bitchslapping each other like what you’d imagine women would do. It was a truly pathetic display of martial arts. 😉 Speaking of martial arts, if I ever learn any martial arts, I would definitely learn Thai kickboxing*. But the thing is with martial arts, don’t you have to be strong for your hits to work? Even if I had proper technique, with my rat-scrawny build, if I threw a punch, it probably wouldn’t hurt anyone besides a 80-pound midget. I can’t beat anybody up. That’s why if I ever get into a situation that John was in, I’d better have a Wilson-sized guy to back me up. Otherwise, I’ll be running away like a complete pussy. Haha.

    • Speaking of martial arts, anyone who’s interested in those movies has GOT TO check out “Ong-Bak,” that Thai movie. It’s the MOST amazing martial-arts movie I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen them all, including Jackie Chan’s virtuoso early work.
  11. Unfriendliness, oh please. Welcome to how foreigners feel in foreign countries the world over. I mean, do you think Mexicans or Asians in the US feel a “friendly” vibe towards them?

    Personally, I’ve never felt an “unfriendly” vibe in Taiwan (certainly was no different from the vibe I got at various places on the mainland).

  12. Oh, and Shanghainese men can’t fight. In fact, I’m surprised that they didn’t just call each other names and feign violence for a while. They must be “wai di ren”.

  13. To schtickyrice:

    I dare say that the majority of the mandarin-speaking world doesn’t differentiate between “s” and “sh”. It’s just that, since Beijing is the capital, the locals there have succeeded in brainwashing students of Chinese in to believing that their local accent of Mandarin is the “correct” one.

  14. Da Xiangchang:

    A number of years ago I visited a friend of mine in Okinawa. He was a marine at the time. We were in town and off in the distance was an old man (he looked like he was in his 60s)and my buddy pointed out to him and said, “that is my karate instructor.” “Your karate instructor?” I said with some astonishment. When at that very moment three other young and big marines came out of a saloon (well, I guess you guys call them something else, but I grew up in the cow counties of Nevada and my family always referred to them as saloons). They saw the old man and for some reason just wanted to act like jerks, although I could not hear them, they must have said some nasty things to the old man, but he just attempted to keep on walking by them, when one of them reached out and attempted to do the old man harm. That is when I saw this old man just rise up and with his hands pounded that one marine’s head something terrible, and then just twisting in the air pounded the other marine’s head with his feet. When the old man dropped back to ground level, he then grabbed the third marine and flipped him out into the street. The old man backed off, bowed low, then turned and went on his way. My buddy, beaming with delight, turned to me and said, “yep, that is my karate sensei!” I was impressed.

    A number of years later, on a construction project, as we were leaving the site for the day, up ahead were two Jews, a man and a women, one husband and the other his wife. They were both short in stature, she was rather plump, he somewhat skinny. Just behind them were three big black construction workers. Emphasis on big. She was a QC monitor, he was an engineer of some type. For some reason those three construction workers were just taunting her something awfull. After a while the man stopped, turned and told the three guys to leave his wife alone. One of the three workers, probably listening to too much rap music and taking to heart, stepped forward and saying something nasty took a swing at the guy. That is when that skinny Jew jumped up and with hands and feet flaying laid right into that construction workers head. Next thing the construction worker was being tossed up into the air and all sorts of bad things were happening to him. Finally, the Jew grabbed that guy by the crouch with one hand the the throat with the other and twirled him around and threw him into a fence. He then, in a very quiet and moderate voice, said, “Leave my wife alone.” He then turned and the two, man and wife, walked off together. The guys tow buddies, were just standing there looking like there were trying out for an old 1930s movie, their eyes bugged out and the mouthes wide open. When they collected themselves, they went over the lifted the buddy from against the fence and hauled him back to the Nurse’s office. He was in bad shape. I later found out that those two Jews were emigres from Russia and he was a martial arts instructor in the Russian Army.

    So, Xiangchang, you do not need to be big, but you do need to have strength, it just doesn’t need to be raw. But from another friend of mine, a Korean who was a very decent man, who happened to be in a bank in Los Vegas when it was robbed. He attempted to protect himself with karate, but one of the thugs shot and killed him. Do not believe the movies, bullets are faster than flaying fists.

    But your observation about Chinese being rather inept fighters appears to be accurate, but I do not go to saloons very much, so I really do not know except from some casual observatins.

  15. Richard,

    Sorry my personal feeling of an “unfriendly vibe” in Taiwan during my stay here didn’t meet with your approval.

  16. Da Xiangchang Says: February 15, 2005 at 12:02 am


    Hey, those are pretty good stories, except the last one, which was sad. And yes, it’s true you don’t have to be big to be a great fighter, but the problem is I’m neither big nor strong! 🙁 Actually, I’m about the same height and weight as Bruce Lee, but that guy was benchpressing like 160 pounds like 10 times and doing two-finger pushups on one hand. In order for a regular guy to be good at kung-fu, I think he would need to first do some major weightlifting. All this physical activity for the sake of a hypothetical fight seems a terribly inefficient use of time. Might as well just run.

  17. Hi John,

    Sorry to hear you had a run-in with a local jerk. Did you guys get your rabies shots? I spent a year in Taipei 1990-1991 studying Mandarin and teaching English. 90+% of the people I met were really freindly and nice. The farther south you go, the nicer they get. There were a few times when you might run into jerks and get a bad vibe but most of the time it was really cool. I ran into more inconsiderate louts in Mainland than in Taiwan. Keen observation on the Chinese-Japanese blend. Are there still any of the old Japanese houses around Taipei? When I was living there some of my classmates stayed in one real close to ShiDa ʦ·¶´óѧ. Kind of like going to a Kurosawa movie set. If you get a chance there is a Japanese built hot springs resort up on Yang Ming Shan ÑîÃ÷ɽ.

    Yes, the Taiwanese accent is kind of funny if you are used to the Beijing dialect. I got used to it even though my Mandarin teacher in College (US) was a Beijinger. Funny how they say: Ni ci fan le ma? Äã³Ô·¹ÁËÂ𣿠instead of “chi” or “wo bu ‘zi’ dao” ÎÒ²»ÖªµÀ instead of bu zhi dao. But if you listen to the newscasts, most of the anchors have very standard Mandarin, it just seems faster than the mainland.


  18. I got a similar unfriendly vibe when I met some Taiwanese in Shanghai. Actually, the whole time I was in China I got a really friendly vibe, but for some reason I got a really unfreindly vibe from the Taiwanese I met — verging on open hostility. No idea why. Anyway, I wouldn’t judge a whole group of people based on this. But it is kind of funny that I noticed the same thing that John is pointing out. One thing I’ve noticed before (other dealings with Taiwanese I’ve had) is a certain level of snobbiness. Again, that is just my personal experience – maybe I’m just unlucky (like John) when I meet Taiwanese. Haven’t been bitten yet, however.

    BTW, I restarted my blog, but it won’t be quite the same this time around: http://zaimeiguo.blogspot.com/

  19. I have only been to Taiwan once back in 1988 (Taipei, Taichung, Nantou), so it’s hard to judge the “friendliness” factor. When asking for directions, people tended to be polite and helpful, but not particularly friendly. One thing I did particularly notice about Taiwanese teenagers/college students was that they seemed particularly childish and naive, much more so that their mainland counterparts (This impression was obtained not only from this trip, but also from personal contact with Taiwanese over the years in Canada.) It would be interesting to see how the two now compare 17 years later.

    That same year, I had also visited Beijing. Unfortunately, the outgoing and friendly northern Chinese stereotype did not hold true. The “meiyou” phenomenon had already kicked in and inquiries about directions on the street were met with disdain and impatience. Mom, who had grown up in Beijing as a teenager in the 50’s and 60’s, remarked how things have changed. Back then, it would be common for strangers on the street to physically accompany you to the place you are looking for. There was widespread discontent with the state of a corrupt and increasingly alienting society. People were hungering for something more than the pursuit of wealth…a year later we had Tian’an Men…

  20. schtickyrice Says: February 15, 2005 at 8:39 am

    More musings about Taiwan Mandarin…

    At the beginning of a syllable, the “r” is pronounced like an English “z” (not a pinyin z)

    taiwan “z”en ̨ÍåÈË instead of taiwanren
    dazi”z”an ´ó×ÔÈ» instead of daziran

    More musings about Taiwan news anchors…

    The Mandarin they are speaking may be pretty close to standard, but every syllable in a sentence is stressed equally in rapid succession…kind of like the audio effect of a semi-automatic rifle…technically correct but not natural.

  21. stickyrice:

    I would think since everyone is stressing each syllable while speaking it really cannot be considered affected or unnatural. I prefer that mode anyway, so I am somewhat biased. It may be due to a Japanese influence, both for myself and perhaps for the Taiwanese; even if the 2 million or so Mandarin speakers did not arrive in Taiwan till after the Japanese occupation.

    I try to imitate a speaker that I heard while on a bus going into Shanghai. He had a deep voice and spoke with a slow cadence, stressing each syllable. He was not a Taiwanese, or at least he did not have a Taiwanese accent. His Mandarin was excellent and standard, but was not Northern either.

  22. Its rather stupid, ofensive and irresponsible to judge a country, a people, a culture by a so tiny exposure to it!
    It is even more stupid to tell the world about our limited vision when we are so wrong!

    If you stay in Taiwan for 30 years and read what you wrote, you will seee how stupid it sounds (not what happened but how you use it to make people belive that it might in fact be a routine)!!!

  23. What is WRONG with everyone? He’s just mentioning what happened to him in Taipei, and that he’s gotten a cold shoulder. You certainly don’t say “Well, they’re only being nice to you NOW, but you haven’t been here long” when he says good things about China, now do you?
    This isn’t some sort of political or regional commentary, it’s WHAT HAPPENED IN THE LAST FEW DAYS TO HIM.

  24. Da Xiangchang Says: February 15, 2005 at 1:36 pm

    Last two guys have a pretty good point. It’s hard to really understand a country after a few days. In fact, it’s hard to understand a country even after a few years, maybe even after a lifetime. I mean, two Americans might have 2 totally different views of America. However, you can make general characteristics that will hold up well if you back it up with evidence. For example, Americans are fatter than Chinese. Or South Koreans are more educated than Kenyans. Or Arabs are more angry than Mexicans. These 3 are total generalizations, but I truly believe they are also completely correct. I’m not aware that Taiwanese are less friendly than other people, however. Could it be they’re just less impressed by your laowainess than mainland Chinese, John, and–disco jerk aside–you’re mistakening their indifference with unfriendliness? For example, I’m treated with far less respect in Los Angeles than I was in Shanghai, but this has NOTHING to do with the fact that Americans are less polite than Chinese. Rather, by removing my status as a “rich” foreigner , I became another schmuck–and is treated just like everyone else. But again, I don’t know the situation. I have to check out Taiwan for myself, but being a Chinese-looking guy, my experience would be FAR different from John’s, I’d imagine. Again, I have to repeat my original contention that I really haven’t noticed a huge difference in how I was treated anywhere in the world–and I’ve been on 4 continents.

  25. Yes, Taiwanese do speak Chinese with Taiwanese accent. It’s true that there is strong influence from Japan in Taiwan such as interior design of restaurants, public service, language, some manner, food etc. The Taiwanese Mandarin is also mixed with some Japanese words too.

  26. Wow. This post is the perfect example of why 90% of Sinosplice contributors are complete and total morons. All of you who are condescendingly lecturing him, ABSOLUTELY 100% missed the point of this entry. It was simply a story and some very basic reflections on his short time visiting the island. Moreover, if you actually believe that his observations are going to affect how people view Taiwanese, you get a further 10 points of stupidity added. Nobody is going to read this and think “Holy shit, those Taiwanese are horrible people, better stay away from them”. Anyone with an IQ over 30 will understand that this was probably an isolated incident and John’s other opinions are exactly that, opinions.

    I won’t name names (you know who you are), but you people desperately need a reality check. This is a personal blog. It’s not CNN, Xinhua, or the New York Times. John has every right to state his PERSONAL opinions on his PERSONAL blog. He is not a journalist, he is naturally biased in everything he writes. Alot of you posters take things too seriously, personally, or completely warp shit out of context. If I ran this site, a bunch of you patronizing idiots would be IP banned as I have more respect for dog shit than I do your comments (Ray you are excluded because you are rather funny). In fact while John is away from the apartment I may just go ahead and do that.

    Sort it!

    (Apologies to the intelligent 10% for my tone and bad words)

  27. Haha, great response Carl. Saves me the trouble (although I obviously would have tried to be more diplomatic in my delivery).

    For those of you who are actually worried that I’m getting the “wrong impression” of Taiwan, I can assure you that not being told “fuck you” or having glasses thrown at my head or being bitten by any Taiwanese people since the first night is balancing out my perspective.

    Just went to Hualian and everyone was quite nice. New post soon.

  28. Botel Tobago Says: February 16, 2005 at 12:54 am

    Hey John,

    Too bad about your experience in Taipei. Although I never had any problems in Taipei myself I do know of a lot of friends who ended up in the wrong club at the wrong time and got rolled for doing nothing other than hanging out. Lots of wanna-be gangstas hang around bars looking for trouble, and when that trouble comes it usually ends up being that the single laowai is outnumbered.

    However, that isn’t to say all of Taiwan is like that. I agree with the other posters who have basically said Taipei is not Taiwan. I lived in Taichung for almost 4 years and Taipei for almost one year and can say Taipei is a lot closer to Hong Kong or Beijing than the rest of the country.

    You hit upon something really interesting when you mentioned the Japanese influence in Taipei…I think if you go outside of the big city and head down to a place like Changhua County you’ll find your observation even more accurate. Not only are there still a lot of cool old Japanese era buildings around, the older folks will tend to remember the Japanese rather fondly in a “they-were-strict-but-at-least-they-were-fair” sense.

    If you have the chance, head out to Jiufen overlooking the north coast (out by Jilong) and hike up to Jinguashi…Hirohito’s guest house is out there as are the remnants of the big shinto temple, and the mines where allied POWs dug for iron ore.

    As for the accents, a trip out to the east coast of the country around Taidong would surprise you…a lot of the Aboriginal Taiwanese down there speak with a different, more “mainland” accent (one that you or I would describe as “clearer” since they were mostly taught Mandarin by the China-born Taiwanese after 1949) than the Han Taiwanese that live along the west coast.

    You’ll also find the big Taiwanese/Mandarin language break occurs around the Dajia river in Taichung County…south of that line you get a lot more mixing of Taiwanese and Mandarin accents, not to mention half-taiwanese/half-mandarin speech in conversations. Once you get down to Kaohsiung most people just stick to Taiwanese.

    Have a good trip, keep the observations going and please for the love of God don’t swallow that first mouthful of betelnut juice.

  29. Ha! Betel nuts. How could I ever forget the national snack of Taiwan. I will fondly remember the fresh red blotches of spit all over the sidewalk, the red stained mouths. The old guys juggling wads of betel nut fiber around thier mouths as they talk to you and fry up your noodles. Actually, while I was there I took a liking to it but my girlfriend did not approve. The only place in mainland I came across people chewing it was in Hainan/Sanya. The betel nuts there were quite a bit larger than the Taiwan vareity, and not nearly as potent.

  30. Whew, so many comments. Just one thing to add about the Taiwanese Mandarin accent… growing up in Taiwan, your Mandarin accent will definitely be influenced by the dominant language spoken at home. So for those who mostly speak Taiwanese at home, you get the “si, shi” (4, 10) pronunciation syndrome described above. For those family that came from mainland, then the Mandarin is closer to putonghua and sounds more like what you hear from the news anchors (and yeah, they sometimes sound too unnatural).

    I suppose that when John writes “Taiwanese”, he is referring to the natives from Taiwan, even though many people there still make the distinction between being “Taiwanese” and “Chinese”. Instead of getting into the details (and often contentious debates) over that matter, let’s just say that there are many people from Taiwan (born and raised) who consider themselves Chinese, and speak “proper” Mandarin. 😉

    BTW, thanks for the updates John, I enjoyed reading your adventures.

  31. John,
    It¡¯s not about what happened or even yourself it’s just about the way you wrote it!
    Avoid generalizing!
    Do not forget that we know nothing comparing to what is out there to be learnt!
    If we keep in our minds that our impression of the world is very very limited, nothing will astonish us if it seems or sounds bizarre!

    One experience does not represent the behaviour of a culture / people!

    Never forget that we are all limited.
    No big deal if i speak mandarin with a taiwanese and cantonese accents or english with a spanish accent, right?! 😉

  32. Opinioes,
    It’s not about you still refusing to understand the purpose of the post or maintaing your obnoxiously patronizing, better-than-thou tone.
    Avoid being a hyper-sensitive, needlessly reactive asshole!
    Do not forget that your idealistic, bullshit worldview doesn’t give you the right to lecture others!
    Why don’t you let individuals decide what conclusions they will personally draw from various sources of information instead of attempting to shape it for them?

    “One experience does not represent the behaviour of a culture / people!” – no shit Sherlock. That point has never been in contention. Perhaps then John should just pack up Sinosplice and go home. I mean, when you think about it, basically that is all this site has been doing the last four years seeing that it is a PERSONAL WEBLOG (emphasis on PERSONAL WEBLOG).

    No negative stereotyping or sweeping generalizations occurred here, so stop reading between the lines!!!! The title of the post is supposed to be HUMOROUS!!!! Understand? Ha ha ha? Except every shred of amusement this post once might have had has been sucked lifeless by you raving idiots. LIGHTEN UP! God I would hate to think what might happen if one day John happened to write about something he felt rather strongly about.

  33. I’d just like to add that one’s raw observations are in fact worth something. When it comes to people, places or things, first impressions are generally quite important, especially on a PERSONAL level. And they are interesting, to boot.

  34. ÌìÄÄ~ ÕæÊDz»ÐÒ! ²£Á§±­²»»áÊÇÄÇÖÖ×°ÔúÆ¢µÄ…

  35. John, Don’t feel bad. Elton John didn’t like Taiwan either. Next time just call them pigs… (just kidding.)

  36. “But even aside from that once guy in the club, I don’t get a friendly vibe from the place.”
    I had the same vibe when I was visiting a small town in Alabama. I Almost killed myself in a small accident, I survived but it left me with a bad impression of that state and the people.

  37. Carl,
    I am sorry for sounding stupid by not to catch the humor, it might be a cultural barrier.
    I am so sorry that my comments (to John) revealed a not so nice side of you. apologies for provoking that on you as you might not be as bad as you sound.
    i cant imagine what you would have called me if the comments were directed to you!

    Dear John,
    Welcome to Taiwan, a place like many others, full of beautiful friendly people but not only!
    enjoy your stay

  38. You’re not even in Taiwan 24 hours and you two get into some brawl. You’re actually lucky that it was with some dork. If it were with some souped-up scooter riding gangster, 10 of his xiongdi’s would have been on you in a split second.

  39. I am so sorry that my comments (to John) revealed a not so nice side of you. apologies for provoking that on you as you might not be as bad as you sound.

    Nope. I am pretty much like this all the time.

  40. Michael Max Says: February 17, 2005 at 9:04 pm

    First of all, they ARE laughing at your Chinese. Most people that I know here in Taiwan are rather proud of thier “country”, and like to poke some fun at the mainland when they can.

    To be fair. I got laughted at in Beijing, when I arrived there after 1.5 years in Taiwan. And then laughted at again in Taiwan when I returned from Beijing.

    When I first got back from Beijing, I noticed I was not getting the usual “mainland stare”, which felt quite liberating. Then I noticed that Taiwanese do stare, but they do it in a sneeky.

    All and all though, I find Taiwan to be a very friendly place. I’ve people that have gone way out of their way to help me here. And have met some wonderful friends here. Every place has it it’s good and bad people. overall, I’d say Taiwanese are very polite. Sounds like the guy you met in the bar was just your average local yahoo. You know, getting in a fight is some guys idea of a good time. Go figure.

    Get yourself down to the nightmarket have some really stinky chou dofu and forget the bad stuff!

  41. That was hilarious. And your site is absolutely beautiful. Hope there are rabies vaccines over there! 😀

  42. I’ve had good and bad experiences in all the above mentioned places. Mostly good though. I’ve had strangers accompany me to distant locations when asked directions in Taipei, HK, Shanghai and Beijing. I have had kind cool young people help me in the same. Actually of all my years in all the locals mentioned I’ve had far more problems with other foreigners and the only physical altercation I was in was with a dumb white-boy Canadian from the backwoods who shouldn’t have been given a passport in the first place. It’s weird. I especially never got a single bad vibe in Taipei. Many helpful people. I even lived on a street where some gangsters supposedly lived and never had a problem. Bizarre.

  43. Carl,
    Some people never leave their little corner (physical and/or mental) and tend to measure the world with their own corner’s standards.
    But the world is not our little corner and sometimes we misjudge…
    Nothing wrong with that as long as humility prevails over arrogance.
    stay well

  44. I wasn’t going to write about this; but, why not. When I was young and in the army, even before, we boys would get together and go into town and see if we could get our asses whipped. We may be laying there with our teeth knocked out, battered and bruised and our rib cage hurting so bad that it was painful to just breath; but you just don’t know the exhilaration of knowing that the other poor bastard was in worst shape. At least that is the way we would like to think of it. But we live in a new world, a PCPW generation and we have to listen to all the sermonizing.

  45. Those kind of people are everywhere. I remember when US accidentally hit Chinese Embassy those kind of people came out of woodwork. I think most people are really nice in Asia.

  46. …waiting for the flame war to start about the US “accidentally” hitting the Chinese embassy…

  47. John,

    That story was wicked funny (because you guys didn’t get hurt). Your observations are interesting and dare I say not too different from my own experience. Interesting I say because I’m Chinese/Taiwanese (tomato, tomatoe, oops, don’t want to open that can of worms). Anyhoo, give Wilson and yourself my props for laying some smackdown!

  48. ÍеÄ:

    I have attempted to access your site but cannot do so. Not that you would necessarily care whether I did or not, but it may be one of those sites for some unknown frenetic reason cannot be seen in China.

  49. JFS & ÍеÄ: Blogspot. Currently blocked in China unless you use a proxy.

    So, John, what do you say in response to the standard question, “What do you think of Taiwan?” No one answers this question absolutely honestly, I’d guess, yet people everywhere still expect visitors to make a blanket judgment after just one or two days in a place.

  50. Opinioes I just love your massive assumptions and your neat little ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’-type sentences. Keep them coming!

  51. OK, I’m back in Shanghai! Updates and “what I really think of Taiwan” coming soon.

  52. I am over 6 ft tall and 200 pounds Chinese. My ex girlfriend was a young blond hair blue eyes American girl. Believe it or not, I got punched on my face by an angry redneck for that. The guy hit me and ran in his brand new Ford 240 pick up truck. It was the first and only time it happened though. I viewed that as a separate incidence and not representing the US or the deep South as a whole.

  53. Canton, nope, that was not an isolated incident. Pretty much every guy in the South is like that. Including John.

  54. Seems everyone’s weary of touching the Chinese/Taiwanese hot potato, so I’ll just limit my comments to the linguistic arena.

    I never understood why advocates of Taiwanese independence insist on calling the Hokkien dialect/language “Taiwanese”. Is this supposed to strengthen the argument for independence? If so, why didn’t Americans insist on speaking “American” instead of English? Do Mexicans not speak Spanish, or Brazilians not speak Portugese? Hokkien as spoken in southern Fujian is no more different from “Taiwanese” as spoken in Taiwan than any of the above examples. In fact the differences are probably less, at least to this non-expert’s ears.

  55. schtickyrice Says: February 19, 2005 at 7:41 am

    Forgot to sign the above post

  56. Da Xiangchang Says: February 19, 2005 at 7:48 am

    If you’re Chinese and live in the American South, you must be INSANE. In fact, I can’t understand how ANY Chinese could live anywhere in America except California, Hawaii, and New York City. (I don’t know which of these places is best, however, since I’ve only lived in California.) A lot of America is incredibly ugly–miles upon miles of dilapidated shopping centers, stained stucco walls, and slanted chainlink fences. Of course, even the ugliest American city is still far better than most normal Chinese cities, but the ugly Chinese cities promise something ugly American cities don’t: hot easy women for the “rich” foreigner. Thus, it sort of makes up for it. If I had to live in Nashville, Tennessee or Little Rock, Arkansas or Cincinnati, Ohio for the rest of my life, I’d probably drown myself in the toilet!

  57. I recall most KTVs are packed with Chinese men. The South comment was pretty Californian. You must go to Berkeley. I would take your hash back for a refund. Most poeple in South are nicest people you ever would meet.

  58. Da Xiangchang: My childhood was spent in two different locations, Oakland, California and the cow counties of Nevada. I enjoyed both. I have since lived in all the Western States and many of the others. I enjoyed Alaska a lot, but the bears; those critters, no matter how you try to integrate them into society, when they look at you all they can see lunch. I was read a report from a Japanese government official that came to America in the late 1880s. He wrote back to his government that Japanese (and by extension all East Asians, since most round eye whitel cannot tell the difference among East Asians)were treated OK in the West, but that they were treated best in Nevada and Utah, and they were treated worse as you moved further East.

    Canton: I have a good friend (this is when we lived in Ohio), a Hindu (actually that is not true, he is a Moslem orignially from Anhydra Pradesh)who married a blue eyed, blond girl from Kentucky. I asked him if he had any problems
    with his wife’s family. He said no, they are just hillbillys from Kentucky. He told me before they got married he went to see the family and got along well, but the father and brothers did have a private meeting. They told him they did not mind him marrying their little girl, but they expected him to treat her well. Mohammed did tell me, though, that her father was cleaning his shotgun and her older brother was cutting the heads off of chickens when they were telling me this. Mohammed tells me he treats his wife very good, because he keeps thinking of that chicken head plopping onto the floor.

    I also was surprised that John had “bad vibes” about Taiwan, but that is because I do not get “vibes” at all; I just go through life clueless, sometimes good things happen and sometimes bad things happen. I am thankful for the good and curse the bad.

  59. Da Xiangchang Says: February 19, 2005 at 12:44 pm

    Well, another consideration for a Chinese guy is HOW many Chinese people live around where he lives. I mean, Florida is quite diverse when it comes to certain cultural/ethnic groups, but from what I know, there are very few Chinese there. It’s more than just people “being nice.” Personally, I like the fact that I can straddle two cultures–American and Chinese. A lot of pink Americans have completely lost touch with their ancestral country, and I feel it’s a loss. I mean, how much Polish does John know? And I’m not talking about racial pride here, (which is bullcrap) or losing a sense of the “real” you (which is wretched liberal identity politics). What I’m saying about is that there are certain advantages to life if your background allows you to experience TWO cultures. For one thing, you get to live two lives. So why would anyone want to give that up? So besides the prejudice a Chinese person might feel in the Deep South, wouldn’t he/she lose a connection to Chinese culture? Of course, he/she could experience southern culture, but let’s face it, it’s not the same. All I know is this: I will ALWAYS live in a place where there are lots Chinese people around, which is funny since in America I have no friends of Chinese ancestry outside family (maybe because most Chinese I’ve met are soooo boring). But since I like so many THINGS about China–food, movies, women–I would always want to be a part of it. New Orleans is a nice place to visit, but it can never be home.

  60. Ah Da Xianchang, That is a little too prochial for my tastes. I have never met John, even though we probably live only a couple of hours away from one another; but I suspect he is as bicultural (if not more) as most third/fourth generation American Chinese (at least the ones that I have met). There is nothing wrong with basing your biculturalism on your ancestral links, but why make such limitations on others. I met an American Black who became very bicultrual, but not on his African ancestry, but on his fondness of Japan. When there is a racial connection to the biculturalism, then there will be some difficulty becoming fully enmeshed, but that is alright.

    Da Xiangchang, if you want to be a red-neck hillbilly, you can. There is always someone who is willing and ready to help you acculturate into any culture you want to be part of. Not only that, those Americans who come from English ancestry would really be limited (or those Kiwis or others in like conditions). I may not be able to pass off as a yellow guy, but I can always pass myself off as something other than I am. I was in Thailand a few years back when I had a small run-in with these Germans (they were on vacation there, I was working there). I just acted like I was a damn Russian; boy, did they back off. Germans must be terrified of Russians. I am as American as you can get, but for some reason most people do not think I am an American. I met an old man in Vietnam that thought I was a Mongolian. He never met a Mongolian, he wouldn’t know what a Mongol looked like, but he just knew that I was not an American. Da Xiangchang, what I am saying is that you can be whatever you want to be. Enjoy life, life is beautiful.

  61. Carl, SXC and JFS,
    I lived in Texas for awhile and had traveled extensively to most southern states. There is a large Asian community in Texas, second only to California and New York. In most cases, Asians are treated as model minority in the South. I think there is more racist attitude towards black people than Asians.
    DXC, I had been to all those cities you mentioned. From a tourist’s point of view, Little rock is not a pretty city but the people I met were friendly and polite. Nashville is a wonderful city with a lot of trendy, progressive and educated people. Cincinati is a beautiful historic city, even though it is not considered a Southern city (borders Kentucky?)I found it one of the most religiously conservative and also the most racist city I visited in the US. Churches and crosses are everywhere in southern Ohio. People seem to be relatively poorer and unfriendly. (just my observation)
    In a gift shop in a tourist area in Cincinati, I asked the cashier for a spoon for ice cream, the guy pointed to a far away counter and I heard him say softly “why don’t you use chopticks?” I confronted the guy, and he said,” I thought it was funny.”

  62. DXC, you were talking about Chinese living in California, an Asian American girl (japanese) once told me Bakersfield north of LA is a very racist place against Asians, what do you think of that?

  63. Canton: Living in China, I find it useful to have both a US address as well as my real residence here, so my drivers license is out of Texas. I have lived there, just outside of Austin. I also lived about an hour North of Cincinatti for a while. How you describe Ohio is pretty accurate, except instead of being racist, I suspect it is more of a parochialism and the racial features just identify you as an outsider. The same situation exists here in China, just in reverse. I may be wrong, but most Americans describe too many things to racism, and I think it is just a camouflage for deeper forms of zenophobia. What you say about the Asian community in Texas (and the South in general) is pretty true, but there was some difficulty with the Vietnamese in the bay (sane in Lousiana). As for the guy in the gift shop, I would have responded “I would, but you don’t have any on the counter, dickhead.” I do not know if that is a good retort or not, but that is the first thing that came into my mind.

  64. John,

    That reminds me of that time we were in a club and you were dancing up on my leg. I didn’t know it was because you thought I was in your space. I thought it was because we were friends. Also, most of the people I know who have been to Taiwan (including Alex) come back with bite marks and taser burns and a lot of funny language anecdotes. I spent four hours in Taipei and have nothing to say about it, so overall…good post.

  65. Everybody, especially Da Xiangchang, please remember that places with lots of Chinese such as Seattle, San Fran, or New York might have more “Chinese” culture and more “yellow” folk but that also means there has been more time to develop biases and hatred of those groups by others. In most places in the south, being a non-black minority is not such a bad thing… you are treated as something different but not something bad, usually. Sometimes it’s even preferential treatment just like a laowai might get in China, cause the locals want to impress the “foreigner” and let them know that not all Southerners are racist hicks.

    Da Xiangchang… btw, if youve ever had problems with people in America have you ever thought it might not be because you are Asian but because people just don’t like you? You are a bit abrasive! Heehee

  66. apologetic american Says: February 21, 2005 at 9:41 am

    Don¡¯t worry, the whole world knows how Americans can be dangerously stupid.

  67. Da Xiangchang Says: February 22, 2005 at 5:34 am

    I have absolutely NO problem with people in America. What gave you that idea? America’s the place where your dreams can come true. This might sound delusional to most, but I have every expectation that I’ll be a millionaire within ten years. If I don’t succeed in this plan, it’s cause I was too stupid to succeed; it’s not America’s fault. Without a doubt, America’s the best place I’ve been to, far better and more fair than even the developed nations of Western Europe. (Western Europe seemed very tired and elderly to me; Rumsfeld’s “Old Europe” comment was exactly right.)

    This love of America, however, doesn’t mean I have to love EVERYTHING in it. I have absolutely NO interest in football and Christianity, but there are large parts of America where entertainment is primarily centered on local football games and going to church! I’d suffocate in such an environment, and I’d imagine most other Chinese would too. That’s why Chinese Americans should only live in California, NYC, and Hawaii. They’ll find more things they’ll be interested in.

  68. Aight, JFS and AA.

  69. I feel sorry for you, Da Xiangchang.
    come to america and you will see what the real america is… we luv naives like you.

    PS. dont forget your money or there is always dishes to wash in china town.

    s¨¬ sh¨¬ s¨¬, sh¨ª sh¨¬ sh¨ª, sh¨ªs¨¬ sh¨¬ sh¨ªs¨¬, s¨¬sh¨ª sh¨¬ s¨¬sh¨ª.

    The same tounge-twister ( r¨¤ok0“0ul¨¬ng À@¿ÚÁî) in M09nn¨¢n hu¨¤ é}ÄÏԒ (i.e., Taiwan¡¯s) dialect:
    s¨¬ s¨¬ s¨¬, s¨ª s¨¬ s¨ª, s¨ªs¨¬ s¨¬ s¨ªs¨¬, s¨¬s¨ª s¨¬ s¨¬s¨ª.

    M09nn¨¢nhu¨¤ and some other ¡°dialects¡± (¡°topolects¡± ·½ÑÔ f¨¡ngy¨¢n is supposed to be a better term in the case of Chinese) use the palatals zi ci si and a kind of ¡°zi¡± (the ¡°zi¡± rendering here illustrating one of a few of Pinyin¡¯s failures to represent Chinese sounds) instead of the retroflexes zhi, chi, shi, ri. It might be better to say the syllables are palatalized. Correct me if I¡¯m off track; I¡¯m not a linguist. Also in Taiwan you can hear a sound similar to English ¡°ven¡± used for w¨¦n ÎÄ. There are more that memory doesn¡¯t serve up now.

    I had great experiences in Taiwan; in a tiny village way up in the mountains¡ªI think it was called F¨´l09 ¸»ÀI arrived at a church unexpectedly on my motorcycle one night and was immediately put up in the best of style. After a hot shower a nun showed up at my door with a giant can of ice-cold beer, Kirin I think. You can¡¯t imagine how that pleased this road-weary adventurer. The next morning, after feeding me a wonderful breakfast they packed me a great lunch and off I went back home to Taipei, where I arrived after about 12 hours of riding through the rain. Very nice people. But I¡¯d have to say that after living in Japan, China, and Taiwan for extended periods, my impression is that mainlanders were ¡°nicer¡±; at the same time, kindnessness shown in Taiwan tended to be more genuine. But individuals I met in each place varied widely, and often trump sweeping judgements like the ones I just made.


    PS, Great Blog!

  71. Taiwan is an interesting place to go, never had the problems John encountered. Same thing with lots of places around China, Bangladesh, India, etc. I have greatly enjoyed my travels getting to know more about the world and its inhabitants. It is an incredible creation.

    The problem with America / Americans was, I believe, best summed up by a Chinese professor teaching at UAB who rode next to me from SF to HK one flight: Americans tend to be very provincial, and we see ourselves as the center of the world. Now there are a lot of very good reasons to have that view. However, there a lot more to not act that way. So the ugly American lives on, whether on domestic or foreign soil.

    Thanks for the great blog, John.

  72. Hi Doug, thanks for the comments. Good point, it’s been illustrated many times here on Sinosplice over the past XX months. But I would like to make an analogy to further the discussion of the “America as the #1 country, see themselves as the center of the world” topic.

    It’s like looking at someone like Michael Jackson or Michael Jordan – anyone at the top of their game in their field, you could apply this to professor, author, DJ, musician, sports star, country, government, furniture store, car manufacturer, etc …

    Basically, how can America and Americans, in general, not see itself as the center of the world? It’s already been called the police of the world, already been called the #1 economy in the world, #1 in this and that. Pretty soon, everything revolves around you. There are good and bad aspects of this.

    In the end, I think, of any people, the Americans will become aware of this revelation sooner than others – America will work on this “provincial” egoism sooner and better than another country with the same issue. In the short 228-9 years of America’s existence, I would definetly put my money on the Americans overcoming this issue.

    I have faith because I hear the voices of young and old on Sinosplice. Look at the number of global heads who participate/voice/discuss/communicate on Sinosplice.

  73. Dear John,

    I know what you mean! At the beginning of the school year, an exchange student from Taiwan came. I was very open, and offered to help him with his English… You know, that old chestnut.

    Just recently, he and I were asked by the principal to be translators for a visitor from Shandong. He is the vice-principal of the Shandong Experimental Primary School. I accepted the offer, but he said… “共产注意! 我不想当翻译!” It took days to finally convnice him that the guy is still a person, and he has every right to have a translator.

    P.S.: 我很高兴认识你!

  74. @Wilson: I really hope you’re right. Sometimes I have the same uplifting feelings when reading “American in China” blogs. I meet some very open minded people out here, too. Unfortunately, every time I go home I end up in at least one conversation with a breath-takingly xenophobic local who, upon hearing about my interest in China, goes on and on about how we have to “stick it to them”. Two times ago, it was about “taking our jobs”. Last time it was about “stirring up trouble”, what ever that meant. I’m almost afraid to go home next week, for fear of hearing some crackpot rant about how “they can just ship 100,000 people over every day and never run out!”

  75. David Lein Says: August 13, 2006 at 3:20 pm

    Eh this incident sounds like it could happen in any party setting in NYC or a college frat house. Everywhere is pretty much the same just have to be cautious. You were attacked in an unprovoked manner.

    Chinese as inept fighters? That maybe true but what they lack in pure power and fighting ability they make up for it in fighting dirty(Look at gangster in Taiwan it’s never going to be 1 v 1 more like 1 v 8 guys with bats)

  76. replying to Annon: (“I never understood why advocates of Taiwanese independence insist on calling the Hokkien dialect/language “Taiwanese”. Is this supposed to strengthen the argument for independence?)

    No, I think there are a much simpler reasons.

    Even the Taiwanese KMT and PFP people who hate the supporters of the pro-independence movement in Taiwan call the local dialect “tai-yu”.

    Yes, the Taiwanese dialect is very similar to the min-nan-hua spoken in China in the provinces nearest Taiwan, but there’s no reason to assume it is the same. The reason it sounds similar, of course, is because the ancestors of most of the ethnic Han people who migrated to Taiwan during the last couple of centuries came from the areas of China closest to Taiwan.

    The differences in the dailect (and for that matter the strong local Taiwan-centered identity of most Taiwanese) can be explained to a large extent both by the physical separation of the Strait, and the political barriers to exchange during the past 110 years (from 1895, when Taiwan was ceded to Japan by the Qing Dynasty). It’s no wonder that the dialect (and the society) has developed in a different directions.

    The simplest explanation is usually the best, and that is that they call their dialect tai-yu simply to distinguish it from the other dominant language, Mandarin, as well as the various aboriginal languages. I have never heard a speaker of the Taiwanese dialect call their dialect min-nan-hua or Hokkien. They just say tai-yu.

    One interesting aspect of the local Taiwanese dialect is that it has adopted a number of Japanese words into general usage, most of which seem to be related to food and drink. For example, “bi-ru” is Taiwanese for beer. Not surprising, considering the 50 years that Japan controlled Taiwan.

  77. jesus, WHYY do you ahve to have such controversial entry titles?? i think you try to piss people off,a nd you figure, if we’re so easily pissed off, that’s our problem. haha. well, that’s fine, whatever. still, offensive to a taiwanese-american guy, or chinese-american guy, whatever you wanna call me. sigh.

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