As you know, travel websites, magazines and TV programs always emphasize the positives about other cultures and people, and often overhype them as well. But they never tell you the negative downsides of a particular country. Instead, they stick to political correctness and lighthearted non-controversial topics. Even sites that aren't funded by the tourism industry adhere to this too.
Thus, it's rare to see an honest balanced appraisal of the pros and cons of a particular culture. So I will give one regarding my native country of Taiwan, which the media and travel websites constantly spread overly positive hyped and superficial misinformation about. I guarantee that you won't find such an honest balanced appraisal of Taiwan anywhere else. Most people are not this candid or insightful in their observations.
So let's begin.
Warning: The cons section below is taboo in that it violates the social rule in Taiwan that everything said about it must be superficial, nice and politically correct. But I do not care for taboos as I am one of the few that prefer truth over political correctness. Read at your own risk.
Pros of Taiwan
- People are very nice, kind, good-natured and considerate deep down, beneath their repressed exterior. The friends you make are very generous and will bend over backwards to help you, once they get to know you. (But not if you are a stranger) They also have good morals and a strong conscience. In a way, Taiwanese are inverted compared to Westerners, in that they are closed and repressed on the exterior but are kind, good-natured, polite, and considerate deep down inside, whereas Westerners are more open, communicative, expressive and articulate on the exterior but essentially "selfish a-holes" deep down inside. (pardon the language)
- The food is very good in taste, quality and variety, and is available all hours of the day and night. You can always get hot food anytime, even in the middle of the night. Taiwanese have a passion for food and live for eating. In fact, it's their other primary interest besides making money. Some restaurants are a rip off, but it is very easy to find high quality delicious food at cheap prices from canteens and street vendors. Good quality cheap food is abundant everywhere. Taiwan is also a vegetarian's paradise, as vegetarian eating joints are everywhere - you can usually find one every few blocks where food is sold.
- Cost of living is relatively low compared to Western countries. One can rent a room for $100 a month or an apartment for $200 a month, in most places (but in not the big cities).
- The salary for English teachers is pretty good and in the upper tier range, higher than in most countries, especially in Asia. The main benefit is not just the salary, but the disposable income due to the low cost of living in Taiwan. For example, if you taught English in Japan, you'd have less disposable income due to the higher cost of living there.
- Infrastructure is relatively good and streets are fairly clean, better than most of Asia. Modern technology and conveniences are everywhere. Transportation system between major areas is very comfortable, convenient, and affordable.
- Buildings and streets have high safety standards. Stoplights have timers on them, and subway platforms have glass walls to prevent anyone from falling off them.
- Streets are very safe. Taiwan is one of the safest countries in the world, next to Japan and Singapore. You can walk outside at any time of the night and feel totally safe.
- 80 percent of girls are either cute or hot, major eye candy. Taiwanese females take care of their appearance and health well.
Cons of Taiwan
(Warning: The cons section below is taboo in that it violates the social rule in Taiwan that everything said about it must be superficial, nice and politically correct. Read at your own risk.)
- Hard to find good Western food outside the big cities, especially Mexican or Italian food. Since Mexican food is a favorite of most Americans, it's depriving not to have it in Taiwan. The pizza and pasta in most places in Taiwan is bland and tasteless. Even the staff at Pizza Hut in Taiwan have never heard of "pizza sauce" amazingly. The closest thing they have to pizza sauce is putting ketchup and tomatoes on the pizza. They don't know how to make decent pizza. (On a side note: While the Italian food sucks in Taiwan, conversely, in Italy, the Chinese food sucks.)
- The architecture is ugly and drab, consisting of slab concrete buildings, which is standard in Asia, and the natural scenery is bland and nothing special or spectacular. Concrete cement slab streets in Taiwan with flashing neon signs and lights are all the same - you've seen one, you've seen them all. Of course, you might not notice as much unless you're coming from say... Europe. Sensitive people in particular may feel drained easily in such environments, for when you are constantly surrounded by cement structures, traffic, cars, scooters, noise, advertisements, and pollution all day, it can drain you physically and spiritually. Better to live in a quieter place closer to nature.
- The weather is hot and humid most of the year, except for Winter, since Taiwan is located in the Asian tropical region. The humidity makes the heat much worse, since it causes excess perspiration and makes your body work harder to cool down, which is not healthy. So if you don't like hot weather, you won't like Taiwan's weather. This especially affects creative intellectual types, such as writers, artists, musicians and philosophers. Such types, which are accustomed to thinking in a deeper zone or wavelength than others, have more difficulty concentrating and getting into their "zone" when it's hot and humid. This is why, not surprisingly, the greatest writers, artists, and composers throughout history have generally came from colder dryer climates (e.g. Europe) rather than from hot tropical humid climates. The tropical humidity also causes food to spoil faster, and allows more bacteria and mold to grow, and insects to become more abundant. What this means is that it is easier to get infected by bacteria, and when you step outside, there are more insects to bite you and leave red bumps on your skin, all of which is annoying and irritating and detracts from the outdoors experience!
- Driving in Taiwan is inconvenient and often puts you between a rock and a hard place. Taiwanese cities are not designed for cars, making them a pain in the ass to drive or park in. They are designed for scooters, which is why most Taiwanese ride scooters rather than cars (in addition to the higher cost of a car of course). Scooters can park a lot easier in Taiwanese cities, whereas cars have a much harder time finding parking, even in small cities, as there is little space to park. However, if you ride a scooter then you are taking a big chance with your life, because even one accident or collision on a scooter could mean death or critical injury, which goes without saying. Therefore, driving in Taiwan puts you between a rock and a hard place - you are either inconvenienced with no place to park, or you drive high risk on a scooter with no bodily protection.
Driving in Taiwanese cities is messy and requires extreme caution, because most people are on scooters, which swarm everywhere like ants. This makes it difficult and risky to make turns, for each time you turn, you have to check your shoulder for scooters coming up beside you. And if you forget to look even once... well something terrible could happen! Therefore, an accident is just a hairline away. But if you drive too carefully, then you will have people behind you honking angrily and rudely. So again, you are between a rock and a hard place.
Moreover, if you are driving in the right lane, the lane often ends due to parked cars in the right lane, forcing you to veer into the left lane. But if you drive in the left lane, then some car ahead of you always stops trying to make a left turn through oncoming traffic, often causing you to miss a green light at an intersection. But you can't always just pass him on the right either, because on your right there will be vehicles rushing by you as well. Geez! So again, you are between a rock and a hard place in that both the right and left lane contain troublesome obstacles.
- If you are a person who gets bitten by insects a lot, you will have a hard time outdoors in Taiwan when you're not in the city. For some reason, Taiwan's outdoors is filled with tiny insects everywhere, so that if you go outside for some fresh air, within whatever skin you have exposed will be filled with red bumps from insect bites. (I know this from personal experience) This makes it hard to enjoy nature and fresh air, or even to go outside for a walk outside. That just sucks. I guess the hot humid tropic climate allows more nasty things to flourish.
- Taiwanese are unnaturally cold, closed, repressed and narrow, which makes them seem almost inhuman. I don't know why. But I don't vibe with it and do not know how to act around it, since I'm not like that. I guess if you are that way yourself, you may not notice anything unusual, but if you are not (like me) then you will definitely notice. What's worse, if you are an Asian American like me, they will falsely assume that you are one of them, and that you are cold, closed, narrow and repressed too. So if you act like a Westerner and have a more open relaxed communication style, it will not fit the flow and will weird them out. What this means is that you can't be yourself and are expected to be something you're not, which sucks.
- Taiwanese tend to be closed and cold to strangers and do not smile or make no eye contact. While they may be very kind and helpful to their friends, if you are a stranger, you basically don't exist to them (unless they are trying to sell you something of course). Thus if you go out alone in Taiwan, you will feel very alone, alienated, isolated and invalidated. Going out alone in Taiwan is a very lonely experience. (For some reason, no one has the guts to admit this, except me. It's a taboo truth.) That's why people in Taiwan go out in groups, never alone. Individuals have no confidence when they are alone and feel insecure. The only people in Taiwan that freely talk to strangers are the elderly and middle age folks, but young adults are like a different species there, much more cold and closed. (Even though this is very obvious and apparent, no other website has the guts to mention this for some reason.)
- Taiwan's atmosphere has an extremely repressed vibe and feel to it. You can see it on the cold repressed faces of the masses of Taiwanese people everywhere. What this means is that if you are not repressed yourself, you may feel awkward in Taiwan. If you are open, direct and relaxed (like me), you may feel out of place in Taiwan, like you can't be yourself, as if who you are doesn't fit the narrow repressed flow. It's hard to explain what I mean, but that's the best way I can put it. Also, when you see cold repressed faces all around you, you can't help but feel repressed yourself. It sort of rubs off on you, especially the longer you are there. Needless to say, it is very awkward to feel like the vibe/energy in Taiwan's is trying to repress you, if you are not already repressed. It's as if Taiwan is trying to make you into something you're not.
- This might be personal and subjective, but Taiwan seems to have some kind of negative energy vortex. I don't know why, but I sense a vibe of misery and repression everywhere I go in Taiwan, which is draining and undermines my self-confidence and self-esteem. I do not like it at all. It's feels horrible and draining, like some kind of toxic radiation. It's like there are hungry ghosts sucking your soul or something (in addition to the sterile environment). I feel like something is trying to choke me in Taiwan. Perhaps it's because I don't fit in or share the narrow repressiveness of the Taiwan vibe, so it has this effect on me? I guess if you are narrow and repressed yourself, then you won't notice anything it, but if you aren't, you will?
- The social environment and atmosphere in Taiwan is very stagnant and sterile, similar to Seattle, Washington (aka "The Seattle Freeze"). There's simply no real "social energy". It doesn't "flow" naturally or openly. Instead, it is very cliquish, lacking energy, fun, excitement, stimulation, etc. The whole atmosphere in Taiwan feels way too conservative and prudish. Most young foreigners I've met in Taiwan have concurred, remarking how much more fun, wild and full of action Thailand is in comparison. Taiwan is basically a highly conservative, inhibited and repressed culture, which is reflected in everything in it, and explains why people have to act super innocent in order to fit in. In fact many white guys in Taiwan act a lot more Taiwanese and than. The foreigners who like Taiwan the most tend to be reserved quiet feminine types.
The only people that talk to strangers freely in a direct, straightforward manner are the elderly/middle age folks (similar to the US). In fact, old people and young people in Taiwan are like a different species. What this means is that if you are seeking fun, excitement, wild times, adventure, thrills, energy, action, passionate people, etc. you will likely find Taiwan to be boring, sterile, too inhibited and devoid of "energy". As a result, you will feel like you aren't "truly alive" in an environment where you can't "come out of your shell and be your real self". (Note: If you've never lived outside of Taiwan, you might not know what kind of "energy" I'm talking about. You'd have to spend time in Russia, Latin America, Eastern/Southern Europe, or Pattaya/Bangkok in Thailand to know what I'm referring to.)
- Taiwanese personalities commonly come in two weird extremes: 1) grumpy, constipated, stern, strict facial expression (common among older generation), and 2) fake innocent cheesy corny "hello kitty" facial expression (common among young adults and teens). Ewww! Both of these suck and are abnormal and unnatural. How do you vibe with such unnatural personalities? I have no idea. Why can't Taiwanese just be normal and natural? I often feel like I'm the only one that's "normal" in Taiwan. It's like a Twilight Zone environment where normal is abnormal, and abnormal is normal. Really weird.
- Since people are indirect, polite and nonexpressive, it's hard to read people. You can't know what they are thinking or feeling, as they are very indirect and do not like to show their feelings. So if they dislike you or have a problem with you, you may not even know about it. They will just avoid you.
- The females in Taiwan are among the most cliquish, closed, and uptight I've ever seen. They have this "cold wall" and "negative energy barrier" around them that makes it unnatural and uncomfortable to try to meet them or chat them up. They are nothing like the girls in Europe who in contrast are far more open, relaxed, friendly, sociable and easier to chat up. To give you a simple example, if I say "Excuse me miss" (in Chinese or English) to girls walking by in Taiwan (who are totally cold and closed) none of them will stop. But in most other countries, when I do that, very often the girls will stop and talk to me. That's a very big difference that says a lot, no matter how you try to spin it.
- Taiwanese girls are extremely picky, shallow, judgmental, difficult, vain, and spook easily like deer and cats. They are overly cautious and unnaturally shy to the extreme, and don't like talking to strangers without an introduction through mutual friends. These extreme traits that are common in Taiwanese females make them almost inhuman and definitely unnatural. Now there is nothing wrong with being a little shy or cautious. That can be cute. But Taiwanese girls take it to the extreme and are too excessive in their closed-ness and shyness. Ironically, their own ancient Chinese wisdom says that nothing in extremes is any good, and that everything must be in moderation.
- Taiwanese girls have hang ups about dating. To them, dating is a stepping stone to marriage, so they won't just go out with you for fun, at least not the good girls. You have to jump through a ton of hoops. So you can't just simply ask them out like you can in most countries, otherwise you will be met with polite rejections and excuses. To make matters worse, the normal courting process of flirting is considered a taboo in Taiwan, and seen as creepy bad behavior. So if you are a Romeo or Casanova who likes to flirt, that will be a big let down for you, because you are not allowed to use your main arsenal of seduction. Furthermore, it's very hard to vibe with Taiwanese girls if you are not on their small minded, shallow, narrow, insular wavelength.
- So it's like everything is against you in Taiwan if you want to try to fulfill your romantic or sexual needs, which sucks and is terrible beyond words. Taiwan does have a high concentration of hot girls, but what's the point if they are all look and no touch? That just makes it more depressing and frustrating. Personally, I find Taiwan to have the most unnatural and ego-deflating dating scene I've ever seen. It's like Taiwan only wants you to eat and be bored, but offers nothing else. That sucks. My two priorities in life are romance and adventure, but Taiwan offers me neither, so Taiwan sucks in my book.
- In Taiwan, there is an inverse relationship between a woman's beauty and friendliness, as well as her age and friendliness. Simply put, the better looking a girl is, the less friendly and open she will be, and vice versa, which sucks for guys who like hot girls. But this isn't something you are supposed to complain about, for it's taboo for some reason. Likewise, the older a woman is, the more friendly and easy to talk to she is, and vice versa. This just plain sucks, because what it means is that the women you desire most will be the most unavailable and unapproachable. Thus, for men who love beautiful women, this is a big drawback.
- To make matters worse, in social groups and nightclubs in Taiwan, the guys usually outnumber the girls. This creates scarcity and makes meeting them doubly difficult, in addition to the cold ice wall around them. The guys the girls are with are usually either their boyfriends, guys who are pursuing them, or guy friends who will shield them from other guys outside the group. So like I said, when it comes to love, romance and dating, everything is against you in Taiwan.
- Taiwan is a workaholic culture (like America) where only food and making money count. It revolves around practicality, not romance or passion or intellectualism. So if you are lonely or need companionship, no one will care, because all they care about is work work work. Most people live to work and have no other purpose in life. They have no ability to create a higher purpose. Taiwanese commonly work 6 or 7 days a week. What this means is that if you are not a workaholic and you live for other things besides work (e.g. freedom, adventure, new experiences) you will not be on the same wavelength as everyone else, and will thus feel somewhat alienated in that while everyone is always busy being a busybee, you are not.
Moreover, it is hard to find people with free time to hang out with. It's mostly foreigners and young Taiwanese that go out for fun, however, the young Taiwanese are very cliquish and don't like to interact with foreigners much. For some odd reason, the ones I know don't have much free time, but the ones I see out having fun on weekends are never the ones I know... whatever... maybe it's another case of Murphy's Law.
- Taiwan is not an intellectual culture at all. So if you are an intellectual, you will feel alienated and out of place in Taiwan. At best, you may find open-minded people willing to listen in on deep meaningful conversations, but you won't find them contributing to such dialogues. The most intellectual people I've met in Taiwan were Buddhist monks. Young people in Taiwan are on a very superficial wavelength - they are not into history, philosophy, existential matters, or making insightful observations about people and things around them. Thus, if you are an intellectual, you may feel out of place in Taiwan, and would probably fit in better in Europe, where intellectualism and open-mindedness are far more common. Not to brag, but as far as I know, I seem to be the only Taiwanese freethinker. I honestly don't know any others. I guess that makes me really unique, but uniqueness comes with loneliness too.
- Taiwan's social culture is very politically correct. There is an unspoken but obvious social rule that around others, you are always expected to act positive and cheerful, and only talk about superficial things. Anything to the contrary will weird people out, especially young adults, and may ostracize you from social groups. So you can't be negative (no matter how justified) or talk about deep things in Taiwan without looking like a misfit.
What this means is that if you are unhappy or don't like something in Taiwan (and there is a lot to dislike in Taiwan, that's for sure) then no one wants to hear about it, unless you have a close and understanding friend. For example, even though it's obvious that Taiwanese are generally closed, repressed and narrow, you are not allowed to SAY that they are. It's like the Emperor's New Clothes syndrome. In that sense, you are not allowed to tell the truth in Taiwan.
This means that you often can't be yourself in Taiwan. You see, in truth, no one can be positive all the time, human nature doesn't work that way since everything is made up of a union of opposites, as the Chinese Ying Yang symbol signifies. What this means is that at least half the time, you will not be able to be yourself in Taiwan around other people - who expect you to only say positive and superficial things. What this also means is that if you are an honest truthful intellectual in Taiwan, you may find a few friends, but you will not fit into social groups or cliques, because they are strict about these social rules and political correctness.
- Most white guys who are drawn to live or work in Taiwan tend to be the passive soft-spoken feminine type, which is unusual for western white guys, but common of foreigners in Taiwan. Such are the types that seem to fit in Taiwan best (as well as Japan and East Asia in general). As they say, like attracts like. What this means is that if you are not passive, soft-spoken or feminine, you will not be a natural fit in Taiwan. Typical Taiwan character is very modest and soft-spoken, which by western standards is very feminine and not masculine at all. So if that's not you, you may feel a little awkward because your personality won't fit in.
- If you are an Asian American, Taiwan is an awkward experience in that you are constantly expected by locals to be something you are not - one of them. They will constantly mistake you for being a repressed narrow Taiwanese, like them, so you constantly have to disappoint them. If you act like an American, like you do in America, it will weird them out. In Taiwan, you don't really have a place. You don't belong in the local category since you're not one, and you don't belong to the foreigner category either since you are seen and treated like a local. So you simply have no defined place. It's really weird and awkward.
(Sorry for all these negative observations and points about Taiwan, but aren't we taught that honest is the best policy? Why would it be better to lie?)
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