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Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Foreigners Say "TAIWAN Is Lonely, Alienating, Depressing, and Hard to Make Friends" - So You're Not the Only One and Neither Am I!

If you're a foreigner or local in Taiwan, and you feel lonely, alienated, depressed and unable to connect with others because they seem cold, distant and ignore you and exclude you, well then please understand that you are not alone. You may think you are alone though, because nearly everyone on the internet seems to be describing Taiwan as "friendly, wonderful and a hidden gem", which makes you think you must be crazy to feel the way you do, or that there must be something wrong with you because everyone else claims to feel the opposite. 

But you are definitely not crazy or the only one that feels this way. It's just that almost no one dares to be honest about it or some people are just closed and don't even need social connection because they are unsocial and not outgoing like we are, so it's not even an issue to them. Overall, from talking to foreigners and travelers who have been to Taiwan, I would say that at least 25 percent of foreigners in Taiwan feel the same way I do, and another 25 to 50 percent partially agree with me but are not as vehement about it. But the rest think I'm crazy and totally disagree and have a very positive view of Taiwan it seems.

Back in 2004 I complained about Taiwan on the internet and thought I was the only one too. No one else dared to. Now though, more and more are speaking out their true feelings about Taiwan, such as in the comments below from another blog about Taiwan expat life. Read them below and you will see that others feel the same way too, including myself.

Why is it hard to make friends in Taiwan? 4 reasons why

Valentin Vasilyevich Bondarenko (@ValentinVasily3) says: April 2, 2019 at 4:10 am

Have been here for two years, it’s so difficult that I chose to sleep during daylight and go out at night having meal in HiLife. Simply because i don’t want to see locals anymore.
I feel so ignored that I prefer being in city when locals are at home in bed.
An empty road feels better than when Taiwanese are on it completely ignoring me.

“but for the majority, it is easier to have a good time by staying in a homogeneous group of people”
Good article, But I don’t understand why staying in a homogeneous group is easier? I could have stayed in my homogeneous country, but came to Taiwan because homogeneous is too boring and uncomfortable for me. I always avoid meeting people of my country when I travel. Have been traveling for 12 years away from home already. I thrive for meeting different people and really dislike when I see people of same country flock together.

I’m obviously listening to Confucius , while Homogeneous Taiwanese are not.
I’m not homolingual, homocultural, homonational or homo anything.

Bob says: December 13, 2017 at 6:39 pm

Interesting article. Befriending locals simply does not seem to happen. My girlfriend’s relatives, colleagues and friends mostly speak English very well, but still any conversation that includes 2 or more locals within a few minutes changes to Mandarin. Every 15 minutes I may be updated about the topic they are talking about. My girlfriend uses the same argument as mentioned above: “…it is easier to have a good time by staying in a homogeneous group of people who speak Mandarin”. Most of the time I rather not join these dinners, but then still get the blame that without me they can’t order that many different dishes. It is not that the locals have a goal to exclude you, it is just that they don’t care or bother to include you, to help you fit in a bit more.

Stan says: September 2, 2017 at 7:44 pm

As a Taiwanese person that grew up overseas, that speaks perfect mandarin, to me culture is the biggest factor. For my first 4 years in Taiwan I really made a huge effort to befriend locals. I worked in various Taiwanese companies. I had lunch with my colleagues everyday, at night I’d hang out with them, go to KTVs, hotpot dinners, coffee, etc. At one point I realized that I just don’t enjoy having conversations with them any more. I even did my millitary service and I also did my very best to befriend other conscripts during that year. In my final four years in Taiwan I gave up and pretty much hang out exclusively with foreigners.

Here are some factors:
1. Topics of conversations. Simply I had nothing in common with most Taiwanese. My ex-colleagues could talk about online shopping for an hour, or talk about Korean soap operas, obsession with food and restaurants. For me I could never relate to them, as culturally we are so different. For me its unbelievable that they’ve never seen the Godfather films, or heard of Green Day or U2. Also its nigh impossible to talk to them about sports. I love to travel but most Taiwanese only go to neighbouring countries or at most United States, more often than not in awful tour groups.

2. Humour. Taiwanese do not have the concept of many things we consider humorous in the west. Such as sarcasm, irony, euphemism, etc. Often I speak sarcastically and they think I”m stating the obvious or simply being stupid.

3. Superstition. Taiwanese are incredibly superstitious and we in the west tend to be more logical. I listened to my ex-colleagues talk about marriage rituals and do this and that, eat this and that to avoid cancer (they’ve told me to soak onions in red wine is an example), or even tell ghost stories for hours. I simply cannot tolerate this kind of conversation.

4. Believing in stereotypes, often to the point of bigotry. Taiwanese revolve their lives around stereotypes of foreigners. They’d make horrible comments about brown skin people. Especially people from India, South East Asia, Africa. They feel they are superior and classist. Often its just ignorance and poor education. For example in my company we had a visitor from the US head office and he is an African American. One colleague went up to him and said: do you play basketball? do you like chicken?

5. Hypocrisy
For example: They’d say westerners in Taiwan should be openminded and try stinky tofu, gaoliang etc. While themselves overseas on business trips they stick to Chinese restaurants and refuse to try any foreign food. They pride themselves on being friendly and hospitable people, yet they treat their Filipino housekeepers like slaves.

After 8 years, despite having a decent career and good friends, I decided to move out of Taiwan. As simply I couldn’t stand the people (the living environment is another factor). Working with Taiwanese people is whole other story that is even more complicated.

Khoon Tan (@khoonie) says: July 11, 2018 at 9:31 pm


OMG you just described my experience 100%. I’m from South East Asia and of Chinese descent and I speak the language. I’ve lived in Taipei for a decade and I can tell you it has been a mental struggle.

The moment people find out I’m from SE Asia, at least 1 out of 2 change their tone with me. I have been rejected outright for jobs the moment I tell them my nationality. My education is assumed to be “high school level only” (I have a masters) and they would outright reject and talk over me in a disrespectful manner.

The other half would still be cordial, and they will have decent conversations with you at work, but that’s about it.

Anyway to cut through the chase I have but 2-3 friends here only after a decade, and they are either foreigners or ABCs.

Valentin Vasilyevich Bondarenko (@ValentinVasily3) says: April 2, 2019 at 4:54 am

Dear Khoon Tan
a decade in Taipei? You remind of an innocent who spent 10 years in prison and then was exonerated.
Thanks for sharing, usually people who went through pain are humiliated and discouraged to voice their experience. Only positive views get to surface for a sugar-coated ignorance.

the part of Titanic I like is the sinking scene. Similarly, your comments are more exciting than “Taiwan is great, best place for expats”

I wouldn’t believe finding 2-3 friends in a decade is possible. But after my 2 years I have 0 local friends and learning to isolate myself. I also tell my counselor I’m happy because otherwise he sent a letter to my family (I’m 32 years old!) and gave me warning. So I have to say I’m okay.
Living abroad for 12 years, finding friends in Taiwan is harder than on Moon.

sty126 says: February 5, 2019 at 10:53 pm
I am born and raised in Taiwan, but I can truly understand and feel your pain when having conversations with some Taiwanese people. Some of my friends (okay, ‘used-to-be’ friends) were just as you said, talking about soap dramas, pointless shopping experience, etc. What upsets me more is that they were trying to stereotype everything, or giving people labels based on their race, gender, education, job title, or whatever they like. I simply couldn’t put up with this and at the beginning, I tried to give them some new insights but soon I realized that was useless and I started hating myself ‘lecturing’ others. It’s kind of something rooted in their mind due to the education, family, and media. I often found myself have nothing to talk about in that kind of pointless group conversation but still tried hard to not to be ignored. Those were some of the most awkward and unpleasant moments in my life. Well, still, not all Taiwanese people are like that. I am still able to find some like-minded people to talk with and be friends. I guess it somehow depends on the type of working environments/school/social groups we go to.

Valentin Vasilyevich Bondarenko (@ValentinVasily3) says: April 2, 2019 at 4:36 am

Glad to see your comment Stan.
Factor number 2 is very true. I often say “If Jim Carrey comes to Taiwan, he will get depressed”
Taiwanese take a long time to build friendships, that means you can’t have a great evening with them until a few seasons pass.
factor 4: I don’t fully agree, Taiwanese watch Bollywood. They have blond fetish but didn’t really hear them saying terrible things about India or brown people.
5: Agree. I found Taiwanese and friendly two different things. Their concept for friendship is that if they don’t beat someone with stick, they’re being friendly.

I understand you don’t enjoy conversations with them, they’re very quite and boring. sometimes I says why nobody talks to me, but I look around and see they’re not talking to each other as well. Very quite with their eyebrows shaped in a very sad frame. It seems depression is the standard of happiness in Taiwan.

Glad you left, can’t figure out why you stayed so long. I loved your comment, will definitely share with my sister now and auntie in Canada!

Jaysun says: August 30, 2017 at 8:19 pm

Well written. Adding my two cents: From my experience traveling around many parts of the world, I’ve found that it’s easier to talk, relate, and possibly befriend anyone in the world who isn’t Oriental (not going to say Asian because I can relate to Russians, Indians, etc.). It’s about upbringing and national conditioning (I agree that it has nothing to do with culture, unless your culture is prone to being ethnocentric, which some are) that shape how people tick as they develop as a person. As a teacher, I find it’s much easier to relate to the Taiwanese elementary kids I teach because they haven’t been fully indoctrinated in the national way of thinking. My observations after traveling have found that most Orientals (not by DNA but from national upbringing) have a way of thinking and operating that is very different from the rest of the world. I related and befriended people from all over the world when I was traveling, both locals and foreign nationals whom weren’t Oriental. You may disagree, but from my first-hand experiences, I’ve found that it’s very hard to comfortably relate and befriend most Orientals because of their national conditioning. That’s a shame because I have always liked conversing with locals and getting to know all different types of people around the world. My close Taiwanese friend happened to go to university in Australia for 8 years, so I’m able to relate and comfortably hangout with him because he broke out of the national bubble. Every country has a national bubble mentality, but Orientals’ seems to be more intricate. I’m not saying that there is something wrong with Orientals’ national conditioning per say, I’m just saying that it closes them off from relating to the rest of the world that thinks and operates differently. And don’t get me wrong, I love Taiwanese and other Orientals even if I don’t relate with them.


And of course, I added my own comments to the above. Here's what I posted:

"Wow I'm surprised anyone is willing to blog about how hard it is to make friends or meet people in Taiwan. In 2004 I was the only one complaining about the impossibility of connecting with Taiwanese. They seem so empty, soulless, repressed and antisocial and most of all, CLOSED. Something is very off about them, it's hard to explain, but I'm sure anyone who is soulful and has been to Taiwan knows what I mean. There is this NEGATIVE energy/vibe there. It's very different from Philippines or Thailand or Russia or Eastern Europe or Latin America, where the energy/vibe is very fun, lively and soulful. Taiwan in contrast is very boring, sterile and soulless. It kills your life force and enthusiasm and confidence too. It's hard to explain why, there's something very SOUL SUCKING about it. You guys know what I mean? But no one dares to talk about it. I'm surprised another blog besides mine is willing to. I wrote many posts about why Taiwan is unfriendly in my forum and blog. See the link below. One question I ask is "If Taiwan is so friendly, like most travel blogs claim, then why does no one want to be your friend?" That question stumps everyone. 

Language barrier has nothing to do with anything. I know people who speak Chinese who cannot connect with anyone in Taiwan. And when I first went to Russia, I spoke no Russian but was able to meet girls everyday and found a girlfriend in 2 days too. For the first time in my life I had no shyness or social anxiety. It's all about the vibe and soul of the country.

Do you ever wonder what everyone is smoking when they say that "Taiwan is so friendly, wonderful, and a hidden gem?" How can that be when:

1) The women are not approachable at all. They are very closed, standoffish, cold and have a negative vibe. Even trying to talk to them feels uncomfortable and awkward. And flirtation is a big NO NO, definitely NOT allowed.
2) The people have this grouchy, self-hating, repressed, negative, grim, awkward vibe and personality too. It's hard to explain or put into words, but if you've been to Taiwan and have an authentic living soul and aren't an automaton or zombie, I'm sure you know what I mean. What's more, they have absolutely NO enthusiasm or interest in making new friends. All they do is exclude you and ignore you. It's insulting to be treated like that. Better to be alone in nature than in a crowd of Taiwanese who ignore and exclude you.
3) The atmosphere in Taiwan has this creepy soul-sucking vibe that erodes your confidence and self-esteem. You certainly cannot come out of your shell and be confident, outgoing, lively, playful and fun, the way you can in Thailand or Philippines or Brazil. No way jose. Hell no. You never feel good about yourself the way you do in SE Asia or Brazil.

Given all that, what is everyone smoking when they say online and on YouTube that Taiwan is "so wonderful and friendly and a hidden gem"? Can anyone explain? Is everyone lying or are we all in different parallel universes and dimensions? Most people seem to have a hive mind nowadays anyway, they just say whatever is trendy and popular even if it's not true at all. Very weird. As a living soul, freethinker and freespirit, I'm the opposite of all that and am super honest and tell it like it is. But of course, honesty is not valued in Taiwan, you are expected to be positive and say only nice things about Taiwan, even if you have to lie. The culture of Taiwan definitely doesn't value honesty like other foreign countries do. Even mainland China feels a lot more authentic and normal than Taiwan. 

What do you all think? Can anyone shed light on my questions? Feel free to read all my anti-Taiwan essays in my forum and blog.

Founder of, the most unique expat site and forum in the world"

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