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During my week traveling around Taiwan I stayed in a few hostels, met other travelers there and listened to their accounts. What I've noticed is that when most people say that "people are so friendly" in a particular country, they usually mean is some combination of the following:
- People were very helpful with giving them directions (which is true everywhere)
- Customer service people smiled or were helpful to them (it's their job to smile and be helpful, duh)
- They got smiles from night market vendors, store staff, and service staff, who want them to buy something or spend money
- Older folks were kind, helpful and hospitable to them
- They had friendly conversations with one or two young females out of thousands that passed them by and never gave them a single look
- They met some friendly females in bars, which only a tiny minority of women go to, but no one else talked to them in public unless it was business related
Now I don't know about you, but these are really low standards. By the above criteria, you could even say that people in Los Angeles are friendly as well. This list will apply to pretty much anywhere, so that everyone will be friendly everywhere.
It just sounds all too "politically correct" and perhaps those who go by these standards do not know that they are being politically correct. They are merely easy to please. And that's fine for them.
But my standards are different. When I say that "people are friendly" what I mean is that:
- A large percentage of young decent looking women are approachable, open, easy to meet and chat up in public. Trying to do so does NOT feel rude, inappropriate, or out of tune with the flow of things. Befriending or dating them comes naturally. They are generally open and like to meet people, and the culture itself is open as well.
But in Taiwan, the majority of women are only comfortable meeting other women, not men. In fact, many Taiwanese women do not even touch male friends that they've known for years. Taiwan society is not open or liberal about touching or body contact, no matter how "sexually liberated" the women may claim to be. The fact is, people and the culture, esp women, are "touch sensitive" and inhibited about such things, at least in public. Their body language says this incontrovertibly. No honest Taiwanese person disputes it (except some nuts on the internet who enjoy mocking others and playing devil's advocate). It's just the culture here.
In fact, no Taiwan person denies that their culture and society are "not open", esp if they've been abroad a lot and have something else to compare it to. Some Taiwanese are even proud to be "not open". My mom even considers being open to be a "bad thing and not normal", for one should be closed and strict in the "right way" about the "right things".
That's why, if you look at the couchsurfing.com and hospitalityclub.org sites, you'll notice that there are far fewer members in Taiwan or America than there are in Europe, because the concept of being "open and hospitable" toward strangers by hanging out with them and sharing your home with them, fits in a lot more with the MAINSTREAM culture in Europe which is very open in general, than it does with the MAINSTREAM culture in Taiwan or America, where only a minority of people truly have an "open attitude" toward strangers.
But travelers and backpackers do not mind such things. They do not travel to "get hot women". They travel for cultural experiences, to try different foods, and do recreational activities such as mountain climbing, sailboating/kayaking, cycling, etc. Sometimes they may go to bars at night and chat up women in a civil manner just for fun, with no expectations. But it's not their main goal. To them, as long as a few people are helpful with directions and smile at them for obvious reasons, then the whole country is "friendly" to them.
I guess most mainstream travelers are like this, so they are more "normal" while me and my kind are a "fringe group".
Any thoughts or comments?
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"It takes far less effort to find and move to the society that has what you want than it does to try to reconstruct an existing society to match your standards." - Harry Browne, How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World
Taiwanese people and Americans do not think or communicate alike.
In America you could actually meet people by arguing with them, or if someone makes a point, you could bug them to prove it.
In Taiwan people have little patience to being annoyed. If they're not in a good mood or don't feel like chatting with you, they'd just brush you off or tell you to f*ck off. A Taiwanese person comes from the stance that he/she is doing you a favor just talking to you, and if you don't agree with his/her opinion, that's your problem. There's nothing to gain by proving his/her point, because doing so is worthless. You're just not that important of a person to them. And if you're stupid enough to make them lose face, you'd have an enemy for life -- the do not forget or forgive.
However, once you cross the "stranger" to "friend" bridge, everythng changes. You'll be invited to dine at their home, meeting their family, offered a place to stay for the night, etc. Need a job? No problem, so and so's cousin's company is hiring. Need a GF? No problem, so and so's cousin is single. Need some freinds? No problem, you'll be opened to your friend's social network of xx people and their friends and their friend's friends. Your opinions will be valued and your freinds will be informal and relaxed with you.
In comparison, Japanese people are more freindly to strangers, but even if they know you for 10 years, you may never be invited to their home. With East Asians, sometimes the more polite they are to you, the less they like you.