A lot of you were a little shocked to read my previous post about Taiwanese girls: What experts say, because you thought I completely lost it. But if you've read carefully enough, it must have been soon obvious to you, that the piece reeked of sarcasm and mockery. That post was meant to serve as a reference to the today's post, which will try to talk about the same issue, but on a higher intellectual level.
Taiwanese girls: Stereotypes and reality seems to be a fitting title for a topic, that is very fascinating to many people, but of course there is no objective truth on the matter, there are just opinions and viewpoints. All I can do is touch on some common phenomena surrounding young Taiwanese females and try to explain them with the awareness that this also bears many limitations and poses many traps. But after all, this is just a blog post, not a scientific research and I'm not writing a PhD, I'm just trying to provide something more substantial on the matter, because there's just too much nonsense out there, which my previous post effectively proved.
1. How to comprehend a few million females?
There are many foreigners in Taiwan, who claim to know a lot about the local women, but their opinion is very superficial, oftentimes affected by a bad experience. And based on the words they use, I'd say they don't seem to be the most credible source on the matter. I don't claim to be an expert, but I know few things by now. For me it was and still is a learning process. When I look back I see how many things I didn't understand a year ago and I'm sure, if you rummage around various forums long enough, you will find some statements from me, which I would not sign anymore. Living and working in Taiwan changed me. Being married to a Taiwanese girl and having a lot of female friends helped me to see what influences, guides and motivates them to be the way they are. I often see a similar pattern across the circle of women I have the pleasure to deal with and I intend to highlight them here for you. Are you ready for some shocking revelations?
2. The common stereotypes about Taiwanese girls
Taiwan is a country, that is still veiled in mystery for a big part of the outside world. This beautiful, yet for a long time isolated island in the Far East has only been recently discovered by the Western travel and expat communities. And with the help of the world wide web, it's today very easy to spread information and generate a certain set of ideas about the people here. I have no problem with that, if the ideas are thought through and well argued. There are a lot of foreign men, who come to Taiwan, because they are driven by expectations based on stereotypes. And when they come here, they get disappointed, bitter and frustrated. They write blogs, post on forums and sell their experience as the ultimate truth, but by doing that they tarnish the reality for the future visitors and also harm the reputation of the other foreigners, who live here and tend to be a little more nuanced in their views - it's a vicious circle. Based on my last post, that collected some of these often misleading, but mostly nasty comments, you would think that Taiwanese girls are:
- materialistic, career and clothes oriented
- psycho when breaking up with them
- shy in public and while intimate
- obsessed with White guys, especially blonde with blue eyes
- fall for cheap tricks
- cunning, want to steal your money
- don't value your time
- sleep around a lot, especially with rich guys and ABCs
- love only in exchange for money and expensive gifts
- selfish, insecure, self-centered
- wish they were Japanese
- their breath stinks a little
This is just a small fraction of the stuff, that circulates around the web. But as crazy as it sounds, we can't deny that these kinds of girls exist in Taiwan. But they also exist in Hong Kong, Singapore, Germany, USA... probably in most developed countries. I'm sure a lot of guys, who say these things, saw an example of that here, but is that enough to label the whole young female population as being that way? Their statements want to generalize and harm the reputation of the Taiwanese girls, one of the indicators of that is the suggestion by Google, when you type Taiwanese girls are...
3. Internal reasons for Taiwanese girls' bad reputation
Taiwan, although a fairly small nation, is very influential in the region, especially in popular culture such as music, dance, cinema and beauty. The late 1980s and early 1990s was a period, that some call the Taiwanese dream. An economic boom, that came much earlier than the one in South Korea and China, but somewhat at the same time with the one in Japan, catapulted this fairly unknown nation into the spotlight of the world. The (at that time) recently acquired freedom of expression laid ground for Taiwanese art to flourish. Those were the times, where China was far from the number 2 economy in the world and nobody heard about a Korean wave. And those were the times that liberalized and changed Taiwan, certainly not like the West was changed in 1968, but in an East Asian society change happens in small steps and gradually - however the 1990s certainly accelerated them. And now after all this transformation (and democratization), this is what an average foreign visitor sees, when he turns on a TV in Taiwan, opens up a Taiwanese magazine or walks around the urban jungle of Taiwanese cities, that seems so generic on the surface:
Betel nut girls
These skimpily clad young Taiwanese beauties, who sell betel nuts in small booths along the roads in Taiwan's cities and towns are oftentimes portrayed as prostitutes and used as an example, that is applied to all Taiwanese girls alike. This is of course rubbish and much more complex than it meets the eye. Check my post about them and watch a video by Toby Openshaw, a famous photographer and film-maker, who meticulously researched this phenomenon in order to get a better understanding of these girls. They are a part of Taiwan's society, but they do not represent the whole female population of the country.
Funeral strippers and parade dancers
This has been a pretty known phenomenon for Taiwan insiders, but in 2011 and 2012 foreign media caught attention of what it perceives as a very bizarre ritual of young attractive girls in lingerie dancing in front of graves, shrines and funeral celebrations. They are known in Taiwan as "electric flower car girls". I have written a thorough post on this topic and added a lot of visual material, you can check the post here.
Girls in talk shows
There are a lot of Taiwanese TV shows, that are very shallow. For me this is entertainment in its most basic form, where you can just switch off and listen to trivial things. Some of these shows use young beautiful women in skimpy outfits to chat, play games or perform something. A lot of shows focus on outfits and beauty tips, where makeup is applied or various outfits exchanged and so called "experts" then explain to their female viewers which clothes, makeup, creams, diets etc. are good for them. It's probably well connected with the powerful beauty industry and a win-win situation for both, the TV channel and the company, who sponsors it. The girls in these shows are a part of Taiwan's female population, but do not represent a big fraction of it.
Idols from the pop industry
Taiwan is home to one of the biggest music industries in East Asia and it's the center of Mando pop and Taiwan pop. It attracts talents from countries with Chinese speaking population such as China, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and USA, shapes them and exports them back. The music labels here are powerful and influential and control a multi-billion industry. And they have the power to shape an image of a girl, that is idolized and admired, usually for her beauty, less for her intellectual abilities. Of course that's all well known to the people in the West, because we showed the world how it works (and how you can make money), but it still doesn't make it right. Yes, Taiwanese female idols are pretty, most of them are also very talented, but don't assume they represent the majority of the girls here.
Models and the beauty industry
Taiwan's beauty industry is as powerful as the music industry, when it comes to creating idols, pushing trends and making money. Both have managed to make beauty one of the core ideals for young Taiwanese women. I have nowhere seen so many advertisements focusing on beauty products, fashion trends and personal appearance as in Taiwan. Some of the finest models and model agencies come from Taiwan or are based here. So far in this part of the world most of the beauty and fashion trends come from Japan, a lot also come from Korea, but Taiwan is filtering them, adding its unique touch and dispatching them further into China, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, influencing the local Chinese population in these countries. There are certainly a lot of beautiful girls in Taiwan and a lot of the beauty is enhanced by various products, which is all fair play, but that doesn't mean that every girl matches the image of Sonia Sui and alike. If that's what you expect, you're definitely going to be disappointed, when you visit Taiwan.
The Taiwanese drama is a very well established term in the Chinese speaking world. Taiwan is the biggest exporter of sappy soap operas in Chinese language, that moralize in the areas of romance, relationship and family matters. I guess you could say this is where Taiwan's soft power comes out the strongest, but I often wonder, if they use the right "weapons" for that. Nevertheless, these dramas usually end with a happy end, where the handsome guy falls for the average girl next door. The family matters of course get resolved, because the kids stop to rebel against the parents' wish and show "respect", which brings back the lost "harmony". These dramas represent your average next door Taiwanese girl in a way they want her to be and not the way she usually is. Like always, some girls will be close to these characters, but many will be very far from them.
Taiwanese TV commercials like to use cute girls who sing and dance. Usually they are (or they will become) celebrities and then appear in various other commercials and talk shows. It's a very similar pattern to the one in the music and beauty industry: They try to create role models and idols and they have a strong focus on happiness and harmony, something that is very important in a society with Chinese roots. Of course these girls are so jumpy and fired up only on TV, don't expect this type of girls on every corner in Taiwan. You can check a collection of these commercials here.
The party goers
So you heard, that Taipei has an awesome night life? Right. You came here and realized it's off the hook, because you met few girls and had tons fun. Good for you. But clubbing is by nature a venue, where people want to have fun and meet other people. Hooking up is something they look for, so it won't be that hard to meet someone and get involved for a night or two. But does that mean all Taiwanese girls are that way? Of course not. This is part of urban life in most big cities of the size of Taipei.The stories, that base on encounters of foreigners with female Taiwanese party goers are always interesting, however a lot of times exaggerated. But how much does this represent the whole reality of Taiwan's young women? I would say just a small part, because most girls and young women in Taiwan don't have the luxury to go to a night club very often.
The bloggers and writers
The idea of having someone to look up to, a role model or an idol, is quite strong among the young female population. So it's no wonder, that in a country, that supplies the whole world with computer parts like no other, the internet infrastructure is among the best in the world. Taiwan's online community is huge and it attracts not only the young people of Taiwan, who engage in various social websites, forums and blogs, but also youngsters from China, Singapore, Malaysia and even from Western countries. Being an online celebrity many times means being one off the LCD screen as well. And these girls are in no way different than idols in the pop industry. Sadly, a lot of these shooting stars, once they realize they can make good money, become a marketing tool of various companies. It's a common pattern in Taiwan's entertainment industry and it shifts a lot of young girls in certain directions.
Girls on social media
A lot of Taiwanese girls like to share their private photos on social media such as Facebook, Plurk, Instagram, Pinterest and Wretch albums. Young girls are sometimes very open to show not only their cute side, but also their sexy side. It is a way to express themselves, but to those outside Taiwan, this might send out false signals about Taiwanese girls in general. A lot of girls distinguish between the online identity, which might seem liberal and the one offline, that's usually a bit more conservative.
The late night girls
A lot of Taiwanese TV channels have various programs on Friday and Saturday night with scantily clad young girls dancing in bikinis, playing silly games in bunny outfits or answering calls of usually older male viewers and trying to make them talk as long as possible, because they pay a lot of money per minute. This is in stark contrast of a society, that can hardly accept public display of affection, even breastfeeding would cause a minor scandal. I have no idea where they find these girls, who fill up the nightly program during the weekend, but don't assume that these girls represent a big portion of the Taiwanese female population. To the contrary.
4. Two sides of a coin
To understand Taiwanese girls, one needs to understand the Taiwanese society, which is in many ways very unique. What do you get, if you politically isolate a traditional Chinese society on an island for 60 years? Right! You get the Taiwan of today. The country is full of contradictions, for example seeing an ubersexy girl in high heels burning joss sticks in a temple is no rare sight. Young people want to express themselves in a society, that forces them into conformity and harmony. "We Taiwanese are very family oriented", I often hear from them. But for me that means that the parents get too much involved in the life of their children and not only that, they do so all the time. You can be 20, 30 or 40, it's expected that you follow a certain way they lay out for you or at least take their suggestions and expectations into consideration, when you do something. Sure, young Taiwanese find ways to avoid conflicts and still have it their own way, but it's quite stressful. Now imagine what a big challenge can it be for a Taiwanese girl to introduce her new foreign boyfriend to her parents. In some cases, it won't be a big problem, but in many cases she will be thoroughly questioned and your motives of dating their daughter will be highly suspicious to them. Taiwanese parents tend to overly worry, but at the same time they tend to believe, that they know better, what is best for their daughter. That roots in the Confucian concept of "孝" or filial piety, where respect for parents and ancestors is one of the highest virtues in the society (read more here). Now combine this with the need of the young people to express themselves and you will get various ways, where these confines want to be broken, where the constraints of a hierarchical family structure want to be evaded. Sure, young people don't have a lot of time in Taiwan, as they're either studying nonstop or working like slaves, but the free time they have would be spent with friends or used for various activities and that's the part, where various idols and celebrities mentioned above enter a young Taiwanese girl's life.
Whatever your personal experience may be, you have to take all the things I have mentioned so far into consideration in order to understand the Taiwanese girls a little better. Of course this is just one side of the coin, the other is the character, the intellect, the social status and whatever happened in her life that made her the way she is. The latter points are crucial to understand your girl and see her as the individual she is. But you still can't deny all the other influences from the society she grew up, even if she's different than what her parents want her to be, she'll always be aware of their expectations and subconsciously she might be affected by that.
5. I don't know how most Taiwanese girls are
However, I've seen a lot of interesting phenomena since I first came to Taiwan in 2010. Some of it surprised me, some of it made me chuckle and some of it upset me. But nevertheless, I have learned a lot in the process, which will not be finished any time soon. Let me share some photos and videos of the things I have seen a lot of times in Taiwan. They are all related to Taiwanese girls and I hope it will serve you as a reference for a better understanding:
Maybe my post demystified some of the fix ideas about Taiwanese girls, maybe it reinforced them, I'm not sure. But hopefully it highlighted the most significant aspects, that need to be taken into consideration, when you try to understand the young women of Taiwan. And understanding instead of prematurely judging is something I see as the most important thing in all my posts related to Taiwan and I will not stop emphasizing that in the future.
And at last: Whatever might have brought you to Taiwan and whatever experience you might have had with a local lady, never forget to see every woman as the individual she is and with the background that shaped her. And never forget to take a look in the mirror: It might well be that it was you who hasn't met her expectations.