Taiwan isn’t California. It actually rains here.
Slowly but surely, I’m settling in. If you recall, I said I would be in Taiwan for “any time between 1-3 years, closer to three than one.” I also said that I was pretty scared, which honestly explains my reasoning behind staying only for one year.
Well, all my actions have been longer term, and I’ve been facing this country with a sunk cost mentality. My phone is under a two year plan, and I signed up for a one-year gym membership.
The cultural differences.
Taiwan isn’t California. I’m taller than most people I see, with the ones trumping me being foreigners. Most people don’t care about lifting weights, and they’re pretty skinny. What’s attractive is white (pale) skin, so I don’t think I’m getting many second glances.
What’s similar about Taiwan to California, and much of the developed world, is a service-oriented economy. Restaurants, small shops, department stores, attractions are a major driving force here. Underground malls span several MILES around parts of the city, bigger than any Westifeld Mall, nor Citadel Outlets, or South Coast Plaza.
And the consumer culture here is very similar, except more disappointing. Looking at the price tags of some of these items while knowing the average starting salary of college graduates, I can’t help but feel that the bottom 90% of Taiwanese people live without expectations of growth. I don’t think many of them think about long term investments.
The vast majority of shopping is also marketed towards women, and I see girls ranging from early teens to middle aged women engulfed by conspicuous consumption. I wonder how familiar they are with retirement funds or the stock market, or if this is actually my ethnocentrism at work. In the end, if they’re happy, I have no right to judge.
My Chinese is improving every day. Probably 75% of my interaction at work is in English. Otherwise, 95% of my interaction outside of work is in Chinese. Google Translate is being used every day, and I’m trying to retain new vocabulary.
Going back to the working out culture, I actually spent almost two hours negotiating a gym rate before signing on. Half of it was bargaining with the sales department (which I admit is always, always fun), while the other half was an internal struggle of whether I should sign on. The gym actually looks like a strip club. Actually. Red neon lights, blue incandescent lights. Almost-nude white girls painted all over the walls. I’ve also been told from every local here that the gyms here comprise of gays and foreigners. This isn’t 24 Hour Fitness or Berkeley’s gym. Not sure how well I’ll fit in here.
It actually looks like this.
Other things that affect me, I’m ashamed to say, are electrical outlets. They don’t include the grounding prong, thus I can’t plug my large laptop in (and thus can’t use Street Smart Edge). I also have to either spend a fortune on protein powder, or by purchasing online and shipping it here, which is another small fortune.
I’m trying to get my brotein, com’n bro.
Lastly, I’m finding it harder to call home due to the 14 hour time difference. I’ll try to call once a week.