Fri, Jun 13, 2008 - Page 8 News List


Foreigner friendly

I am writing in response to Paul Greene’s letter (Letters, June 8, page 8), in which he laments “antipathy from other foreigners” in Taipei.

When I read his letter, I nodded my head, for I have encountered similar responses from foreigners in the seven years I have lived here (though I have also been the recipient of some friendly concord with foreigners).

Why is this? What is the source of what is at worst, ill will, or not much better, cool indifference, from people who we should be able to, and in fact desire to, connect with?

I really don’t have an answer to this quandary. But one thing may be that foreigners in Taipei are a very disparate lot, and our differences seem to divide us. At worst, many foreigners here are little more than transients, drifting through Taiwan without any particular purpose, picking up easy money teaching English, and just taking in sights here and there.

In short, their lives here are little more than exercises in self-indulgence, and before long they will be hieing their way to points distant. People like this generally have little interest in interacting with people like Mr Greene — permanent residents, with families, steady jobs and a commitment to improving life in Taiwan.

Another big group here is comprised of those studying Chinese. This group, while more committed than the transient English teachers, are often just like them, partying and roaming around Taiwan, and, outside the rigors of studying Chinese, with mostly selfish commitments. Many of these people too will be gone in a year or so too.

To be sure residents like Mr Greene are not like this, and they are putting together good lives here and making a difference for the better in Taiwan — but even they face obstacles, linguistic and cultural, that can limit the depth of their dealings.

Even some foreigners I have known that spoke Chinese well, and thus were somewhat more involved in life here, were still not fully plugged in, and were in some ways outsiders.

If we are to improve these conditions, residents like Mr Greene and myself may think about:

1) endeavoring to become more competent in the culture and language so that we can become better contributing citizens (which Mr Greene has done; my own Chinese is middling; note that more effort in Taiwan by way of professional, easy-to-use Chinese classes, particularly for newcomers and working professionals, could be helpful).

2) trying to reach out to more of our own kind (these could be foreigners or Taiwanese natives), and creating social and/or professional outlets to interact in.

3) being the best we can be — cooperative, enthusiastic, friendly, optimistic — in order to raise the bar, and show that we foreigners in Taiwan are okay, after all.

I would like to add more, but lack the space. To Mr Greene and those like him, I look forward to meeting you in Taiwan — and I hope we greet each other with a smile.

Name withheld

Politics, sports always mix

I am writing in response to the article “Taichung mayor says Jackie Chan welcome to visit” (June 11, page 1).

In the article, Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) stated that “Politics and entertainment should not be mixed.”

His statement, along with the many recent opinions that the Olympics not be mixed with politics, remind me of a quote by George Orwell. He said that “The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.”

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