Wed, Jan 03, 2018 - Page 8 News List

On being a foreigner in Taiwan

By David Pendery 潘大為

However, in a larger view I might look at the National Symphony Orchestra, and its venue the National Concert Hall, and see this as world-class — and there is a cultural connection. Taiwanese folk music, always closest to the hearts of local people, seems not to have reached true global status and recognition, compared with US folk music. This might be a cultural disconnect with me.

Putting aside the likes of classical Chinese art in the National Palace Museum (a different category, and obviously venerated worldwide), local arts like Taiwanese opera and puppetry have never been to my taste, I find them too traditional. I am perhaps again disconnected from local culture in this way.

Further, I find that Taiwan has no real modern art movement of its own, and current works borrow heavily from Western styles, thus removing much in the way of “Taiwanese-ness.”

Looking at the local culture, night markets and temple affairs are pleasing in their ways, but tend toward the tawdry.

However, have you noticed the way aged Taiwanese rise at 4am and go to the parks to practice taichi, chant, cycle and exercise? I might not be there yet, but that looks good to me — there is a connection.

At a higher level, the somewhat nonchalant — many say careless — treatment of the environment here has been an ongoing problem. Business and vocational life have been quite successful, but have been accused of unscrupulous behavior.

Meanwhile, Taiwanese politics seems a bit less than genuinely skilled and practiced. Love or hate US President Donald Trump, he (and former US presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton) knows the game in ways that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) could never match.

In these terms, although I have done my best to fit in, interact and function within the culture at large in Taiwan, at times things are still rather “foreign” to me.

However, despite this, some say I indeed seem to have transformed myself into a Taiwanese entity after being here as long as I have — and I too sometimes feel as much, if in a once-removed way. I am not sure that I have taken the final step, though, and gaps remain.

In the big picture, I am not truly there yet, certainly not in terms of possessing any true identity outside the one noted on my US passport. My Taiwanese resident certificate is nice, but it is less than the “real deal.”

I have discussed my pursuit of the “real deal” — Taiwanese citizenship — in another forum. I suspect just this might happen some day, when the government opens its eyes to the necessity and morality of dual citizenship. I will welcome that day.

Any disconnects aside, I try to conform and harmonize in my interface and collaboration with the good people of this nation. This is rewarding in its own right and on the whole my life here has been much better than my life in the US ever was.

I absolutely love it here. In this respect, I am the real deal, I am fully affianced and involved in life here. Is that all that is required? Very possibly yes, for to love a place is to adopt it, to receive it, to embrace it, to take it as one’s own, to “be” it — even to the point of possessing its identity.

You are not a “foreigner” any longer, you are one of the people, as best you can be. Such a feeling this nation and its populace have provided me.

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