Things Asian-Foreigners Face in Taiwan
For Asian-Americans or Other Asian Ethnicities Traveling in Taiwan
As an Asian traveler in Asia, you are finally be able to fit in with people who look like you. Yet, we face a unique set of obstacles that only us Asian foreigners face. Here is a list of things I have encountered as an Asian-foreigner in Taiwan.
Being Mistaken for a Local
Being able to pass as a local is great. You won’t get scammed by people who try to make a few extra bucks off foreigners. However, the downside of being mistaken for a local is that people assume you know their rules and customs.
When you have an Asian physical appearance, the local Taiwanese immediately start speaking to you in Mandarin at a thousand words per minute. I cannot even keep count of how many times I have said, “What?”, “Huh?”, “Say that again?”, or “I don’t understand.”
When you look Asian, people assume you can read, write, and speak their language. They expect that you can read their menu. If you know a bit of Chinese, that is great, but even if you do, knowing the names of food dishes itself is another challenge in itself.
The names of food dishes is not something they teach you in Chinese class. For example, knowing the basic characters for noodles (mian 麵), rice (fan 飯), beef (niu 牛) or pork (zhu 豬), has helped me a lot in distinguishing what I want to order, but when these characters are combined with other Chinese characters, who knows which body part I might be ordering?
Some restaurants now have English translations, and this is the biggest lifesaver for me.
Understanding Transportation Signs
This typically is a bigger problem in the past before the advent of Google Maps, but with Google Maps being so widespread nowadays, this is now a small problem. Google Maps is pretty accurate in helping you navigate from Point A to Point B and giving you walking directions down to the exact bus stop or MRT Exit.
However, for cities that are not as big, public transportation details are sometimes missing from Google’s database, and this is when reading signs poses another problem for semi-illiterate persons like myself. Getting from Point A to Point B in this instance requires a lot of direction-asking.
But, how do you understand what they are saying? Hmm…
Foreigner Biased Venues
In Taipei, a lot of of night clubs require foreigners to show their passports in order to get inside during busy seasons. Driver’s licenses and ID cards are not accepted. Some venues go as far as charging a cover for foreigners while locals get in for free. What is this nonsense?
Making New Local Friends
When you easily pass off as a local, trying to make new friends can be a challenge. Lost in a sea of nameless faces, the only way you stand out is through the language you speak. When you attend certain events, you desperately try to connect with others, and the only way to do that is if you are able to meet someone who can speak your language.
Solo-traveling in an Asian country as an Asian-foreigner has its pros and cons. You can fit in just by your looks and not stand out like a sore thumb. But at the same time, people assume you know their unspoken rules. When there is a language barrier, everything becomes twice as difficult.
Even though there are challenges as an Asian-foreigner, this is all part of the fun of traveling. When you overcome these obstacles, it just makes life that much better.
Have you ever faced the same issues while traveling to a foreign place? Are there others I am missing? Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below.