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Showing posts from November, 2012

Culture Shock - From Honeymoon to Mastery (Part II)

Concepts of Politeness
A few years ago I went to a bookstore in Italy to buy a book for a lecture at my university, in Trieste, a city close to Venice. The shop had two counters, one for normal books, which was to the right of the entrance, and the other only for university books, which was at the end of the store, opposite the main door. As usual, there were many people in the queue. We were all students except for a man who looked very old (Trieste is known for having one of the oldest population in Italy). He was very tall, haggard and hunchbacked, and he wore a dark-green suit. For some reason, he kept on smiling all the time.
The man told the shop assistant - a young, bold guy who looked like an emaciated version of Mike Stipe - what book he was looking for. The shop assistant shot at him a furious glance, "You are in the wrong section," he said angrily, "this counter is only for students. Don't you see?" and he pointed at the big sign that said "Uni…

Culture Shock - From Honeymoon to Mastery (Part I)

One of the most amazing and at the same time challenging experiences in a foreign country is the surprise, the shock and distress you feel when encountering unexpected traits of the host culture. The way people act, their speech, their body language - to name only a few - are unfamiliar and may prompt in you reactions that range from curiosity to amusement, from disappointment to anger.
First impressions, I think, are unlikely to stir strong emotions. But if you choose to go deeper into the culture and the life of a place, you start a long and often hard journey, a process of learning and - as  it is often called - "broadening your horizon". I met quite a few foreigners in Taiwan who have very different attitudes towards the country. Some are enthusiastic. Others feel interested in things they consider strange and unusual and try to know more about them. Others, on the contrary, are completely indifferent, or even contemptuous. 
In the first part of this post I will briefly…

How it feels to be a foreigner in Taiwan

Before going to Asia, a few friends of mine told me about their experience in China. A German guy said that in China he felt for the first time what it means to be a foreigner. He is blond and has blue eyes, so it was easy for him to be spotted among the crowds of Chinese.

People looked, even stared at him, sometimes for minutes. Someone asked to take a picture with him, as though he were a tourist attraction, children pointed at him on the streets. He didn't seem to be very happy about receiving so much attention from passers-by. Neither would I have been.
I am not blond, so at least I am not as conspicuous as he is. However, it's still easy for Asians to notice me, of course. And I was afraid of being stared at on the streets or in public places, which makes me feel quite nervous.
When I arrived in Taiwan, I was positively surprised. I never saw anyone staring or pointing at me. Strangely enough, I felt here even more relaxed than in Germany. When I was in Berlin I often fel…

An Introduction to the History of Taiwan

When I told my mother that I was going to Taiwan, she asked me: "Where is Taiwan?" I was surprised by her question, but on second thought I should have expected it. Many people in the West don't know much about Taiwan, some of them even think that Taiwan is Thailand. So I think that if I write a blog about my life in Taiwan I should at least give you some background information about this place. 
First of all, a state called Taiwan doesn't exist. In fact, the official name of Taiwan is Republic of China. Taiwan is just a geographical term that defines the island of Taiwan. That the official name of a country is not the same as its colloquial name, is nothing unusual. We know that Germany's official name is "Federal Republic of Germany", but we never say: Hey, I'm going to fly to the Federal Republic of Germany tomorrow. We just call it Germany. The same with the United States of America. We usually say US, America, or the States. What is unusual abou…

Welcome to "My New Life in Asia"

Hello everyone and welcome to my blog, "My New Life in Asia."
One year ago, on the 4th of November 2011, I arrived in Taiwan for the first time. It was an exciting moment. I'd been dreaming to go to Asia for years, and finally my dream had come true. 
A lot of things happened ever since that day, I've had many new experiences and learnt a lot of things. Some of them shocked me, others made me happy. I had a great time, but also many disappointments.
Though I studied Chinese for two years when I was in Europe, I'd never thought about moving to this small island which, although it is a very interesting place to explore, is somehow overshadowed by its big neighbours, the People's Republic of China and Japan.
The reason why I chose Taiwan was that I fell in love with a Taiwanese girl. "A romantic story with a happy ending", you might think. Well, not really. 
Two weeks ago I went to Hong Kong. I spent six amazing days there, meeting friends and doing a…