Wednesday, November 3, 2010

day 47_foreigner's code of conduct

My last post was about foreign men here in Taipei, but some of you may be thinking... that's ok, you're already spoken for, how about a foreigner girlfriend to run around with? So I thought I should touch on the women as well. [Mostly because, the #1 question I hear from people is "Have you made any new friends yet?" And yes - I am working on it, but it just takes time!]

There is something that I refer to as the 'foreigner's code of conduct'. It is the intentional avoidance of contact or conversation with other foreigners. This is not a new idea, nor is it original to Taipei, and in fact - perhaps it is actually the 'big city code of conduct' that I have just rarely been exposed to until now? For those of you who have been to France [and I know many of my readers have ;)], think about how you act on the subway. Look away, look down, look straight faced, unemotional, and keep to yourself. You don't smile or wave at people. You don't joke with the good old boy standing next to you who looks like he might speak your language... avoid!

Well, that is the same way that foreigners act here. The difference is... if I remember correctly... in France it is the locals who act this way, and as a tourist there I always played along... but in Taipei it is the foreigners who act this way at all times. The locals just have occassional moments of solitude and silence on the MRT each day. It is slightly worse than having other foreigners being indifferent to me, because it is even more exaggerated... it is more like they have to go out of thier way, which means they aren't just indifferent, they are avoiding! Basically, this means that I can't just approach another foreign girl and chit-chat... or maybe I could, but I'm not sure I have the nerve to be "that girl" who is totally crazy and just breaks the code like that! Yep, I definitely fear that they might look at me like a crazy person... Hmm. So I am really good at following the 'code of conduct'. I can avoid just as well as the rest of them! Since that seems to be the norm... Besides, it might be strange to just approach another foreigner out on the street. I picture it something like this... "Hey, so, uhhh, you look like you speak English too!?" <The approached stranger opens mouth and begins to speak in German...>. Seriously, people.

On the other hand, the locals all seem to be quite helpful, and on many occassions I (or whoever I'm with) have approached strangers on the street with some question, and they have always been very kind, and helpful. Eventually, I am really hoping to take some Chinese language classes, and because the other students will be individuals who don't speak Chinese, I will likely meet some foreign friends there - it is much easier to make conversation with a stranger [and break the code :)] when you have something in common (oh, and the something in common needs to be more than your native language and skin color...).

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