What an awful thread

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Re: What an awful thread

Postby Homey » 22 Apr 2012, 20:04

Out of all the threads on the flob, you get offended by this one? Wow.

It's just stating the obvious truth. Go sit somewhere and watch people walk by. It's like watching a funeral procession. When I first landed in Taipei years ago, my impression was that there must be a law against smiling. It struck me really hard, and still does. It's quite an obvious perception. No reason to get a sour face and be offended when someone posts a thread about it.
Why not???

If you are what you eat, then I guess that makes me "fast, cheap, and easy"!
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Re: What an awful thread

Postby tomthorne » 22 Apr 2012, 21:29

I would never choose to stay in a place where I considered everyone to be miserable. That would be bizarre behaviour unless one gets some kind of weird thrill from living with morbidly unhappy people. In fact, it would be so strange that I think it would call for some kind of professional counselling. "Doctor, I choose to live my life surrounded by people I think are terribly sad. Why do I willingly inflict this on myself?" - tricky question to answer.
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Re: What an awful thread

Postby Homey » 22 Apr 2012, 22:06

tomthorne wrote:I would never choose to stay in a place where I considered everyone to be miserable. That would be bizarre behaviour unless one gets some kind of weird thrill from living with morbidly unhappy people. In fact, it would be so strange that I think it would call for some kind of professional counselling. "Doctor, I choose to live my life surrounded be people I think are terribly sad. Why do I willingly inflict this on myself?" - tricky question to answer.


I don't think I would either, but many times in life one has to do things that they might not ordinarily choose to do. If it was up to me, I would be filthy rich and live far from dirty polluted cities. On the other hand, I am quite thankful for my life and I find no shortage of reasons to be happy.

This is the great thing about teaching. Kids have yet to fully conditioned by the society and are not afraid to smile or express other emotions. There's been countless times when my students have cheered me up just by walking in the classroom with a smile. I like to think I've done the same for them over the years too. It's infectious and spreads unconsciously and we don't lose a thing by giving someone a simple smile.

We often make things much much worse than they have to be by resisting them instead of simply smiling at whatever arises and accepting it with open arms. A smile is not only a great way to great people, but a way of greeting all our experiences and challenges. We can close down, tense up, put on the sour poker face, or we can relax into the experience and smile. I know with out a doubt where my happiness comes from, and I know that I can be happy or miserable anyplace on the planet. Happiness is an inside job, and a smile is natural expression and willingness to share this with others.
Why not???

If you are what you eat, then I guess that makes me "fast, cheap, and easy"!
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Re: What an awful thread

Postby tomthorne » 22 Apr 2012, 22:18

Homey wrote:
tomthorne wrote:I would never choose to stay in a place where I considered everyone to be miserable. That would be bizarre behaviour unless one gets some kind of weird thrill from living with morbidly unhappy people. In fact, it would be so strange that I think it would call for some kind of professional counselling. "Doctor, I choose to live my life surrounded be people I think are terribly sad. Why do I willingly inflict this on myself?" - tricky question to answer.


I don't think I would either, but many times in life one has to do things that they might not ordinarily choose to do. If it was up to me, I would be filthy rich and live far from dirty polluted cities. On the other hand, I am quite thankful for my life and I find no shortage of reasons to be happy.

This is the great thing about teaching. Kids have yet to fully conditioned by the society and are not afraid to smile or express other emotions. There's been countless times when my students have cheered me up just by walking in the classroom with a smile. I like to think I've done the same for them over the years too. It's infectious and spreads unconsciously and we don't lose a thing by giving someone a simple smile.

We often make things much much worse than they have to be by resisting them instead of simply smiling at whatever arises and accepting it with open arms. A smile is not only a great way to great people, but a way of greeting all our experiences and challenges. We can close down, tense up, put on the sour poker face, or we can relax into the experience and smile. I know with out a doubt where my happiness comes from, and I know that I can be happy or miserable anyplace on the planet. Happiness is an inside job, and a smile is natural expression and willingness to share this with others.


IME, which is clearly the polar opposite of yours, the Taiwanese are a pretty happy bunch and frequently smile at me. I'm not sure why this doesn't happen to you when surely your inner happiness would encourage them to. Compared to living in London I'd say that they are a lot happier than those commuters. Where are you living and have you any ideas why everyone you see looks like they are at a funeral? In Nankan it definitely isn't the case for me.
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Re: What an awful thread

Postby Homey » 22 Apr 2012, 23:05

That's great I'm glad you see only happy shiny people! :)

Despite what many on the flob seem to believe, there is a lot more to Taiwan then Taipei, Koushuing and Taichung. Taipei is not a good representation of the rest of Taiwan. In fact in many respects it's a different culture entirely.

Yes, It's all relative, compared to London maybe your area has a lot more people that are willing to smile. Compared to China, Taiwan is also much better in this respect. Compared to most all the places in the world I've lived in or traveled to, it's much worse. It all depends on the comparison I guess. I notice a HUGE difference in the people whenever I travel to Taipei, not only do more people smile but they are willing/able to speak English. This starts the moment I get on the HSR. A completely different group of people.

Not all of us can, or choose to live in Taipei, and Taipei is NOT the same as the rest of Taiwan.

I have some good neighbors. The folks across the hall have brought me fruit many many times, and could be considered good semi-friendly people. In more than four years of living in this apartment I have never once been able to get a smile out of them. This doesn't change the fact that I have and always will greet them with a smile. I never once said, or felt that they are bad people, quite the opposite actually, but something about the culture here forbids or discourages them from ever smiling. I don't know if they are truly happy or not, they may be quite happy and just following the society norms. Regardless, I don't lose a thing by greeting them with a warm smile. If I had seen a smile instead of all the fruit I have been given through the years, I would think Taiwan was the land of smiles.

Instead I think Taiwan is the land of fruit. The abundance, variety and the quality is beyond anything I've seen, and it's always a good gift.
Why not???

If you are what you eat, then I guess that makes me "fast, cheap, and easy"!
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Re: What an awful thread

Postby Steviebike » 22 Apr 2012, 23:17

Instead I think Taiwan is the land of fruit. The abundance, variety and the quality is beyond anything I've seen, and it's always a good gift.


Amen to that.
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Re: What an awful thread

Postby superking » 23 Apr 2012, 01:51

I suppose the real point is that old Taiwanese people are not inherently more miserable or unhappy than old people anywhere in the world. Most old people 'look' a certain way from an outside perspective, just like drunks 'look' a certain way. Do old people in Estonia bumble down the street clicking their heels? Are the decrepit of the Gabon all tickety boo 24/7? Would you even know, based on the assertion that emotional processing of faces is both categorical AND race specific, how to categorize the facial emotions of Asian people? Highly doubtful. You might think you do, but are you sure? Mind playing tricks...? Are you even sure you see Asian faces the way other Asians see them? So MANY variables...
The thing is for the lay flob poster that you wouldn't specifically say in your home country, 'old people here look miserable as a function of being from this country.' If it was implied in the original thread or not I can't remember. But using the label + the country position is self-defeatist, and likely not what you would do in the country of your origin, or even something you wanted for yourself when you got that visa stamped and you packed teddy into a safe place in your suitcase.. At home you might delineate groups of people, but you wouldn't say, "English teenage girls are all..." "English men are all..." You'd drop the country name. Ok they might become "girls are..." but is nationality an implied variable any more?

As always I never really am clear what my point is. I had a few drinks that night, as I have disclosed to yon Stevie, lord of the bikes, but I suspect I was on to something. The blustering that has surrounded it, rather than the silence which would deafeningly say, "gawd Sk, you is such a twat," tips me the wink that I may have hit a nerve.
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Re: What an awful thread

Postby yuli » 23 Apr 2012, 06:52

superking wrote:[...] old Taiwanese people are not inherently more miserable or unhappy than old people anywhere in the world. [...] Are you even sure you see Asian faces the way other Asians see them? [...] The thing is for the lay flob poster that you wouldn't specifically say in your home country, 'old people here look miserable as a function of being from this country.' [...] I may have hit a nerve.

:thumbsup: to all those points

On a related tangent: I've often heard from "Westerners" that Japanese people are poker faced (unless they are women in a service job who wear an incessant smile, like a mask). One European acquaintance who started a small business even fired a receptionist because "when nobody is there and she just sits there she has this really dumb face". Guess she wasn't up to the job of keeping that service smile pasted to her face even when no customers were there.

Why should people smile when they are not communicating anything to anybody? If you ask me, conserving energy and changing one's face as the situation requires (instead of wearing a mask) is a sign of intelligence. Do "Europeans" or "Arabs" or "Americans" walk about with smiles on their faces when nobody watches? (They didn't appear to last time I was there. But if they did maybe we should/would assume they all must be stoned?)

Here is my gratuitous assessment: observing something that seems different from what one is used to or expects to see (based on prior experience) is likely a sign of intelligence. Thinking about why things are the way they seem is likely a sign of intelligence. Assuming people don't smile in public because their lives suck could well be a sign of limited experience (onesided experience that makes one project things in an unrealistic manner is also "limited expeirence" in my books).

(An aside: people who are interested in the faces of old people, anywhere in the world, for whatever reason, may want to consider the question "do old people generally wear false teeth?" Because whether they do or not has a big influence on what their faces look like, and depending on where in the world one observes people, one will get vastly different answers, statistically speaking... :doh: )

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Re: What an awful thread

Postby Omniloquacious » 23 Apr 2012, 08:20

Though there is quite some difference between our perceptions on this subject, SK, I give you full marks for your erudite reference to Melville's "this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath."
If I prioritized the acquisition of wealth above other purposes in life, I might still have come to Taiwan to study Chinese, but I doubt I would have remained here.
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Re: What an awful thread

Postby trubadour » 23 Apr 2012, 08:46

Seems strange how many posters here seem to be able to accept that people have, say, that fixed commuter face in London but can't accept that people have a similarly fixed face thing going on here! Or is it just that we are not allowed to point this out?

It all comes off like a strange case of exceptionalism to object to this particular generalisation. If it is that generalisations of this nature seem unreasonable, that is one thing. And it's an understandable objection. Indeed, the worst thing about observations of this kind is that they can be part of a barrier between a person and the culture and the people of the place in which they live. We should indeed be weary of this.

Still, in this case, understanding seems to come off like a double edged sword. If the task is understanding: is it acceptable that someone uses generalisations gathered from experience? Probably the answer must be 'yes,' but with at least two caveats: that they should beware of drawing false conclusions and that they aught to try to evaluate the validity of said conclusions by other means (but what further means are there but more observation and knowledge obtained by other sources).

My conclusion is that the OP in the other thread was doing just that. The whole thing started with an observation regarding a photograph and when a pattern was identified it was subsequently shared and discussed. If the OP in the other thread was a little naive in thinking that his opinion mattered, perhaps he did the right thing by bringing it here and sharing it.

Indeed, I think that those who criticise could probably be found guilty of making the very same kind of generalisations and could be criticised in turn in the same way. It is, in fact, the natural way of understanding anything.
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