Taiwan_Student wrote:These little incidents add up a bit... So it does put me in the scrooge mood. Yes, I must try to not lump all that together...
I have felt sorry about given people the scrooge experience... On the whole within my community I do just fine. People are friendly and helpful. The local shops actually think I know my Chinese numbers well enough and now start throwing Taiwanese at me. That is what a like. A challenge and acceptance.
It really riled me up too that I had traveled so far to learn Mandarin and no one would speak to me in Mandarin. So I feel for you. I used to always say to myself, "if they want to learn English, go to the states!" But getting angry only gets you even more depressed. Your anger won't change what is obviously the cultural behavior of millions.
For me, I resolved the whole issue by going "deep cover" after moving from the south to Taipei, and I pretended to be from a Latin American country for a while. This is stressful and you feel terrible the whole time, so I don't recommend it. You can't mix social groups etc etc. I am just thankful that when I "came out" to my closer Taiwanese friends, they were accepting of why I did it. And luckily, we were so used to speaking Mandarin that it was too late to switch to English at that point.
Upon returning to the US, I had a couple of epiphanies. First, Chinese people here are generally much more willing to speak Mandarin. Probably because of how hard it is for them to speak English here, so they are happy to meet a friendly Mandarin speaker. However, second, even Chinese/Taiwanese people in the US sometimes do this wierd thing of insisting on speaking English to someone they know speaks Mandarin. So what I realized is that Taiwanese people are just acting out this wierd self-conscious nervousness about their own foreign language abilities. Seeing someone they expect to speak Mandarin poorly instead turn around and speak fluent Mandarin wierds them out. It makes them think they should be capable of speaking fluent English. Then they proceed to speak English to the one person who reminds them of this fact, which is you, the one person who has no interest in speaking English to them.
What I've also learned is that there's a bit of language Tai chi wrestling that happens at the beginning of conversations. You can't look TOO eager to speak Mandarin, because they pick right up on your eagerness as an excuse to do the opposite. If anything, I would recommend trying a strategy of overwhelming them with rapid fluent English as if you have absolutely no interest in speaking Mandarin. You might want to casually throw in a Mandarin phrase here or there to let them know you in fact do speak Mandarin. This might produce the opposite effect of making them feel inadequate in their English and want to return to safe territory- Mandarin.
Or you can do the opposite which is speak Mandarin, but throw in English phrases here and there, to let them know you're just speaking what comes naturally to you, instead of being overly eager to speak Mandarin. They'll probably respond in kind with a mixed Chinglish. Just act as if language is a non-issue to you. Slowly increase the Mandarin content of the conversation. Eventually nature will take its course. Their English sucks, and eventually Mandarin is the only option for a real conversation.
To really survive in Taiwanese culture, I realized (too late because I had already left) that you have to become meta about Taiwanese culture and really analyze the unspoken rules that drive their behavior. Then, after you're done getting angry at how stupid it is, you need to manipulate those rules to make you happy. Someone in the parenting forum said they teach their kids that their kids can't control other people and so they teach their kids the only thing they're in control of is how they respond. I think that's great advice for kids and adults. Learn the rules of the situation, take control, and make it work for you.