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Victims of "Microaggressions"

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Re: Victims of "Microaggressions"

Postby Petrichor » 07 May 2012, 07:27

When I think of what non-whites in Britain have to endure and hear people here complaining about comments on using chopsticks or people saying hello in the street, well, I'm (for once) speechless.
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Re: Victims of "Microaggressions"

Postby tommy525 » 07 May 2012, 08:20

some pointers im getting so far:

TWnese are thin skinned, westerners are thin skinned as well.

Taiwanese are private people who do not hassle fellow taiwanese but seem to hv a nasty habit of feeling enabled to ask white people the most intimate and inane questions without a thought that they may be offended or made to feel less then happy (much as they themselves would feel under the same circumstances).

Being asked inane and insane questions while white in TAiwan seems to be par for the course and you have to find a way to deal with it internally as it doesnt seem to be going away any time soon.
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Re: Victims of "Microaggressions"

Postby touduke » 07 May 2012, 08:29

the whole notion of "asking private questions to break the ice" goes South completely once you notice (like I do) that in a private setup, like the already mentioned extended-family such questions are seldom asked.
During my decade old marriage I have almost never been asked a private question not by the elder nor the younger generation. If I ask questions about their lives, about them, the question is kind of answered, the situation gets a little awkward and then the topic is changed to "chi bao le mei" or similar. Granted maybe my in-laws are a little strange, but they are definitely Taiwanese. The loud environment, all the noise, the crowdedness, the whole setup of family reunions no matter in the house or outside is designed to oppress "personal conversations" anyway because it makes people feel uncomfortable. The hundred times shouted "gong xi fa cai" replaces the real personal contact.
It makes it difficult to be comfortable with my family here, because they are so damn nonpersonal.
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Re: Victims of "Microaggressions"

Postby ironlady » 07 May 2012, 09:28

touduke wrote:Other than Chris, ironlady seems to have a complete “off” day.
Why are you here", "What are you doing here?", "How much do you pay for rent?", "Why can you speak English?", "Wow! Your English is so good!", "How long until you go home?", "How often do you visit home?", "Can you read and write English?", "Can I see your ID?", "You don't look British, I don't believe you", or "You should find a British girlfriend"

No, these are not norms of polite conversation in Taiwan! You can check for yourself by asking Taiwanese people this kind of questions. Try to do this when microaggression casts his ugly shadow on your existence. Just once!
Try the following: enter a noodle store and go to the next person (unknown to you) and ask (smiling and nodding your head) in Chinese: “are you originally from Taipei? Oh Pingdong – how often do you visit home. How much money do you make these days? Are you married?”


This is the bread and butter of interaction with Chinese speakers you don't know, and if you have a shred of grace, it works like a charm. I would guess from the tone of your posts in this thread that the very large chip on your shoulder may be getting in the way of your interactions.


The key word here is "people you don't know" Taiwanese (just like we Westerners) can be irritated or puzzled by about any kind of verbal exchange with about anybody (and especially a unknown person or a non-Chinese). Try to chat up a unknown boy in his 20s in a restaurant with any kind of questions. Chances are that after the fifth question he will look frightened, start to tremble and a moment later you might see him dashing for the door.


I do this all the time. I can't do it in English in the West, which is one of the things I miss most from Taiwan. But in Chinese (even here), I can chat up anybody, anytime (and usually do). I have NEVER encountered a reaction such as the one you describe, no matter the age, gender or role of the person involved, assuming always that they understand Mandarin, and I've been chatting up Chinese speakers just about every chance I've had for 30 years.

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Re: Victims of "Microaggressions"

Postby Petrichor » 07 May 2012, 09:40

I thought of something to say - inane or not :wink: .

Differences bring out the stupid in people. I've done it myself. I once spent an evening with Roy Castle's (probably not internationally known British entertainer) son and behaved like an idiot. If you live somewhere where you look noticeably different you can't expect people not to react to that.

I'm just a newbie still on honeymoon here but I do know the rough side of racism. My eldest son had his arm broken in a racist incident while I was living in another country. I do know what people are talking about when they complain about people treating you differently. But you can expect human beings not to behave like human beings. It isn't a 'Taiwanese' thing.

Racism is ingrained and insidious. I taught English for many years and it took me a long time to realise how racist English teachers can be. I gradually realised that the only informal conversations my colleagues, and I suppose me too up to that point, had with their students were about the differences between them - what's it like in your country, what did you do in your country, what festivals blah blah blah. They thought of their students as the 'other' most of the time and the kind of conversations they had with them were completely different from the conversations we had amongst ourselves. And it's the same here. You read many examples of casual racism about Taiwanese people on these boards.

Most people, especially on first meetings, can't mentally get past that fact if a person looks different to them. And it makes them feel nervous and unsettled. A Taiwanese friend told me once that because children used to be punished for making mistakes in English class, the first thing the average Taiwanese person thinks when they see a white face is oh no! So they might say and do stupid things. Then there is the prestige of being able to speak English, so sometimes people want to take the opportunity to practise and/or show off.

I wouldn't call an act of unconscious and unintended racism aggressive. Aggression implies understanding of what you're doing. I think if such acts are interpreted in that way it's unfortunate and unnecessary. It seems to me that there are many old timers here who have made their peace with the fact that there are occasional downsides to being white in an Asian country. In my experience these are far outweighed by the positives. What's the saying? You can't change the world, you can only change yourself.
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Re: Victims of "Microaggressions"

Postby Mucha Man » 07 May 2012, 09:48

For me it is simple. If I have a hangover or a cold or just want to be left alone i consider these questions a form of assault. When i feel like a normal himan being i treat them as ironlady and others describe them: conversation starters and social lubricants.

Living in taiwan can be a bit like living in a hostel. Same conversation over and over but really what do you expect? Everything gets tiresome but that doesnt mean the 100th german you've met on the road is an asshole for asking where you are from.
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Re: Victims of "Microaggressions"

Postby Confuzius » 07 May 2012, 10:26

mike029 wrote:
In terms of the Hispanics, maybe you should, a tremendous amount of them do not speak English and are in the country illegally, putting that aside....
In the US, you see a dude in his 20's who is clearly Asian...chances are hes American.
In Taiwan, you see a dude in his 20's who is clearly Caucasian, chances are.. (I'll let you try to fill in the blank here)


This is the difference between you and I. I don't assume I know someone else's situation, let alone their personal immigration status (or lack thereof), and honestly, I don't care because it's none of my business.


No, I think the difference is probably more of high horses and PC crap, since I actually do not do that either. HOWEVER, having lived in AZ, southern California and NV for years, you sometimes begin to wonder if the US actually won that war years ago...

I don't walk around Arizona carding Hispanics in broken Spanish threatening citizen's arrest.


Of course I do this, all the time, from my apt in Taichung :doh:

I look Hispanic and would not appreciate some idiot doing that to me.


My wife is Cuban, never carded (she isnt an FOB and speaks English fluently though....) nice play of your race card, here's a couple :boo-hoo: :boo-hoo: :boo-hoo: for you as well in case you need

[/quote]Being asked "what are you doing in Taiwan" once every three hours feels like that. It feels like they are checking to see if I have a purpose here. According to you, that means that people here have the right to assume they know my situation here and treat me like a tourist every second of every day because, hey, I'm a foreigner so I must be a tourist because by percentage, there are more tourists. For all they know, I could have been born here. There are plenty of people around here that claimed ROC citizenship and they must be fed up with this. **...and cue SatTV to wave his shenfenzheng around and claim how he's a true local**[/quote]

Unlike the US....you do not stick out for looking Hispanic, here, by looking EITHER white or hispanic...you do. HUGE difference, people can either deal with it or keep crying like a bunch of babies.
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Re: Victims of "Microaggressions"

Postby Flakman » 07 May 2012, 10:41

Most people "bothering" me are simply bored and want to talk. I actually am less annoyed with questions in Taiwan than I was in Singapore. At first, being naive, I wasn't really catching the drift of questions during conversation until I asked a friend as I thought was a little odd. She explained most Singaporeans want to know your financial status (especially any women talking to you).

Where do you live? (they wanted specifics like which housing complex) [Reason: to judge how much you could afford]
Do you drive here? [Reason: asked in such a way to even see if you might have company furnished car or driver]
What kind of posting do you have? [Reason: looking for your expat status]
Will see you at American Club? [Almost always company furnished membership]
Where is your office located? [downtown financial distric most expensive]

I viewed that as "aggressive." Over time I made friends with those who weren't trying to be so tied to financial status...but it was difficult for me.

I much rather face some general questions from some old Taiwanes guys in the countryside over a cup of tea. They are just passing the time as am I...
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Re: Victims of "Microaggressions"

Postby Confuzius » 07 May 2012, 10:43

Muzha Man wrote:For me it is simple. If I have a hangover or a cold or just want to be left alone i consider these questions a form of assault. When i feel like a normal himan being i treat them as ironlady and others describe them: conversation starters and social lubricants.

Living in taiwan can be a bit like living in a hostel. Same conversation over and over but really what do you expect? Everything gets tiresome but that doesnt mean the 100th german you've met on the road is an asshole for asking where you are from.


I think this was a great post!

In my neighborhood, I do have to CONSTANTLY nod, smile and say "nihao/liho" to every person who stares at me while walking my dog, going to 711, whatever. Most of the time its fine and I end up chatting it up with people. People stare at broad shouldered, big nosed, shaved head, tattooed and earringed mr. whitey here (me) so when I see them stare I nod, say a greeting then their face lights up and they all happy. When people are rude and STARRRRRE like in a coffee shop, I actually wave to them! They then realize they were being rude and either smile and wave back or avert their eyes and pretend they were not looking (after a little 'startle' look across their face and jolt through their body when I wave).

But on the days I am in a bad mood and do not want to talk to anyone...I do not play mr. nice foreigner and just keep my head down. But of course, thats my attitude, not theirs.
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Re: Victims of "Microaggressions"

Postby Homey » 07 May 2012, 11:15

Most of the time, it really doesn't bother me. You just have to look at the people and their backgrounds/experience and you understand it. This is what they know, and most of them have perfectly good intentions but have never been taught basic social skills or awareness of other peoples feelings. Some are just assholes, or acting like assholes in that moment.

The ACTIONS that are dangerous, or outright harmful to other humans or animals, now that tends to bother me. The violence towards women, gang violence on one unarmed man, the driving, violence and cruelty towards dogs and other animals. The reluctance to call police/ambulance or otherwise assist when they see someone lying in street trapped under a scooter. These actions are completely different story.

The words and questions are only a problem if we make them a problem. Often they just don't know what to say. Even in the west, talking about the weather can be a little silly but I guess at least it's impersonal and thus less threatening. I've never had strangers in the west ask me where I live or how much money I make. Taiwanese aren't too shy to ask personal questions, although many get shy when you reverse roles. Most of the questions although rude, are harmless. It's all relative.
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