Nihao's It Going?

It’s Time To Stop Mystifying Asian Culture to Make Yourself Interesting

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If there is one thing I can’t stand about Asia sometimes, it is the amount of Europeans or North Americans who mystify the “orient” or “east”.

I will be the first one to admit I had a fascination with Japanese when I was younger. Hell, when I was 13, my social media name was in Japanese. I was sprouting to become a little weeaboo. Thankfully I outgrew that nonsense, and I didn’t touch on anything to do with Asian culture until I was 18, when I started studying Chinese.

In a way, I used a culture to make myself more interesting, and that is quite weird. “Hey everyone, look, I slightly write Japanese, a langauge 125 million people can understand, aren’t I special?”.

Before I go any further, there is nothing wrong with appreciating a people and culture. You can still enjoy the culture of a place through its literature, music, pop culture or by simply living there.

What I am getting at is using ‘eastern’ culture to make yourself seem more interesting. There are bloggers, vloggers and a lot of influencers who have made a following by talking about life in Asia, and a lot of them are insightful and make great observations.

Tasteful content in Taiwan

One person I enjoy a lot is Daisy. For her, being in Taiwan is secondary to her observations and her genuine ability to be interesting.

When it comes to observations, she mentioned that public transport in Taipei is awesome. I agree wholeheartedly. I would love to make a documentary showing the world just how amazing the MRT is in Taiwan. I want to see a Michael mcConaughey drama about him being an MRT conductor and being all serious and stuff.

There are content creators out there and people in general who try to mystify Taiwan into something mystical. It is a land of “neon lights and weird happenings”. Life is always fast moving and in many ways, it is all hyper-reality. Everything is enhanced because you are foreign to the place you call home and you can interact with it, without ever being part of it.

Not so tasteful content

One of the weirdest videos trying to promote Taiwan was by “DREAM清醒夢LUCID”. This YouTube got a lot of attention two years ago when he was a victim of pig ignorant racism, something that apparently doesn’t exist in Taiwan. I do like some of his content, but the video below felt like it was trying so hard to be edgy and orientalist.

I don’t recognize this Taipei, and I don’t think many people would. It is just a way to sell a more alternative image of Taipei that incorporates sex, martial arts, quick transitions and a bad microphone for recording.

Content creators like Dream boy here aren’t really the issue for me though. I can respect this guy because at least he can speak Mandarin and has content that isn’t all about “neon’ Taipei, just this video.

The issue (not the homeless people magazine though)

The issue I have is with regular joes you meet in Asia that link Asia to their own weird desires and concepts of finding themselves. I have discussed in the past about how a lot of European and North American men make the assumption that Asian women are nothing more than fetishes and tend to believe they are easier, and more desirable.

I have also discussed how many expats out here tend to become jaded when their fantasy of life in the orient turns on them because their life is built their own preconceived notions of what life is like in Asia, while not accepting it for what it actually is.

I don’t know how I keep running into people who keep bringing me back down to the level of seeing Asia as a playground. It is not a place to live, but just a transit stop before moving onto other things, but the problem is a lot of people tend to become too comfortable, and instead of settling down or moving on, they just continue to live their life in transit. With that, comes a denial of reality.

It doesn’t matter if these people have been in Asia for one day or 10 years, they will always want to see Asia through the lens of East and West and how their lives become more interesting because they live in a country where they don’t speak the local language.

It is weird to hear people brag about the fact they can’t speak the local language of the place they live. People enjoy their fantasies, until it forces them back to reality.

There are a lot of Mandarin learners that will tell you how their lives will be better from learning Mandarin, but how is learning the language of 1.4 billion people going to help you distinguish yourself?

The fact that people enjoy the praise of being not ethnically Han, and being able to speak Mandarin is weird. It is a langauge, not finding the Higgs Boson. Feel proud of learning a tough language, but don’t use it as a way to make you look cool or interesting.

I will admit, for a time learning Mandarin, I thought it made me more interesting. And that was wrong and I acknowledge it. I have first-hand experience of the ignorance that is to take a language, culture and people, and using it to enhance your own standing with family, friends, strangers and netizens.

It is a load of nonsense and the only people who indulge in it are people insecure, like I was, or need to show off someone else’s culture to make themselves feel interesting.

Don’t fall into that trap and just enjoy where you are and what you do. Like I said, you can study Mandarin, learn about Chinese culture and society, and still not use it to make yourself seem more interesting.

Your observations and perspective on life around you are interesting, not the fact you are to be observed in an ‘oriental’ place.

 

10 Replies to “It’s Time To Stop Mystifying Asian Culture to Make Yourself Interesting”

  1. Unlike other Asian countries who for the most part do not give a crap what foreigners think of them, in Taiwan there is a whole additional dimension to this because as it is a young, politically isolated and in the West, often not even recognized country, many Taiwanese can be very insecure about their identity and are absolutely starving for some positive validation. So some people, like those idiots from Stop Kiddin Studios, have built an entire business out of plopping Whitey in front of a camera and having him regurgitate the usual superficial and romanticized crap about Taiwan (“Wahhh Taiwanese so polite!!! Real Chinese culture!! Beef noodles!”), which then goes viral among local Taiwanese and media as feel good fluff and gets the creators more views and thus cash.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some of it is really cringy. I want to see content where people explain things like it is cheaper, but less healthy to eat out when compared to eating healthy from home because groceries are expensive and explaining why and maybe even interviewing some people on the topic.

      Of course, the kind of content that works here is for validation for Taiwanese, and maybe for some foreign nationals to be monkeys.

      Like

  2. My goodness thank you for taking the time to get off your high horse and write this. Who knew that I was being ignorant both by not learning the language and learning the language at the same time. It’s post like these that stop people from traveling in the first place because it makes it seem that no matter what you do you’re always going to do it wrong. If you find and point out things that are different then you are fetishizing or making the place seem more exotic. However if you don’t admire these things or talk about how they’re different than your simply as you said denying reality. It must be nice to sit at home write something that no matter what other people say you will always be right because you’ve covered all the ground. What would you think if in this comment I said” if you respond to this comment you’re clearly insecure about people criticizing you and if you don’t respond to this comment that you’re clearly denying reality”

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    1. No, you missed the point completely, you can enjoy life in Taiwan as a “foreigner” but you should take part in society and not have to show it off as being something different, but as being something that foreign-nationals should be able to do. My point about learning Chinese is that it is a language, not a lifestyle or a reason to make yourself interesting.

      I mean surely if someone from Taiwan goes to the United States and and doesn’t speak a word of English, but feels the right to fetishize and distort the place to their liking, that is kind of weird. Difference is, foreign nationals in Taiwan get away with that in soceity because many just depend on locals who speak English to basically guide them and their life, rather than actually being part of soceity by engaging with it in a manner that isn’t being bent solely for your need.

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