It has been two weeks since I have landed in Taiwan. Since arriving my expectations and opinions on life have been rapidly changing. It seems to me the Taiwanese live a rapid life filled with hard work and discipline. Work days often last 10 hours, and students fill their days with school work and study.
As an American, I have a hard time understanding and relating to the people here in Taiwan. My life has always been a dual focus between my work, and my hobbies. During the day, I may spend 6-8 hours doing school work, then the rest of my time might be learning to fix my car. As a result, the way I think about things is very different than many of the people here and what I place my priorities in is different.
Taiwan is the first country I have traveled to and has revealed a different problem. I am now having difficulty relating to the people back home in the US as well.
That was clear today. I spent 8 hours today with Kent, my friend’s English teacher. He has lived here in Taiwan for 20 years, but was born in Maine and grew up in the US.
At first, I thought the reason I enjoyed the conversation with him so much was the ease in which we could communicate since we both speak English; but it was more than that. He understood me.
I find myself often trying to understand what I am seeing while I am experiencing Taiwanese culture. When I try to relate it to my own culture and discuss with my Taiwanese friends, I have to explain a certain aspect of my culture to them to contrast; like the differences in the school system for instance.
Kent understood what the American school system is like, so we could both discuss and contrast the differences between Taiwanese and American school systems. He had even deeper insight, since he is both a father and a long term resident of the island. This meant we could have a long conversation about the pros/cons of each method of teaching.
I can’t do that with my family and friends back home. That’s because none of them have ever been to Taiwan, and when I am trying to describe my experience here it is difficult to understand. Similar to when I describe American schools to my Taiwanese friends, my American friends/family do not understand what life is like here.
Until today I didn’t realize the importance of really being able to relate with someone. I now understand Sebastian Marshall’s blog post about how lonely he feels sometimes. This path I am taking, the farther along I go and the more distant I get from “normal” life, the more difficulty I will find in having people to relate to.