Cultural Observation #6: From a Foreigner's Perspective

    The Taiwanese have a fondness for Americans. It has resulted in a few free dishes (courtesy of our favorite restaurants), confidence boosting compliments, an eagerness to be helpful, and an outpouring of general kindness. The younger generation thinks Americans are either radically liberal like Lady Gaga or live fabulously glamorous lives in Hollywood, and since both are true of me (right), I’ve been getting my celebrity on lately.

     It’s not unusual for strangers to approach and ask for a photo. It’s also not unusual for creepers to bust out their thousand dollar Cannon which everyone seems to own (I need to find the black market they are selling those things on) and indiscreetly snap photos as we go by. The paparazzi love me. Ok, I exaggerate.

      But not really. We made national news. 

When we toured the island we were quite the spectacle in some of the more obscure towns that never see foreigners. The best was when we stopped at Ruisui for dinner at 7-11. As we ate our microwave curry in front of a large window facing the road, people would pull their cars up to the window and stare. We were the drive through entertainment for the night. One mom even rolled down the windows so her kids could hang out of the car and point at us like zoo animals.

I never appreciated America’s diversity. It's the big copper pot which melds together every nationality and produces mixes within mixes of those different nationalities. We are used to diversity, it’s nothing new. There is contrast. There is red hair, blonde hair, brown hair, black hair. Blue eyes, green eyes, hazel eyes, brown eyes. The possibilities are as endless as the people—each one so apparently different. It’s not the same here.

    Everyone has beautiful almond eyes with straight black hair, pale skin, full lips, and thin bodies. I have never spent this much time out of the states, and it has almost become shocking for me to see a foreigner—and I am one! (Granted, I non-vainly spend more time looking at others than myself.) But I'm always struck by how large a foreigner's nose and eyes are, or by the rosy undertones in their skin or lightness of their hair. I forget that I'm an out-of-place spectacle myself, and after spending so much time here, I have become very fond of Asian beauty. It is soft and creamy, and warm, where as I look in the mirror and seem sharp faced with awkwardly proportioned features. I guess I just need to get back to the States where I’m just another fish in the sea of diversity. Big Blue--I'm coming home! 


  1. Some people may read this and think,"oh Tori...I am sure it's not that extreme." Well by the mouth of two or three witnesses... it is true. I especially enjoyed the part about us being animals at the zoo behind a glass enclosure!

  2. That's exactly what happened when we went to Hawaii once and there were a bunch of Japanese tourists...they kept taking pictures with Tess because they couldn't believe that her hair was blond and curly! And I, too, have started to appreciate Asian beauty the more time I spend around my Asian half of the family....the women never seem to age!