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How do I put it in a subtle way, so it is less direct? I am never good at soften my tone. I will try to write it as objective as I can, but keep in mind that I am a human being. Being subjective is always a flaw of being human. Anyway, what I want to write is the phenomenon we saw in Taiwan during the month when we brought our kids back to visit their grandparents this year. The phenomenon we saw raised alarm and caused us to question whether we should shorten the length of our stay in Taiwan in the future. Deep down, we wanted our kids to see the best in Taiwan, the Taiwan which we felt so proud of and eagerly wanted to identify ourselves with. So when our kids started to confront us with the contradictions they saw. What could I tell them? A few black sheep! Did they fall for it? The disbelief in my son’s expression said it all. What else could I say? The disturbing phenomenon we saw was the lack of manners, morals and courtesy in the general public especially in the younger generation. I know. Some of you might be shocked at my discovery when most Taiwanese pride themselves in being courteous. However, the actions I saw contradicted with that notion. Was my memory playing a trick on me when these were still considered as good virtues? By the way, since the majority of our stay was in Taipei, I can’t intelligently assess if similar phenomenon happens outside of Taipei.


Maybe I shouldn’t have filled our kids with images of Taiwan based on our memories. Our good old memories, my nostalgic feeling …… I am just being unfair as I compared the past with the present. Time changes, so does the culture. Nothing stays stagnant. What once viewed as good virtue may now be considered as obsolete.


Have I glorified the past? I don’t think so. I have been visiting Taiwan once every two to three years and have seen changes along the way, but this hasn’t’ become a prevalent phenomenon until our last two visits. Maybe subliminally, after having kids, I have somehow changed the way I observe and perceive things.


Can one bad apple spoil the whole bunch? I really doubt it.


So, here it goes. We got plenty of opportunities, though excessive, to teach our kids about manners, morality and courtesy in this trip.


On the public transportation, I saw young able people occupying priority seats and even getting into oral and physical arguments with seniors. I saw young able people ignoring pregnant ladies and parents carrying babies or young children. There was not a sense of sympathy on the face of those young able people. The thought of giving up their seats to the needed ones totally escaped their mind. It is rather uneasy for me to watch the ignorance in those young able people. Was it a failure in education which in turn deteriorates the society? Ignorance begets ignorance. By the way, scientists have found biological evidence that stress and aggression feed off of each other. Maybe that is the cause.  


What have they taught the young people? Is it to be selfish and to always fight to stay at the top in every little single way? So, you see chaos among people. When waiting to pay for the purchase, others will try to get in front of you. When waiting to get off the plane, others from the backseats will push to try to get to the front even though the door is still locked and there is no way out. When waiting to get on the bus, everyone behind you will push you aside, so they can get on the bus first.


What have they taught the young people? Is it to be self-centered and to never admit your wrong doing? Is the society teaching you that if you are rude enough, you can get what you want? What happens to the good citizens who wait for their turn? Nothing, I suppose. Yes, if you courteously wait for your turn, you get nothing. If you courteously wait for your turn, you get nothing done. Being a good citizen gets you nowhere. This is so sad. Maybe you will think that they are just suckers to be taken advantage of.


Why is it that everyone has to keep pushing? We were thought to be fools when people just kept passing ahead of us pulling others’ clothes out of the laundry machine to wash their clothes, ignoring us though we had been waiting in line next to the laundry machine for hours. When asked if the clothes in the laundry machine were theirs, their answers were a consistent NO. Why is it okay to take out others’ laundry, invading others’ privacy? What’s wrong with wasting a minute to wait for the owner to show up? Why is it okay to throw others’ washed clothes into the dryer without the owner’s permission and with the potential of destroying others’ valuable items in the process? Why do we have to physically yank your laundry out of the laundry machine and to resort to quarreling to stop your rude behavior of cutting in line? Where are the civilized people? Where are their manners? Maybe they are just a few black sheep.


Oh, I just thought of something interesting. Once you step on the bus, the bus driver turns into a race car driver, ignoring if you are a small child, a pregnant lady, an old man or a handicapped person who hasn’t got a chance to get in a seat or grab onto something to prevent from falling down. All right, I might have sidetracked a little. This might be something that the Taiwanese have to live with.


Anyway, the list goes on.



Written by Elisa English

On August 1st, 2011 in Minneapolis

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  • wakasui
  • Yes, it's interesting to compare. My coworker's Japanese wife does not like some of the things she sees here, like absence of courtesy, littering, etc. She's not quite convinced if it's good to raise kids in this environment.

    On the other hand, I have other friends who moved back from Japan because of their disagreement with the education system and the social environment. They told me that their son was bullied in school, and the school system did not take bullying seriously.

    Anyway, it's interesting to compare. And I think it's good to guide the kids through this experience. Hopefully they'd come out better realizing and accepting the fact that there will be differences in value between cultures. Of course, whether we agree with their values would be a different matter altogether. :P
  • I don't know if this can be counted as cultural difference. I would say that it is more about the failure of the families and the educational system. We live in a good neighborhood in a very good school district in the US, and the teaching of manners, morality and courtesy are considered highly important in the families (be it Caucasians or other races) we encouonter.

    elisaenglish 於 2011/08/04 11:47 回覆