Wait, Are ‘We’ the Assholes?

16 01 2011

*disclaimer, obviously this doesn’t apply to all people all the time, but it probably has applied to everyone as some time or another,  don’t get your knickers in a twist.  But if you do, know that I don’t give a crap. :D*

Do English Speakers Have a Bad Attitude?

That’s the thought I had suddenly while at the little shop down the street.  I was just getting some bbq-ed pork for my wonton soup, and the guy at the shop was typical Taiwanese people excited that I could say anything in Chinese.  Now usually  I get annoyed, because I haven’t said anything really but they go on and on about how good my Chinese is.  Now why would a compliment bother me?

Well it bugs me because they often go on and on about how amazing my Chinese is, and it gets to me because I hadn’t really said anything interesting or good.  Like, Hi can I have 200nt of chopped bbq pork? Wtf?

Then it hit me, wait.  Isn’t it nice that Taiwanese people are so encouraging, it’s not that they think we’re morons that can’t do anything better.  They are genuinely thrilled that we are even bothering.  So many people never learn any Chinese, lets face it, it’s not the easiest language to learn.

And besides, what’s the attitude of people back home?  When people living in Canada and The US run into immigrants who have broken English, most people judge the fuck out of them.  Sometimes people are just rude and cruel, no patience and often they mock people for their imperfect English.  What’s wrong with them?  Why don’t they just learn to speak the language already?  Ignorant, piece of crap foreigners.

Whoa… Man think about how discouraging it would be to be mocked by locals every time that you went out.  Every instance where you attempted to communicate with someone in another language, you’re ridiculed and treated like a second class citizen.

How arrogant are we as a people, that we think everyone must learn our language.  And if they don’t do it to our standard then they are worthless garbage.  Instead of being kind, understanding and encouraging of people who are making an effort.  We put them down, we mock, and even worse deep down we feel like there is something wrong with them, that they are worth less or even worse worthless.  Everyone has thought it at one point.  Geez look at them, why do they all group together and always socialize and mingle with people from their country who speak their language?

Well speaking as someone who  lives in a strange country, with odd customs and foreign languages, it’s a difficult situation.  I live here, and the majority of my friends are westerns.  Not because I can’t speak Chinese, I can.  Not because I don’t like local people, I do.  Not because I don’t want local friends, I’ll be friends with anyone cool.  So why?  Well one, work through work I make a lot of foreigner contacts.  Also,it’s hard living in a different culture the food is different and strange, the people have different values and priorities.  There are simple and intrinsic things that you just don’t have in common that you do with people who come from a similar cultural background.

What it boils down to, and is really interesting to me is that Taiwanese people are so kind and encouraging.  They rarely criticize and mock us foreigners when we try to speak Chinese.  I don’t feel shy speaking Chinese to locals, but I hate speaking in front of other foreigners.  Why is that? Because my own people are for more likely to be assholes and to mock my language and mistakes.  I always thought locals were kinda being assholes, assuming we’re all too stupid to learn and that when any of us are able to communicate, even a little, that it’s tantamount to a dog learning to quote Shakespeare.  But no, most of them are excited and pleased that you’re trying, recognizing that it’s hard as hell to learn another language.  They are trying to be encouraging, not condescending….

What does that say about us?  That we’re insulted or annoyed by their compliments (I’m not the only one who has expressed annoyance at this), that we used to think they were lazy when they lived in our countries?  Turns out, we’re the assholes.

Just a thought really.  🙂



19 responses

16 01 2011
Fuckin' Dave


Also, Mags I love you, and not just for the great tits. 🙂

22 01 2011

thank’s, you ass 😉

16 01 2011

Wow. Incredibly insightful, Magda. Life changing read. Thank you.

22 01 2011

Thanks, 🙂 It was one of those things that just hit me.. like wooooah… I’m a dick for being annoyed.

16 01 2011
Peg Vince

Interesting! I was so pleased when I was there with you, that the people where so nice, and tried so hard to help me find my way. When I asked someone how to get somewhere and they could not help me, they would take me to another store with someone that could speak better English. That is why I tried to learn to say thank you in their language. Man, they where so pleased that I tried to say THANK YOU in Chinese. They did not seem to care that I said it wrong, they just loved that I tried. Every Chinese person I talked to, that knew you, told me how wonderful your Chinese was, and that you spoke like a native. They all seemed to be very proud of you.
I am so glad you now see it too.
love mom

22 01 2011

Thanks Mummy, though I hardly speak like a native that’s just people being very generous 🙂

Love you!

17 01 2011

Of course we are the assholes; it’s the defining trait of Westerners. We firmly believe that we are perched solidly on top of every aspect of the world and why the hell can’t everyone just do it our way? Y’know, without ever educating ourselves about our way or any other way for that matter.

I, myself, am ashamed that I am paid so well for the job I do while I have to work side by side with local people who speak 3 or more languages. Granted, most of them have had these languages around them since they were young but that only accounts for Mandarin/Cantonese/Hakka/Min-Nan. Take any three of those and toss English, German, French, Japanese and what-have-you in there and my shitty Mandarin and French (with impeccable English!) looks sad indeed.

22 01 2011

I’m not ashamed of the wages we earn, there is a demand and I/we fill it. Every single one of the people who are bitter about it, would take the opportunity if they had it. We didn’t create the system nor the demand for English, hell if WW2 had gone a little differently we’d all be speaking German and Japanese. 🙂

But I do agree that a sight lot more respect is in order. The fact that virtually every person (in Taiwan anyway) speaks at least 2-3 languages and a smattering of others. The whole English speakers/teachers business doesn’t make us special in the slightest, we just happen to be lucky enough to fill a current need.

17 01 2011

Great post, Magda! I really enjoyed this one, and I think you’re onto something with this idea.

Scott (from the Forumosa HH).

22 01 2011

Thanks Scott! And thanks for the drink at the happy hour, so exciting my first ever patronage :D.

17 01 2011

I completely agree. Taiwanese people are certainly friendlier and more encouraging about speaking Chinese than the Japanese people I knew in Japan regarding foreigners speaking Japanese.

I think it’s hard for all people to comprehend how difficult and challenging it can be to live overseas when you don’t speak the language or understand the culture. However, the vast majority of westerners are privileged to live in countries that others want to immigrate to, not that they necessarily want to leave… so I think Westerners don’t get as much exposure to being open and accepting of differences.

That said, one of the things I loved about living in Taipei is how open, friendly and accepting the Taiwanese people are of western foreigners. Although we all know that many Taiwanese people also have their own biases … cough cough… Philippinos?

22 01 2011

Yeah, nobody is perfect 🙂 But I think as most people hold themselves to a higher standard if you will. Perhaps we should all work a little harder to live up to our own lofty impression of ourselves. 🙂 Myself included.

22 01 2011

YAY good post!! This is why I love you mag! kiss kiss

22 01 2011

What do you mean THIS is why you love me? Gasp and I always thought it was about my stunning good looks.

😀 Just kidding, thanks hun I wondered where you were on this one, it seemed right up your alley. I’m glad you liked it 🙂 All the positive response is very encouraging and confirms what I was thinking.

25 01 2011

THIS.. is your insight, you drawing attention to the issue, and saying something about an observation you made not just telling people what you think but being open to others opions on the conversation. I just down right love you! there I said it. 🙂

26 01 2011

Awe… *blush* Thanks 🙂

7 02 2011

So not to be pushy or anything but I check your blog everyday … and right now there is tons of negativity floating around in the air with politics and life in general I propose we post (including me) positive things for the next month and even short posts little inspirations for all of us. Whatcha think?


8 02 2011

Sure 🙂 .. lol although I have a problem dilemma and was going to post looking for advice.. SIGH

9 02 2011

Well of course Its your blog, I was just thinking it would be fun too, somedays I post twice or whatever. Whats the Dilemma?

Have I told you today I LOVE YOU!!!

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