By Lianne Lin
So by now it has been two and a half months since I came back to California after living in Taiwan for three years. People ask me how my love life was during that time, and I can safely say that what ended up happening was not what most people would expect, least of all me.
In California I was accustomed to guys approaching me, or guy friends showing interest from time to time. I always felt if I didn’t have one dating option, I’d have one on the horizon relatively soon. I took it for granted, even deciding at one point to completely shut off my dating life. I stayed abstinent for nearly two years, purposely staying away from potential drama while trying to “find my own independence” and “learn to love myself” and such crap.
But after moving to Taiwan, I experienced a sudden change.
Most guys would glance at me and then look away, not seeming to notice me. You may have heard the rumor that Taipei is full of pretty young girls, and it’s true. They are skinny with long, straight hair and nice skin, talented with makeup and stylishly dressed in their knock-off designer clothes, and they are everywhere. I went from looking “exotic” in America (which I, being an ABC female, of course HATED) to looking fairly normal and blending in completely.
While I liked blending in with the crowd and the feeling of anonymity it brought, I suddenly felt invisible. I do like Asian guys and loved Taiwan, so I wanted to try dating a local guy to see where that could lead. But not only were Taiwanese guys shy, they were also put off by my terrible Mandarin and my sarcastic, slightly rough-around-the-edges, very American demeanor. Being tattooed also seemed like a turn-off to locals, which in their more conservative culture is still viewed as rebellious or even “bad” over there.
Now, I know I at least had it better than non-Asian girls (white, black, Latina, etc.) there, who may not get approached by Taiwanese guys whatsoever. These guys are either afraid of the unfamiliar, not “attracted” to non-Asian girls, or have conservative parents who wouldn’t approve of them dating outside their race.
I suppose I should feel thankful that I would at least get approached once every few months, sometimes by a married guy, sometimes by some category of drunken sleazebag at the club.
While back home I felt I could be picky and choose to only date guys who were serious relationship material, after two years in Taiwan being single and untouched (yes, on TOP of the other two year abstinence), I felt like I could take all the affection I could get. I knew I needed to be the one to make the first move. But after giving strong hints to guys I liked, they reacted hesitantly or were standoffish, even if they were friendly about it. I couldn’t figure out whether they wanted me to make a move or if they were just not interested. And then I would chicken out, do nothing, and things would go nowhere.
(To all you guys out there who pick up on girls regularly — I give you props. It takes guts!)
A friend of mine told me that Taiwan doesn’t have a “pickup culture” like America does, and he’s right. In America, guys study tactics from The Pickup Artist. They practice acting confident and manly, work out at the gym all the time, which raises their testosterone levels even higher, and try to get phone numbers every time they’re out on the town.
But sex and dating are just not as big of a priority to young Taiwanese people. Above all, they are trained by their parents to study and get a good job (so they can support those parents later). Guys and girls will hang out in groups of platonic friends all through school and beyond. Often, when they reach 30-ish, they will marry their high school or college sweetheart, start dating a good friend they have known for several years, or are introduced to someone for the purpose of being “married off.” And because of tradition and financial reasons, most young people live with their parents until they get married. This ends up making Taiwanese guys (and girls) a lot less experienced with dating and often a bit immature compared to their American, more independent counterparts.
Having no luck with local guys in Taiwan, I ended up briefly dating two white guys (both from North America), which was against my original plan. Obviously, neither relationship worked out, but they made me realize the effect that culture and language have on relationships. Speaking the same language and coming from the same place, you have an instant connection with someone. This we take for granted back home. And to many people (including me), being able to communicate exactly what you mean to someone is more important than anything.
Physically I blended in in Taiwan, but mentally I was a foreigner. I knew that if I wanted dating options and a much bigger possibility of finding a good match for me, I’d have to go back to America. And if I wanted to find an Asian boyfriend, ironically, my best bet was to leave Taiwan and go back to San Francisco, where divorced ABC guys are plenty and available.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR. Lianne Lin is an international media personality, beauty stylist, model, and writer. Follow her at: youtube.com/heylianne.