10 ways you’re turning into a local in Taiwan

Dear Taipei,

Exciting news concerning you and me (the ultimate couple)- I just had my first article published! it’s for Focus Taipei, which is the English division of Taiwan’s national news agency.

10 ways your know you’re turning into a local in Taiwan

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It’s a humorous piece I wrote to get a laugh out of people living here who begin to notice little things they start doing or start getting used to once they live here a short while. I wanted to get people talking, to get them engaged and to reflect on their time here.

So far (it was only published a couple of hours ago!) the reaction has been generally positive which is encouraging. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who thinks these things! It’s had thousands of views which is humbling and thrilling!

However my initial excitement about the article being published was quite quickly replaced by shock at the words of its detractors. Amongst the positive responses there has been some criticism that it’s quite “Taipei-centric” given the points about the MRT and Taipei 101. Which is a very fair observation which I can appreciate as it must be frustrating for those not living in Taipei to not be considered properly.

Of course, as someone who resides here in Taipei I can only make genuine comments about living here. I fully realise not everyone lives in Taipei, and that the smaller cities are just as important! I don’t want to appear ignorant of this. In retrospect the title and opening remarks should have made it clear it’s a list regarding life in Taipei.

Further to this were the more biting comments that I was ignorant of what it’s truly like to be immersed in Taiwanese life- that I was just just a clueless 20 something year old (apparently an American at that) who has no right to be writing such an article.

There were people who literally extracted every point I made and tore them apart one by one.

This I take issue with, because I, like anyone else who’s lived here for a sound amount of time can form an understanding of what life is like here. I have settled from the initial “shock” at the differences, made a routine and have managed to carve out a tiny place in Taipei which is mine. I have experienced the unique sights, sounds and tastes of Taiwan. I have built a life, albeit a temporary one from nothing to one which is enriched not only by my surroundings, but all the micro things that make life here “legitimate” if that’s the issue at stake.

To say that my opinion isn’t valid just because I haven’t lived here 10+ years is quite harsh. It was a humorous article that was meant to be light reading, not intended to stir up people to get passionately invested in it as if I was making a sweeping professional commentary on expat life.

Of course I can’t represent everyone’s view, and I acknowledge that I have no idea how it is to live here long term. I was making observations which I believe the large proportion of expats who chose Taiwan as their home could identify with- namely those who stay a reasonably substantial time (three month plus), statistically are most likely to be based in Taipei, and who since coming to Taiwan noticed that the “customs” or observations that were initially were foreign to them have over time become a part of them, whether consciously or otherwise.

I have respect for those people and their views, and I would hope this would be extended to me and my own.

At any rate, reading through the comments gave me an insight into how others live here that I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten.

I know you have to be tough in this industry, and you most certainly can’t please everyone. I just assumed that a humorous article wouldn’t rock the boat so much. Though in retrospect, I should have assumed some level of criticism. It’s obviously a good thing to get feedback from which I can grow from and write even better. I really do appreciate people sharing their views and I want to be the kind of writer who not only acknowledges constructive criticism but actively thinks about it and makes efforts to address the points in my future writing.

Putting your writing and views in public is not for the faint hearted. There are always going to be people who say you’re straight up wrong, or you write badly, or even worse things that attack you personally that aren’t even about your writing.

But, hopefully amongst that you can make someone chuckle or to think or to consider a different point of view. You have the capacity to make someone gasp, or reassess their point or view or even some part of their life, or if you’be truly written something brilliant- inspire.

That makes it worth it I think.

I’m only in the baby stages of this whole writing thing. I know I have a long way to go and am willing to work hard to improve.

One of my best friends said something really reassuring to me that I think will be a nice note to end on- “your words will never be all things to all people, but they are yours and a valid point of view.”

-TTT

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2 comments

  1. Dear TTT,
    I think a good part of the criticism you mention was not due to your text at all, which was a better Taiwan top ten list than many one can find on the web. It was due to the fact that it was carried as a CNA story.
    News agencies, more even than other traditional media, need to strive for objectivity and relevance. Their texts, after all, need to be suitable for being picked up by other publications. However, a top ten list is necessarily subjective and very often not really relevant.
    So I, personally, think it was a mistake by CNA/Focus Taiwan to publish that kind of story. Which does not mean it wasn’t a good text. But CNA did not do itself a favor, and maybe it did not really do you a favor, eliciting this kind of reactions.
    Hope this doesn’t come across as too harsh, because it isn’t meant to be.

    Like

    1. Hi Klaus,

      Thank you very much for taking the time to comment, and for sharing your view in a constructive and reasoned way. I see you are a seasoned reporter so I’m rather humbled to receive your feedback!

      Firstly, thank you for saying what I wrote is one of the better lists.

      But to the main point- the place of such an article in a news source such as Focus.

      I appreciate your view and from the outset I would agree. News media reporting the news should primarily function and uphold the value of providing non-biased reporting of the news.

      However, as you said, the issue lies in the fact that this piece and ones similar to it are not “hard news” but are rather more opinion style pieces.

      These pieces- whether mine, or say a recent piece about the best hot springs or finding a house in Taiwan are in a different category which caters for foreigners living here which want to read about “lifestyle” related content.

      These pieces will never be classified in the “news” section (and they never should be) but rather will always be categorised under the “society” and “international communities” sections.

      I think that there is a place for content like this, even on a news site such as Focus, so long as it is explicitly clear that these are not trying to pass themselves off as news.

      You will see even in highly respected and widely read publications like the Huffington Post and even the Iikes of the New York Times there are sections like “style”, “arts” , “sports” etc. When juxtaposed with say an article about war or economics, they do seem fickle in comparison.

      One could argue that as such, these categories have no place on such respected publications. But, I would say that they do serve a purpose in that they respond to a sector of readership who are interested in pieces regarding those topics, and would like to read about them from what they believe is a respected publication, rather than say, a magazine or talk back radio.

      By no means would I argue my list, or other pieces of a less formal nature are as important as current affairs, but nevertheless they I do believe they do cater for a specific type of reader, and that as a publication whose purpose does extend to engaging the community in dialogue, there is a justification for publishing such articles.

      If these articles were to impinge on the delivery of the quality of hard news pieces Focus produces, I agree, this would be a major issue which I also would take up on. However, the hard news pieces and the quality of which will be unaffected by the publication of the “lifestyle” pieces now appearing. They are published in isolation from each other- written by two completely differents sets of writers, and categorised in two completely different sections as to not confuse readers of the nature of each. No writers working on hard news will be asked to write these lifestyle pieces, so the volume of hard news pieces will also remain unchanged.

      My piece which you are particularly referring to is not the best example to uphold what I am trying to express. I think the humorous tone is certainly a first for Focus and now that it’s done I would imagine there won’t be a real need to do a humorous piece again (at least for a long while). So I can see how it would be jarring to see such an article amongst the usual pieces of a serious nature. I know it was quite edgy to publish something of that nature, however judging from the overall positive response and the very high volume of readers, there is obviously a sector of readership who do want to read articles which do not fall in the hard news category.

      Given that articles focusing on experiences and advice for making the most of your time in Taipei/Taiwan will continue to make an appearance for at least the near future, I imagine that this unfortunately may continue to be something that you may not feel comfortable with.

      I of course want to uphold the integrity of Focus. That is of great importance to me. I believe that even in writing non-“hard news” pieces something important is achieved- namely, connecting the wider community with content they can feel has a personal quality to it- that speaks on a micro, rather than macro level.

      I can see your perspective that that is exactly why articles of that nature should not be on Focus, but I would like to respectfully share my opinion that pieces sharing the perspectives, experiences and observations about living here, and also encouraging readers to engage in a dialogue about their own serve an important purpose in their own right.

      Thank you again Klaus for taking the time to write to me and share your view.

      I hope you can understand what I have expressed above, even if we must agree to disagree.

      Kind regards,

      Monica.

      Like

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