Ever since high school, i have always suspected that people from homogeneous society in general expect other people who they identify to be of same culture heritage to behave in accordance to a common set of implicit rule of conducts. When those people (lets call them nationalist) meet people who do not act accordingly (lets call them traitors), nationalist are surprised, confused, and feel disrespected by the traitor.
Well, i am a traitor. I first realize that i am a traitor, when i was a boarder a a n all boy high school in Australia. Unlike other Taiwanese boarders who came to Australia with a least 3 years of junior high school education in their native Taiwan, I left for Australia with only mix of local primary school and English christian school education at the age of 12, by myself. I was profoundly more influenced by Australian culture than other Taiwanese kids. Unfortunate, those kids were mostly told by their rich parents to leave their comfort zone in taiwan, to study overseas. Those kids have little fascination with foreign culture. Those kids could not have appreciated the complexities of a semi-assimilated kid like me. Instead they expected me to act and understand those implicit social rules that they learn during their junior high years in taiwan. They nor i understood the nuanced idea of implicit rules.
The more i hang out with those Taiwanese kids, the more weird they though i am. i mean i remember being call a banana (western minded Asians) when i speak mix English in my conversation with other Taiwanese kids. I still remember vividly the looks of disdain from a Taiwanese kid when i ask an Australian kid if i can take a bite off his cake. Apparently, self respected Taiwanese kids don’t do that in Taiwan. hang with Taiwanese kids didnt work out, hanging with white-Australian, didn’t felt right too. being called a gook is not a comfortable experiance, to say the least. I end up spending most of my high school years finding refuge with a mixture of minorities who’s own national was not big enough to form a homogeneous group.
By the time i got to university, most of my friends where non-Taiwanese kids whom are them self oversea students or people with working holiday visas. They were comforting. They were curios of foreign culture. They did not expect me to understand their own culture and custom, and the openly embrace difference (to some extent).
After 15 years of living oversea, i am back on home(?) turf and working in an office of a multinational corporation, with a mixture of Taiwanese and Japanese. I thought i am working with professionals and free from the sentimental nationalistic school kids. I was wrong. I am still having trouble mingling with a couple of nationalistic co-workers. I am still condemn for speaking English or Japanese when I am accompanied by Taiwanese. Nationalist are angry with me because i speak with a volume that is not appropriate for my status (!?!?). Nationalist are angry with me because during company dinner, i was eating too much and not toppling enough wine for the seniors.
I give up, i don’t get it, i don’t get why and how am i suppose to act as a “Taiwanese” and i cant help but to think that those nationalist are just bigot.
sadly, this is not a uniquely Taiwanese experience. African-Americans refer to other African-Americans who embrace some aspect of white-American culture as acting-white.
After years, of living as a Taiwanese traitor, i have happier than ever with me cosmopolitan identity. Its up to the nationalist to make their peace with traitors and realize that creeds are not determine by birth. Nationalist need to open their eyes to see, in a globalizing world, they are a not only a dying bread but also on the wrong side of history.
Lastly, The future is brown, and we cosmopolitan traitors will inherit the earth.