Friday, June 8, 2007

Foreign Devils Get Unequal Treatment

Words in Chinese used to describe Western people:
鬼佬 ghost chap
白鬼 white ghost
洋鬼子 foreign ghost or devil
老外 old outsider

It seems Caucasians have garnered quite a few terms of 'endearment' over the years. Some of them well deserved considering the occupation of China.

But now, in Taiwan, we may be deserving of the titles for an entirely different reason: services and treatment.

People who will bend over backwards to please a foreigner might not lift a finger to help their fellow Taiwanese compatriots. There are numerous examples of this:

CASE 1: The Tax Office
Taiwanese have to fill out and calculate their tax forms by themselves. Foreigners, on the other hand, are assigned an official who will fill out the forms for them. Since I am a foreigner I qualify for this service but if my wife, a Taiwanese, were to go to file our taxes she would not.

CASE 2: Online Phone Service
Try calling one of the government phone cues. If a Taiwanese calls they usually get short, abrupt and sometimes annoyed officials on the line. A foreigner, struggling with a little Chinese gets the red carpet treatment with officials bending over backwards to accomodate.

CASE 3: The Police and the Law
I am going through a police check for drunk driving while going home on the scooter. I don't have my license or my scooter registration with me. The police officer just waves me through, presumably because he's embarrassed that he can't communicate in English. Not even a slap on the wrist. This is not to mention the time I protested a driving fine that was overdue and had thus tripled. I decided to protest this as unfair. At the transport department they told me to write on the back of the fine, in English, why I couldn't pay my fine on time. Bingo! My fine was back down to it's original paltry amount.

CASE 4: Taichung Nightclub
I remember going to a nightclub with my wife and finding out that foreigners get in free while locals had to pay. My wife was furious and incredulous. Presumably this was a way for the club to get more foreigners to come in which they assumed would attract more local clientele due to the novelty of foreigners in many people's eyes. "No Chinese or dogs allowed" in for free indeed.
(No Chinese Or Dogs Allowed)

I'm sure there are many other cases so you can see my point (please feel free to send in a few more).

There is a kind of 崇洋 or 'foreign fetish' going on here. That is, Western foreigners (and many foreign products and ideas) are perhaps a little exotic or are considered in higher regard by Taiwanese in general. This treatment is a little ridiculous and over the top though. Taiwanese treating their own as lower than foreigners? C'mon!

This, by the way, is the root of the God-complex that a lot of foreign devils get when they live in Taiwan. The "I am special" or "I'm a super star" feeling. The 崇洋 mindset and these experiences unintentionally fuel it!

As a foreigner I can say that I am appreciative that Taiwanese take the time with me, bend the rules for me and sometimes make me feel special (sure, like a VIP). I don't think I'd like to be treated in the disdainful and annoyed with way that lots of service people treat locals.

However, my point is this. The way foreigners are treated, with respect and admiration, proves that these service people are capable of a higher level of service. So why not give that level of help, respect and admiration to all people, foreigner or local? I rest my case.
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