I really love Asia. From the time I was small, I was devouring its food, language, and pop culture (Saturday morning cartoons!). Trying to pin down exactly why is a little hard though. Mostly, it’s just personal taste. Some people love Europe, some people love the Caribbean, some people wouldn’t leave America if you paid them. Me, I love Asia, and after actually living here, I’ve come up with a few reasons why.
The people are incredibly polite. Even their kids are more polite than American kids. Of course, there are exceptions, but when viewed as a whole, the culture itself is more oriented towards showing respect than pushing independence. I think it’s due mostly to the influence of Confucianism that has permeated every East Asian country. There’s a lot more to Confucianism than I can say, but just know for now that it stresses filial piety, extreme respect to elders, and the maintenance of a harmonious society (yes, I know there are many negatives to it as well – that’s for another time).
For instance, to Asians, it’s much more important to keep good relations than assert one’s independence or superiority. Generally you don’t find people loudly voicing their opinions just because they can.
This respect and attitude of general politeness is evident everywhere, from the classroom to the tea stand. Seriously, Asian salespeople are the nicest ever.
I love that it’s so safe here. I thought Taiwan would be a lot like America, with plenty of petty crime going on, outbreaks of violence, or general rowdiness by hooligans. I haven’t seen any, and apparently it’s not just that I haven’t seen it, but that there isn’t much. I checked some crime rates, and Taiwan’s crime rate is significantly lower than America. Like, a lot.
We’ve experienced this in person too. My friend left her wallet in the bathroom, and went back several hours later and someone had turned it in to the desk, money still inside. When we go to stores, everyone leaves their umbrellas by the door, and they’re all there when you’re done. In apartments, most people leave their shoes and various other belongings outside their doors, and no one takes them. I would never dare try that at home.
Food is big on my list of important things in life. (I don’t think I could live without it.) I’ve obviously had a lot of Americanized Asian food, but I think it can be pretty authentic. Of course, Asian food varies from country to country – I love the spiciness of Korean food, the fresh taste of sushi and tempura from Japan, and the sauces and dumplings from China and Taiwan.
I’m studying Linguistics in school, so it’s natural that I love languages of every kind. I’ve always particularly loved Asian languages – Korean more than the others. If you’ve ever tried learning Chinese, you know how hard it is, but you also know how poetic it is.
Perhaps I see things differently because I’m a foreigner. I know I get special treatment where a native resident wouldn’t, and it’s nice to be treated as a perpetual guest.
Overall, I think I just like the way Asians view life. It’s a slower pace, even when they’re frantically moving from place to place, and there seems to be more appreciation for holistic living and enjoying the moment.
I will always love America though, don’t get me wrong. I am an American at heart and always will be, loving the great nation with all its quirks and quandaries. But I think I’ll want to live in Asia. There’s not enough good kimchi in America.