After moving to and living in Taiwan, if you aren’t already married or dating someone, establishing a social life is inevitable. While there is always the chance that you may end up finding a boyfriend or girlfriend with a similar background as your own, chances are that you will end up in an intercultural relationship.
Dating someone that has spent the majority of their life in an alien culture is as much of an adventure as moving to a new country. I need to make one early disclaimer; this is coming from my perspective as a man, so women living in Taiwan may have completely different experiences.
I personally find intercultural relationships in Taiwan to be a good thing, so I am going to start on the good. First and foremost, Taiwanese culture is so vastly different from most if not all western cultures, that dating a Taiwanese person is unlike any other experience you may have ever had.
If moving to Taiwan is opening up a new door in your life, dating a local is walking through that door. You will learn so much about Taiwanese and Chinese culture, your own culture, and even yourself. Getting a glimpse at the inner-workings of someone who sees the world from a perspective so different than your own is incredibly eye-opening.
Another great thing, while not nearly as deep as what I wrote above, is that dating someone from a different culture is simply fun. Taiwanese are generally very friendly, and most people here like to teach westerners about Taiwan.
The better you know a person, the more they can and will show you. During this process you get to know them and all of their little mannerisms and quirks that make them unique. And because of the cultural differences, there are plenty of mannerisms that are different from anything you would have experienced at home.
While I try to paint a pretty picture above, and I really do believe everything that I wrote, dating in Taiwan isn’t always puppy dogs and ice cream. There are as many obstacles as there are rewards.
First and foremost, no matter how great your Mandarin may be, or in my case, how good the other person’s English is, there absolutely will be miscommunication. Whether from lacking the language ability to communicate what you want, or just complete misunderstandings, language barriers are real.
It tends to be more of an issue in younger relationships, as the longer you are together with someone, you find it easier to read their non-verbal communication. That being said, even non-verbal communication can be misunderstood, especially inter-culturally.
Another issue with dating inter-culturally in Taiwan is not so much a problem with the relationship, but a problem with how you can easily and accidentally mistreat your new girlfriend or boyfriend.
In an earlier post about culture shock I wrote about how one way people often cope with culture shock is through the common act of complaining. There is nothing wrong with that, and it’s great to get all of that frustration out, but sometimes it’s way too easy to focus all of your angst onto your significant other forgetting that they are not the representative for all of Taiwan.
It’s beneficial to remember that they too are dealing with the different experience of dating inter-culturally. Using each other for support can be healthy, but using each other as whipping posts is bound to lead to disaster.
For full disclosure I feel it’s only fair to repeat that this viewpoint comes from someone who is a western male in Taiwan. While living here I met several Taiwanese women, and eventually married one.
When I moved here, that was not even remotely part of the plan. I have several friends who had similar plans and experiences, but I also have friends that came for a year, had differing opinions of their first year, and moved home.
In my very humble opinion, living in Taiwan and dating in Taiwan is as easy or difficult as you want to make it. It’s all part of the experience of moving to a new place, and it’s better to do what you can to make it enjoyable.
If any women reading this would care to chime in on their experiences with dating in Taiwan in the comments section below this post, I am sure their input would be very highly appreciated.