Thursday, December 31, 2015

Taiwan & America

Over the last three years I have been living abroad and what never ceases to amaze me are all of the differences I have grown accustomed to. I’m not just referring to the language, but also to the everyday mundane. However, while I have grown accustom to these things, they can still be fascinating for those who don’t live here. I will attempt to reveal to you some of those very differences as I begin to unfold my views on the differences between Taiwan and America.

At the starting gate is possibly the most obvious difference: language. Do not be deceived, I am not speaking of the obvious Chinese vs. English. Rather, I am speaking of the less obvious English vs. Simplified English. In Taiwan you are constantly at war with your native tongue. What I mean is that you are constantly having to “dumb down” your English in order to be understood. Therefore, in many situations you must shorten your sentences and use grammatically incorrect phrases. Often times you might find yourself using hand gestures or charades instead of actual words. But when words can be used, you usually will just end up saying the most important ones. For example, “Where is the bathroom?” turns into just “Bathroom!?”

Another difference that is common in Taiwanese culture is the fact that it is quite socially acceptable to talk about another person’s body weight at any given time. I distinctly remember one such occasion. I was seeing a Chinese teacher of mine after about a month and the first thing that she exclaimed as I walked through the door was, “Wow! It’s a long time! It seems like you have gained a little weight.” These are the moments where we end up being students of a culture so far removed from our own western mindset. A culture that is so fascinating on many levels.

Another interesting cultural difference in Taiwan is the infamous battle of cold vs. hot water. It turns out that, unlike our Western mind-set, Taiwanese people live by a well-known fact that warm or hot water are most suitable for a woman's body. So don't be alarmed when you are served boiling hot water in 100 degree weather in the middle of summer - it's all in the name of good health! 

Last but not least in coming to Taiwan, one thing you will quickly notice is your relationships with those around you is very key as to how far you can get with them. In other words: if I want to share about the most miraculous story of forgiveness and grace (the gospel) I must first establish a relationship with the person. I can stand on any street corner and declare that “God loves you!" but it will fall on deaf ears if I am not showing that love in my life and to those around me. Much of what we do in Taiwan is being observed by all of those around us, especially in areas where teams have been serving for 10 or more years. Consequently, our testimony and our message is the daily living out our faith. I have had many wonderful conversations about God with my friends, but it was after I had built trust with them and they were able to see that I care about them.
Pingtung Team
Taiwanese culture has many differences from American culture. No matter how inconvenient some of these differences may be, I know the Lord has taught me many things through them. In many ways, I believe it also opens up your worldview a bit and helps you to understand that God made each culture so unique and so special. Coming back to Taiwan a third year, I feel that we are the real students not the teachers. All of these cultural challenges do not come without their laughable moments. A well-seasoned Taiwan traveler will tell you to laugh at yourself. Otherwise you will continue to become frustrated without getting to know the people involved or their intentions.

Please continue to pray for God’s work in Taiwan, He is real and lives in us here. We hope to be a bright light in a dark world, sharing His message by learning and being willing to be wrong. I have seen that being in a foreign country is more of a culture shock to some than others, but the real key is to learn from our mistakes, and laugh at ourselves. Learning Chinese is no picnic, but God doesn't send those who are fully capable of doing His work, He sends those that He can work through and will live out His plan.

~Mary Corduan

Mary Corduan has lived in Taiwan for almost three years now. She previously served with VOICE Missions in Yuli on the east side of Island. A year and a half ago she took a short break in the States before coming back to Taiwan halfway through the year. At that time she was transferred to Pintung. This year she serves as a co-team leader for the Pingtung team, which is the most southern location we have in VOICE missions. Mary enjoys writing from time to time, as well as singing. She considers herself to be very blessed to serve with a team that also loves singing.

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