I heard Seinfeld once say, “I’ll tell you what I like about Chinese people. They’re hanging in there with the chopsticks, aren’t they? You know they’ve seen the fork.” I sometimes want to remind people here of the fork. Frustration would be my main emotion at the moment. Sometimes I want to shake people and yell, Why do you do everything the hard way? Why squat over a hole in the bathroom? (even if there is a toilet, they will squat on the seat!) Why use infuriating wooden sticks to eat? Why drink hot water on a hot day? Why get massages that leave welts, bruises and burns? Why cover every inch of your body on a 100° day? Why turn off the A/C so often? Why make your children study 12 hours a day at 10 years old?
They answer with bewildered questions : Don’t you care about your body? Don’t you know your body can go into shock from ice cold water on a hot day? Don’t you know these severe massages relieve stress and tension? Don’t you know constant sun will damage your skin? Don’t you know your brain develops best at this young age?
My raging mind quiet as I realize my culture is like a spoiled child. Americans want immediate comfort and want it now. I’m hot, cool me down. I’m a kid, let me play. I’m hungry, let me shovel the food into my mouth. This Taiwanese culture is like a mature adult, willing to suffer now and reap the benefits in the future, patient and wise. Once again, I have to rethink my normal and evaluate and question how things should be. Frustration melts into reflection. Taiwanese give me the reasons behind all that they do, all, that is, except the chopsticks. As Tevye says in “Fiddler in the Roof” “How did this tradition get started? I’ll tell you…I don’t know”.