Men’s fashion and culture here is very, very different than back home.
Like a lot of westerners, when I came over I had a perception in my head of Asian men being nerdy weaklings. I didn’t understand the culture and my initial impressions just confirmed what I believed.
The guys here are mostly smaller than guys back home. The trend is tight clothing – which accentuates their small frames – and walking around with haircuts that look very feminine. Besides the superficiality, handshakes are feather light touches and forget about eye contact in a conversation. Even the mannerisms (from a western perspective) look weak and almost womanly.
Other accepted social customs re-inforced my original opinion. Guys will walk around with their arms around each other. Riding a scooter, they have no problem holding the waist of the driver (it is possible to hold on to the back of the scooter for support). All sorts of touching that, back home. would be mostly considered the territory of gay men.
Taiwanese guys in general, don’t really look tough. Besides the fact that they look younger than their western counterparts, culture here dictates that they shouldn’t be too tanned (gives the impression that one is a labourer), and always present a polite, non confrontational appearance. Facial hair is frowned upon – stubble is considered dirty.
Sure you have your triad looking gangster wannabes around, but the majority of the dudes look very passive and (initially) feminine.
It’s also a common practice for guys to carry their gf’s purses. Of course, I didn’t know this. So seeing guys walking around with what are obviously women’s accoutrements gives one a certain impression.
Finally, the excessive politeness and refusal to speak directly adds the final touches and voila – Taiwanese men are feminine weaklings with no balls.
At least that’s what I thought……Ok….I know that’s an exaggeration and highly stereotypical. Well fuck me.
Keep in mind that I was looking through a cultural lens. My definition of masculinity is an alpha male type who has no problem stating what he thinks, has a firm handshake, military haircut and will look you in the eye when he speaks to you.
I’m used to a 5 o’clock shadow being considered sexy by women. My idea was that a man should have rough hands – shows he’s not scared of work. Being caught in tight pants meant you’d have to punch yourself in the balls.
As for carrying a purse…well…that’s something that didn’t even enter into the equation.
As time went on, and I started to view things in a new light. The culture in Taiwan is more community based, not individualistic like the west, so there is not a lot of emphasis on being the alpha male. Community relationships and harmony are of paramount importance – therefore passivity and acceptance are much more valued than individual and direct opinion.
Another important factor in this different behaviour is the value of face. If you come from a good (rich) family, you have to portray and carry their face. You cannot do and say whatever you want – the importance of the family’s face is much more than your individual views and thoughts.
When I got to know more guys here, in private, they would be just like guys back home. Unfortunately that personality would not carry outside the boundaries of our personal friendship. The importance of society’s perception is a HUGE factor here, so keeping up that mask of propriety is a must.
In terms of the touching, it’s something that’s culturally accepted. Taiwanese don’t have the same sense of personal space that westerners do, so they aren’t bothered by it. I still haven’t gotten used to it.
Finally, having a slender frame seems to be sexy to the ladies. They love “cute” and small things – most of which makes me want to strangle myself, but that’s the way it is.
So, men here have had to cater to that – at least if they want to get laid. Japanese fashion is considered hot by the new generation – for most western guys, ball punching would commence before donning anything like it – but it works for Taiwanese men.
In the end, I’ve come to realize that the guys here are the as same back home, they just don’t act like it until you get to know them. Because of the way society is, men have to portray a certain mask to others until a certain level of trust and friendship is reached. Maybe then the fart jokes and burping competitions begin.
I hate to say, but it even goes the other way.
I have started to be much more fastidious of my 5 o’clock shadow, and I can sometimes be spotted carrying a purse.
Oh god! I think I need a shot of whiskey and a bar fight soon.