Redefining relationships – Dating Taiwan style

Like any single guy moving to a new country I was very curious to know what the women would be like in Taiwan.  Having heard tales of how easy picking up beautiful women was going to be, the lascivious side of me was, well, being lascivious.  Hand in hand with these stories, I also read accounts of how “crazy” Taiwanese women can be if spurned.  All of my dating history was in Canada, so I was used to looking at relationships from a western perspective.  I was aware that Taiwanese culture is more conservative, but this flew in the face of the  seemingly rampant sexual conquests experienced by others, so I really didn’t know what to expect.

Over the course of my stay here, I’ve picked up a few things, but barely scratched the surface.  Note that everything I’ve observed has been from a small town perspective and the 25-35 year old age group.

Traditionally Taiwanese women stay at home until they are ready to get married.  From my understanding, the way it works (at least outside of the modern cities) is that the girls try to have (or more likely portray that they have) little or no dating history.  The men here seem to care a lot about how many partners their potential wife or girlfriend has been with (something that is alien to me – the past is the past), so the girls are careful to keep it to a minimum.  Or lie about it.  Either way, once the woman is ready to get married, only then does she move out – into a house with her husband.

It’s similar for a man.  After his schooling, he gets a job, and continues to live at home with his parents.  The goal here is to save money so that he can buy a house and get married.  Once he has found a suitable mate, the marriage happens and the couple move into their new house or, in some cases to continue saving money, the wife moves in with the husband and his parents.

That’s not to say that they don’t date.  Groups will go out and couples may form, but none live together.  This is why there are slews of “love motels” all over the place.  Here, young couples discreetly check in, do their business, and then go home.  The western concept of moving out as soon as one is able isn’t the norm.

Somehow this whole arragement seems hypocritical to me.  I’m sure the parents are well aware of what goes on (probably having done it themselves), but a blind eye is turned as long as the couple doesn’t live together.  Keeping up the pretense of chastity (for social perception) is paramount – the rest doesn’t matter.  Even though everyone is aware of the GIANT elephant, out of sight = out of mind….right?

Another major difference in relationships here is the way they develop.  In my experience, when people get together, it’s understood that physical intimacy will most likely happen before real emotional intimacy, but here it’s the reverse.  Back home, having physical relations doesn’t necessarily mean a long term relationship.  While that can, and does happen here, I’ve found that Taiwanese (both men and women) put more emphasis on building an emotional connection before getting physical.

This may go towards explaining why sometimes foreign (western) guys consider Taiwanese women “crazy”.  Since we expect the phycial to happen soon, it’s not a huge hit to the emotions if a deeper connection doesn’t develop.  Break-up ensues, and both parties go on their way.  We know how to deal with it.  But to a Taiwanese, it’s a much more devastating event, since they have already invested a large part of their emotional psyche into the relationship (whether we encouraged it or not).  So of course, a Taiwanese woman will tend to be much more distraught than a western woman.  The cultural difference produces the behavioural difference.

Finally, the mindset with which people approach relationships is vastly different.  Back home, I’ve experienced more of a “ok, lets try this flavour and see if we are compatible” mentality.  I’m going to get to know you frst, then give you my loyalty.  In Taiwan, there seems to be a more “ok, we are together and we have to make our differences work out” mentality.  Now that we are together, we have to stick it out no matter what happens in the future.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that Taiwanese couples don’t break up – that would be absurd.  It just means that couples here offer more loyalty to each other in the beginning stages of a relationship than I’ve experienced in the west.

I can’t say which way is better, seems each have their pro’s and con’s.  With a western relationship, by living together and knowing each other more, you have a better idea what you are getting into, but there may be too much importance given to the physical aspect.  With an eastern relationship, a stronger emotional connection may develop, but you really don’t know the person well before you take the plunge.

Perhaps a combination of the 2 would be ideal.  Hmmm…now just have to figure out how to convince a Taiwanese dad to let his daughter live with a foreigner.

I should again point out that this is all from a countryside perspective of people in their late 20’s early 30’s.  I’m sure that in the cities, with the younger generations, things are very different.  Youth are always more liberal, and owing to the influence of Hollywood, much more westernized.  I’d imagine that an 18 yr old Taiwanese girl will have a very different dating scene than her 30 yr old counterpart did when she was younger.


4 Responses to “Redefining relationships – Dating Taiwan style”

  1. 1 Anonymous May 18, 2013 at 9:49 am

    I came to read, because I’m back in Taiwan after moving away when I was six. I’m thirty-eight now, and pregnant with my third child. I had an interesting time trying to book this motel for a week, so that I can look for an apartment of my own to rent. Through this experience, I learned that motels are primarily sold for use as love shacks 😀 So I came searching for more information about this interesting phenomenon, and thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.

  2. 3 Michelle December 22, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    So glad I found a well written article on western dating vs Taiwanese dating. I’m also from Canada and I’ve been in Taiwan for 6 months. Any new revelation since?

    • 4 islandsidechronicles January 4, 2014 at 12:27 am

      Thanks for the kind words and welcome to Taiwan. New revelations are constantly happening and it would take another blog post to update everything. That being said, I would be interested to hear a western woman’s perspective on dating and relationships in Taiwan….

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