Humans are naturally competitive beings. If we weren't, we wouldn't still be around on this planet. In our world today the competitive edge goes to the technological prowess and passion of a country to its future development in this movement towards globalization. I have credited Taiwan with this edge. Their economic growth by fostering their one strength, their human resource, is unquestionably remarkable. My admiration for this nation could not be explained in words.

This first admiration of Taiwanese was through my Taiwanese students whose hard work and dedication made them overcome the language barrier and culture shock of Belize and excelled in their studies. They were very competitive on all levels and in all subjects, including English which was difficult for them at first. My second admiration was after reading about Taiwan’s economic development and financial strength. I said now here is a people who may one day become the epitome of every other nation.

 

So I won an ICDF scholarship to Taiwan. I have been a fierce competitor all my life. I believe I owe most of the credit to my father who instilled in me a competitive spirit that has been carried with me, further developed, and found to be essential throughout many aspects of my life. Therefore, I came to Taiwan with the belief that I have to be very competitive to succeed here as a student because, here lies a nation who is very much culturally sound and strict and competitive. I had feared that I may not measure up but I had the zeal and personal motivation to come to Taiwan and try.

My first days in my classroom were very tense. Having heard all the teachers’ expectations and requirements made me question my reason for being here. I am with a bunch of intelligent people half of them Taiwanese and they look very serious about their success. However, I swallowed my fear and delve into my books to prove that I belong with them in this very strict and competitive climate. After all, at a Masters Degree level, these students must be the ‘creme de la creme’ of Taiwan and from other countries in this IWED program.

Pretty soon the cultural shock hit me. The Taiwanese students were not as competitive as I anticipated. I pose more of a threat to them as a student than them to me. I read more, studied harder and jumped at every challenge to prove that I can be a competitor. The shock intensified when a couple of them came to me and commented that I work too hard and I am forcing them to work hard too. They claimed that they would rather hang out and have fun with friends than read their text books. They complain that because of other international students and me, the teachers have high expectations of them and we are pressuring them. I was appalled and could not believe what I was hearing. What is even more of a shock is that they do not use our hard work as example. I have heard them complain even this past week.

My expectations of Taiwanese students and people had blinded me and so I started looking around and asking other Taiwanese students that are neither from my program nor from NTNU. They had the same actions and views of my Taiwanese classmates – to have fun and school seem second best. What I saw and blamed for the lost of the competitiveness in the Taiwanese students was the American invasion. Hip hop music, McDonalds, Nike and even baggy pants that serve as symbols of American culture and symbols of success became evident in the younger Taiwanese generations. A wide consequence of this invasion is the snubbing of local culture and traditions. Hanging out at the malls, clubbing, smoking and drinking are now replacing the traditional Taiwanese cultural values and practices. Picture of American icons are on their walls – everyone want to be like ‘Mike’, Michael Jordan – not the Taiwanese icons. Words from Hip Hop, R & B, Rock & Roll etc. are coming out of their mouths. Traditional Taiwanese often look down on material things and don't think that these things could give them more value. But, the new generations of Taiwanese have been captured by Americas’ overrated view of clothing, cars, jewelry and such. And, we won’t even go any deeper than mention the topic of sexuality and sexual preferences and diseases of the younger generations that were not present in traditional Taiwanese practices.

Yet, can I judge my Taiwanese classmates? Certainly not. I empathized with them because they are only following a system that is being fed to them through their own radio stations, businesses, older siblings, peers, and the advent of globalization. They are victims of circumstances that are beyond their comprehension and certainly control. This consequentially is depleting their competitive edge and may one day ruin their status they have fought so much to reach. It might ruin many of their cultural practices and customs that are certainly evident among the younger Taiwanese generations. One Taiwanese female told me that she is certainly not getting married because their customs of marriage is not what she wants; she said that wants to be independent like the American women who do not have to worry about their in-laws.

While some would argue that such a spread of American culture would be beneficial because it would, in a sense, create a global village, I think this cultural invasion creates more harm than good. It would result in the demise of local cultures and languages. And this is certainly not a good thing. Belize is rapidly suffering from this demise and I fear culturally powerful nation as Taiwan may soon become victim and lose its greatest power, its people to the corrupt American influence.


Denroy Tillett
National Taiwan Normal University
International Workforce Education and Development