Eye On Taiwan
Date: May 10, 2016
By: David Wang
While a Taiwanese TV station, likely due to lack of originality more than other reason, has aired more than once innocuous, lighthearted episodes featuring foreign brides, who are lined up like high school students wearing name tags and flags of their homeland to chat about the melding of cultures and their acclimatization in Taiwanese customs, where the wives are typically from mostly developed nations in the West as the UK, USA, but also Eastern Europe, many of whom actually speak Mandarin fairly well to spark the entertainment factor. However one can be sure that these wives have volunteered to appear due to the seemingly joyful circumstances and outcome of their unions.
But the TV producer, obviously trying to amuse audiences superficially, has not been audacious enough to duplicate the same program with foreign wives who would refuse to appear on air to broach a more politically sensitive side of interracial marriage or the mail-order-bride syndrome, one that also exposes certain peculiarities of the mating game in Taiwan, as well as the marriages that have hit the rocks.
What of the Taiwanese bachelors who marry Asian women from China, the Philippines, Vietnam? Why go to the hassle when plenty of very attractive local women are available? How come the TV show never invites these brides from Asia to talk about their blissful marriages?
What about a TV show to allow Caucasian men to show off their stories surrounding their romantic encounters with their Taiwanese wives?
But such programs would call for ample scripting and direction if the producer aims to air a fairy-princess tale of two individuals from foreign lands meeting, dating and then walking down the aisle to merge two wonderfully distinct cultures. This type of program would also demand Oscar performances and spewing hypocrisies by the parties involved, simply because the truth is often far from Bollywood ideal.
After all how many Caucasian husbands in Taiwan would openly admit that the core reason they ended up on the island is due to being economic refugees, socially-undesirable back home to be arguably desperate, mostly unemployable, without substantial skills or ambition (with most able to use only English effectively), in the years post-1970s, and married local wives for no reason except to secure permanent residency?
A TV program with these men and women as guests would not qualify as entertainment but certainly would ruffle a few feathers especially among the politically-correct crowd.
And how many, for example, Filipinas would give up their time to be on a TV program to enlighten local audiences of the harsh story behind their marriages to Taiwanese men?
Such an episode would be, if allowed to be aired as reality TV, extremely short as the only reason for a Filipina to marry a Taiwanese is to escape penury back home, in exchange frequently to be a multi-role slave as a career in Taiwan as a wife, a homemaker, mom, a small-business helper, caregiver of in-laws.
A few anecdotal but real-world examples should shed light on a few interracial marriages and close encounters that have not ended in beaming couples riding off into the sunset.
One very attractive Filipina, with a Chinese father, met a Taiwanese man studying medicine in the Philippines that led to marriage in Taiwan. Higher pay in central Taiwan motivated the man to leave their Taipei home to work afar that also forced her to commute for occasional visits. After giving him a son and daughter, she unfortunately met the frequent fate of an unfaithful husband. Eventually he, driven by the reality of his job, coerced her with physical assault into signing an unconditional divorce agreement. He one night handed her an airline ticket and told her to go home.
Another Filipina, one with typical looks of overseas contract workers in Taiwan that can only attract blue-collar Taiwanese, with a Taiwanese husband is forced into setting up a miniscule part-time business in an area catering to her compatriots on weekends, only because her man would not even give her a dime, despite after her having given him a daughter. She said the social services office in Taipei advised her to divorce him as the only option.
Another Filipina claims to be “happy” in her marriage to a Taiwanese but for some reason, keeps a full-time job as a chambermaid in a hotel in addition to her duties as mom, homemaker, wife, and caregiver to her in-laws, but could barely keep from nodding off during a chat due to chronic fatigue.
Her Filipina friend, also married to a Taiwanese, on the contrary confessed to wanting a divorce due to incompatibility with the in-laws.
A 60-plus Canadian Caucasian came to Taipei years ago misled by a want ad in a local paper that sought ESL teachers and promised substantial wages. After finding out about the reality of the racket in Taipei, he, despite being married back home, became involved with a female Taiwanese juice vendor he had met on a street. But one night a misunderstanding of unjustified jealousy led to her tossing him out the door in the wee hours. This bizarre relationship even led to his divorcing his Canadian wife. He later came across a mainland Chinese woman working in a low-end teahouse in Taipei, whom he inexplicably found attractive and later married.
A 20ish Englishman tall enough to be an NBA player, an English-major and ESL teacher has not had as much luck finding a wife in Taipei, despite confessing earlier of his earnest wish to marry. This Taiwanese girl whom he dated briefly seemed the right partner. He, after buying a Tiffany diamond ring, even sent out wedding invitations to mom and relatives in the UK, but woke up one day to the reality of Taiwanese culture, the crass, practical aspects of which are often hidden from outsiders.
She at the 11th hour changed her mind to have left him dumbfounded and mom heartbroken.
I’m sure to this day he can’t figure out why, but any seasoned and perhaps cynical resident of Taipei could tell him the clichéd but mostly truth, that he’d have easily tied the knot by offering as a wedding gift a US$1.5 million condo in a tower along any of the upscale streets. And that being an ESL teacher in Taipei scores few points with prospective in-laws and desirable, single Taiwanese females.