Taiwan Has the Worst Culture

It’s not just the sociological issues or the political obnoxiousness, but the deep resentment they harbor for each other that hits you in the face like your first whiff of stinky tofu.  After living in Taiwan for only a short time, it becomes clear to anyone who moves here that Taiwan has the worst culture many people will ever come across.  And just like the stinky tofu, try as you may, it’s inescapable.

For the first few weeks you’re in Taiwan, you tend to notice how people are really friendly.  Smiles given are frequently returned.  Most Taiwanese people, as with most people everywhere, are happy and willing to help someone who is grateful to be a guest in their country.  The chaos of an expat’s first few weeks in Taiwan flies by as you immerse yourself in your new environment.

Then there comes The Day.  You’re walking down the street and you spot someone who looks just like the type of person you went to school with just a few months or years ago.  You look at them, ready to give a head nod or a smile or finally, at long last, have a quick conversation with someone you can speak with in a normal cadence.  Then they look at you.

Like they want to rip your face off.

For years, I’ve had new expats in Taiwan come to me and ask, “Why do foreigners here look so pissed off?”  It’s a hard question to answer.  After all, there can be so many reasons.  Despite the idea that a move to Taiwan is the culmination of a lifetime of dreams, there are plenty of Western expats in Taiwan because they made the wrong choices in life.  Some are saddled with crippling debt.  Some are chronically unhappy people who, in a last ditch effort, chose to move to paradise to escape themselves.




But the truth is…it’s not any of that stuff.  It’s really all about our insecurity as we continually adjust to a foreign culture, deluding ourselves into believing we’re sooo good at it.  You will never meet a greater authority on Taiwanese culture than whatever expat you’re talking to at any given moment.  Of course, the only one who buys the hype is the one doing the hyping.  But we believe that we “get it.”  We believe we belong here.

And then we see each other and that funk of stinky tofu we remember from the first few weeks of being here – the first time we saw another foreigner and they looked at us like they wanted to throw us into traffic – it oozes out of us as we realize we stick out just as much as the person we’re scowling at.

When insecurity finishes its feeding frenzy, anger and depression often fills the void.  Ask most foreigners about other foreigners and the answer is consistently the same: foreigners in Taiwan seriously suck.  We all have our reasons.  Western guys hate Western girls because they’re not Asian girls.  Western girls hate Western guys because Western guys like Asian girls.

We hate anyone doing better than we are, thinking the only way to make ourselves feel better about our shortcomings is to focus on someone else’s.  We also happily and gratefully condescend to anyone doing worse than us.  They all help us secure our delusion, taking comfort in how much better we are than what we invariably see as our competition.




No one expects these things when they imagine coming here.  Obviously you don’t believe you’ll become best friends with every Westerner you meet…but you never expect to wind up at a pizza place full of expats thinking, “These are some of the most fucked people I have ever eavesdropped on.”

And that’s another one of those stinky tofu moments.

When did I become this way?

It doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s a mind grind.  The hippie bullshit.  The middle-aged adolescents.  Jobs marketed as “easy” instead of “challenging,” leading to a complete drop in standards.  We make friends of convenience.  We have meaningless sex.  We tell ourselves the greatest lie:

“I’m not like that.”




For all the dramatic changes in Taiwanese culture in the time I’ve been here, I can not say the same for the expat culture in Taiwan.  In all fairness, this is the only place I’ve ever lived as an expat.  Maybe it’s like this everywhere.  A toxic waste dump of self-absorbed self-conscious self-righteous douchebags who…can’t stop judging each other.

Taiwan has the worst culture I’ve ever been a part of.

54 thoughts on “Taiwan Has the Worst Culture

    • Yeah, I don’t “get happy and write.” I “get sad and write” or “get angry and write.” It makes for both a more cathartic experience for me and a better reading experience for others. Hope you enjoyed it!

  1. LOL. Here I am thinking this was exclusive to me and problems within the African Diaspora. In Taiwan, unlike China, when I would see other brown faces, they often had a negative demeanor. In China, many African or African Americans would at least acknowledge you; at least there was some type of gesture, the head nod you spoke of or a grin.

    In Taiwan, I didn’t get that. I guess when you’re operating out of scarcity, you don’t give.

    What did Black-people-hater Ghandi say? “Be the change you want in the world.”

    Don’t let that shit get to you man. You’re the elder in Taiwan, set an example. Some people are on gaurd and perhaps just dealing with their own shit.

    I wonder why this is manifesting this way in Taiwan? Is it the culture?

    In any event, there are pleny of expats in Taiwan who need help and want to make friends with someone like you.

    Don’t let their negativity dim the light that is within you! You helped me out.

  2. You couldn’t title your post Taiwan has three worst expat culture? You need to expand your social circle yo 😉 Lots of great people here.

  3. You need a hug from a fresh off the boat foreigner bro! But first let’s go find one and hold it’s head under the water!

    There is another aspect. 99% come here with no Chinese ability. The first year is hard, even if you made friends who could guide you. Even if you came to Taiwan sponsored by someone who can get things sorted for you. Even if your employer was highly proactive in protecting your environment.

    Around the 5th year I fell into an anti-newbie stage. I felt like I had cut my teeth and forged my own atmosphere in Taiwan. Which is true; I did. I had finally conquered almost every aspect of daily life.

    Then some new guy shows up? young? drunk? wants my hard earned knowledge? Fuck that guy. He needs to go do it himself or he’s going to be another “yearling”. A foreigner who takes takes, takes, takes and leaves. Someone not worth forging a relationship with.

    Long term Taiwan foreigners have all met someone who made a hasty exit.

    After a while you can quickly spot the ones that love Taiwan and will stay long term – not because Steven Harper sucks, or because Affirmative action in SA makes things dreary, or because Bush Jr. was genetically close to being a monkey. You can spot them because first and foremost they appreciate the culture, and enjoy passively encountering something new & odd, each day.

    You can especially spot the old vampires, who came here before email. Before you could skype with dad everyday. Before google maps and facebook groups could direct you to everything you need. Technology has made some of the new foreigners weak & dependent.

    I have no deep “stinky tofu resentment”. But you’re not getting high fives and cuddles until you make your stripes in this country – and when you do that you might be the baker to my butcher. So we still conflict.

    There is a beauty in the isolation we endure, and don’t fucking talk to me when i’m buying a pizza.

  4. the truth is … the issue is not them, its you. chinese ability is not required, but admiration for their culture. what i cannot stand is westerns that dont like Taiwan yet still live here, make yourself a favor, and go back to your lovely culture, its until you lose something you get to appreciate it. by the way i like stinky toufu, pity for all those who cant discover the taste in new flavors.

    • This is why the title is misleading. He’s not saying anything about Taiwan, actually. He’s saying that foreigners who live here are jerks.

  5. “A toxic waste dump of self-absorbed self-conscious self-righteous douchebags who…can’t stop judging each other.”

    This is the theme of your article, as well as its style and content, so congratulations on having identified yourself as harmful garbage.

    That’s the first step to recovery.

  6. Oh my God, this article could not have been more on point , I believe I became jaded here too and its all because the douchebag people like Marcus Aurelius or Dom the midget mc or assholes like Garrett who assume everyone wanta to fuck his basic wife …yes I’m using names and I don’t care if they see it , the negativity they’ve thrown at me and all the ahit they talk about me when all I was trying to do was make friends is enough , evwn people who claimed they loved me like a brother ended up being full of shit. I have had enough of the other foreigners here waecially in taipei , now there are some cool peeps though few and far between. David barker is an awesomw dude who is just as friendly as he is talented ..

  7. What the bloody thought , I really need to express something after I read the article , For most of Taiwanese never lived abroad or having Foreign friends so That’s the first Image and normal cycle” from lovely and curious to exhausting ” They’re going to do. People always tend to have rare things or scarce resources , then once they got it , Day after day , Taiwanese’ll be getting weary for relating to those Foreign friends they know because as I said most of them had never had foreign friends but now They do , so they don’t think you’re rare or new anymore , To those people , the only reason they wanted to be your types of friend is having something that others don’t have

    • You have to read very carefully. He’s actually talking about foreigners in Taiwan being assholes to other foreigners. Nothing to do with locals 🙂

  8. Pingback: A Response to Joseph Fritz’s “Taiwan Has the Worst Culture” Article | Taichung Expat

  9. ..i guess as expats anywhere in the world sooner or later we get this feeling that it all sucks..the locals, the other expats etc.. so thats when you realize that you either need to make new friends or you’ve forgotten how it really sucks back home.

  10. You nailed this, Joe! Having lived here for most of my life..i get exactly what you’re saying…& feeling.
    I often get asked (by the locals) if i know of any foreigners for this or that or they’d like to meet, etc…& my reply is always, “i really dont know or hang out with the foreigners here; most of my friends are Taiwanese”…much to their shock. And the handful of expats i know are long gone….
    Anyways..i just hope i can be a better example of “not your typical lao wei” here!

  11. Meet an asshole in the morning, and hey – you met an asshole. Run into assholes all day long, then the asshole is you.

  12. To the troll that wrote this mediocre article. I have met some of the BEST people in my life here. Lifelong friends who are kind, caring, creative, smart, outgoing and fun loving. It is a shame that this has been your experience. I can only assume that well quite simply much like your article you suck. I try not to say shitty things about people but let’s be honest here home boy, this is rotten. To the tough guy Richard who is being so honest yet using a fake name, on your note of being basic I have heard of your mc oh how do we say “skills” Nope that felt wrong skills is not the word here for that. Anyways your time that you have spent behind a mic defines basic is the word on the street. I’m pretty sure NO ONE is demanding you stay here, so if it’s that bad LEAVE. Your vibe attracts your tribe. LIFE is fucking grand here. If you can’t see that you should bounce on out. Richard that’s probably 77.8% tighter than anything you’ve ever thrown down on a mic. Bitches stop killing our vibe.

  13. Nice article, Joseph.

    Initially, I thought I was very negative about the attitude of foreigners in Taiwan. I thought maybe it was my appearance that threw people off a bit and got them to be cold to me. But, with time, I tried to lighten up and put on big huge smiles when I see a fellow foreigner. My “Hi”s and waves were not always responded but some were. I noticed that this small gesture actually made more than one foreigner smile. I think we are all (or most) feeling somehow a little lonely on this island. The place is great. The people are great but we did not completely forget our own culture and, for some, we did not immerse in their culture deep enough yet to feel fully comfortable here.
    Bottom line is, besides dealing with the locals crossing the road away from you, not sitting next to you in public transportation, waiting for the next elevator even though the one you are in still has space, grabbing their kids when you come by, etc., we need to deal with foreigners who share the same ‘misfortune’ sometimes. That’s a little sad. There are, with no doubts, great people on this island and I really hope we get to open up a little more even if, as Todd put it, we might remind some people of what they want to leave behind or we are a little too independent. A “Hi”, a nod might be enough to make a difference if you are not in a mood for a long conversation.

  14. DUDE who ever you are don’t get it……… There are so many Extremely hard working educated Expats in this country that have had a huge contribution to the growth of Taiwan…. do some better research…..

  15. Richard’s just mad because I backed out when I saw his pencil dick. Even worse than Garett’s… Fml.

    P.S. DJ Marcus plays the best underground music in all of Asia. No one else can successfully mix who let the dogs out with suavemente by Elvis crespo. That there is just pure talent. Id be basic for him in a heartbeat.

  16. A lot of home truths in this article. I can only blame Taiwanese for making most foreigners feel so awkward, because Taiwanese are mainly awkward around foreigners, and that feeling somehow transfers onto a lot of expats who live here a long time. Maybe including me too sometimes. There’s not enough expats in Taiwan to have a full on expat culture, and Taiwanese are friendly so you can get half way into their culture, but that’s about it. Then you kind of get stuck in the middle. The middle is an awkward place to be.

    15 year expat in Taiwan.

    • I don’t think Taiwanese make foreigners awkward. Most foreigners always say Taiwanese people are in the list of most friendly people in the world. But, most Taiwanese are more family-oriented. They spend more time with family than friends. The interests are also different. Taiwanese people may have interests that foreigners consider as boring. Not every foreigner enjoys being around Taiwanese. They may have some Taiwanese friends, but they still prefer to have a foreigner buddy.

  17. Interesting blog posting. I spent 14 months in Taiwan teaching in English at a major university. The teaching part was quite a favorable experience. The living part was not. In my view, the expat community in Taiwan often consists of individuals escaping reality. The people that I met had 25 years plus living in Taiwan and spoke little Chinese. They came for a reason which they would not disclose. I believe that many of them were running away from something rather than running to Taiwan. Twenty some years ago Taiwan was (and actually still is in many respects) a pretty isolated place. Easy to disappear. So they value this anonymity and don’t want newcomers in their lives. So be it.

    I lived in one other expat community. But there were a lot of business people in the pack who were always interested in networking and meeting new people. Unfortunately Taiwan has based on my experience limited interaction opportunities. The Taiwanese have little if any interest in foreigners in the circles that I moved in. I wish it were different. There are many good things about Taipei. It’s just not a place for foreigners such as myself to hang out.

  18. What the fuck did I just read? You’re fucking pathetic. The world does not revolve around your white-centric agenda. Sorry your white feelings got hurt. Fucking colonial

  19. White trash coming here to teach English on their gap year or as a means to earn quick money and the only qualification you have is a degree other than teaching ESL from a shit university from an English speaking country. You don’t try to learn Chinese or local customs. You expect people to bow down to you and your behaviour. NO! FUCKING ASSIMILATE! Honestly white people just do this whenever they move a foreign and “exotic” country. If you don’t fucking like it go the fuck back home.

    • Anyone else curious how fun it must be watch Hillary when she walks through a Chinatown in any major city in the world, screaming at people who live there – many families that have lived there for generations – to assimilate?

  20. Here the the mainland I just keep to myself. It’s a lot of drama in the expat community. I don’t give a shit if someone has “hard earned” experience with the locals or not. Just like the poor villager who comes to Shenzhen or Guangzhou to make more money I’m here for the same reason as well. I realized that as I went from the late 20’s to 30’s and got married (With a teacher from Europe, I’m American) I didn’t have time for flakes, I didn’t have time to meet people at parties who under the influence of alcohol wanted to be pretend to be friends or worse the circle jerk of odd ball mesh of people who somehow became friends and hang out so much and know each other so well that they fuck each other’s ex girlfriends and stab each other behind the back over women or money. The drama. Oh the drama. The worst is when you meet clowns who are waiting to tell you that somehow because they speak Chinese they understand the culture better than you do and then proceed to show you how well integrated they are. If one thing I learned about mainland China is that if you can make money, improve image, boost scores, create contacts and contracts and overall create guanxi for yourself and for the locals they don’t care if you speak Chinese or not. Chinese are a relationship based society not a “Hey I’m an expat douche who learned Chinese and therefore I know the culture and people better than you” based society. Not all foreigners who take the effort to learn and write the language are like this, far from it but there are enough of them out there. I don’t go to bars to do dick measuring contests about how long I have been in China or how well I can speak the language. I don’t hang out with expats or Chinese really, I have my wife and I have my part time jobs and students. I don’t have time for drama at my age and dealing with motherfuckers who are a bitch slap away from getting on my nerves about why the reason they are not having ANY problems in China is because they are so high and mighty and the Chinese people just LOVE them for one reason or another. Listen the popular bozo’s here in China eventually burn out or die, no really. Any expat who is popular with other expats or locals is like a little celebrity and they eat it up, I sure would too except the after effects are that you never have real long term friends because most move on or move out or grow up, some like me get married and don’t have time to be as social at that particular level anymore, others just want to keep the popular train going with their social circles of like 500 people (Most of whom eventually get into drama battles “Casey isn’t going to come because Tom’s friend Mike is going”) Some expats are like mini reality t.v shows. The expats I get along with are those that are too fucking busy to meet me and when we do meet we have a great time, shake hands, say goodbye and then go get shit done. Some of the most loyal expats are people who have obligations like kids, wives, jobs or careers whether in teaching or not. These people have something to lose and therefore create responsible habits and networks of friends in the expat and local community. Clowns who only look forward to the weekend, who have time to ask dick measuring questions or who think that they’re the greatest thing to come to China (I remember one dumb ass in Shanghai said he came to China to become a television writer despite the fact that in China comedy is written in Chinese and with Chinese humor but I’m sure he became the next Conan) eventually crash and burn. Come to China or Taiwan and work your butt off to achieve your true dream and then go from there. There are losers in the teaching game and in the corporate game boys and girls and you realize that as you grow and mature it becomes obvious that the expat you’d like to have your wife, your son or daughter to get to know are few and far between. People really have to learn to use the delete button on Weixin or Line and get rid of toxic vampiric people in their lives while in China or Taiwan because believe me it’s the first step in turning that frown upside down in the wild east.

  21. I married a taiwanese girl, i’m a foreigner, we’re in love since 6 years, met each others in Europe. her parents are so weird, either i follow their culture either they treat us like a strangers. is that the Taiwanese culture ? or is it how Taiwanese old people are treating foreigner husband…it’s really bad impression…makes someone thinks why china is doing so bad things to Taiwan. in fact what i have experienced in Taiwan the year i stayed in is that they are so yellow, thick faces sometimes or double faces , and making mostly friends for benefits. they cannot get a long with non Asian cultures, and that’s the reason why they are not very welcome in Europe and north America, except Japanese and S.Koreans. i’m sorry for any good Taiwanese person will read this, i believe you have touched this one day in the past. so…

  22. Taiwan is going backwards, with this new government wanting to go independent from China and the hate i and gnorance the new generation has towards the mainland, this country is going no where fast!

  23. Dear Tom,

    Look man, your masters at the 中共中央宣传部 (CCPPD) will not pay you the .5 元 (yuan) per post if you continue this low-quality “cut & paste” method. If you are going to convince the foreigners you must first read the blog and frame your propaganda within the context of the original post.

    So, troublesome! Please say, “Thank you, teacher!” to me for instructing you!

    Okay, now get back to work! Go test your skills at the blog: http://michaelturton.blogspot.com/

  24. I’m confused your title refers to Taiwan culture but the article focuses on negative aspects of expats. Which is it?

    If the former (ie, local Chinese/Taiwanese), what is it you find disagreeable about them and their culture?

  25. I don’t get it why some people get upset about this post. He is just writing what he had experienced here. I can prove he has a lot of valid points. Go to check on facebook. Most expats add a bunch of other expats in Taiwan. Sometimes, they don’t even know everyone. They just add friends of friends, or see someone commenting in the group, and add them. Some believe that building a circle of expats may be convenient for expats. Sometimes, it makes the things even worse. Joseph is right when he said that people wish to see your happiness, they just can’t see you doing better than them.Of course, this is what most human beings do. But, we always forget that people are just humans. If you feel the pain, someone else also feels the pain. They might treat you super friendly at the first meeting. But, try to meet them deeply in 2 or 3 months. They will insult you for no reason. If you are upset, they will accuse you for not having a sense of humour. Sense of humour is always an excuse to offend others. No, they are not fun people who really understand about sense of humour. They are insecure, needy, lonely, and prefer to attack other people because they can’t solve their own problems.

  26. I finally figured out all people hate white chicks in Asia. Employers, clubs, social groups. Even other white chicks.
    Only Phillipines and Indonesia do I feel loved and confident in Asia. Funny too, white men are 2nd to us in those 2 countries. They win all everywhere else though.
    Once u figure out nobody likes u cuz ur white chick, you can quit beating urself up and learn to enjoy your own company (and yes, you will be very very alone) until u leave Asia.

  27. To be fair Taiwanese expats abroad hate each other’s guts as well and are mean af to each other, and I’m speaking from experience.

    • Yes, I believe it’s much more “an expat thing” than “a Westerner thing.” That was really the spirit of the piece: “the angry delusion of the expat.” The framing is what it is because I am where I am and know how to make people click a link.

  28. Thanks for sharing. Your intro and end throws me off because if you’re talking expat culture can you just add the word expat? I would agree that the personality profile of many expats you’ve encountered/associated with are the typical Americans – big headed, full of ego, and are bred to see confrontation as a +1 to whatever score being kept type of thing. Further, I would venture a guess many of those you have explained escape/retire to the island with unrealistic expectations. While USDs go far, the economy is good, not great and bleeds into many aspects of the culture and how the average citizen fares in that environment.
    If you’ll allow me to say, I think you’ll need to shift your hopes and attitude a bit because hey it’s like that everywhere. The horrible people are ample and cannot be the punctuations in your day. Why they plague this world I cannot say.

  29. Pingback: A Response to Joseph Fritz’s “Taiwan Has the Worst Culture” Article – No Chinese, No Problem

  30. Tell em how you really feel lol

    I really can’t disagree with much of this. Bad music. Mediocre self hating washed up foreigners judging each other for amusement. Their cute bland girlfriends. Big fish small pond types. The near impossibility of having any conversation with the locals that doesn’t come down to ‘you’re different than us, tell us about it’. Almost all of the foreigners long term end up going off the conservative deep end. Lousy sports.. Dilapidated crappy buildings. Pretending this doldrums is a place you want to be not that you have to be. Everyone with their face in their phones.

    At least the airport works good and there’s trains.

    HInt: go to the east coast.

  31. Yeah, expat culture in Taiwan is pretty toxic. If you stay long enough there are sweet spots but all in all, worse than in other Asian locales. No idea why. Taiwanese people are great.

  32. last summer I had a terrible accident and it almost took my life, several bones broke. But the funny thing is police and doctors were trynna to cover me. And no one did not gave me compensation ffs. Really? I was crossing your goddamn road on the freaking white line with no traffic light but still, they still trynna blame me. Yeah Taiwan feels like bunch of fake smile bullies to me. I would never ever recommend Taiwan to anyone. Not everyone smiles is your friend. yeah they do act kind and friendly. But beneath their skin there is horrible people hides. This is what I learned from your island.

Leave a Reply