Private or Public: Conflicting Images of Taiwan People

Ad on the back of a bus stop sign: "Specializing in catching marital affairs, saving marriage."

If one asks me to generalize my impressions of the people here, I would say, they are hardworking, private, humble, sensitive, fiercely proud, yet frequently self-doubting; culturally, they embody polarizing tendencies in one: they obey tradition but take pride in Americanizing at the same time.

Just as I feel I am beginning to know Taiwan, I get reminded how far from the truth I am. It happened to me again this morning.

We listen to the Mandarin radio station, BCC, every day. Aside from news and weather, BCC covers the usual: politicians, health, child rearing, neighborhood fire, heroe saving strangers etc. The social norms that come through these programs are very Chinese.

Ad on the back of a bus stop sign: "women detective"
Then came today’s talk show on “Defeating xiao san“. “Xiao san”, translated word by word, is “the little 3rd”, but it actually means the 3rd party in a marital affair.

A number of people called in and shared a great deal of details of their husbands’ affairs, what they themselves did to xiao san, or about their marriage. Oohs and aahs were exchanged in amazement and disdain.

Is my hearing right?! Whom the husbands had affairs with, what he said, what she said, what he did, what she did, all from this sensitive, private people?!

Then, I remembered the signs at the bus stops. They read: “women detective”, “help catch marital affairs”, and “save marriage”.

Next time I go to Tokyo or New York, I have to see whether this is done or aired there, too. I simply don’t remember.


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