10 Yr Anniversary: An Expat’s Life in Taiwan

Ten years ago (well, ten years and 15 days actually), I stepped off a plane in Taipei, Taiwan to have an adventure. I knew no Mandarin but had my language book in tow and was ready to learn. Fresh out of college and excited to live in a new country, I had no idea how living in Asia would change my life–but I knew it would change it. Since I am in a nostalgic mood, here’s one of my favorite anecdotes from my time there, also featured in my book Encounters with Strangers.

Pigu Hen Hao

Construction worker fixing road on Roosevelt Road in Taipei.

Compared to New York City, Taipei is a fairly safe place. I often walked home late at night, talked to strangers freely and even enjoyed taking cabs–something locals don’t like to do since most drivers are ex-cons.

One evening while I was walking home from work, two scooters sped on to the sidewalk (which isn’t allowed in Taipei).

The middle-aged Taiwanese men drove up next to me and stopped. I wasn’t sure if it was coincidental or if they wanted to ask me something so I paused and looked at them.

“Ni hao,” the man greeted me while his friend stared. They were both chewing binlan (beetle nut), a legal drug that makes your teeth red, gives you a warm feeling and a boost of energy.

The man continued speaking but I couldn’t understand everything he said so I asked, “Shenma? (What?)”

Then the man slapped my butt and said, “Pigu hen hao! (Your butt is nice)” and the two men quickly drove off, weaving in between the sidewalk pedestrians.

I couldn’t move–I was so shocked. I thought, ‘Did anyone see that? That guy just hit my butt! Should I call the police?!’ I had never felt so vulnerable.

I didn’t know what else to do but walk home in disbelief. Now that I think back (two years later), what happened that night shouldn’t have surprised me. Those two were just like any other American man: they liked to speed, to flirt with young women, and appreciated a round rear.b

4 responses to “10 Yr Anniversary: An Expat’s Life in Taiwan

  1. I love how that guy is wearing flip flops. Geesh.That’s very cool about your time in Taiwan. I visited several years ago and I liked it. The food was amazing. For some reason, it felt like the MIT area in Boston. Industrialish. Busy. Hodge podge. But with a lot going on.

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