Friday, August 10, 2007

Wasai--- Hugs, not drugs

My first experience of Taiwan began before I had even set foot on the plane from America. Within moments of leaving my cab, and joining the line at Los Angeles airport, I fell into a conversation with a man from Singapore and a Taiwanese woman (the first person from Taiwan I had ever met). She was so helpful, asking me where I was planning to stay in Taiwan, offering to give me a ride from the airport when we got to Taiwan, and just generally going out of her way to be hospitable and kind. This was a level of helpfulness that I have never experienced from a stranger in the United States. At the conclusion of our 14 hour flight, I determined that the hostel where I planned on staying was very far out of her way, so I suggested that I take a cab instead. She talked to the airport information center to find out the location of my hostel, and then lead me to the taxi stand, and gave the driver instructions in Chinese. We traded phone numbers, and then I thanked her and gave her a hug goodbye. I noticed as I did this that she appeared to be extremely nervous, and very surprised. She didn’t respond the way someone normally does to a friendly hug, and seemed to be frozen.

I discovered later that the idea of a “friendly” hug is not usual in Taiwan. In America, if a man and woman know each other fairly well, a hug is a usual form of greeting or saying goodbye. Women also usually greet each other with hugs if they know each other fairly well. It is not as usual for men to hug each other, but certain men will, especially if they are greeting or saying goodbye to a very close friend whom they haven’t seen for a while, or don’t plan to see again in the near future. Pats on the back, shoulder, or arms are very usual among male friends. Hugs are a nice, friendly tradition between men and women, but there is nothing intrinsically sexual about them. If you think someone might be interested in you, you can often tell by the way they hug you. A friendly hug is much more casual (and usually shorter) than a hug between people who are romantically involved. After our long journey together, and after all the help she had given me, I thought it would be very rude to say goodbye with a cold handshake! From what I have learned, this difference in cultures starts very early. Mothers in America never stop hugging their children, often embarrassing their teenage kids, and continuing to hug their children when they’re grown adults. I understand now that this is not usual in Taiwan. Hugs are so common in America that there was an anti-drug slogan put out by the government that said, “Hugs, not Drugs"

Submitted to Wasai Taiwan by: Randy Fowler

see some related videos:
1. Free hugs, Kaohsiung

2. Free hugs, Taipei (2006)


VideoJug: How To Give A Great Man To Man Hug

For Expats

For Taiwanese


Anonymous said...

It's my opinion that Americans are more expressive of their feelings. When I see many couples in the movies, before they say goodbye they would give each other a kiss or at least say "love you." In Taiwan, couples are not that expressive. Or I should say we do not have the routines to do so. But would people feel the love showing behaviour might lose its original intentions as it becoems only as a routine?

Anonymous said...

Americans may be more expressive of love between couples, but I felt physical contact between male friends in Taiwan tends to be more intimate than in the US, like an arm on the shoulders.
This also reminds me a lot of Americans learning to deal with the European custom of politely kissing someone on the cheek as a greeting.

Anonymous said...

Living 6 years in Germany, still no hugs for me in general. However, I did not feel hesitate to hug certain female friends in Taiwan. Certainly no hugs with any male.

- Taiwanese Female