Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Wasai--- Dating 101

I was dating a cute girl soon after arriving in Tainan. I was smitten so did everything you're expected to do: open doors, buy flowers, gifts, dinner and dancing, the works. And things seemed to be going pretty well. We were seeing each other every few days and everything felt like it was going just right. Until one day, I bought her a box of chocolates. It was wrapped and still in its gift bag when I handed it to her. She accepted it and then to my surprise, instead of opening it up, she simply smiled and placed it on the table next to her and then went on as if nothing had just happened.

Whoa, there, I thought. That was odd. If she didn’t like the present, she was of course under no obligation to enthuse about the offering but sheesh, take a look and say a quick thanks at least. Right? I brushed it off as we were going out but the mystery lingering and began festering in the back of my mind.

2-3 days later, I couldn’t ignore it anymore and told her I was a bit dismayed at her “callousness” when she accepted my gift. She thought I was off my rocker. She was delighted, she said. “What did I do wrong?” she asked. I told her that I was offended by her completely disregarding my feelings and having thrown my gift aside. She replied that I was being too sensitive and unreasonable.

Now I really was stumped and the discussion started getting more and more heated as I repeatedly explained my dismay and she continually defended the improprieties that I was accusing her of.

Turns out it was a misunderstanding. In the West, when we get a present, we are expected to make a big to-do about it, even if it’s something unwelcome like getting that ugly lime green and brown striped sweater from Aunt Thelma. It’s the thought that counts, right?

Only later did I learn that here in Taiwan, most of the time, gifts are not opened but set aside. It would seem too greedy or impatient for a person to immediately unwrap a present. So for Taiwanese, it’s the thought that counts too.

It took a couple of hours until this little light went on for both of us but when we finally did sort through this we were both relieved and incredulous.

She's now my wife and we still have a good laugh at the funny cultural gaffe.

Submitted to Wasai Taiwan by: Robert Dawson

1 comment:

Fili said...

That's a great story. Thanks for sharing that.