Eastern Girls and Western Boys

Taiwanese girls and their Western (mostly white) boyfriends: A tricky subject that expats and Taiwanese can talk about endlessly.

On Twitter, someone recommended the website eRenlai, which describes itself as „an Asia-Pacific magazine of cultural, social and spiritual concerns“. I have not yet found the time to really dig into it, but I stumbled upon two videos I highly recommend for anyone interested in the dynamics of Taiwanese-Foreigner relationships and their perception by Taiwanese society.

Nationalism and girls who date foreigners

Some Taiwanese refer to local girls dating Western (i.e. white) foreigners as Xicanmei (西餐妹), literally „girls who like Western-style food.“ (This video by rapper Dog-G is one example.) I have also heard the term „Potato Queen“ (馬鈴薯皇后).

The subject of intercultural/interracial relationships is being discussed ad nauseam on sites like Forumosa.com and probably on a lot of Taiwanese forums as well.

My German blog entry about this subject: Sex, Lügen und Vorurteile

But I had not yet seen an attempt to give a voice to those who are directly affected by such terms – namely, Taiwanese girls dating Western guys. That is why this video is worth watching. (Click CC for English subtitles.)

The filmmakers interviewed five women. (And a Western guy, whose blurred-out statements do not add that much.)

Some statements I found interesting:

  • „Dating a Westerner has nothing to do with him being white, but with culture.“
    Interview with a Taiwanese girl about dating foreigners

 

  • „Some girls think foreigners are particularly exotic, just like some guys like girls with big breasts.“
  • „Because their own political position is awkward, Taiwanese tend to project stereotypes on people from foreign countries. Like: French must be romantic. There is more space for your imagination than with a Taiwanese guy. With him, you know how he grew up. For a French guy, you can imagine a wonderful life for him, but maybe he is really ordinary and grew up next to some dreary fishing port.“
    Interview with a Taiwanese girl about dating foreigners

 

  • „In Taiwan, the term ‚foreigners‘ is always suggesting Westerners.“
  • „For some girls, sleeping with a foreigner is like an achievement, she can brag about it.“
    Interview with a Taiwanese girl about dating foreigners

 

  • „If the limits on immigration are loosened to much, Taiwanese culture could be invaded. There would be more and more Xicanmei, and Taiwanese guys would have a harder time finding a girlfriend.“ (This is a statement I personally cannot agree with. Stop eating pizza and watching Hollywood movies if you are afraid of your culture being „invaded“.)
  • „People may think because Taiwan is a weak country by international standards, girls stick to foreigners from countries perceived as being more powerful. It is pathetic that Taiwanese see themselves in this way.“
  • „Our education tells us that foreign things are all great, that red wine is better than rice wine or Kaoliang. And you have to speak English to be international. Going to America or having a German boyfriend sound very special and cool.“

One of the authors working on this project elaborated on the eRenlai website:

The term (Xicanmei) always made struck me as over-emphasizing the difference between Taiwanese people (us) and Western foreigners (them). The fact that it refers almost exclusively to women suggests also that there is a male chauvinist implication behind the term – it functions to undermine the individuality and independence of women in the choices they make in their love lives, and sees these choices instead in terms of a failure to be patriotic and marry ‚into the tribe‘ so to speak.
(…)
(Taiwanese men who date Western girls) are seen in a much more positive light than their female counterparts – and Western girls, it could be argued that Western girls are seen as status symbols – which feeds into the Nationalistic narrative from the other end. So essentially it’s the male voice from which value is derived – essentially translating to – ‚if she dates a foreigner – it’s a rejection of me, the Taiwanese male, therefore a rejection of Taiwan, – if I date a foreigner then it is an affirmation of me, a Taiwanese male, therefore an affirmation of Taiwan.‘

(Emphasis is mine)

Xicanmei vs South-East Asian brides 西餐妺x東南亞外藉配偶

Another one of the eRenlai editors added his own thoughts on the matter. He comes up with some interesting observations as to how Taiwanese in general perceive and treat foreigners from other (poorer) Asian countries differently from Westerners. Being Taiwanese and male, he obviously does not fit the ‚male chauvinist‘ pattern outlined above.

Some key statements:

  • „Taiwanese like to think of themselves as very open-minded, but actually they are not. The society is conservative when it comes to accepting people from other countries. On the outside people are very open, but on the inside they have a strong opinion about race.“
    Interview with a Taiwanese guy

 

  • „On the one hand Taiwanese often criticize girls who are with Western men and try to assimilate Western culture. But the foreign (South-East Asian) girls who marry Taiwanese men and try to become a part of Taiwanese culture are also frowned upon by the same people.“
  • „Some people belittle Asians and consider Westerners are better. That is just as loathsome.“
  • „Filipinos often speak better English than Taiwanese people, but in Taiwan they are still expected to communicate in Chinese, different from Western foreigners.“
    Interview with a Taiwanese guy

Over the last few years living in Taiwan, I have come to share many of these observations. But it feels good to see Taiwanese actually saying it out loud.

There are so many good things to be said about Taiwan’s society, and it has gone through such impressive developments, that I am quite confident: In a few years time, many of these problems will have been resolved.

What do you think? Will ‚Xicanmei‘ become a term with positive connonations, or is already not that much of a problem?

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I am a German reporter living and working in Taiwan. Read more English posts on this otherwise mostly German blog. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Plurk, and Google Plus.

English posts you might want to have a look at:

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20 Kommentare zu “ Taiwanese girls dating Western foreigners: What is a Xicanmei 西餐妹 ? ”

  1. Dennis sagt:

    „Taiwanese like to think of themselves as very open-minded, but actually they are not. The society is conservative when it comes to accepting people from other countries. On the outside people are very open, but on the inside they have a strong opinion about race.“

    This is something that I sadly have to totally agree with. And I do not think that this is simply a matter of a few years time but rather a matter of one or two generations. In the given situation of Taiwanese frustration on not being accepted by most other countries even longer.

    • Wilhelm sagt:

      Taiwanese shouldn’t be frustrated of not being recognized by most countries, it’s the direct consequence of Tang Kai Check’s decision to leave the UN when the PRC joined it and cut diplomatic ties with anyone recognizing China as a country. That was not a smart move on the long term but still, the country is the only responsible for this situation. And their conservative thinking, which prevent them from looking at facts, is the reason of their frustration (I am not saying that they should unite but they can’t be frustrated for not being officially recognized by France, my country, when they decided unilaterally to cut ties with it – besides, Europe still grant Taiwanese access to soil for 3 months without visa… Not bad for a country which is „rejected“). Based on my wife’s explanations of the news and political debates, I feel that Taiwan mainstream thinking likes to position itself as a victim…

  2. interesting interview 🙂

  3. Pok Pin sagt:

    Actually, a „potato queen“ refers to gay Asian men who will only date white men. Have never heard it used to refer to straight people (though I suppose it is possible). 西餐妹 can also be used in the gay community to describe this, in a more ironic sense of course considering the use of the word 妹.

  4. Hsucheng sagt:

    Besides 西餐妹, there’s a popular term used in online forum: CCR, which is the abbreviation of cross-cultured romance. But instead of the real and politically correct meaning, people tend to use this word to describe a girl who dates foreigners, especially Caucasians.
    So they will use it like: You are a CCR. Or when they see a girl dating a foreigner, they will just comment this three Alphabets and say no more words to summarize their whole relationship.
    Also, there’s another worse and strong term: 哈洋屌, sucking the foreign cock. So people would say, she/he (likes) sucks foreign cocks. Or some of them like to leave comments like 哈_屌,哈洋_ to be fun.

  5. Dan Chapman sagt:

    The subject of white western husband versus south east asian bride is an interesting one, which has its pros and cons. For example, my half western kids are given every allowance and applauded for having good Chinese; the half south east asian kid would be expected to speak good Chinese. The downside is that my kid is called foreigner all the time, whereas the half south east asian kid is regarded as Taiwanese. The irony here is that they have even been called foreigner by the half south east asian kids who are obviously to the idea that they are anything else than Taiwanese. The key here is, whatever your father is, you are. I write a lot about this on my blog. The funniest thing is where you have a Taiwan father and white mother. Other kids will immediately shout foreigner to the kid until the father walks over. Then they all shut up, embarrassed because they are wrong. If i walk over they continue smiling and playing because they were right. The kid is a foreigner.

  6. Kover sagt:

    I think it would be more interesting if you emphasizes Foreigners as WHITE people, in the beginning of the video.

    A lot of taiwanese people call foreigners based on their skin color. Also, there is a racial issue, indirectly racial issue*

  7. Yang sagt:

    Well, interesting post!

    I think the term „Xi Can Mei“ is not very appropriate I think that’s the reason why in the video, girls will not admit if some call them „Xi Can Mei“. It implies some negative meaning in it instead of just saying the fact that you are dating westerners.

    I am wondering if we will have another new term for westerners who are dating Taiwanese girls in the future. „zhong can ge?(中餐哥?) LOL

  8. John Smith sagt:

    Not sure if any people will get to read this post, as it appears that it’s been awhile since someone posted. I think Taiwanese people can rest asurred, with 1.3 billion Chinese people, the so-called Han „race“ is not at risk of disappearing anytime soon, and there will always be a plentiful supply of potential partners to be found, even with one-child policy and what not. (sorry to lump Taiwan together with China like that, but just from the purely „racial“ perspective, they are the same). That said, I personally don’t believe in any race, and believe humans should learn to respect each other simply as fellow humans.

  9. Ben sagt:

    I’ve been to Taiwan about 8 months in the last 4 years, and I see the women as polite, but inapproachable. Also, they don’t seem to be interested in White Males, at least not May-Guo’s.

  10. Jan St sagt:

    where would be the ideal place to meet locals in Taiwan other than the internet?

Trackbacks & Pingbacks:

  1. […] (englisch): Taiwanerinnen mit westlichen Freunden – was ist eine “Xicanmei” […]

  2. […] Taiwanese girls dating Western foreigners: What is a Xicanmei 西餐妹Jul 9, 2012 … Some Taiwanese refer to local girls dating Western (i.e. white) foreigners as Xicanmei (西餐妹), literally “girls who like Western-style food. […]

  3. […] Eastern Girls and Western Boys – ein Artikel vom Taiwanreporter Klaus Bardenhagen […]

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