The first week in taiwan was almost unreal. It seemed so magical to be in a place with all the conveniences of a developed country (and often times better than the states - cleaner, more efficient) and yet at the same time have access to everything that I seemed to long for in the states/Michigan. I find infinite delight in the fact that things that I've learned to be special (ie only available on special trips to specific places and sometimes very expensive and sometimes obtained illegally) are available at every turn. I can walk down the hospital hallway on the way to a meeting with the most up-to-date medical practices while munching on chinese bread and sipping on milk tea that I purchased at SEVEN ELEVEN, OF ALL PLACES. And it brings me immense satisfaction that it's only a rare interaction where people seem to notice that I'm not from Taiwan. Since Taipei is so developed and there's a lot of contact with the Western world, the sense of fashion here is similar enough that I fit in. Unlike when I was in China, people can't tell just by looking at me that I'm from the States. And there's this weird sense of satisfaction and comfort that I can walk down the street and completely blend in. And I wonder if that's how my white classmates feel all the time. (Probably not I suppose.)
I'm not even sure I have the thoughts organized in my head well enough to describe it. Taipei is more developed in a way that is familiar to what I've been used to. It's clean. People are quieter, more "polite." It's not the level of wealth, because I didn't have this same sense while visiting the large, developed cities in China, but it does have something to do with what one thinks is the proper way to utilize wealth. More concrete examples: China is tackier, people in Taipei are more polished. These are not descriptions that are mine alone, but a common way that people describe the difference between Mainlanders and Taiwanese. And it all carries a tone that implies these are not just cultural differences, but also that one is better. And I wonder if it's because some part of me still believes that the more American something is, the better it is.
I realize that I not only identified more strongly with Taiwan because it's more familiar to me, but I also believe that it's superior. I wonder at what point along the way I was indoctrinated. I think about all the times that I heard my parents speaking about the difference between Taiwanese Chinese and Mainland Chinese. Though I never knew exactly what differences they were talking about, I could tell from their tone that we were superior. I think about how often we're sent the message that American ways are superior. I think about how often I've scoffed at the notion that our way of doing things was better. And yet my instincts still tell me that American is better. Yet again, I'm awed at how attitudes, no matter how subtly expressed, are passed down and accepted without question and without notice.