When I first came to Taiwan I was struck by the women here. It was August and it was hot and they were, in general, wearing very little. I too wore very little, coming from what I would now describe as a chilly Wisconsin summer. Walking the streets in my neighborhood those first few weeks was a little depressing. I did not see myself as even comparable to the women I now walked amongst. Those first few weeks I thought it was just me.
After 6 months living in a hostel with a constant ebb and flow of foreigners passing through, I have come o realize that it was not just me. All of the American white women I have met coming through Taipei have expressed similar feelings of awe and inadequacy upon arriving in the city. After 6 months living here though, the feeling fades.
Upon first arriving in Taipei we look around and see so many women thinner than we are, shorter than we are. They are dressed fashionably and in combinations of clothes that one does not see back home. We look down at our legs now scarred from scratching the incessant mosquito bites. We know we shouldn't scratch them, but it is impossible to resist. They all seem to have a man on their arm - or beside them carrying their purse/puppy/shopping bags.
We go to the night clubs and see women dressed to the nines. They seem to be able to command the room. We are in awe. The white men whom have come with us from the hostel or school are being approached throughout the night by these women. No man comes near. It is easy to be a white man in Taipei. After a long night at the clubs we return home and gossip with amazement at how popular our housemates/classmates seem to be. In Taipei we think, it is not easy to be a white woman.
We are, however, mistaken. Some of us learn this because we are fortunate enough to find a veteran resident who explains the joys of the Taipei dating scene. Some of us learn this by mistake, like I did, by smiling to some man while passing through the metro station.
This is not America. This is Taipei and the rules are different.