Last month, when I told a fellow expat in Taiwan that I’m asexual, one of the things he said that Taiwan is a great place to be asexual. I asked why, and he replied that asexuals do not have to deal with the problems with dating in Taiwan.
After thinking about it, I’ve come to the conclusion that Taiwan is not, in fact, particularly great for ace-spectrum expats.
It is true that many expats from the Anglophone world who try to date Taiwanese people in Taiwan – particularly Taiwanese people who have never lived abroad – experience a ton of frustration. The common thread I’ve noticed is that many do not feel valued by their Taiwanese romantic-sexual partners.
Now, as I’ve said before on this blog, Sinophone societies (including Taiwan) tend to put parent-child and sibling-sibling relationships higher on the relationship hierarchy than romantic-sexual relationships. So I’m not surprised to hear that some Taiwanese people do not invest as much their romantic-sexual relationships as much as expats from the Anglophone world are used to.
There are individual Taiwanese people who feel thei romantic-sexual relationships are more important than their parent/child/sibling relationships. There are also individual Americans who feel their friendships are more important than their romantic-sexual relationships. But it would be unwise to assume that people are not going to follow their culture’s prevailing relationship hierarchy.
Loneliness is often a major problem for expats, and for people coming from a culture where romantic-sexual relationships top the hierarchy, finding a romantic-sexual partner might seem like a good solution. However … that might not work with a Taiwanese partner, especially without clear communication. And, in my opinion, a Taiwanese romantic-sexual partner should not bear the full responsibility of alleviating an expat’s loneliness. It’s up to the expats to create a situation where they do not depend on a Taiwanese romantic-sexual partner to manage loneliness.
Now here’s the thing … the fact that Taiwanese (and Sinophone societies in general) put parent/child/sibling relationships at the top of the hierarchy? That’s also a problem for people who want to form deep relationships based neither on romance/sex nor kinship. And that just happens to be the kind of relationship many aces (myself included) would really like to have.
I have not met any self-identified aces in Taiwan. My suspicion is that, since parent/child/sibling relationships are the most valued, Taiwanese aces feel less isolated and ‘different’ than their counterparts in the Anglophone world, and thus feel less need to take on an ace identity. Of course, since I haven’t discussed this with any Taiwanese aces, this is pure speculation, and might not actually be true. I also suspect that, because parent/child/sibling relationships are just as compatible with ace-spectrum orientations as they are with other orientations (well, many aces prefer being childfree – but since Taiwan has a birth rate lower than China and Japan, this is not going to make aces stand out), Taiwanese aces are not as interested in forming deep relationships with people beyond their family of origin as their counterparts in the Anglophone world.
In other words, though I have no interest in dating, the same forces which make dating in Taiwan challenging for expats also make is hard for me to form the kinds of close relationships I’d really like to have.
So, no, Taiwan is not a great place to be an expat ace.
However, one thing that makes my situation different from non-ace expats is that this is not so different from my situation in my home country. Yes, being an expat Taiwan sucks for trying to form close, intimate, deep relationships, but my opportunities in the United States were not wonderful either. In this regard, being in Taiwan does not make my situation much worse – but it does make the situation much worse for people who rely on romantic-sexual relationships for closeness. Also, because I had already been living with a dearth of the kind of close relationships I want to have, I was probably more mentally prepared for the situation in Taiwan. But just because I cope better with this problem than some expats does not mean that Taiwan is a particularly great place for ace-spectrum expats to be.
I know quite a few people who peruse ace blogs have been expats. If you are an ace who has been an expat, what has your experience been like?