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Thursday, January 28, 2021

A Sinified German from Valencia in Taiwan

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For detailed biographical information, please check the very first article of this blog. Thanks!

While living in Taiwan for almost 20 years, as a German who grew up in Spain totally bilingual, I was regularly asked by Taiwanese if I felt more German or Spanish. Usually I answered that the ratio was about 60% to 40%, actually a totally random figure.

When in 2008 Germany and Spain reached the Euro football final, they wanted to know which team I supported. I just smiled, stating that on that occasion I couldn’t lose. Any result would be fine!

I ended up watching the game with my former roommate from Salamanca and a visitor from Berlin in a pub in Tianmu, Taipei’s traditional foreigner area, early in the morning.

Spain deservedly won 1-0. While sitting in the taxi back to his hotel, the frustrated German weirdo started complaining about how ugly the city was to vent out his anger about the loss.

He ended up canceling our trip to the south of the island. According to his expertise, it looked exactly the same there and therefore wasn’t worth a trip.

I had to call my buddy, who would have been our German-speaking host, guide and driver in Tainan, to tell him that His Highness was indisposed and wouldn’t change his mind.

For complex reasons, I had little to no contact with the German Institute which, given the absence of diplomatic relations between Germany and Taiwan due to China’s constant pressure, serves as embassy, the German Trade Office or the Goethe Institute, in charge of cultural affairs.

Although for very different causes I didn’t get along with all but one of the various official representatives which headed the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan, in 2011 I became a founding member of the House of Spain in Taiwan (Casa de España en Taiwán).

I attended many events, including all wine-tasting lunches, and met very interesting, friendly and helpful Spaniards who accepted me, the German from Valencia, as one of them.

Even considering the fact that 33 years had passed since I left Valencia for good to study Sinology in Berlin in 1985, I felt sad and disappointed when I noticed step by step that I was being treated mostly as a guiri after I returned in early 2018.

This is a pejorative term for a certain type of foreigner in Spain, usually a tourist or someone else that stands out as being obviously not a local, which only refers to fairer-skinned people from Germany, Great Britain, Scandinavia, the United States, Australia and maybe sometimes Russia.

I slowly realized how much I had been shaped by Taiwanese culture as well as the way of thinking and doing things in Formosa, which I started to miss more and more!

The friendly owner of a Chinese shop nearby even told me bluntly that I was neither German nor Spanish, but actually Chinese! My Western face just didn’t match!

Some would have considered such a statement offensive. For me, it was a real eye-opener which confirmed my suspicion that my future lies in Asia and not in Europe, where the decline is visible.

I would love to be back already, though because of the strict regulations regarding the reimport of my two cats to their country of origin, the three of us will have to wait until next spring. I’m looking forward to go home!

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  1. I still remember that night. Your fiend was not very happy at all… 😉 … But we enjoy more the 2012 final against Italy. Also in TianMu I remember…
    Nice to hear you want to come back. See you soon in Taiwan…

    • The 4-0 trashing of Italy in the 2012 Euro final was indeed amazing! I saw the match in a bar in Kaohsiung and I still remember a Spanish guy jumping with joy after each goal!


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