Foreigner and introvert in Taiwan

Recently, I was talking to a friend, a foreigner like me and he confessed that he felt that he wasn’t fitting in. He could not have better explained the feeling that I have been experiencing since ten months that I am living here. Yet I think I was doing great before. For sure, I have never been a really outgoing person or a party animal but my life was interesting enough. I was even popular in a way. I didn’t have lot of friends but three or four soul mates that I had grown up with. I was not used to thinking of myself as an introvert. I had a basic idea of what that psychological concept means and I could easily identify the extroverts around me.  But for me “introvert” was only a word that appeared on the result of my MBTI test as part of an obscure acronym, INFP, which was supposed to help me picking up a career. Anyway, I didn’t follow any of the recommendations. And now, here I am, studying Agribusiness in Taiwan and asking myself everyday “What I am doing here?”

Upon my arrival in Taiwan, I wasn’t long to notice that the social rules that I was familiar to, were inapplicable in this new environment. About two weeks later, harsh questions like: “What is wrong with me? Or worse:  “Am I socially inapt or something?” started to pop up into my mind. It still took me a few months to realize that I had missed the boat and that it was probably already too late to develop any sense of belongingness to the group that my fellows already formed.

How did it happen? I remember, at home once, I saw this book of Dale Carnegie titled How to Win Friends and Influence People. I couldn’t fathom why anyone would waste their time reading such a book. Maybe, I was wrong. I did not need it at that time because I was part of a whole, an inseparable band of four girls who considered themselves sisters. Over the past ten years or more, almost all my closest friends were much less reserved than me. I didn’t have to reach out to them. Most of them were at my school, later on, in the same shelter as me. I was seeing them every day for long hours. So it was hardly an issue that I hate making phone calls or that I can ghost everyone on a given day just because I just don’t feel like talking or even texting. My friends were totally okay with that. They were not bothered that I would bring my books with me everywhere, or listen to audio books while I am completing other tasks.

I don’t mind about staying long weeks without talking to my best friends as the friendships that I esteem, are the ones that flourish over time and are based on endless and unconditional loyalty. But such friendships are hard to build and for someone like me, events like welcome parties are not really useful to bond with other people.

Actually, the language was less a barrier for me than the feeling of not knowing what was expected of me. Maybe I had to show that I could be the enthusiastic kind of person, which was a real burden as I need long time to feel relaxed when I am confronted to the unknown. The local people that I was meeting were pretty nice but not the friendliest type and tended to stick to their groups. Most of them looked shy or indifferent when around strangers, as if they were still trying to figure out how to behave with us. That makes the pressure for foreigners to be as easygoing and loud as possible, even stronger. It is like you need to force the social acceptance. Otherwise, you are left alone and you’d better know how to enjoy this solitude as only introverts can.

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