Basically, consume books as if they’re an addictive drug

I have always loved books and read a lot, so when I need to learn about something, the library is the first place I will go to indulge in my drug of choice. The beauty of this situation: so can everyone! These books have helped me greatly in understanding the complex story of how Taiwan developed in the 20th century. It’s impossible to learn history in a vacuum, so there are books about how China also developed as background information. …


Why you can’t tell who the immigrants are just by looking at them

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

For all its established isolationist history and anecdotal evidence of aversion to anything “foreign”, Japanese culture has long been very embracing of those who returned from foreign lands. Whereas international airports everywhere sport “welcome” signs in a variety of languages (including the ‘native’ language), only in Japan does the Japanese line say “お帰りなさい” (okaerinasai) which translates most accurately to “welcome home”. It’s different from simply “welcome” because that, in Japanese, is “ようこそ” (yōkoso).

It’s a language idiosyncrasy, to be sure: whenever someone leaves a space/group, he’ll say…


Why older Taiwanese people have such an affinity for Japanese culture

Ever wonder why old Taiwanese people pick Japanese songs at karaoke (shouldn’t they be picking Chinese songs)? Or perfectly line up their shoes with toes facing out? How about a general affinity for Japanese culture, and their inability to speak Mandarin despite being from Taiwan?

That’s because they’re more Japanese than Chinese, and they should be, if they were born and spent formative years in Taiwan before 1945 — when Taiwan was a Japanese colony and ethnically Taiwanese people were fully immersed in a culture that produced “good Japanese…


How Christianity Killed Democracy In Taiwan… Then Resurrected It (For Now)

Religion isn’t a one-way street, especially in culture wars

The Great Hall of World Religions in the Museum of World Religions (Taipei, Taiwan)

There is no doubt that human life on the island now known as Taiwan began with the existence of indigenous tribes. There is continued research (and disagreement) on whether those tribes were Polynesian in origin and made their way to Taiwan, or whether they started out in Taiwan and spread to the Polynesian islands. Recorded history began when the European powers, during their Golden Age of Discovery, found their way to this little island and began “colonizing” the territory. …


Comparing cultural differences is easy, try looking for what’s similar

Photo by @accidentallywesanderson on Instagram

In my mid-20s, I spent a few months on a ship with about 200 crew members from around 40 countries. Or something like that. The numbers are fuzzy to me, but I remember the capacity/record highs were more like 300+ passengers and up to 60 countries. Many people who go to live in that multicultural environment are doing so for the first time in their lives, and often quite proud of living in “basically the UN”. Even if they don’t start with that pride, many many other people who encounter…


We need to rethink how to define ‘fluency’

Image by geralt from Pixabay

“Your first language, from an education standpoint, is the first language you started learning. That’s why it’s your best language,” she confidently stated, leaving no room for ambiguity. She continued, “And that’s why kids who are learning English as a second language go to ELL, English Language Learner, classes until they’re proficient enough to function without those support classes, and then they can continue learning in English like any other person whose first language is English.”

I have a huge problem with that definition, which I will spend the next thousand words…


Not All ‘Millennials’ Are Millennials

Why generational labels should include geography, not only chronology

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

In a Facebook group for historic preservationists, I once posted this article:


It’s a small Taiwanese-American Christian world after all

Does “Six Degrees of Separation” (the movie) or “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” still ring any bells for anyone? Or is that a pre-millennial thing? For anyone who needs an intro or a refresher, it’s the concept that everyone is connected to everyone else by no more than six steps. For example, I have never met so-and-so, but we’re connected because that person is my friend’s brother’s college roommate’s cousin. That was four degrees. Since the advent of Facebook, those steps have probably decreased even more pronouncedly.

So it stands to reason…


Why some TCKs think they’re never good enough

Every time I apply for a job, I face a certain level of anxiety related to not being good enough. I’m interested in just about everything (which makes my life simultaneously exciting and stressful), but I’ve never gone about mastering those skills in traditional learning environments — which is a fancy way to say, I taught myself a lot of things I’m now good at. It wasn’t out of choice, but necessity, that I developed my skills because I was a Third Culture Kid and my language(s) and countries/cultures never conveniently matched.


Why growing up multiculturally doesn’t guarantee multilingual fluency

Image by Oli Lynch from Pixabay

There is an urban legend of sorts that Third Culture Kids are preternaturally gifted with the ability of being fluent in multiple languages. I want to disabuse anyone and everyone of that romantic notion.

I know TCKs who speak only one language — some of them overreach by saying they know several dialects of whichever particular language they speak, but the “dialects” are more like regional accents. (By contrast, I know non-TCKs who do actually speak very different dialects of a particular language, but don’t think of themselves as polyglots.) I also…

Emi Higashiyama

I write long essays because it’s more instant gratification than other creative outlets. Topics include multi-culturalism/lingualism & tons of obscure history.

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