In today’s post I interview a friend of the site, and long time user, Aaron Posehn. You can check out his cool ebook on learning to write characters over at chinease-ebook.com and also, be sure to check out his brand new website devoted to learning languages called For the Love of Languages!
Hi Aaron, can you give everyone a brief introduction to who you are and how you first got interested in learning Chinese?
My name is Aaron Posehn and I’m originally from Vancouver, Canada. My love affair with Chinese started quite a while ago back when I was about 11 years old. I’m not exactly sure why, but I do remember picking up a book on Chinese characters one day at my elementary school library and thinking, hey, this is pretty cool! To the continued bewilderment of my family, I got my parents to enroll me in extra-curricular Chinese school and I stayed there for about five years. I also took some courses in university while I was doing my degree in Asian Area Studies and have taken a few trips to China since then to “use the language in action.”
You recently made the move from your native Canada over to Taiwan. Why did you decide to come and stay in Taiwan?
I’ve always wanted to come to Taiwan. The culture and atmosphere is so unique; I feel like the whole place is a little secret that the majority of travellers don’t know about or don’t consider. Also, the teachers at the Chinese school I attended back when I was a kid were almost all Taiwanese, so maybe I gained a fascination for Taiwan from them. Who knows? Either way, it’s been a very great time so far and I feel like I’m settling in quite nicely.
Did you have to brush up on your Chinese before moving or are you hoping that being surrounded by the Chinese language will help you?
I actually didn’t have very much time to brush up on my Chinese before I came. I was so focused on my current job at the time, on several side projects, and especially on finding an actual job in Taiwan itself that I figured I could just practice my Mandarin after I landed at the airport. Truth be told, I hadn’t spoken Chinese on a regular basis for several years before moving here, though I occasionally went to language exchange meetups and always had it in the background. The good news is that now i’m here, the language is starting to feel second nature again.
It’s tough for a foreigner to move to any new country. Did you experience any hardships on your first few days in Taiwan?
Absolutely. I was pretty sure that I had made a horrible mistake in coming here during my first few days in Taiwan. Granted, this had nothing to do with Taiwan itself. I was just in totally new surroundings and didn’t really have anything like a good housing situation arranged, so I was struggling to figure that out. Fortunately, I had some good friends who were willing to help call around for me and I soon found a place to live. The only other hardship I immediately experienced was that I’m pretty sure I was almost conned into paying extra rental fees at an apartment I was going to rent. Perhaps it was the lesser known “foreigner tax” that was being applied. I kind of had a hunch that the landlord was up to something though, and my Taiwanese friends later told me that I was probably right to leave it. Other than that though, I’m seeing that Taiwan is generally a very comfortable place to be. People are nice and life can be relatively inexpensive, depending on how you want to live. I’ve also met more people in the last three weeks here than I probably did in my last year in Canada. Did I mention that the food is fantastic? I had some great beef noodle soup the other week.
How about something positive. Is there anything that surprised you or made you think that you made a good choice in coming here?
If I had to really recall one memorable event since I got here, it would have to be just chatting with this taxi driver on a long drive across the city. He was such a nice, welcoming man, and even tried really hard to teach me Taiwanese, much to my own inability to remember anything he said. He was also curious to know how to tell passengers in English to only exit on the right side of the car because apparently a lot of foreigners use the left and almost get hit by traffic. Essentially, it was just this man’s kindness towards me that made me feel welcome.
I know you came here on holiday a while ago. Was there anything you were really excited to do or eat on your return to Asia?
I’m really excited to go to Kinmen. I have a trip planned with a friend for the end of the year. We went to Penghu last year during my first time here, and I really enjoyed biking around those islands. I think Kinmen will be similarly fun, so I’m really looking forward to checking it out. In terms of food, I was really looking forward to eating 豆漿 (dòu jiāng) and 蛋餅 (dàn bǐng) again every morning at those little street stalls.
You’ve been lucky enough to find a job, so you’ll probably be super busy. Have you set aside any dedicated time to study Chinese and how do you plan to do it?
I’ve actually been trying to listen to ChinesePod each day for my formal study. But I’ve also been speaking with a lot with people, and I think that helps you to learn the fastest. You can get your mistakes corrected immediately. Writing text messages back and forth in Chinese definitely helps too.
Can you give any advice for those that are thinking about moving to Asia, but who are still a bit unsure about whether it’s the right choice?
I would suggest that you think less about why you shouldn’t go and just go! You’ll undoubtedly feel at some point that you’re making a terrible decision because moving halfway across the world (to anywhere!) is intimidating. However, you’ll know inside if you really do want to go, and if so, all the previously perceived hardships and difficulties will seem like no problem once you look back on them. And if you really don’t like it, nothing will be holding you here; you can always go back home. The thing is, once you arrive, I bet you won’t want to.
Ok, thank you Aaron, it’s early days yet so I look forward to interviewing you again once you’re even more settled in. If you have any questions for Aaron about life in Asia or about making the big move, please comment below and we will try and answer your questions.
Latest posts by Aaron Posehn (see all)
- How to Read a Chinese Poem with Only One Sound - October 25, 2014
- Self-Service Buffets: How to get a cheap healthy meal in Asia - October 20, 2014
- A Typical Breakfast in Taiwan - October 4, 2014