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Three years ago I was on a plane going to a speaking event and there were several young Asians on the plane. One of the young men in the group was seated next to me and we struck up a conversation during the flight.

It turned out that he was a student from Taiwan who had a summer job at Yellowstone Park arranged through an agency that works with qualified individuals that want to experience other cultures.

We struck up a Facebook friendship and followed each other’s posts and experiences and this week he returned for another summer of work at Yellowstone Park.

Learning Culture

Most of the information we hear about foreign countries comes from TV and the Internet. Even taking trips to various countries consists of pre-arranged tours of landmarks and perhaps some local shopping. There is rarely a chance to sit down and discuss politics and cultures with locals, mostly due to language barriers.

Sharing Cultures

I asked him about Taiwan’s relationship with China. Although, speaking English was a struggle, he was quick to point out to me that most people who live in Taiwan do not identify themselves as Chinese. Only about 3% of the inhabitants consider themselves to be Chinese. They are fiercely proud of who they are as a people. Much like America.

Chinese Taiwan Separation

Taiwan has always been fearful of a Chinese takeover but the US says they will not allow China to take over Taiwan. While China is quickly emerging from being a 3rd world country, the tiny country of Taiwan has the 19th largest economy in the world. Capitalism has made Taiwan very successful.

Do You Like Your President?

That was one of the tough questions he asked me while we were touring Bozeman. My kneejerk reaction was to go into diplomatic mode because my natural tendency is not to bash a country that has done so much for me.

I answered that very few, if any, of the goals and policies of the president mirror mine. And that I thought he was an inexperienced man in a very tough job.

He confided that he didn’t particularly like Taiwan’s president either.

Taiwan Healthcare

Doctor visit $5.00. That’s what he told me. While he is young and has not had to avail himself of much healthcare up to this point he indicated that is was good. He did admit that many people do go to Japan and America for certain serious illnesses.

He also said that people are very reluctant to give up their Taiwan citizenship because of the healthcare afforded to their citizens.

Some Final Thoughts

You never know why people’s paths cross. This young student has a thirst for other cultures. His goal is to travel the world and learn more about it. I sometimes think that the average American thinks we are the top of the heap and why bother since all other countries are in second place. It’s why the term “ugly American” rolls so easily off the tongues of those of other cultures.

We seem to want to force all the good things we have on others — either militarily or diplomatically. We seem surprised that being so great why wouldn’t others want to be just like us? This Facebook friendship won’t change the whole world but getting to know more about each other has changed our individual worlds. It’s a good start.

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