My friend, a Spanish teacher, stopped asking his Taiwanese students “What did you do when you were a kid?” (¿Qué hiciste cuando eras un niño?) as a conversation starter in his class because he kept hearing only one word: Estudie (I studied). That’s it? He asks, and the students add more information: studied at home, school, or cram school.
(Another teacher is also losing his battle by using “How was your week?” and constantly getting retorted by “Worked a lot” (Trabajado mucho).)
That’s fine, everybody has a different lifestyle (a useful phrase for making a peace agreement). But if one’s teenage life is circling around a single purpose—to get into a better university for a better career—where can he spend that extra energy and have fun?
Well, Taiwanese teenagers do seem to have learned a way to enjoy social life without compromising their career or family relationships: make out in public. Here are the three most popular dating spots for teenagers (by that I mean kids wearing school uniforms) in Taipei, according to my observation.
Crowded subway carriages offer an ideal chance to get close together. It’s the Taiwanese version of the backyard bench experience – you know, the one that is barely big enough for two people so you can’t sit together without touching each other’s thighs.
Popular posture: girls burying their heads into boys’ chests, being forced to do so by obtrusive adults (such as yours truly).
Starbucks keeps providing havens for everybody. They offer coffee that is not exactly top-notch, they reinvented the idea of self-service out of no-service, and they aren’t doing well sales-wise in the US. But we will keep loving you, Starbucks, at least here in Taipei. Most tables are barely large enough for two people – again, gently forcing the couples to get closer.
Popular posture: boys taking a nap while girls watch. Then they take turns.
Simulating: sleeping with each other. Asynchronously.
Taiwan’s largest bookstore chain, Eslite, provides a safe dating environment for teenagers, if sitting on the floor and reading books to each other can be called dating practices.
Popular posture: boys pillowing their heads on girls’ lap.
Those three locations have one thing in common: they blend well with academic life and external expectations. Commute on the subway, write some report in a Starbucks, and read more in the bookstore—isn’t that what parents want their kids to do?
After all, Taiwanese teenagers might be enjoying their lives no less than their overseas counterparts.
P.S. A movie came out this month, conveniently shot in and backed by Eslite, the aforementioned bookstore.
Story: A bookstore-dwelling nerd falls in love with a cute clerk.
Key message: being a bookworm is good for your sex life.
Let’s expect even more extravagant activities. Maybe they will build some “study rooms” inside the store.