What’s your visa?

I met some North American friends the other day that are still quite new to Taiwan, and they couldn’t stop laughing when I told them Taiwanese people always ask me about my visa status.
Young and old people alike they are like really interested to know what visa foreigners have.

At the beginning, I didn’t understand why they were laughing, because after some years in Asia I just got used to people asking about that, in Japan, Korea and Taiwan people for some reason really need to know what your visa status is.

In south-east Asia they don’t seem to care about that though.

Maybe people here need to make sure you’re legally staying in the country or they want to see if you will stay a long time, or maybe it’s to check your social status, so they can judge you by how much money you have, as people without the working visa can’t work here, so they are automatically assigned a lower social status, either by being poor or by being forced by the system to work “illegally”. Because sadly we live in a country where is illegal for a human being to work. And even more sad is the fact that people here think that’s right, because the government says so, and everything the government says is right.

People with a student visa are somehow under the wing of a recognized government institution in the country, making them decent citizens, as they are part of the system that helps maintain the status quo. Unless they got the visa attending a language school or private institute, instead of an university. In that case, they are assigned the same social status as someone on a tourist visa.

People on a tourist visa, unless they are tourists, get placed in this underdog category, not yet a criminal but not someone they would like to hang out with either.

To conclude, in the eyes of Taiwanese, Korean, Japanese people they use the visa question with this simple formula to judge the foreigners:

Working visa = Good people
Student visa = Good people (unless it’s from a language school)
Tourist visa = Bad people

Coming back to the laughs though, first I didn’t get it, but then I saw how ridiculous it sounded because they sound like police when they ask you that. And because as a foreigner myself, if somebody comes to the country I live, It would never even cross my mind to ask them about their visa, but maybe also times have changed now and I’ve been a foreigner for too long, got used to that and started seeing it as normal, or just the way it is.

But when we meet someone from another culture they help us see things from a different perspective, and sometimes no words are needed, but a rapid honest laugh can make us understand how flawed our position really is.

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