Paris vs Taipei: The "Importance of Appearances" Experiment
A few days ago norniTube released a video that shows how people react when a man falls down in a street in Paris, pretending to be sick. In the first part of the video, the man is dressed like a homeless person. People get by but no one helps him. In the second part of the video, the man is dressed in a suit, and immediately some people go to him and ask him if he’s all right (note).
The incident is supposed to show that people often ignore each other’s suffering, and that the way someone looks determines how helpful and friendly others will be.
The same experiment was tried by Apple Chen in Taipei, in the wealthy Eastern District, near Sogo department store. However, the experiment was not about the different reaction of passers-by to a homeless and a rich-looking man.
A normally dressed man begins to cough and then falls down. After just a few seconds some people go to him and ask if he’s all right. He says that he has pills in his pocket, and they help him take them.
The video is supposed to show that Taiwanese people are not as cold as Parisians, and that they are willing to help out when someone is in need. In this case, it seems to me like a self-celebration of an alleged Taiwanese kindness, which has become a distinctive trait of Taiwanese self-image and in the way they define themselves to the outside world.
I am always quite sceptical when I hear such generalisations. In this case, the experiment has been tried only once, and the man was actually quite handsome and didn’t look like a homeless. Moreover, I think in Europe there are a lot of social problems, especially in big cities. Honestly, in some Western cities there are so many drug-addicts and strange people going around, that I think I might not help somebody, either.
I remember that once in Berlin an old man asked me if I could give him some money. He looked really shabby and a little bit sick, so I gave him four euros. The man smiled and then said: “Fine, I will drink a toast in your honour”.
“A toast?” I said. “What are you going to buy with this money?”
He took a bottle of vodka out of his bag and replied: “I’ve almost finished this.”
He looked very happy, but I just thought I’d wasted my money.
What are your thoughts about it? Do you think people in Taiwan are more helpful to each other than in other countries? What are your experiences in everyday life?
|Sogo Department Store, in Zhongxiao Fuxing.
One of the first places I visited in Taipei.