Jia - Where one's identity comes from
Ask your colleagues in Taiwan what they did at the weekend, and most of them will probably tell you that they spent time eating and catching up with their family members. In Taiwan it is indeed very typical, especially for married couples and those with children, to visit their parents every weekend. (Yes, that’s every weekend!). For many non-Taiwanese, this will probably seem a bit too often.
Interestingly, the character for family (家, jia) is formed by placing the ‘pig’ radical under the ‘roof’ radical. Taiwanese believe that family is a place where shelter is provided. The pig also represents wealth for those living under the same roof, as the family shares living space and finances. The Taiwanese think of their family as an indivisible unit that prospers if functioning properly, while being equally capable of bringing ruin to all its members if not.
A person’s identity comes from the family, or the ‘group,’ that one feels part of. One’s ‘self’ can only be complete when living up to the expectations of the group (the family, the extended family, the community, colleagues & anyone who is considered part of the family, or part of the group). The survival and prosperity of the family takes precedence over individual interests. As a result, Taiwanese people care very much about what others say and think of them, both positive appraisals and negative criticisms.
Taiwanese families regularly interact and socialize with one another. One’s life revolves around ‘family’; one can never separate one’s self from the family, the inside group nor the work unit. Family is both a home and the center of the community. It is the foundation of the Taiwanese society.