Potluck of Cultures

Margot

This is Margot. She is from Taiwan. “Some of my friends in Taiwan fancied that I was going to be a very rich housewife, but instead it is totally different. (laughs)”

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17457752_752811624867300_3446962246575289726_nEven though Margot describes herself as shy and not very brave when it comes to embracing new things, when the opportunity to follow her husband Chih-Li to Atlanta presented itself, she boldly grabbed it with both hands. In her eyes, it was a chance to change her life: her degree in Finance in hand, Margot had been working for a Taiwanese bank since graduation and had actually been tired of her position for quite some time. In addition, being apart from her husband Chih-Li, who had moved to the United States to start his PhD program one year earlier, was beginning to take its toll. “I feel we can’t be apart for so long… especially when you are sad at your job, it’s very exhausting and it gets very lonely.” Still, to state that giving up her job –even one she disliked – to move to a country where she would not be allowed to work was easy, would be a lie. It is Margot’s opinion that there should be more opportunities for international spouses like herself, as many of them are educated and talented people who still have enthusiasm for their field and would love nothing more than to apply themselves to a job they love. “I want to go back to work, just to a different job in a different field. This is the biggest problem in my mind: you get depressed when someone you know gets a job and you think: what is in my future? What shall I do when I go back to Taiwan?”

Moving to Atlanta also inspired Margot to achieve one of her personal goals: learning how to speak, read and write a second language fluently. Moving to the United States, this language, of course, was English. Because of her poor knowledge of the English language– she tells us that they mainly focus on English reading and writing in Taiwan – Margot initially found it difficult to integrate into American society. “In the beginning, I was so shy about speaking English and afraid I would say the wrong words… It was hard for me to live here without a friend, because you want to talk to someone who is not your husband (laughs), but it is hard because of the language.” Even though the language barrier held her back from going out in the beginning, she soon realized that staying at home by herself was starting to make her feel depressed and so, she decided it was time to overcome her fear and start meeting new people. Now, Margot has found some great friends, but she admits that finding them has been quite a challenge. “At our age, it is not so easy to make friends… In the beginning, it is hard, but gradually you find that 17458417_752811628200633_1069578669075603160_neveryone is so nice. For me, it was very complex: I wanted to talk, but also wanted to be quiet at the same time (laughs).” She tells us that many of her close friendships started in the Georgia Tech International Spouse Group and jokes that she immediately felt connected to some of the group’s members from South America. “Because my husband’s Chinese name Chih-Li  has the same pronunciation as the word Chile, I already felt acquainted whenever I met a Chilean friend, and there are a lot! (laughs)” The group’s main objective is to offer a space where spouses of Georgia Tech students who are looking for a community in Atlanta can join in on a range of activities, ranging from arts and crafts, to discussions and even the occasional field trip. In fact, it was these activities that gave Margot the courage to start up conversations with the other members. “I didn’t know anyone there and didn’t know any topic to talk about, but there was often some craft, or discussion, etc. that we did and that was very helpful in giving us a topic to talk about. Also, because we are not competing in a career or something, I think it is more natural for us to get together… and I can talk about every boring thing with them (laughs).”

Compared to her hectic work days in Taiwan, life in Atlanta has definitely slowed down for Margot and she appreciates the freedom it has given her. Now, when she is not enjoying catching up on her favorite international dramas and tv-shows, she likes to spend her time cooking some of the couple’s favored Taiwanese dishes. And when she feels cooped up inside, Margot simply puts on her walking shoes, gets up and – armed with her Pokémon Go app on her phone – gets out to explore Atlanta, something she was not used to before the game came out. “The Pokémon Go really benefits our health! This game is a good motivation for me to go outside. Before, I always jogged inside, but now I like to go out, because it can hatch my eggs!” She jokes that after one year without a job, though, she feels she is starting to lose some of her drive; be it in cooking, where she has gone from posting her elaborate 3 dish dinners on Facebook every day to preparing simpler one pot dishes on most days, or enjoying lazy days on the couch, including sleeping in late. “I think I became more dumb. (laughs) Before, when I was working in the bank, I had to notice all the financial news, the stock market, etc. but now I don’t do that anymore… I just focus on the drama! (laughs)”

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Through the good and the bad, from broken down cars to moving apartments every year, Margot is grateful to her husband for his perseverance and endeavors to make them a home in Atlanta. Eventually though, Margot and Chih-Li want to return to their life in Taiwan. Not only because they miss their home and culture – from the street vendors and small independent clothing shops selling the unique couture Margot loves so much, to the specific beauty of Taiwan’s nature and its specific way of life – but because they have yet to feel truly at home in American society. “When I am in my house in Atlanta, I feel at home, but when I go out, I still have some fear, it still feels strange. I feel more secure in Taiwan, because there I can express what I want correctly. It has to do with the people as well, here we are foreigners and we look different because we are Asian. In Taiwan, we are all Asian.”

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Interview and writing by Tineke Van Varenberg

Make up by Denise Batista

Interview and photography by Sonal Sukheeja

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