Black in Taiwan, Part I: Is your hair real?

Even if I'm wearing a hat,
the visible portion of my hair induces comments.
"Who did your hair like that?"

"Is your hair real?"

"Can I touch it?"

"Why isn't it straight?"

"What's wrong with her hair?  It's ugly!"

*hysterical immature laughter*

(Silent reaction which tells all...)

The above are the types of comments and reactions I receive here in Taiwan on a daily basis. I am not exaggerating, in fact I will repeat: A DAILY BASIS. It does not matter what I do with my hair, neither does it matter whether I do anything with it or not. It gets attention with reactions ranging a gamut of speechlessness, fascination, and (dare I say it?) disgust. Obviously I look different, but my hair seems to be one of the different things about me that people fixate on here.

Firstly, I'll address my hair in general. To be completely fair, many people, including Americans, don't get natural or, as Wikipedia so eloquently puts it, Afro-textured hair. In fact, I didn't understand how it worked or how to take care of it either until quite recently. For most of my life, I, like many other girls with this hair type, used chemicals to erase the natural curls and achieve bone-straight hair.

Me with chemically-straightened hair.
Nope, don't miss it one bit.
Honestly, I didn't "enjoy" my hair during all of those years. It was difficult to take care of, the chemicals used to keep it straight sometimes burned and smelt awful, and getting it wet was a pain because that meant having to straighten it out again. I never did too much with my hair then, I ended it pulling it back into buns all the time, which defeated the purpose of the straightening. I also tended to cut it often because I would get bored with it easily.

In 2006, I was so frustrated I shaved my head without warning to anyone! I couldn't take the hassle anymore. But then I was confronted with another problem - how to take care of the natural hair that I'd never dealt with in my life. Being a silly 16-year-old then, I didn't do any research on the options I had, so I gave into peer pressure. Many didn't like my hair, thought it was too short, ect. So I destroyed the curls and straightened it again!

Thankfully during the winter of 2011, I woke up and realized that, once again, I could not take the relaxed hair anymore. In November of that year I decided I would never put any chemicals in my hair again, and because I didn't want to only have only a half inch of hair like I did when I shaved it, I grew out the natural curly hair and left on the straightened ends until I was ready to cut them. I finally did in June 2012 and haven't looked back since.

Now, back to the main topic of this post - my hair in Taiwan.

It's grown a lot since June, big enough that I can wear it in a well-sized afro. Unfortunately, it does not have a lot of fans. I think, like many other things, the "issue" is that it does not look like the norm, so it makes people uncomfortable.  I have also gotten somewhat bewildered reactions, as if I'm crazy to walk around with hair like this.

Fortunately, the reactions are not always bad. Some people genuinely like my hair, and it's funny when I'm asked if they can touch it. Oftentimes, they are amazed at its softness. One of the worker ladies at my apartment demanded to know where I got my hair done when I put it in a certain style, and she was shocked to hear I did it on my own.

Although it frustrates me sometimes, I understand the shock other people have seeing my hair here. Many people don't understand (again, even in the States) that people like Beyonce or Rihanna were not born with bone-straight hair, they do various things to make it look that way. I see other black girls here and a lot of them have relaxed hair, extensions, braids...I wonder how they're maintaining their hair here, and I wonder if it's worth the fight to be part of the "norm". All in all, I'm enjoying my hair and can't wait for it to get even bigger!

My ultimate goal:

Me at about age two, rocking my naturally poofy, curly hair.


  1. Hi there, I was very excited to come across your blog. I will be moving to Taichung in about a month and I also have natural hair! Just wondering, can you find any ethnic hair products, or do you have to get stuff shipped to you or do you just make do with whatever is there? I really hope you respond :)

    1. Awesome! You must be excited/nervous. Seems like yesterday when I made the move.

      Ethnic hair products? I don't think you can find them here, even in stores like Carrefour. I suggest you bring your favorite products to use here. If you like to use organic things like coconut oil, you can find them in some grocery stores (organic food stores, Jason's [though I don't know if Taichung has a Jason's...]) but it is expensive, like $14 to $17.

      I brought enough product to use for a year, but then again, I don't use a lot of products on my hair. That, and I think I brought a little too much (2 jars of deep conditioner, 3 bottles of conditioner, two jars of leave in conditioner, a bottle of liquid leave in conditioner, 3 bottles of hair oil...ha).

      Out of all that, I'm on my last bottle of conditioner, second jar of deep conditioner, the second jar of leave in, the third bottle of oil, and the very end of the liquid leave in conditioner.

      Tip: I don't know how many long flights you've taken, but I suggest you put some of your product in travel-size bottles, spray bottles, ect. My journey was 24+ hours, and my hair got so dry from the airplane air, so it was nice to be able to moisturize it during the flights and in the airport. :D

  2. yeah, I had already decided to bring enough for a year just to be safe..but I use A LOT of product so i'l definitely be bringing more than you.I will be sure to bring my moisturizing spritz with my carry on. Thanx for the tip.

    I am excited but also very nervous.Looking forward to the adventure :)

  3. hi i'm living in Douliu City and I was wondering where can I buy a wig. lol I can soo see ur shocked face but I want to shave my hair off its to hard to maintain my hair over here so I've decided it has too go